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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

John 4

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-16

Verses 1-42

John 4:1-42

When therefore the Lord knew

The first visit to Samaria

I.
THE STORY ITSELF.

1. The memorable halt (John 4:1-6).

2. The surprising request (John 4:7-9).

3. The opened vista (John 4:10).

4. The proud reminiscence (John 4:11-12).

5. The perennial fountain (John 4:13-14).

6. The weary request (John 4:15).

7. The merciful wound (John 4:16-18).

8. The everlasting debate (John 4:19-20).

9. The majestic annunciation (John 4:21-24).

10. The sublime claim (John 4:25-26).

11. The marvellous wonder (John 4:17).

12. The startling surmise (John 4:28-30).

13. The bidden manna (John 4:31-35).

14. The cheery parable (John 4:35-38).

15. The glorious harvest (John 4:39-42).

II. LESSONS OF THE STORY:

1. The duty of seizing opportunities.

2. A model for religious conversation.

3. The true method of quenching the soul’s thirst (John 4:13-14).

4. The spirituality of Christian worship (John 4:21-24).

5. A test of Messiahship (John 4:29).

6. The sense of vocation the true food (verse 31-34).

7. Harvesting the Church’s privilege and duty (John 4:35).

8. The community of Christian fruition (John 4:36).

9. The present the harvest of the past (John 4:37-38).

10. The power of a single conversion (John 4:39).

11. Spiritual privileges to be cherished (John 4:40).

12. The superiority of personal experience (John 4:41-42).

13. A pastor’s personal invitation. (G. D. Boardman, D. D.)

Christ at Jacob’s well

This history teaches us that

I. No soul is so LOST BUT THE LORD CAN FIND IT. Frivolity was natural to this woman. She had lived without restraint and morality. Woman has one safeguard against sin--innate delicacy. This lost, all is lost; and this was so with the Samaritan. How many would have turned away from her as hopeless, But Christ turns to her because she is a soul whom the Father has given Him to save.

II. NO OCCASION IS SO TRIFLING BUT THE LORD CAN USE IT. The woman comes to draw water, a common act, by a common way. Who would have thought that the way would have led to everlasting life? The least trifle may become in God’s hand a means of salvation: a word spoken at random, a familiar scene, an unforeseen hindrance, the monotony of life, the influence of a friend. God’s seeking grace encompasses us like the air we breathe.

III. NO STRENGTH IS SO FEEBLE BUT THE LORD CAN INCREASE IT. Few could have been morally weaker than this woman. She lacked the power to understand Christ and to know herself. Christ had to awaken everything in her. So are we impotent; but the Spirit of Christ helps our infirmities. Christ asks in order that He may give. He requires humility, but only to exalt, the surrender of the old life in order to confer life eternal.

IV. NO BEGINNING IS SO SMALL BUT THE LORD CAN LEAD IT TO A BLESSED END. What a small beginning here I And yet before long a disciple and evangelist is found. Don’t despise little beginnings and struggling souls. (Carl Keogh, D. D.)

