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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

John 4

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 10

DISCOURSE: 1615

CHRIST A FOUNTAIN OF LIVING WATER

John 4:10. Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.

OUR blessed Saviour, though “Lord of all,” was a man like unto us in all things, sin only excepted: he hungered, he thirsted, he was weary. He put forth his Almighty power to heal the maladies of others; but would not exercise it for the exempting of himself from human infirmities. In journeying from Jud ζa to Galilee, he was overcome with weariness; and was necessitated to ask, from a woman of Samaria, who was come to the well by which he was sitting, a draught of water to quench his thirst. I conceive that, from the beginning, his object in addressing her was more to impart good to her, than to obtain relief to himself: for, instead of noticing, as he might well have done, her backwardness to comply with his request, he lost not a moment in revealing himself to her, as the Messiah, the Saviour of the world.

From his address to her, we shall take occasion to consider,

I. The characters under which our Lord here presents himself to our view:

1. He first speaks of himself as “the great Gift of God” to mankind—

[Such indeed he was. In comparison of Him, all other gifts are as nothing; nothing, in respect of internal worth; and nothing, in respect of the benefits accruing from them. He is no other than “Jehovah’s Fellow.” Yet to such a degree did God love the world, that he gave Him, even his only-begotten Son, to become a man for us. Nor was it to instruct us only that God sent his Son, but to save us; to save us by bearing our iniquities in his own body on the cross; and by working out a righteousness, whereby we might be justified, and find acceptance with him. No other gift that God was able to bestow was of equal value with this, or could have effected this great end. Well, therefore, may all other gifts vanish from our sight before him, as the stars are eclipsed by the noon-day sun: and well may He, by way of eminence, be called “The gift of God.”]

2. The Fountain of all good—

[Little did this woman think who it was that thus addressed her. He appeared to be a mere man, needing a little water to quench his thirst: but he was indeed “the fountain of living waters [Note: Jeremiah 1:13.],” the one only source of good to a ruined world. By “living water” we understand all the blessings of salvation; “all fulness” of which is treasured up in him at this moment: and “out of his fulness may every sinner in the universe receive.”]

Our Saviour’s address to her yet further shews us,

II. The benefits which will accrue to us from the knowledge of him—

If once we get a just view of his character,

1. We shall surely apply to him for his benefits—

[If temporal blessings, however great in value, were spread before us, we might conceive of their being beheld with indifference: a conviction of their emptiness might well raise our minds above them, so that we would not condescend even to ask for a participation of them. But can all the blessings of grace and glory be contemplated with indifference? Can we behold an inexhaustible treasure of them laid up expressly for us, and not desire them? No: it would be impossible.; especially if we knew that they were all to be obtained by asking. To every creature under heaven may our Lord justly say, “If thou knewest what I have to bestow, thou wouldest ask of me.” We may as well suppose hell to be opened to our view, without calling forth a desire to escape it; and heaven, without creating a desire to obtain it; as imagine a view of Christ, under the foregoing characters, to be disclosed to the soul, and no desire to be excited there for the enjoyment of his blessings.]

2. We shall infallibly be made partakers of them—

[Not even the Samaritan woman, stranger as she was, and profligate, should have solicited his favour without obtaining it: much less shall any person now be suffered to seek his face in vain. He says to all, “Ask, and ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” Nor would he have us straitened in our requests: his promise to the trembling suppliant is, “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” Nothing would be too great for him to give, if only we sought him in humility and faith. Pardon, peace, holiness, and glory, should all be poured into our souls in rich abundance; yea, “his Spirit, which he would give us, should be within us a well of water, springing up unto everlasting life.”]

Know then, all of you,

1. That the Lord Jesus Christ is here present with you—

[We see him not corporeally, as the Samaritan woman did: nevertheless, he is spiritually present with us, as he has said, “Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world;” and, if you will seek communion with him, you shall not be disappointed of your hope. He is, in reality, the same as ever he was. Still is he the great gift of God to man. Still is he the fountain of all spiritual good. Still does he complain of our forgetfulness of him, and declare he will impart out of his fulness to every inquiring soul. He put the Samaritan woman upon asking of him; saying, in fact, “Ask of me.” So says he now to every one of us, “Ask of me, and I will give you living water.”]

2. That you, no less than the poor Samaritan, need the blessings which he offers—

[Which of you needs them not? Which of you can find any other fountain from whence to quench your thirst? Which of you will not one day bitterly lament that you lost the present opportunity? I pray you, then, avail yourselves of your Lord’s present condescension and grace; and let your souls take of him, and live for ever.]


Verse 14

DISCOURSE: 1616

THE LIVING WATER

John 4:14. Whosoever drinketh of the wafer that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

OUR Lord invites us to learn of him. To encourage us, he declares that he is meek and Jowly in heart. Never was this disposition more displayed than in his conversation with the Samaritan woman. She was of the most abandoned character; yet he condescended to instruct her. And, when she slighted his proffered mercies, endeavoured to recommend them to her more favourable acceptance. We shall consider,

I. What is that water which Christ will give—

The woman understood our Lord only in a literal sense. But in his words there was a mystical meaning. By the water which he offered her, he meant the Holy Ghost—

[The Holy Spirit is often represented in the Scriptures under the figure of water. It is he of whom the prophet Isaiah speaks when he says, that God will pour out water upon thirsty souls [Note: Isaiah 44:3.]. Ezekiel also explains himself as referring to him, when he promises to the Church, in Jehovah’s name, that clean water should be sprinkled on them to cleanse them from their pollutions [Note: Ezekiel 36:25-27.]. We are taught by God himself to put this interpretation on similar expressions used by our blessed Lord [Note: John 7:37-39.]. By the help of these passages we ascertain beyond a doubt the import of that before us.]

This water he had full authority to give—

[Jesus had not received the Spirit by measure only, like other prophets [Note: John 3:34.]: he had the residue of the Spirit abiding in him [Note: Malachi 2:15.]; yea, he had all the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in him bodily [Note: Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9.]. As mediator he was commissioned and empowered to bestow this Spirit [Note: Psalms 68:18. with Ephesians 4:8 and Acts 2:33. He received in order that he might give.]. Hence he frequently arrogated to himself this power [Note: Thrice did he claim this authority in his conversation with the Samaritan women, and often afterwards in the plainest terms. John 15:26; John 16:7; John 16:14.]. He actually exerted it while he continued upon earth [Note: John 20:22.]; and in a more abundant measure after his exaltation to heaven. The effusion of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost is expressly ascribed to him [Note: Acts 2:33. before cited.]. Hence we may understand why the Holy Ghost is so emphatically called the Spirit of Christ [Note: 1 Peter 1:11.].]

To excite her desire after it, he proceeded to set before her,

II. The properties it possesses—

Contrasting it with that which he had solicited at her hands, he told her it was,

1. Satisfying in its nature—

[Water from an earthly spring will quench the thirst only for a short time; nor will it at all allay our appetite another things. The men of this world are insatiable in their desire after the vanities of time and sense. The more they have of pleasure, riches, or honour, the more they want [Note: Job 20:22.]. But a draught of this living water will satisfy the soul: of this heavenly spring indeed, all who have once tasted, will wish to drink again; yea, they will pant after it as the hart after the water-brooks. But their desire of earthly things will be greatly abated. The consolations of the Spirit will be regarded by them as the only satisfying portion [Note: Isaiah 55:2.]: they will make every thing else appear insipid, as the beholding of the meridian sun will obscure in their eyes the splendour of all inferior objects [Note: Psalms 73:25. Philippians 3:7-8.].]

2. Heavenly in its tendency—

[The supplies of water in “a well” are constant and uniform: so the Spirit operates in the heart of man. There will indeed be seasons when his operations will be less manifest: but he will always reside in us as a principle of life [Note: John 14:16-17.]: he will excite holy and heavenly affections in our breasts [Note: Galatians 4:6.]: he will keep heaven itself in our view [Note: Ephesians 1:14.]: and the one aim of all his motions will be to lead us to everlasting life: nor, if we cherish his motions, will he fail of bringing us to the possession of it [Note: Romans 8:13-14.].]

Infer—

1. How glorious a person must Christ be!

[The Holy Spirit is God equal with the Father [Note: Acts 5:3-4.]: yet Christ has power to send him into our hearts. He can as easily bestow him on us, as we can give a cup of water from a spring. Even though the whole world should ask him, he could impart the Spirit to all of them at the same instant [Note: John 7:37-39. Isaiah 55:2.]. Let us then entertain worthy thoughts of him, and look to him for constant supplies of this living water [Note: Philippians 1:19 and John 1:16.].]

2. How earnest should we be in our application for this heavenly gift!

[The worldly man is indefatigable in his pursuit of earthly vanities: but which of them can be compared with this living water? Which of them can give us life? or satisfy the soul? or bring us to glory? O that we might thirst after this, and this alone! Then would the invitations of Christ be precious to our souls [Note: Revelation 22:17.], and we should speedily receive his promised blessings [Note: Isaiah 41:17-18.].]

