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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Psalms 46



Verse 4



Psalms 46:4. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God.

FREQUENTLY, in the Holy Scriptures, is God compared to a fountain: in conformity with which idea, the blessings of salvation which flow from him may well be called “a river.” To the Israelites in the wilderness, there was given a stream which followed them in all their journeys: and to the Church. at this day also, is “a river opened for the refreshment of all who travel Zion-ward.” Innumerable are the necessities of God’s people in this dreary wilderness; and the “troubles” with which they have to contend are often so great as to make it appear as if “the earth itself were removed, and the mountains were carried into the midst of the sea.” But God is with his people; and the river which attends their steps supplies their every want. “The whole city of God is gladdened by it, and especially the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High:” for the nearer any one’s access to God is, the more abundant are the communications made to him of grace and peace.

The exalted character given of this river will justify a minute inquiry respecting it. Let us notice then,

I. The source from whence it issues—

[Whence can this be, but from God himself? But on this subject we are not left to form conjectures: for David says, “With God is the fountain of life [Note: Psalms 36:9.].” And St. John says, that “there was shewn to him a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb [Note: Revelation 22:1.].” From God, as the primary cause of all good, and from the Lamb, who has “purchased the Church with his blood,” and who is constituted “Head over all things to his Church,” and has all fulness treasured up in him for his people’s use; from our adorable Emmanuel, I say, all the blessings of salvation flow. The Father, of his own sovereign will, opened a way for the bestowment of them: the Son, by his atoning blood, procured them for us: and the Holy Spirit imparts them to the souls of men: so that from our Tri-une God does this river altogether proceed. In truth, it was typified by the waters that flowed from the rock in Horeb, and supplied the camp of Israel forty years: “They all drank the same spiritual drink,” says the Apostle; “for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that rock was Christ [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:4.].”]

We may next notice,

II. The channel in which it flows—

[It is in the ordinances of the Gospel that all spiritual blessings are dispensed. For thus saith the prophet: “It shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters; and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim [Note: Joel 3:18. with Isaiah 2:3. latter part.].” To the house of God, those who are athirst come, that they may drink of its refreshing streams. “O God, thou art my God,” saith holy David; “early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; to see thy power and thy glory, so as I hare seen thee in the sanctuary [Note: Psalms 63:1-2.].” Yes; these are “the golden pipes, by which the golden oil is communicated from the olive-trees” to every lamp in the sanctuary [Note: Zechariah 4:11-12.]. See, in the days of old, what blessings attended the ministration of the word, accompanied as it was by an effusion of the Spirit from on high: nothing could withstand its power! So it still “sweeps away from men every refuge of lies, and overflows their hiding places [Note: Isaiah 28:17.];” at the same time that it bears them up, as in the ark, and saves them from the deluge that will destroy the world.]

We may not unprofitably direct your attention yet further to,

III. The depths of “its streams”—

[The Prophet Ezekiel refers so particularly to this, that we must on no account omit the mention of it. He speaks of this river as proceeding “from under the threshold of the sanctuary, and from the side of the altar,” where the sacrifices were offered. Being brought to it by the heavenly messenger who had been sent to instruct him, he was made to pass through its waters, which, in the first instance, rose only “to his ankles.” On being brought to another place, he found the “waters up to his knees;” and, at another place, “up to his loins;” and then, a little further on, it was “out of the depth of any man [Note: Ezekiel 47:1-5.].” Now this gives a most just and beautiful representation of the Gospel; which, in our first approach to it, is so shallow, that the veriest child may walk in it with perfect ease: but, as we advance in it, we find yet deeper truths; till, at last, its mysteries are unfathomable by any created intelligence; “so unsearchable are God’s judgments, and his ways past finding out [Note: Romans 11:33.].” Nothing can be more simple than the great leading truth of salvation by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: a child that can but just “run, may read,” and “a wayfaring-man, though a fool, may understand, it.” But when we attempt to explore the love of Christ displayed in it, we find “a length and breadth and depth and height that infinitely surpass any finite comprehension [Note: Ephesians 3:18-19.].”

But of its chief excellencies we must especially mark,]