Jesus at the well

I. A SYMPATHETIC COMPANION.

1. Sharing human infirmity (John 4:6; Isaiah 53:3; Matthew 4:2; Mark 14:34; John 11:35; Joh_19:28).

2. Accepting human supplies (John 4:7; Matthew 21:17; Mark 2:16; Luke 7:36; Luk_19:5; Luk_24:41).

3. Surpassing human expectations (John 4:9; Matthew 8:27; Mat_9:8; Mat_22:22; Mark 5:20; John 3:9).

II. A HELPFUL COMPANION.

1. Dispelling ignorance (John 4:10; Mark 2:10; Luke 19:42; John 10:38; Joh_13:7; Joh_15:15).

2. Arousing desire (John 4:14; Matthew 5:6; Mat_11:28; John 3:12; Joh_14:12; Joh_16:24).

3. Begetting prayer (John 4:15; Matthew 9:27; Mat_15:22; Mat_20:30; Mk Luke 18:41).

III. A DIVINE COMPANION.

1. Knowing all things (John 4:17; John 1:48; Joh_2:25; Joh_16:30; Joh_21:17; Colossians 2:3).

2. Illustrating true worship (John 4:23; Exodus 20:3; 2 Kings 17:35; Psalms 96:9; Jeremiah 25:6; Matthew 4:10).

3. Avowing the Messiahship (John 4:26; Psalms 2:6; Matthew 16:16; John 11:27; Acts 3:18; Act_17:7. (S. S. Times.)

Jesus at the well

How immense the distance between “Give Me to drink” and “I am He.”

I. AN OBJECT-LESSON IN THE ART OF RELIGIOUS CONVERSATION.

1. No duty more difficult than that of opening out a conversation on the things of the soul. This an art, because we must learn it by practice through mistakes and discouragement. Jesus left few discourses, because His teaching was mostly conversational, suggested by passing things. Beginning here with human thirst and eliciting questions, He gradually and naturally led up and on to the highest truths.

2. Notice the skill with which Jesus avoids a plain answer to a plain question, and so replies that He becomes the questioner and arouses deepening curiosity and interest.

3. The use He made of the woman’s moral intuitions and the truths she already knew. This was the favourite method of His dialectics.

4. Here do we need our lesson from Christ.

II. THE TRUTHS OF THIS DISCOURSE.

1. Living water.

2. True worship.

3. Jesus the Messiah. Salvation was of the Jews, but Christ was the fulfilment of hopes as old as the race. (Sermons by the Monday Club.)

The woman of Samaria

1. The person here introduced was a member of a race specially hateful to the Jews; but Jesus was above the prejudice of His nation.

2. The Samaritan was a woman. “Never speak to a woman in the street, even if she be thy wife”; “Burn the words of the law rather than teach them to a woman,” were current maxims in Jewish society. But Christ, in the unsullied purity of His manhood, brushed aside as cobwebs all social regulations which tended to perpetuate feminine servitude.

3. This woman lived in habitual sin. But Christ came to save sinners. Notice Jesus Christ

I. ENLIGHTENING THE WOMAN. He leads her from natural to spiritual subjects.

1. Observe His sweet courtesy. He opens the conversation, not with a sneer or opprobrious epithet, after the manner of a Jew, but with a request; and notwithstanding her ungracious rebuff, not one word of rebuke escapes Him. A most gentlemanly stranger. True religion teaches us to be courteous. This urbanity impressed her, and He became successively in her eyes Jew, Sir, Prophet, Christ. The truth must be spoken in love, and love will impress quite as much as truth.

2. Notice that the woman’s lack of culture did not hinder Christ making the grandest disclosures. A radical mistake is made when the attempt is made to simplify the gospel beyond what Christ has done. The sublime will always awaken the corresponding consciousness. This is one reason why the words of Christ have more power and permanence than the systems of men.

3. The Lord made a discovery to this woman which He never made to any one else--His Messiahship. Why? Because that would not have been safe in Judaea or Galilee? Rather because of the different dispositions of those He addressed.

II. RECLAIMING THE WOMAN. The object of His enlightening her was to save her.

1. Christ always aimed at doing good.

2. He sought to do the highest good by reclaiming the worst characters. There are three stages in history relative to this subject.

3. To accomplish these ends He threw into His philanthropic movements unprecedented zeal (John 4:34).

III. INSPIRING THE WOMAN, inparting to her His own enthusiasm.

1. She at once set about converting her neighbours. She did not lecture them; she only related her experience. We can also “say” if we cannot preach. Despise not the day of small things. Her “saying” led to the evangelization of a whole city.