3. How dead ought we to be to all earthly things!

[Our Lord represents all who have received his Spirit as thirsting no more. Hence we can have no evidence that we have drunk of the living waters, but in proportion as our thirst for other things is abated. Let those, who profess to have the Spirit dwelling in them, consider this. The Scriptures that confirm this truth are numberless [Note: James 4:4. John 2:15-17. Romans 8:9.]. May God impress them deeply on our hearts! Let the world then be crucified unto us, and us unto the world [Note: Galatians 6:14.]: and if we would indeed be found partakers of Christ, let us both live in the Spirit and walk in the Spirit [Note: Galatians 5:24-25.].]


Verse 22

DISCOURSE: 1617

SALVATION IS OF THE JEWS

John 4:22. Salvation is of the Jews.

THIS is part of the answer of our blessed Lord to the Samaritan woman. He had taken occasion, from an observation of hers, to shew her that he was well acquainted with the most secret history of her past life; and not from report merely, but from his own omniscient mind, from which nothing could be hid. He had told her, that “she had had five husbands;” (all of whom, it is probable, had put her away for her adulteries;) and that “the person with whom she was now living was not her husband.” She, wishing to get rid of so painful a subject, proposed a question relative to a controversy which then existed between the Samaritans and the Jews, as to the place where God was to be worshipped. Our Lord, satisfied with having discovered to her his character as a prophet of the Most High, graciously waved the prosecution of a subject which was so painful to her, and turned his attention to that which she had submitted to him. In reply to her question, he informed her, that the time was coming when all distinctions of places should be lost; so far, at least, as related to acceptable worship: for that all, of whatever place or country, who should worship God in spirit and in truth, should be accepted of him. At the same time he informed her that the question itself must be determined in favour of the Jews. The Samaritans, indeed, had much to say in their own behalf, and in support of the cause which they maintained. They could say, that on Mount Gerizim, for the sanctity of which they pleaded, Abraham himself had built an altar [Note: Genesis 12:6-7.], as had Jacob also; (for Sichem, or Shechem, where he built it, was so close to Mount Gerizim, that a man’s voice might be distinctly heard from the one to the other [Note: Genesis 33:18-20. with Judges 9:7.]:) and that, consequently, that place had a prior claim to Zion, on which no altar had been raised, till many hundred years had elapsed. They could also with truth affirm, that Moses himself, under the special direction of Jehovah, had commanded, that all the congregations of Israel, as soon as they should gain possession of the Promised Land, should assemble round Mount Gerizim; and that from thence the blessings of Jehovah should be pronounced, whilst his curses should be declared from Mount Ebal, which was near to it [Note: Deuteronomy 11:29; Deuteronomy 27:11-13.]. They could also appeal to the Jewish Scriptures, that Joshua and all Israel had actually complied with this command [Note: Joshua 8:33-34.]; and had thereby sanctified that mountain in a more especial manner, and marked it out as the place which God had chosen for his more peculiar worship in all future ages.

But, in answer to all this, our Lord informed her, that the Samaritans “knew not whom they worshipped.” Though they occupied the land of Israel, they were not Israelites, but foreigners, whom the king of Assyria had sent to occupy the land, when he carried captive the ten tribes of Israel [Note: 2 Kings 17:24.]. Nor did they, in reality, know the true God: for it was only in consequence of the judgments which God had inflicted on them for their idolatries, by sending lions to devour them, that they had ever thought of worshipping him at all. To avert his displeasure, they had desired that a Jewish priest might be sent back to the land, to instruct them how to worship Jehovah; but, at the same time, they retained their own idolatries; thus “fearing the Lord, and serving other Gods [Note: 2 Kings 17:25-27.].” The Jews, on the contrary, worshipped Jehovah alone; (for never after the Babylonish captivity did they return to idolatry;) and they possessed that revelation of God’s will, through the knowledge of which alone any human being could be saved: “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship; for salvation is of the Jews.”

Thus was the controversy determined in favour of the Jews. But that being no longer of any consequence to the Church, we forbear to notice it any further; and shall fix our attention on that general declaration, which is still of as great importance as ever, that “salvation is of the Jews.”

It is of them originally, as derived from them; and it is of them instrumentally, as communicated altogether by them.

I. It is of the Jews, as being originally derived from them—

The way of salvation has been one and the same, from the very moment that the promise was given in Paradise, that “the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head.” But, having been only traditionally handed down, it was but very imperfectly known, even in the family of Abraham; and by the world at large it was almost, if not entirely, forgotten. But it pleased God, when he brought out from their bondage in Egypt the descendants of Abraham, to give them a written revelation of his will, and to make known to them the way of salvation, not only in its great leading article, the sacrifice of Christ, but in many minute particulars, as we shall see by an investigation of their Ceremonial Law.

The Jewish religion, so far as the way of salvation was concerned, was founded altogether on sacrifice. No person could approach unto God without a sacrifice: but by means of sacrifices specially appointed, every one might hope to obtain forgiveness of sin, and acceptance with his reconciled God. For this end there were sacrifices offered every morning and every evening throughout the year; and on the Sabbath-day they were doubled [Note: Numbers 28:3-4; Numbers 28:9-10.]: but on the great day of annual atonement they were multiplied, with the most significant rites that can be imagined. The high priest was to take the blood of the sacrifices, and to carry it within the vail, and to sprinkle it upon the Mercy-seat, and before the Mercy-seat, in token that the hopes of all Israel were founded upon the sacrifices thus offered as an atonement for their sins [Note: Leviticus 16:14.]. After that was done, he was to offer incense, and then to come out and bless the people.

But, as has been observed, there were many peculiar ordinances appointed for their instruction, as to the more minute points to be attended to in this great work. On some occasions, the offenders themselves were to lay their hands upon the head of their sacrifices: on some, the blood of the sacrifices was to be sprinkled on the offerers: on some the blood was to be sprinkled, mixed with water [Note: Leviticus 14:6-7. Hebrews 9:19.]. And the efficacy of all these offerings was pre-eminently marked in the ordinance of the scape-goat. One goat having been killed, and its blood carried within the vail, another goat, called the scape-goat, which had been chosen by lot for this purpose, was brought forth, and had all the sins of all the Children of Israel laid upon it by the hands of the High Priest; and it was then led, with all the guilt of Israel upon its head, into the wilderness, never more to be seen by man; that so all the people might see that their iniquities were taken away, and that the punishment due to them should not be inflicted.

Now, all this was designed to shadow forth to that people the way of salvation. And, in truth, to those who had any spiritual discernment, salvation was exhibited with a clearness quite sufficient for the circumstances under which the people were. They were children; and were to be taught like children, by types and shadows: and all who looked through those types to the sacrifice which they shadowed forth, were saved as effectually as we are by looking back upon the offering which has now been once offered upon Calvary.

In all this was Christianity depicted. On what are the hopes of Christians founded, but on sacrifice, even the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ? Except through his atoning blood, not a creature in the universe can ever come to God. In presenting that offering, he himself was the Priest, as well as the victim: and having offered himself up to God upon the cross, he rose from the dead, and went with his own blood within the vail, there to present it before the Mercy-seat: and on that he founds his all-prevailing intercession.

But, let us come to a few particulars, and we shall see how the light beams upon us from every part of the Jewish Scriptures. We have said, that, on some occasions, the offender laid his hands upon the head of his offering, just as Aaron did on the scape-goat, when he confessed over him all the sins of all the Children of Israel. And this teaches us, that it is not sufficient for us that the Lord Jesus Christ has been offered for our sins: we must go to him: we must confess over him, as it were, our sins: and we must by faith transfer to him our guilt, and declare before God, that we have no hope whatever but in his atoning blood. It has been said also, that on some occasions, the offerer was sprinkled with the blood of his offering: and this, also, must we do; taking, as it were, the bunch of hyssop in our hands, and dipping it in the Redeemer’s blood, and sprinkling our own souls with it, as the only possible means of purging our consciences from guilt, and of bringing us into a state of peace with God. It is in reference to this that we are said to “have come to the blood of sprinkling, which speaketh better things than that of Abel.” The sacrifice of Abel received, indeed, a sweet token of God’s favourable acceptance; but the blood of our sacrifice washes all our sins away, and gives us a title to an everlasting inheritance.

It has been observed, that, on some occasions, the blood was mixed with water, and then sprinkled on the offerer. This shews us, that we must have the Holy Spirit also poured out upon us: according as it is said, “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you.” The Lord Jesus Christ, we are told, “came not by water only, but by water and blood:” and this very mystery was intimated at the time of our Saviour’s crucifixion, when the soldier pierced our Saviour’s side, and forthwith came, in two distinguishable streams, blood and water: the one to cleanse us from the guilt of sin; the other, from its power: according as it is written, “Ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”

We might prosecute this subject in a great variety of particulars, and shew in all of them the correspondence between the salvation shadowed forth by the law, and that exhibited by the Gospel. But we wish to keep the subject as simple as possible, and not to perplex it by too great a variety. There is, however, one point which it is of great importance to mention. It will be remembered, that, when Moses was about to make the tabernacle, a very strict and solemn command was given him, (the injunction is repeatedly mentioned in the Pentateuch,) “See thou make all things according to the pattern shewn to thee in the mount.” The same injunction was given to David, also, when he was desirous to build the temple. And St. Paul very particularly notices the former, as of vast importance. But whence was it that such stress was laid on this apparently unimportant matter? It was from hence: The law was given to shadow forth the Gospel: and it was to be the model to which the whole edifice of Christianity was to be conformed, in every the minutest particular. Now, if there was any one thing added to the tabernacle, or omitted in it, or altered in any respect, it would not be a perfect representation of Christianity. But the two were to correspond with each other, as the impression with the seal: and if there were any thing in the tabernacle superfluous or defective, the correspondence would be lost, and God would be greatly dishonoured. But the necessary care was taken: Moses was faithful in all his house as a Servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after: and the same fidelity has Christ shewn as a Son, whose house are we, if we “hold fast the confidence, and the rejoicing of our hope firm unto the end.”