IV. The salubrity of its waters—

[The Prophet Zechariah, especially referring to the Gospel, says, “It shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem [Note: Zechariah 14:8.].” And in the passage before quoted from the Prophet Ezekiel, their efficacy is fully declared: “It shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed, and every thing shall live whither the river cometh [Note: Ezekiel 47:9.].” Here then we see, that they give health to the diseased, and life to the dead. Verily, there is no disease which shall not be removed by the use of them. Naaman thought that “Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, might be as serviceable as the waters of Israel [Note: 2 Kings 5:12.]:” and, in like manner, many vainly hope to heal themselves by the application of carnal remedies to their souls. But it is this river only that can purify us from our sins; and the man that washes in it, how leprous soever he may have been, shall instantly experience its healing efficacy. Nor shall its virtue be confined to a single patient: none shall have cause to complain, like the man at Bethesda’s pool, that one less indigent or more highly-favoured than himself has been beforehand with him, and exhausted all its virtue [Note: John 5:7.]. Not a human being shall fail of obtaining all he needs, if only he apply the remedy in faith: “The fountain is opened for sin, and for uncleanness [Note: Zechariah 13:1.]: and its powers are yet as effectual as on the day that David washed in it [Note: Psalms 51:7.], or the murderers of the Lord of glory sprinkled its waters upon their souls [Note: Acts 2:41.]. It will even give life to the dead. When a dead man was cast into the sepulchre of Elisha, the very instant his body touched the bones of the prophet, he revived, and stood upon his feet [Note: 2 Kings 13:21.]. And shall not these waters, sprinkled on the soul, produce a like effect? Has not our blessed Lord himself affirmed, “I am the Resurrection, and the Life: he that believeth on me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth, and believeth in me, shall never die [Note: John 11:25-26.]?” Let it not be thought that the Gospel has lost one atom of its power: for though men be in a state so desperate, that, as in Ezekiel’s vision, their bones are reduced to dust, and scattered over the face of the earth, yet shall they “rise a great army,” as soon as ever the Word and Spirit of God shall be applied with power to their souls [Note: Ezekiel 37:1-10.].

That, however, of which our text more particularly speaks, is,]

V. Its efficacy to “gladden the whole city of God”—

[In two respects does it contribute to the happiness of every citizen of Zion; namely, by the defence it affords, and by the refreshment it administers. Common rivers, if they afford protection against those who have no means of crossing them, give, in many instances, a greater facility of assault, either by means of large fleets, which transport an enemy with ease to any point he may choose to attack; or by smaller vessels, whereby he may come suddenly and unperceived, and disembark upon its very banks. But this river admits not of access by any such means. Hear the account given of it by the Prophet Isaiah: “Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities; (the city spoken of in our text:) thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken: for there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams, wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby [Note: Isaiah 33:20-21.].” We may conceive of a river which, by its shoals and cataracts, bids defiance to vessels of any kind; and such is that which encompasses our Zion, and keeps it from every assault. At the same time it supplies the wants of the besieged in rich abundance. From the moment that any one tastes its refreshing streams, “he thirsts no more:” he has within himself, as it were, “a well of water springing up unto everlasting life [Note: John 4:13-14; John 7:37-38.].” Such perfect satisfaction both to soul and body will these waters give, that all who drink of them will have a foretaste of heaven itself: “they draw water out of this fountain with inexpressible joy [Note: Isaiah 12:3.]:” “and they are abundantly satisfied with the fatness of God’s house; and he makes them drink of the river of his pleasures [Note: Psalms 36:8.].” It is doubtless a strong-expression to say that this is a foretaste of heaven: but look into heaven, and you will find the very same river running there, and the blest inhabitants partaking of it: for “the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne is feeding them, and leads them to living fountains of water; and God wipes away all tears from their eyes [Note: Revelation 7:17.].”]

Let me on this sublime subject found an address,

1. To those who are in circumstances of difficulty or danger—

[It was after a deliverance from some impending calamity that this psalm was written: and from that deliverance the Psalmist inferred, that they who trust in God have nothing to fear. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea: though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.” To every inhabitant of Zion this sweet assurance belongs: “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early [Note: ver. 1–5.].” Know then your privilege, Brethren: and amidst all the storms and dangers to which you are exposed, see your God as an impassable river around you; or, varying the metaphor, as “a wall of fire round about you, and the glory in the midst of you [Note: Zechariah 2:5.].” With such a protector, “can any weapon that is formed against you prosper?” You may bid defiance to every enemy; and say, with confidence, “If God be for me, who can be against me?”]

2. To those who are seeking their happiness in the things of time and sense—

[Infatuated people, who are “forsaking the fountain of living waters, and hewing out cisterns for yourselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water [Note: Jeremiah 2:13.]!” when will you see your folly? when will you suffer your continued disappointments to instruct you? If you will not believe the word of God, methinks you might learn from your own experience. Did you, from such services, ever receive one single draught that satisfied you? Have you not, even in the moments of your highest enjoyment, found that you were “labouring for that which could not profit,” and that “in the midst of laughter your heart was in heaviness?” Listen, then, to the invitation of the prophet: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price! Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good; and let your soul delight itself in fatness [Note: Isaiah 55:1-2.].” Verily, if ye will come to the Lord Jesus Christ, and “receive out of his fulness” the blessings he has purchased for you, you shall “see the good of his chosen, and rejoice in the gladness of his nation, and shall glory with his inheritance [Note: Psalms 106:4-5.].”]


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Psalms 46:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

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