2. The success attending the woman’s simple efforts filled the Saviour with holy joy. (J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

Christ and the woman of Samaria

I. THE MINGLED TACT AND CONDESCENSION OF CHRIST IN DEALING WITH A CARELESS SINNER. He does not begin with reproof, but with a request for water, a subject uppermost in her thoughts. This at once threw a bridge across the gulf between them. So Christian workers must go to the sinful, and bear down upon them in the spirit of friendly aggression, studying the best avenues to their hearts, and avoiding any show of superiority.

II. CHRIST’S READINESS TO GIVE MERCIES TO CARELESS SINNERS. If she had asked, He would have given. “Ask and receive.”

III. THE PRICELESS EXCELLENCE OF CHRIST’S GIFTS WHEN COMPARED WITH THE THINGS OF THIS WORLD (John 4:13-14). Thousands of men have every temporal good, and are yet weary and dissatisfied. Jesus alone can give solid happiness. His waters may have their ebbing seasons, but they are never completely dried.

IV. THE ABSOLUTE NECESSITY OF CONVICTION TO CONVERSION. The woman was comparatively unmoved until our Lord exposed her breach of the seventh commandment. From that moment she is an Inquirer after truth. Till a sinner sees himself as God sees him he will continue careless and trifling. Conscience must be pricked by the preaching of the law.

V. THE USELESSNESS OF ANY RELIGION WHICH ONLY CONSISTS OF FORMALITY. True and acceptable worship depends on the state of the worshipper’s heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

VI. CHRIST’S GRACIOUS WILLINGNESS TO REVEAL HIMSELF TO THE CHIEF OF SINNERS. Nowhere in the gospels do we find such an explicit avowal as in John 4:26. Whatever a man’s past life may have been there is hope and a remedy for him in Christ. He will undertake to cure the apparently incurable. (Bp. Ryle.)

The lost one met and saved

I. THE JOURNEY.

1. The occasion (John 4:1; cf. Isaiah 51:13).

2. The route. There were four routes (Matthew 19:2; Acts 23:23). The Jews usually chose that by the Jordan valley, to avoid Samaria.

3. The reason (Luke 9:10).

4. The rest. Notice Christ’s humanity.

II. THE MEETING.

1. The woman

2. The time. Midday. Not the usual hour for drawing water; but a time for such an one to do so unobserved.

3. The request. Compliance with it would have done honour to an archangel. Christ placed Him- self in the position of one desiring a benefit.

4. The reply (John 4:9). This man is not like other Jews.

III. THE CONVERSION.

1. The first flash of light (John 4:10; cf. Ephesians 5:14). Water is sold in Egypt as the “gift of God.”

2. Its reception (John 4:11-12). The woman is perplexed, and seems to struggle between the literal and the spiritual. She changes her mode of address--“Sir.” Our Lord takes no notice of her query, but addresses her state of mind.

3. The leading on (verses 13, 14). The woman’s desire is intensified. The light becomes obscured. How true a picture of an awakening soul I

4. The revelation (verse 16). The request is granted in Christ’s way, not in her’s. He flashes light on her soul and her past (verses 18, 29).

5. Her anxious inquiry (verses 19, 20). How is salvation to be obtained? Not by forms, places, etc.

6. The gift received (verses 25, 26).

IV. THE EFFECT (verse 28). She hastens away a saved sinner to save others John 1:41-45). See a mark of her change, as showing its reality in the fuluess of her confession (John 1:29; cf. John 1:17; Luke 19:8; Luk_23:41; Romans 10:10). (J. Gill.)