Thus it appears that we have received salvation originally from the Jews; to whom, in every particular, it was first revealed. But we go on to observe, 2dly, That we have also received it instrumentally from them, in that it has been altogether communicated to us through their ministrations.

It was first preached to us by Moses and the prophets. We had known nothing of a Messiah, if they had not pointed him out. We have already seen how much we are indebted to Moses for his writings: which make known to us the very first prophecy of a Saviour; and shew us how Abel, and Noah, and Abraham, found acceptance with God. To him we owe it, that the model shewn to him in the mount was so carefully copied, that there is not so much as a pin in his tabernacle which has not its corresponding article in the Christian Edifice. From him we have such a view of Christianity as the Gospel itself can scarcely be said to afford. Doubtless, till the ceremonies prescribed by him had the true light reflected on them, they were very obscure: but now that they have been explained to us from above, we see the Gospel embodied, as it were, and made visible even to the eye of sense. Who that contemplates one goat offered in sacrifice to God, and the other bearing away all the sins of all the people of Israel that had been laid upon his head, does not see, before his very face, what the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, is daily effecting for all that believe in him? Even the moral law itself, which Moses also has recorded, has the very same tendency, and, in the ears of all who understand it, proclaims the utter impossibility of being saved, except by the sacrifice that should in due time be offered; insomuch that St. Paul calls it “a schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ.” All the prophets concur with him in the very same testimony; and proclaim with one voice, that “there is no remission of sins but by blood;” and that “there is no other name given under heaven whereby we can be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ.” We are told, that “to him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” Ask we of Isaiah? His testimony is, “He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and by his stripes we are healed.” To the same effect speaks also the Prophet Daniel: “Messiah shall be cut off; but not for himself.” “He shall make an end of sin, and make reconciliation for iniquity, and bring in everlasting righteousness.” And Joel points him out, as “that Lord, on whom whosoever shall call, shall be saved.”

The last and greatest of all the prophets was John the Baptist: and he pointed out the very Saviour himself in these emphatic words; “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world!” Here we see the union of the law and of the Gospel to be precisely such as we have represented it. The lamb was at that very time offered every morning and evening in sacrifice to God for the sins of Israel; and here was Jesus pointed out as the Lamb that should take away, not the sins of one people only, but of the whole world.

And what was the testimony borne by our Lord himself? Did he not declare, that He was come to “give his life a ransom for many?” Did He not, when he administered the sacramental cup to his Disciples, say, “This is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you, and for many, for the remission of sins?”

But what said his Apostles, when the time was come for the full disclosure of the great mystery of Redemption? They with one voice declare, that “he died the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God;” that we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins; and that “all who believe in him are justified from all things, from which we could not be justified by the law of Moses.” In the Epistle to the Hebrews the parallel between the law and the Gospel is distinctly drawn; so that nothing is left to fancy or conjecture; but all is declared on infallible authority to have been accomplished in him, to the unspeakable advantage of our souls; since, “if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge our conscience from dead works to serve the Living God.”

And to whom are we indebted for all this knowledge? To Jews, from first to last: to Jewish prophets and to Jewish Apostles: yea, the very Saviour himself who effected this salvation, and to whom they all bare witness; he himself proclaimed it; he himself displayed its power whilst he yet hanged on the cross; and after his resurrection he gave this commission to his Disciples, “Go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: and he that believeth not, shall be damned.”

Now, what of all these things can we learn from the philosophers of Greece and Rome? No more than from the beasts themselves. It was hidden from them altogether. If we want to know what kind of a Saviour was to come, we must learn it from Jews. If we would know what ground there is to believe that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies; to Jews we must go, to obtain the desired information. If we would learn how we are to come to the Saviour, and to obtain acceptance through him; we must sit at the feet of Jews, and receive instruction from their lips. We have not a hope that is not founded on their word; nor can a ray of consolation shine into our souls, that is not emitted from their writings. We do not sufficiently consider this: but we ought never to forget how greatly we are indebted to the Jews: since, whether in its primary structure or its subsequent conveyance, our “salvation is altogether of them;” of them originally, of them instrumentally, of them exclusively: so that not a soul amongst us shall ever go forth from this devoted land to the mountains of eternal bliss, but as instructed, instigated, and assisted by a Jew.

From this subject we cannot but learn our duty in two important respects: first, to seek this salvation for ourselves; and next, to exert ourselves in order to impart this salvation to those from whom we have received it.

First, then, let us seek this salvation for ourselves.

It cannot be that Almighty God should have done so much for our salvation, and we be at liberty to neglect it. The Apostle’s question is full of awful and impressive energy, “How shall ye escape, if ye neglect so great salvation?” Surely, if God has given his only dear Son to be a sacrifice for sin; if, in order to prepare the world for the reception of him, he shadowed forth all his work and offices with such precision, that it should be impossible for any considerate mind not to see and understand the way of salvation; if Prophets and Apostles, for such a series of ages, bare witness to him at the peril of their lives, in order that we might know him, and be partakers of his benefits; does it become us to despise it all, as if it were no better than a cunningly-devised fable 2 Surely, we must see that it is our bounden duty to flee for refuge to this hope that is set before us. We must remember what the very term “Salvation” implies: it implies, that we are lost: for if in ourselves we be not lost, we cannot need a Saviour. But we are lost, every one of us; for we are sinners, condemned by God’s righteous law; and “the wrath of God abideth on us.” I fear it will appear harsh to say, that we are in this respect on a footing with the fallen angels, even with “the spirits that are already in the prison” of hell. But, if I say the truth before God, this is the only difference between them and us: they are lost beyond redemption; whereas we, though lost, have salvation offered to us: but, if we neglect this salvation, we shall perish, under a load of guilt beyond all expression aggravated, and under a punishment beyond all conception terrible. Whatever may have been the guilt of the fallen angels, from this, at least, they are free; they have never poured contempt on a redeeming God, never rejected a proffered salvation: but these are the sins that will be charged on us, if we embrace not the salvation which is revealed to us in the Gospel.

I say, then, to every soul before me, seek this salvation which the Jews have brought unto you: seek it simply, mixing nothing with it, but relying altogether on the atoning blood of Christ, “who, though he knew no sin, was made sin for you, that you, who had no righteousness, might be made the righteousness of God in him.” And seek it humbly, confessing over the Lord Jesus Christ your every sin, and transferring it by faith to his sacred head. In point of dependence, you must renounce your most righteous acts as much as your vilest sins; and you must look to his blood to cleanse you from the iniquity even of your holiest things. Seek it constantly too: it was every day in the year that the offerings for sin were made: and every day and hour must you look to your great Sacrifice, if you would have it available for your eternal good. Seek it, moreover, unreservedly. Neglect not the water, any more than the blood. It will be a fatal mistake to think of ever being saved by the sacrifice of Christ, if you be not renewed and sanctified by his Spirit. These two are inseparably joined by God himself; and it will be at the peril of your souls, if ever you attempt to put them asunder. Lastly, I would say, seek it to the full extent of your necessities. I have purposely deferred till now all mention of the sacrifices that were appointed for the sins of ignorance. They are particularly stated in the fourth chapter of the Book of Leviticus. There you will see, that, if a man had ever so ignorantly and unintentionally contracted defilement, (say, by the touching of a bone or a grave, or any thing that had been previously touched by one unclean,) he must bring his offering, as soon as ever he discovered that he had transgressed: and, if he should refuse to bring his appointed offering, he must be cut off from the Lord’s people, as a despiser of the law, and a rebel against his God. Thus must we do, even for the slightest inadvertence or defect. And if, from an idea that our offence has been light and venial, we hope to remove its guilt by any other means than the blood of Christ, we shall surely perish. If we had never violated God’s holy law but once, and that only by an inadvertent thought, there remains for us but one way of salvation, one only door of hope: and, if we will not enter at that door, and walk in that way, “there remains nothing for us but a certain fearful looking-for of wrath and fiery indignation to consume us.” I say then, again, to every soul amongst you, seek for salvation in Christ alone. There was but one brazen serpent erected in the camp of Israel: and there is but one Saviour appointed for the whole world. “There is no other way unto the Father but by Him:” but “those who come to God in his Son’s name, he will in no wise cast out.”

Next, let us exert ourselves to impart this salvation to those from whom we have received it. I appeal to all: if we are so indebted to the Jewish people of former ages, should we not endeavour, in some respect, to requite them by shewing kindness to their descendants? and if we are constrained to say that “salvation is of the Jews,” should we not, now that the Jews themselves are ignorant of that salvation, endeavour to impart to them the light which we enjoy, and constrain them, in their turn, to say, “Salvation is of the Christians?” For, surely, if it be of them in its commencement, it is, and ought to be, of us in its progress and consummation. And I would ask, is it not a scandal to the whole Christian world, that they should have so long and so shamefully neglected those to whose ancestors they are so greatly indebted? It was never God’s design that we should “hide our candle under a bushel,” and conceal it from the very persons who have put it into our hands. On the contrary, St. Paul expressly says, that as we have been benefited by their unbelief, so we should strive to benefit them by our faith: “As we in times past have not believed God, but have now obtained mercy through their unbelief; so have these also now not believed, that through our mercy they also may obtain mercy.” Whilst, therefore, we withhold from them the instruction which God has qualified us to impart, we defeat the very designs of God himself, and may well have required at our hands the blood of all who perish through our neglect.

If we would know in what way we ought to exert ourselves for them, we need only inquire how they exerted themselves for us. Behold the Prophets and Apostles, in the different ages in which they lived: which of them all, with the exception of the Prophet Jonah, did not engage in his work with zeal, and execute it with fidelity? Of all the Apostles, there was but one who did not actually seal the truth with his blood; as John also was willing to do, if he had been called to it. And all the first Christian converts, when driven from Jerusalem, “went everywhere preaching the word,” happy if by any means they might impart to us benighted heathens the salvation which they had found. Should not, then, some measure, at least, of that zeal be shewn by us? Should not their souls be precious in our eyes, as ours were in theirs? It is a shame to us that we think so lightly of this matter; and that we, who ought to take the lead in every thing that is good and great, are so backward to exert ourselves in this holy cause. I well know that sloth and indifference will furnish us with reasons enough for delay: but I would ask, what reason has any man for neglecting this duty, which might not have been urged with still greater force by the Jews for a neglect of us? The attempt to convert the Jews might have been deemed visionary a few years ago: but shall it be judged visionary now? I say, without fear of contradiction, that the efforts which have been made within these few years have produced a great effect, if not in numerous conversions, yet at least in that which must precede conversion; and which conversion may reasonably, in many instances, be expected to follow; I mean, the conviction of their minds of the truth of Christianity. I do say, that this effect is seen, felt, and acknowledged by the Jews themselves: and if the periodical publications which are issued forth on this subject were perused, the truth of this assertion would most abundantly appear. Permit me, then, to call the attention of this assembly to this momentous subject; and to press on all who hear me this day, to “come to the help of the Lord against the mighty,” even against the mighty prejudices of the Jewish people, and the no less formidable indifference of the Christian world. A good example here would be felt throughout the land, and would tend not a little to diffuse, both among Jews at home and Jews abroad, the light which we possess, and the salvation we enjoy. I ask, is that true which our Lord has spoken, “If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins?” If this be true, then are that whole people perishing by millions. And shall we suffer them thus to “perish for lack of knowledge?” God forbid. If any of us know what salvation is, we ought to impart it to others. We feel this obligation in some measure to the heathen, to whom we are not at all indebted; and yet overlook it in reference to the Jews, from whom we have received all the light and knowledge we possess. This ought not so to be: this should not continue one hour longer: we ought all to rise, as one man, to repair, as far as possible, our past neglect, and to fulfil our duties to God and man. But, if we will still continue to hide our talent in a napkin, know all of you, that you shall be called into judgment for it, and that the doom of the unprofitable servant must await you. But “let me hope better things, though I thus speak, even things that accompany salvation.” I thank God that some at least have awaked to the calls of justice and of mercy; of justice to God, who has entrusted them with their talents; and of mercy to the Jews, who so greatly need their improvement of them. And I pray God that this spirit may abound more and more; and that they who embark in this good cause may soon have the happiness to see that “they have not laboured in vain, nor run in vain.”


Verse 24

DISCOURSE: 1618

THE WORSHIP WHICH GOD REQUIRES

John 4:24. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

BRETHREN, you are all upon the brink of eternity. You are all sinners. As sinners, you stand in need of mercy at the hands of God: and God is willing to bestow mercy upon every one of you, without exception. But he must be inquired of, in order that he may do this for you: and he must be inquired of, not in a cold and formal manner, but in sincerity of heart; for “He is a Spirit; and all who worship him, must,” as my text informs you, “worship him in spirit and in truth.”

Let this declaration sink down into your ears; and let it operate strongly on your minds, whilst we contemplate it;

I. As an answer to a particular inquiry—

Our Lord was conversing with a woman of Samaria, and had shewn to her that he was perfectly acquainted with all the evils she had committed in her former life, and with those in the indulgence of which she was still living. She, not wishing to hear any thing further upon a subject so painful to her mind, sought to turn the conversation into another channel; and for that purpose inquired what his sentiments were on a point that was at issue between the Jews and the Samaritans, namely, whether God was to be worshipped at Jerusalem, or at Mount Gerizim in Samaria? Our Lord, in reply to her question, tells her, that the time was now come, when the Father was no longer to be worshipped in any one place more than another; but that in every place under heaven, those, and those only, should have access to him, who “worshipped him in spirit and in truth.”

This directly met the inquiry which had been made—

[Till that time “bodily exercise” had certainly prevailed in the services of God’s people, whose access to him was chiefly in the use of prescribed forms, which were shadowy and typical, and were confined to one city, and to one particular building in that city. The directions which God had given in relation to this matter, even before his people came into possession of the promised land, were very specific: “Unto the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither shall thou come; and thither ye shall bring your burnt-offerings, &c. &c and there ye shall eat before the Lord your God [Note: Deuteronomy 12:5-7.].” At the time when the temple of Solomon was consecrated, the people were instructed, that, if they should go out to battle, or be carried captives to a foreign land, they must turn towards that place, when they made their supplications to the Lord for help or mercy: and an intimation was given, that, even if they should “return to God with all their heart and all their soul,” it would not suffice, unless they also “directed their prayers towards that place [Note: 1 Kings 8:44; 1 Kings 8:48.].” From hence, as well as from the examples of their holiest prophets [Note: Psalms 28:2. Daniel 6:10.], they were led to suppose, that no prayer would be accepted, but such as should be offered in that precise manner. There was indeed under that very dispensation ample evidence that that conclusion was erroneous: for God had said, “The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my word [Note: Isaiah 66:1-2.].” Still, however, this matter was not generally understood, till our blessed Lord proclaimed, that Jehovah was a Spirit, and therefore not confined to any place, but pervading all space, and accessible to all who desired to draw nigh unto him. He no longer now was to be approached with mere bodily service, or in carnal ordinances, but “in spirit,” as opposed to the one, and “in truth,” as opposed to the other: and they who so approached to him should never be permitted to “seek his face in vain.”]

In this view it is of importance to us also—

[We are apt to lay an undue stress on externals; and to imagine, that a peculiar measure of acceptance is to be found at the table of the Lord, more than at any other time or place. (Let me not be here misunderstood, as though I would undervalue the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper: for it is our bounden duty to commemorate our Lord’s death in that ordinance; and from a spiritual and believing participation of the bread and wine, we may undoubtedly expect the richest benefits.) But from a mere formal attendance on that ordinance we receive no more good, than from a similar attendance on the common services of the Church. It is to the heart alone that God looks: if that be not right towards him, no service whatever can be “acceptable in his sight:” but, if that be under the influence of penitence and faith, its offerings, under whatever circumstances they be presented, shall surely come up with acceptance before him.]

That this truth may be more fully brought before you, I shall consider the text,

II. As an instruction suited to all times and circumstances—

The thing which God expects, is, that there be a correspondence between the feelings of our heart, and the offerings of our lips—

[If, for instance, we confess our sins before him, it is not sufficient that our words be humble; our spirit must be humble too, and a holy penitential sorrow must fill our hearts. If we present our petitions before him, it is not sufficient that we ask for such things as are good and desirable, but we must feel an ardent desire after them in our souls, and plead for them with an importunity suited to the importance of them. So also, if we return thanks to God, we must not rest in unmeaning compliments, but adore and magnify our God from our inmost souls. If there he not this correspondence between our feelings and our words, what “truth” is there in us? Our services are no better than a solemn mockery, that must offend, rather than please, the Majesty of heaven.]

Such sincerity the very nature of God requires—

[“He is a Spirit,” that pervades all space. He is equally present with all his creatures; nor is there a thought in the heart of any person in the universe, that is not “naked and open before him.” Were he able to behold our actions only, he might be pleased with our services, though unaccompanied with any devout affection: but when “he searcheth the heart, and trieth the reins,” and “weigheth” with infallible accuracy “our very spirits,” how can he listen to our heartless addresses with any satisfaction? Verily such prayers must be, as he declares they are, an utter “abomination unto him.” When some under the Jewish dispensation brought to him “the blind, and the lame, and the sick, for sacrifice,” he appealed to them, “Whether it was not evil?” “ Go,” says he, “offer these now unto your Governor; will he be pleased with you, or accept your persons [Note: Malachi 1:8.]?” What then must he say to those who think to impose upon him by prayers which proceed “from the lips only, whilst the heart is far from him [Note: Matthew 15:7-9.]?” Assuredly he will say, “Bring no more such vain oblations,” ye hypocrites, for “in vain do ye worship me:” “your most solemn services are an iniquity” which I utterly abhor, and “I am weary to bear them [Note: Isaiah 1:11-14.].”]

Unite with me then, whilst I make your prayers a subject of strict inquiry—

[It is to be feared that many of you, who would yet wish to be thought good Christians, live without even the form of prayer. Look back only to this very morning; look back to the past week; look back throughout your whole lives; and see, whether you have ever spent one single hour in secret prayer to God? Ah! does not conscience condemn the greater part of you? Have not many of you, as far as prayer is concerned, lived rather like brute beasts, than as rational and immortal beings? — — — Or, supposing you have kept up a form of prayer, has it not been a mere form? You who teach your children to repeat some form of prayer in your presence, know very well that theirs is not prayer: and what is yours better than theirs? Your heavenly Father, in whose presence you read or repeat your forms, knows how to estimate them, whilst they are offered without any suitable emotions. The way for you to judge of them is this: set before your eyes a person perishing in the sea, and supplicating deliverance from his perils; and then compare your feelings with his. His feelings you can easily conceive: and if yours have no correspondence with them, no such sense of danger, no such desire of help, no such thankfulness for the efforts used in your behalf, you have yet to learn the nature of prayer, and yet to begin that work, without which you must perish in your sins — — —]

But let me not conclude without adding a few words of encouragement—

[It is not improbable that some may be ready to write bitter things against themselves, because they find sot fluency in prayer. But it is not by our fluency in utterance that God judges of our prayers, but by the humility of our minds, and the fervour of our desires. A sigh, or groan, proceeding from a broken and contrite heart, is of more value in his sight, than the richest effusions of eloquence that ever proceeded from the lips of man. Never was there a more acceptable prayer offered by mortal man than that of the Publican, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” Take courage then, ye who are dejected because ye find not such utterance as ye could wish. “God knoweth the mind of the Spirit:” and it is in sighs and groans chiefly that “his Spirit maketh intercession in us.” Only let there be a sincerity of heart before him, and. your very breathings shall be heard, and descend in blessings on your souls; for “he seeketh such to worship him,” and will fulfil the desire of them that so approach him. If only you “look to him, you shall be lightened;” and if you hope in him, you shall assuredly be made partakers of his kingdom and glory.”].


Verse 29

DISCOURSE: 1619

CONVICTION OF SIN, A PREPARATIVE FOR SALVATION

John 4:29. Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?

LITTLE do we know what a day or an hour may bring forth. It was probably owing to an unexpected temptation that this Samaritan woman fell into the sin which led to that vicious and abandoned course which she afterwards pursued. And to what the world in general would call a most accidental circumstance, she was indebted for the salvation of her soul. It happened, as we say, that the Lord Jesus Christ came to relieve his weariness and thirst at Jacob’s well, whither she also had come to draw water. There, contrary to what might have been expected, the Saviour entered into conversation with her, and brought conviction to her mind, and revealed himself to her as the promised Messiah; and made her, who had been an occasion of evil to many, to become to many the means of their salvation: for, on being interrupted in her conversation by his Disciples, who had gone into the adjacent city to purchase food, she herself went into the city, and said to all whom she met, “Come, and see a man who told me all things that ever I did! Is not this the Christ?”

In considering this address of hers to her fellow-citizens, I shall take occasion to shew,

I. The power of God’s word to produce conviction—

Our Lord had told her what were undoubtedly the most remarkable occurrences of her life, that “she had had five husbands, and that the man with whom she was now living was not her husband.” This brought all her former life so strongly to her recollection, that it seemed as if he had “told her all things that she had ever done.” And this is no uncommon effect of God’s word upon the mind and conscience; as St. Paul has told us: “If all in a Church prophesy, (that is, preach,) and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth [Note: 1 Corinthians 14:24-25.].” It then appeared, and frequently does also at this hour, that a preacher may be led to touch on some points so forcibly and circumstantially, as to seem as if he had been actually made acquainted with the secret history of one or other of his hearers, and were intentionally developing to his audience the history of that particular individual. Now, whence is this? I think it may be well accounted for, by considering what the Spirit of God effects, when he applies any single word with power to the soul.

1. He “opens the eyes of the understanding [Note: Luke 24:45. Ephesians 1:18.]”—

[A man that is blind cannot see any thing: but when his eyes are opened, he sees all the things that are before him, and within the reach of his visual organs. Thus it is when God is pleased to give us a spiritual discernment: we do not see this or that particular sin only, but our entire defection from God, and our whole life, as one continued course of rebellion against him.]

2. He discloses to us the inmost recesses of the soul—

[The soul of man may fitly be compared to the chambers of imagery in Ezekiel’s vision. All is transacting there in secret; and nothing is known but to God himself; till God directs his servant to a hole in the wall, by which a variety of things may be discerned. Now, thus it is that the Spirit of God opens sometimes a hole, and sometimes even a window or a door, by means of which the interior of the soul is made manifest, and the sinner is enabled to see things of which he had before a very indistinct idea. We may conceive a painted sepulchre, beautiful to behold by those who see only its exterior. But, when it is laid open, and all its foul contents are exposed to view, it is too lothesome an object to look upon without the utmost disgust and abhorrence. It would not be necessary to take an accurate survey of the offensive object in all its parts: a person would readily say, ‘I have seen it all.’ And so, when God gives to a man a sight of his chief corruptions, it appears as if every transaction of his life had been made to pass before him.]

3. He awakens conscience to a discharge of its proper office—

[Conscience, in an unawakened man, neglects its duty altogether. It ought to observe and weigh our every act, and to report to us its true character, even as it appears before God himself. But, when the Spirit of God awakens it by the word, it estimates aright our whole character, and without flattery makes us known to ourselves. It exerts itself then with authority: it makes the whole life pass before it in review: it sits in the throne of judgment: it speaks in the name of God himself: it passes sentence even on the most secret actions of our lives; it takes into its account all attendant circumstances of aggravation; and anticipates the judgment of the last day.

Thus we may account for the impression made on the mind of this Samaritan, and the report she gave on leaving the Saviour’s presence. Though every thing that she had ever done had not been distinctly told her, it appeared as if it had; and the effect upon her mind was the same as if it had.]

But, that the power of God’s word may yet more clearly appear, let us proceed to notice,

II. The effect of conviction, when produced—

Mark the effect of it on her: you see in her,

1. A desire to receive instruction—

[Man in his natural state has no wish for instruction in the things that relate to God. He is satisfied with his own crude notions, and is averse to have them tried by the standard of Holy Writ. “He hates the light, and will not come to it, lest his deeds should be reproved.” But when the Spirit of God has fixed conviction on the mind, a man will be glad to know the truth: his very first inquiry will be, “What must I do to be saved?” Thus the woman, thinking that that was true which Jesus had said to her respecting his Messiahship, and that his perfect knowledge of her secret history was an evidence of it, was desirous that her fellow-citizens should give her their judgment concerning it: “Come, and see a man that told me all things that ever I did! Is not this the Christ?” She thought them competent to judge, and took for granted that they would give her their unbiassed opinion upon this momentous question: and though it was but too probable that the notoriety of her character would bring upon her some cutting reflections, she cared not for it, if only she might obtain satisfaction to her mind. It is particularly noticed, that “she left her water-pot behind her!” and this she did, not merely that she might not be detained; (for the detention could at the utmost have only been a few minutes;) but probably forgetting for the time her earthly business, through the ardour of her mind in the pursuit of heavenly knowledge. And thus it is that every awakened soul will act. It will desire knowledge: it will pursue it at the risk of all the obloquy which may attach to a desire after it: and it will postpone all earthly things, to the acquisition of it.]

2. A candour in our inquiries after it—

[Where the heart is unaffected, incredulity and scepticism usually take the lead; and a greater degree of evidence than the subject well admits of, is required. But, where a person feels his guilt as a sinner, and his utter incapacity to save himself, he will feel a predisposition to receive the truth. He will not with sceptical indifference say, “Is this the Christ?” but, with a wish that his pretensions to that character may be found true, “Is not this the Christ?” It may be said, that here was an undue bias. But I deny that it was an undue bias. In a matter which is itself indifferent, we may be indifferent: but in a matter which concerns the glory of God and the salvation of the whole world, indifference would be highly criminal. The misery of man is seen, felt, acknowledged. Here purports to be a revelation from heaven, and a Saviour sent us by Almighty God for the redemption of man. This is not to be a matter of speculative inquiry. It should be examined with a desire that it may be true. The precise state of mind which every person should experience, is that which was experienced by the man whose eyes the Lord Jesus Christ had opened. The Lord Jesus asked him, “Dost thou believe in the Son of God?” The man answered, not coolly and indifferently, “Who is he?” but, with becoming anxiety, “Who is he, that I may believe on him [Note: John 9:36.]?” Though credulity is not good, neither, on the other hand, is incredulity: there is a just medium between the two, a readiness to believe on sufficient evidence. The readiness of the other Disciples to believe in Jesus was commended, whilst the incredulity of Thomas was blamed. And this shews us the precise state of mind which deep conviction generates; a candour in our inquiries after truth, with an unfeigned desire to embrace it the very instant it is fairly laid before us with a weight of evidence sufficient to sustain it.]

3. A wish that others also may be partakers of it—

[It was not from a mere desire to ask their judgment that the Samaritan woman went into the city, but with a hope that her fellow-citizens might participate in the blessings which she had experienced in her soul. This is clear: for they themselves said, that they had believed because of her word: so that she had not been a mere inquirer, but a preacher also. And this is the invariable effect of deep conviction on the mind; it will stir up the person to make others acquainted with the same important truths as have been useful to his own soul. No truly enlightened person will keep his discoveries to himself. He will say to his friends and neighbours, “Come, and see.” This is declared by our Lord in various parables [Note: The Lost Sheep, the Lost Piece of Money, and the Prodigal Son: Luke 15.]: and, in confirmation of it, the Church, in most appropriate and expressive language, says, “Draw me; and we will run after thee.” Draw me, and I will never be content to come alone: I will draw all I can along with me.]

We have hitherto noticed only the acts of this woman. But we should not entirely overlook her person and character, which may well supply us with our concluding observations.

Observe, then,

1. How unbounded is the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ—

[We have seen how his word wrought conviction on her soul; and eventually imparted salvation to her, and to others by her means. But we have not sufficiently considered either who she was, An alien and a hostile Samaritan; or what she was, Even such an abandoned wretch, that it was a shame even to be seen speaking to her. Yet to this woman did our Lord reveal himself more fully and plainly than he had done to any one of his Disciples [Note: ver. 26.]. How sweetly encouraging is this fact! Who that considers this, can despair? Or, rather, who does not here see an intimation of the grace that should afterwards be shewn to the Gentiles, and of the mercy that should be exercised towards the chief of sinners? Know, then, that no past iniquities shall be any bar to your acceptance with him, if only you will humble yourselves before him, and believe in him, as the Christ, the Saviour of the world.]

2. What encouragement we all have to exert ourselves for him—

[It was but little that she knew: and little could be expected from any testimony of hers. Yet, what she spoke sank down into the ears of all that heard it, and was rendered instrumental to the bringing of them to Christ. Let none then say, “I am ignorant: I am sinful: I, as a female, am unauthorized to speak.” Though every one is not authorized to preach, every one, in his own proper circle, is bound to declare what God has done for his soul: and if every one would exert himself as this woman did, especially in bringing others to the means of grace, that they may hear for themselves, we should see conversions far more numerous, and blessings far more widely diffused through the world. The lepers of Samaria, when they found plenty in the deserted camp of the Syrians, said, They did not well to keep the glad tidings to themselves. And can we, after having found salvation, do well in keeping it to ourselves? No: we should invite others to participate the blessings we enjoy; and, being converted ourselves, should do all in our power to strengthen and to save our brethren [Note: Luke 22:32.].]


Verse 34

DISCOURSE: 1620

CHRIST’S DILIGENCE IN SERVING GOD

John 4:34. Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.

OUR blessed Lord, throughout his whole life, was the most illustrious pattern of condescension to man and of fidelity to God. Both these dispositions were eminently displayed in the history before us. Notwithstanding he was already exhausted with a long and fatiguing journey, he had been labouring for the salvation of a most abandoned adulteress: and when urged to intermit his exertions for a little while in order to recruit his strength by some necessary refreshment, he declared, that food was not so delightful to a famished body, as the prosecuting of the great ends of his ministry was to his soul.

From his words we shall take occasion to,

I. Consider our Lord’s example—

Jesus, in his human and mediatorial capacity, was the Father’s servant. And the work assigned him was, to reveal in a more perfect manner the will of God, and to save mankind by his own obedience unto death.

In this work he engaged,

1. With fervent affection—

[Nothing could exceed the delight with which he undertook the arduous task [Note: Psalms 40:7-8.]: nothing the zeal with which he accomplished it [Note: Luke 12:50.]. Whether we view his private addresses to God [Note: Hebrews 5:7.], or his public ministrations among men [Note: He was filled with joy at the least prospect of success, ver. 35 and he grieved and wept when he could not succeed, Mark 3:5. Luke 19:41.], we shall see that in him was that prophecy accomplished, “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up [Note: John 2:17.].”]

2. With indefatigable diligence—

[From the commencement of his ministry to the end of it not a day was unemployed. Frequently, after having laboured all the day, he spent the night in prayer, and resumed his labours with the returning light. Like the sun in the firmament, he proceeded in one steady course through all the cities, towns, and villages; nor ever ceased from his work, till he could say, “It is finished.”]

3. With undaunted resolution—

[What “continual opposition” did he endure! He was truly “a sign spoken against,” or a butt of contradiction [Note: Luke 2:34.]. There was not any thing however perverse, scandalous, or contemptuous, but his ears were assailed with it from day to day. From the very first discourse he uttered till the hour of his crucifixion, his enemies never ceased to seek his life [Note: John 11:8.]. Yet did he persevere in the face of every danger, and at last complete his obedience, by surrendering up his life upon the cross.]

That we may profit from this great example, we will,

II. Propose it for your imitation—

We also have a work to do for God—

[Our work is great; but O! how different from that which was committed to our Lord! We have not to satisfy the demands of justice, or to endure the wrath due to sin: blessed be God! that was the Redeemer’s, work; and it has been finished by him on our behalf. The work which we have to do is to believe in Christ [Note: John 6:29.], and, from a sense of his love to us, to devote ourselves unreservedly to his service [Note: Romans 12:1.].]

Let us then engage in it,

1. Heartily—

[“Whatever our hand findeth to do, we should do it with all our might [Note: Ecclesiastes 9:10.].” A lukewarm service is unacceptable, yea, hateful to God [Note: Revelation 3:15-16.]. Let us then first labour to know the will of God, and then endeavour to do it with our whole hearts. Let us be “fervent in spirit, while we serve the Lord [Note: Romans 12:11.].”]

2. Uniformly—

[It is not an occasional act of zeal that will please God, but a steady conscientious, uniform discharge of our duty. Our spirit, alas! is often faint; and even, when “the spirit is willing, our flesh is weak.” But we must counteract our sloth, and “give all diligence to make our calling and election sure [Note: 2 Peter 1:10.].”]

3. Courageously—

[We shall surely meet with reproach and persecution, if we set ourselves in earnest to serve the Lord [Note: 2 Timothy 3:12.]. But let us “remember him who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself [Note: Hebrews 12:3.].” Woe be to us if we draw back through the fear of man [Note: Hebrews 10:38.]. We must hate, not only father and mother, but even our own life also, if we would be Christ’s Disciples [Note: Luke 14:26.]. Let us then “take up our cross daily” after Christ’s example, and “suffer with him, in order that we may be also glorified together [Note: Romans 8:17.].”]

Address—

1. Those who are unconcerned about the work of God—

[Has not God appointed you a work to do; and ought you not to have begun it long ago? Is it expedient to leave it to a dying hour? What if you should die before it is finished? O, begin instantly; for the “night cometh, wherein no man can work.”]

2. Those who do his work deceitfully—

[God has pronounced such persons accursed, no less than if they did nothing for him [Note: Jeremiah 48:10.]. His service must be your “meat” and drink; the joy of your souls, and the business of your lives. See then that ye “approve yourselves to God as servants that need not be ashamed [Note: 2 Timothy 2:15.].”]

3. Those who are in a measure conformed to their Saviour’s image—

[Bless your God, who has thus far enabled you to serve him. But O! think how much you fall short of your heavenly pattern! Forget then what is behind, and press forward for that which is before you [Note: Philippians 3:13-15.]: so shall you in due season “rest from your labours,” and be welcomed as good and faithful servants to the joy of your Lord [Note: Matthew 25:21.].]


Verse 35-36

DISCOURSE: 1621

THE HAPPY STATE OF THE CHURCH

John 4:35-36. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields: for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.

AMAZING was the condescension of our blessed Lord. No one was too mean or too vile for him to notice with his favourable regards. His enemies cast this as a reflection on his character, that he was “a friend of publicans and sinners.” The woman with whom he had been conversing was certainly of as abandoned a caste as can well be conceived: but the result of his conversation with her was most extraordinary: for, through her, a vast multitude flocked to hear him, and that, too, with a readiness of mind to receive his instructions, insomuch that they appeared like “a field of corn white already to harvest.”

This expression of our Lord respecting them will properly lead us to consider,

I. The prospects opening around us—

The times in which we live are perhaps as remarkable as any since the apostolic age. Though religion has been on the increase in this nation for half a century, yet it is within these twenty years that the spread of it has become so remarkable, as to attract the notice of all who are in the least observant of what relates to the kingdom of God. Before that time, it might have been said, “There are yet four months to the harvest,” and any prospect of reaping a harvest of immortal souls is distant: but now we may say, “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” Observe what the state of things is,

1. Abroad—

[Was there ever such a co-operation seen, as that which now exists throughout almost the whole of Christendom, for the diffusion of the Holy Scriptures, and for the translation of them into all the different languages of the world? A few years ago such a combination of zeal in the interests of religion would have been thought to be scarcely within the regions of possibility [Note: Here will be ample scope for such particulars as may be deemed worthy of particular notice.] — — — The multitude of missions, too, which are now established in every quarter of the globe, are no less worthy of our especial notice [Note: Here, also, particular Missions may be specified.] — — — A field laden with the ripened produce of the earth scarcely differs more from that which is lying fallow, than the face of Christendom does in these respects from its aspect at any period during the last two hundred years.]

2. At home—

[Here it comes more within our own more immediate observation. See the societies formed throughout the land for every benevolent purpose, and especially for whatever may advance the kingdom of Christ on earth; such as, for the education of children, the circulation of the Bible, the support of missions, &c. &c. It is a remarkable fact, that whereas fifteen years ago the whole amount of annual subscriptions for such purposes did not amount to more than 50,000l., they now exceed 500,000l. Together with this, true piety also has increased to avast extent [Note: Here any particulars relating to any of the above things may be introduced: and, if need be, some reference to the particular congregation addressed.] — — — We may well therefore regard our whole country as “a field, that is white already to harvest.”]

Let us now extend our views to,

II. The encouragement we have to make a suitable improvement of them—

All should labour, to the utmost of their power, to advance the interests of the Redeemer’s kingdom. And to this we have equal encouragement,

1. In the event of good success—

[The work of God is here compared to a harvest, which a successful preacher may be said to reap. A man who reaps his field considers himself well repaid for his labour, because he lays up in his barns wealth which will support him through the year. But how much better is the Christian Minister repaid! for he “gathers fruit unto life eternal.” What he reaps, will be laid up in the granary of heaven, and will itself endure through eternal ages; yea, and endure also as “his joy and crown of rejoicing” for evermore [Note: 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20.]. Were he to gather but one sheaf of corn, he would be richly recompensed for a whole life of labour: but if his efforts be crowned with a larger measure of success, he will have proportionable ground for joy and gratitude to all eternity [Note: Here the blessedness of “those who are saved” may be opened, together with its aspect on the happiness of “those who save them.” 1 Timothy 4:16.] — — —]

2. In the event of ill success—

[The man who sows his field may be disappointed in a variety of ways: an untoward season may destroy his crop; or an invading enemy deprive him of it; or death may arrest him before it is reaped. But the spiritual “sower shall rejoice together with the reaper,” and have “his own reward according to his own labour [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:8.].” “The Lord of the harvest will not suffer any one of his labourers to work for nought. In the very work itself he shall find a rich reward; and “though Israel be not gathered, yet shall he who sought their welfare be glorious before the Lord [Note: Isaiah 49:5.].” Hosea prophesied for seventy years, and Isaiah fifty; and both of them had reason to complain, “Who hath believed our report?” But are they therefore without a recompence? No: What “they sowed, we reap: they laboured, and we have entered into their labours.” And, as they shall participate our joy, so shall we the joy of those who shall reap what we have sown.]

Let us then,

1. Be on our watch, to do all the good we can—

[Our blessed Lord was sitting weary by a well-side: yet, when an opportunity afforded itself of instructing the Samaritan woman, he embraced it, accounting it “his meat to do the will of him that sent him [Note: ver. 6, 14, 24, 34.].” And who would have thought that such effects should flow from that single conversation? So it may be with us. We make many attempts apparently in vain: but who can tell what one single act of benevolence may produce? Let the occasion before us encourage us to “be instant in season and out of season,” and to “sow both early and late, not knowing which shall prosper,” or what blessings may result from an individual effort [Note: Ecclesiastes 11:6.].]

2. Increase our labours as opportunities for labour are increased—

[“The field for labour is the world.” Heretofore but small portions of it have been open to us; but now men are calling to us from every quarter of the globe, “Come over, and help us!” Let us then extend our labours far and wide: yea, let us make it “our very meat to do the will of God;” having a constant appetite for it, and accounting every day as lost, in which we have not done somewhat for the souls of men. Let the nature of the harvest animate us. Think of immortal souls; and, whether reaped by us or not, yet if reaped by others, at whatever distance of time, in consequence of what we have sowed, reckoned to us as “our joy and crown!” Let us, I say, gird up our loins to this good work; and we shall surely “rejoice, in the day of Christ, that we have not laboured in vain, or run in vain [Note: Philippians 2:15-16. Daniel 12:13.].”]


Verse 41-42

DISCOURSE: 1622

CONVERSION OF THE SAMARITANS

John 4:41-42. And many more believed because of his own word; and said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.

THE conversion of the Gentiles was not an object of our Lord’s personal ministrations: “he was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Yet there were some particular occasions whereon he testified his regard for them, and gave them pledges of that mercy which was afterwards to be displayed towards them by the ministry of his Apostles. Of this we have an instance in the passage before us. He not only declared his Messiahship to the Samaritan woman whom he met at Jacob’s well, but spent two days with the Samaritans in the city of Sychar, and converted numbers of them to the obedience of faith. From the testimony which she gave of him, they entertained high thoughts of his character; but from a personal acquaintance with him they were convinced that he was the Saviour of the world. This is the account which they themselves gave of their own experience: and from it we shall take occasion to,

I. Distinguish between the kinds of faith here mentioned—

We ought to seek clear views of religion in general, but especially of its fundamental points. Now there is no subject more important, nor any about which more mistaken notions are entertained, than the nature of saving faith. But the distinction is here drawn for us with great accuracy.

The faith which the Samaritans first exercised was founded on mere report—

[The woman had testified to them that Jesus had told 1 the secrets of her heart, even such as could be known only to the Most High God: and had appealed to them whether this was not a convincing evidence that he was the long-expected Messiah. Her argument was plain and conclusive: and, as she had no motive for deceiving them, they believed her report of him, and acknowledged the justness of her conclusion.

We do not mean to disparage this kind of faith: it was good as far as it went; and it was productive of solid benefit to the persons who possessed it, inasmuch as it removed all their prejudices, and disposed them to form a more accurate judgment for themselves. But still we cannot regard this faith in any other light than as a speculative assent, grounded upon human testimony. It seems to have been not unlike to that which is so common amongst ourselves, which arises from a view of the evidences of our religion. We see that all the ancient types and prophecies were fulfilled in Christ, and that most unquestionable miracles were wrought by him and his Apostles in confirmation of his word; and therefore we say that he is, and must be, the Messiah. Yet those who are most versed in this kind of reasoning, are not always suitably affected with it: their knowledge of Christianity is, in many cases, merely speculative, residing in their heads, but never descending into their hearts, nor influencing their lives. We cannot therefore consider this as a saving faith: being unproductive of good works, it is dead; and, if carried no further, will leave the possessor of it in the state of those unhappy spirits, of whom it is said, “They believe, and tremble [Note: James 2:17; James 2:19.].”]

The faith to which they afterwards attained, was founded on their own experience—

[During the two days that our blessed Lord staid among them, they heard him discourse on the things relating to his kingdom. They perceived that “he spake as never man spake;” and “his word was with power.” As it had before probed the heart of the woman at the well, so it searched their hearts, and disclosed to them all their hidden abominations. It shewed them, that they themselves were lost, yea, that the whole world also was in a perishing condition; and that He was sent of God on purpose to deliver them. From the correspondence which they saw between the character he sustained and the necessities they felt, they were assured “that he was the Christ, the Saviour of the world:” and they determined to rely on him, as their Saviour, and their Redeemer.

Now this was saving faith: it brought them fully to Christ for the ends for which he was sent into the world: “With their hearts they believed on him unto righteousness: and with their mouths they made confession unto salvation [Note: Romans 10:10.].” This faith was very different from that which they first exercised: it was more distinct, more assured, more influential: they had more full and complete views of the objects of Christ’s mission — — — they “had within themselves a witness” of the suitableness and sufficiency of his salvation — — — and they instantly became his open and avowed Disciples, in spite of all their former prejudices, and the prejudices of all around them — — —

Certainly we must look for good works as fruits and evidences of this faith: but this faith, supposing it to be sincere, will assuredly issue in salvation.]

We proceed to notice,

II. The importance of making this distinction—

Two facts will serve to illustrate this:

1. For want of distinguishing aright, many sincere persons are distressed—

[The nature of saving faith has, as might well be expected, been a subject of controversy in the Christian world: and it is to be lamented, that, whilst some have placed the standard too low, others have raised it too high. A full assurance of our own personal acceptance with God has been supposed by many to be an essential part of true faith: and hence multitudes who have really “fled to Christ for refuge as to the hope set before them,” are disquieted from day to day, because they do not feel in themselves that assurance. But God does not require us to believe more than he himself has revealed: and where has he revealed that any particular individual amongst us is in a state of salvation? or where has he said that the belief of our own personal interest in Christ is necessary in order to our obtaining an interest in him? Indeed, such a declaration would be absurd: it would be a contradiction in terms: it would require us to believe that a thing does exist, in order that it may exist; which is as absurd, as to believe that we are well, in order that we may be well; or that we are in heaven, in order that we may be in heaven. A thing must exist, before we can know that it exists; and therefore the knowledge of our acceptance with God cannot precede that acceptance; much less can it be necessary in order to our acceptance with him. As for straining metaphorical expressions in order to found doctrines upon them, it is injudicious in the extreme. It is far better to examine what that faith was, which was exercised by the saints of old, and which they found effectual to their salvation: and if we do that, we shall always find, that the faith by which they were saved, was a faith of affiance, and not that which is generally (but improperly) called a faith of assurance. Assurance is necessary, so far as it relates to Christ’s ability and willingness to save us; but it is not necessary in relation to our own personal acceptance with him: this is desirable, no doubt, and a great source of comfort to the person who possesses it: but they who do not possess it, may yet be in a state of salvation, and enjoy much consolation in the hope that they shall not finally be cast out.

Is there any one then amongst us under such circumstances; let him be of good courage, and in humble confidence cast himself upon the mercy of a reconciled God [Note: Isaiah 50:10.], If he perish at the foot of the cross, he will be the first that ever perished there — — —]

2. For want of distinguishing at all, many insincere persons are ruined—

[The generality of persons seem to have no idea of any faith beyond that of a mere assent to certain propositions: and, if they have never set themselves to oppose Christianity, they take for granted that they are believers. They were born in a Christian land, and have been educated in the Christian faith, and therefore they suppose that all is well. If they are licentious in their conduct, they will allow perhaps that they are deficient in their morals; yet they never suspect that they are materially wrong in their faith. But let them look around, and see what is the fruit of such faith as they possess: do they find it productive of any such effects as resulted from the faith of the first Christians? No: it leaves the possessors of it under the influence of the world, the flesh, and the devil, as much as the heathens themselves. How then can this be saving faith, of which it is said, It “purifies the heart,” and “overcomes the world?” Yet under this delusion the generality of Christians both live and die — — — Is it not important then that they should be told, that “He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh [Note: Romans 2:28-29.]?” Surely, whatever such persons may imagine, if ever they be brought to a saving knowledge of Christ, they will say, Now we believe in Christ, not because we have been told by our Parents that Christianity is true, but because we have heard him ourselves speaking to us in his word, and have felt that he is exactly such a Saviour as our necessities require.]

Address—

1. Let us not deceive ourselves by resting in a spurious and inefficient faith—

[St. Paul exhorts us to “examine ourselves, whether we be in the faith.” And truly, when we see what little influence our faith has had upon us in times past, we may well suspect that it has not been of a right kind — — — If we continue in our delusion any longer, our error may soon be past a remedy — — —]

2. If enlightened ourselves, let us endeavour to enlighten others—

[Some may say, The vileness of my character, or the weakness of my capacity, render it unfit for me to attempt the instruction of others. But, if we only consider what honour God put upon this vile adulteress, in making her the instrument of drawing multitudes to Christ, we shall see that no one need be discouraged. An angel could be no more to us than what God made him: and God is pleased to use the weakest instruments, in order that “the excellency of the power may appear to be of him.” Let us therefore, each in his place and station, “declare what the Lord hath done for our souls;” and invite others to “come and taste how gracious the Lord is.”]


Verses 49-51

DISCOURSE: 1623

THE NOBLEMAN’S SON CURED

John 4:49-51. The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth.

IF the rebukes of God be in one view tokens of his displeasure, they certainly in another view are expressions of his regard, and have frequently been forerunners of peculiar mercy. The Canaanitish woman was frowned upon, as it were, by our Lord, as utterly unworthy to taste the children’s bread; yet was immediately afterwards admitted to a participation of it. Thus the nobleman, who now addressed him, received a reprimand for his backwardness to believe; but was nevertheless favoured instantly with an answer suited to his wish.

The circumstances related in the text lead us to observe,

I. That weak and strong faith differ widely in their effects—

This is particularly discoverable in the history before us—

[The nobleman’s faith, though weak, induced him to take a considerable journey that he might find Jesus, and brought him to apply to Jesus with much humility and respect. Yet he could not refrain from limiting the power of Jesus, and prescribing to him the time and manner in which his request should be granted. And because his petition was not granted at first, he grew impatient, and intimated his apprehensions, that, if the relief were not instantly afforded, it would soon be too late even for Jesus himself to interfere. But when his faith was strengthened by the word and Spirit of Christ, the tumult in his mind subsided, the irritation yielded to composure, and his apprehensions were banished by a firm expectation that the promised blessing should be given. Though he saw no change with his eyes, yet he doubted not but that a change had taken place; and he left it to Jesus to accomplish his own word in his own way.]

Such are the various effects produced in us also by a similar cause—

[The weakest faith, if truly sincere, will bring us to Jesus with reverence and humility; and will make us urgent with him to bestow upon us his benefits. Nor shall we regard any trouble in seeking him, provided we at last obtain the desired blessings: but if our “hope be deferred, it will make our heart sick.” We shall become impatient, if the pardon which we seek be not instantly sealed upon our consciences, or the victory we solicit be suspended for a while in dubious conflict. We shall be ready to dictate to Jesus both the time and manner of his interference, and to limit his powers according to our own narrow apprehensions of them. When our faith is strengthened, we shall rest more simply on his declarations and promises. We shall not, like Zacharias, want a sign to confirm them, or, like Rebekah, use sinful means of hastening their accomplishment [Note: Luke 1:18. Compare Genesis 25:23; Genesis 27:8-10.]. We shall be willing to let him work in his own way. Though we see not his word yet accomplished, nor know in what way it shall be fulfilled, yet we shall be satisfied, and content to wait till he shall clear up to us what is dark and intricate [Note: Isaiah 28:16.]. Our expectation will be patient, and our confidence in him assured. Like Abraham, we shall not stagger at his promises, but give him the glory of his faithfulness and omnipotence [Note: Romans 4:20.].]

Nor does God fail to distinguish these different degrees of faith by different tokens of his approbation. This will appear while we observe,

II. The more we exercise faith, the more evidence of its efficacy and acceptance will God vouchsafe unto us—

The experience of the nobleman well illustrates this truth—

[His faith while it was yet weak, prevailed for the obtaining of the mercy he desired. Jesus kindly overlooked his impatience, and granted him even more than he had asked. This was a rich reward of faith. But when the nobleman returned home in full expectation of finding every thing true which Jesus had declared, his faith received a yet stronger confirmation from the account which the servants gave him; and the more minutely he inquired into the circumstances of his son’s recovery, the more fully was he convinced that it had been effected by the invisible agency of the Lord Jesus. By this was his faith yet more abundantly confirmed, insomuch that both he and all his family became Disciples of Jesus [Note: ver. 52, 53.].]

The same may be traced in the experience of all believers—

[The smallest degree of true faith will surely bring them the pardon of their sins, and whatever is absolutely needful for their salvation. “If their faith be only as a grain of mustard-seed, it shall remove mountains:” but, if they be strong in faith, they shall see the glory of God in a far more conspicuous manner [Note: John 11:40.]. They may not indeed immediately see God, as it were, in the act of working; but they shall see frequent reason to exclaim, “What hath God wrought!” When they come to compare events with the promises of God, they will be constrained to acknowledge and adore his good providence. They will see how indebted they have been to his gracious interposition for many deliverances from danger, supports in trouble, and victories in their spiritual warfare. They may indeed, like Joshua himself, be so stumbled for a moment by some dark dispensation, that they shall almost doubt whether they have not been under a delusion [Note: Joshua 7:6-9.]. But like him, they shall be enabled to look back for a series of years, to recount the mercies of the Lord, and to bear testimony to his unalterable truth and faithfulness [Note: Joshua 23:14.]. Upon a review of their lives, they shall have as clear evidences of a divine interposition in their favour, as if they had seen a miracle wrought before their eyes. Nor shall they hesitate to declare with the holy Apostle, “He that hath wrought us to the self-same thing is God [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:5.].”]

To improve this subject, we would suggest some suitable advice—

1. Let all personal or domestic troubles lead us to Jesus—

[“We are born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” None are exempt from it in this vale of tears. The nobleman is as much exposed to it as the beggar; but God sends it for good. He sends us adversity that we may be led to consideration; and many have found cause to bless him for their troubles. Many must say, “Before I was afflicted I went astray;” “It is good for me that I have been afflicted.” “Hear then the rod, and him that hath appointed it.” Its voice to us is, “Seek ye the Lord while he maybe found;” “turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die.” Improve afflictions thus, and you will be thankful for them to all eternity. What a mercy in the issue did the sickness of the nobleman’s son prove both to the nobleman and all his family! And most assuredly, if your troubles should prove the means of bringing you to an acquaintance with Jesus, and an experience of his grace, you will never regret the means by which the mercy was conferred upon you.]

2. Let us never prescribe to Jesus, or limit the power of his grace—

[The Lord knows best how to deal with his people. He went to the Centurion’s house because he was both humble and believing; but refused to go to the nobleman’s, that he might more effectually correct his pride and unbelief. Thus he may pursue various methods with us; but he will act in all things with consummate wisdom. He will “abound towards us in all wisdom and prudence.” Let us then commit ourselves to him, saying, when thou wilt, and what thou wilt, and as thou wilt. In this way we shall have our minds composed, and our thoughts established. And though he may lead us, as he did the Israelites, by a very tedious and circuitous path, yet we shall find at last that it was the “right way [Note: Psalms 107:7.].”]

3. Let every fresh discovery of his mercy make us more solicitous to bring others to him—

[The nobleman doubtless related to his family all that Jesus had spoken to him; and was instrumental in bringing all his family to believe in him. And shall not we make this improvement of his mercies vouchsafed to us? Shall we not exhort those, over whom we have influence, to trust in his word? Surely if we express a concern for their bodily welfare, we should be no less solicitous for the salvation of their souls. And if we have found the benefit of believing in him ourselves, we should labour that all around us may be partakers of that benefit. By telling of his goodness we shall pay him that tribute which he expects at our hands, and anticipate that employment in which we hope to be occupied to all eternity.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on John 4:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/john-4.html. 1832.


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Sunday, August 20th, 2017
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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