Jesus at the well of Sychar

The Fourth Gospel may be called the Gospels of the Conversations, for, more than any other, it reports particular interviews of our Lord with individuals. These conversations, too, are real conversations, for Jesus was not like some famous men, who discourse in monologue. Even His addresses to the multitude were often interrupted by the inquiries or remarks of others, and, in smaller companies, He guided the conversation, while apparently taking the lesser part. The “golden silences” of Jesus are very marked, and George Borrow, in that fascinating book, “The Bible in Spain,” relates that the taciturn people of the little Republic of Andorra noticed these silences, and said of them, “Jesus played the Andorran.” While He spoke with authority, yet He dispelled all feeling of restraint, and even seemed to awaken in others unwonted freedom. Not unfrequently He gave the thought, and let them do the talking. Christ never appears to have saved anything for a large audience, nor feared that any utterance of truth, breathed into the receptive heart of however humble a hearer, could fail of its effect. And these conversations all have a personal turn. They attach great principles to common life, and they lead people through their own needs to the grandest spiritual truths. Jesus evidently has confidence in the living power of truth, and therefore does not press it, but leaves His hearers to follow out the idea and make the application for themselves. If, then, we would understand the effect of our Lord’s conversation with the woman of Samaria, we must read it in the message she bore to her people: “Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did. Can this be the Christ?” This perfect knowledge of the Christ is our greatest safeguard. It is needful, to defend us from plunging farther into sin, that we have the confidence of a loving Saviour. When we are on the verge of temptation, the thought that He knows and grieves over our past sins may win us back. When will we learn the noonday lesson taught at the well of Sychar, that it is the Christ who reveals us to ourselves! It is not for you to find out your sin, but for Him to reveal it to you. With the Psalmist, you ask God to search you, “that you may be led in the way everlasting.” You are to become acquainted with your own heart by having Him read it to you; and all you can tell Him will be of that which He has told you before. Repentance now loses its bitterness, because it is the revelation of the Christ. “Once,” says Luther, “I thought no word so bitter as repentance; now there is none more sweet, and those passages in the Bible that used to terrify me now smile and sport about me.” In the same spirit, Augustine says, in his “Confessions,” “I will now call to mind my past foulness and the carnal corruptions of my soul; not because I love them, but that I may love Thee, O my God. For love of Thy love I do it; reviewing my most wicked ways in the very bitterness of my remembrance, that Thou mayest grow sweet unto me.” The power of such a revelation of the Christ is manifest in the fact, that the largest harvest of souls our Lord ever gathered while on earth was reaped in the two days He spent at Sychar. A soul brought face to face with Him, beholding His glory by being self-revealed, is a fit instrument to convey to others the advent of the Christ. (James G. Vose.)

The model Teacher

I. His ZEAL.

1. He went to a most unwelcome neighbourhood. His hereditary prejudices were arrayed against it, yet, when the world of Palestine was open to Him, our Lord mast needs go through it.

2. He became a teacher. What condescension of His; what an ennobling of the office.

3. He was satisfied with a class of one scholar. He talked just as long, kindly, and eloquently as He did to thousands. The great doctrines were in many cases given quietly to individuals. Regeneration to Nicodemus; resurrection to Martha; spirituality of worship to this woman.

4. He occupied Himself with a disagreeable pupil. Never was there more unpromising scholar.

5. He laboured with her when He was wearied almost to exhaustion.

II. His TACT.

1. How ingenious He was in catching an illustration to interest her mind. He took her water-pot for His text, as He did afterwards fish, loaves, etc. Try to link the unknown on to the known.

2. How quick He was in turning the illustration so as to impress her conscience. He knew He had done nothing until He made her feel that she was a sinner. So McCheyne, standing before a forge fire, said gently to the workmen, “Who can dwell with everlasting burnings”; and Payson to his coach companion on nearing their destination, “Are you prepared for the end of the journey which is so much longer than this?”

III. His SPIRITUALITY. He made the interview religious. Like all other sinners, the woman wanted to talk about something else.

1. Jesus avoided all discussion of sectarian questions. She

2. Jesus pressed home the one lesson He wanted her to learn first of all. He told her of

3. Jesus completed His work by disclosing Himself. (C. S.Robinson, D. D.)

The pedagogy or rudimentary teaching of Jesus

The Church has a twofold mission.

1. To collect the masses, to bear patiently with them and educate them.

2. To go after individuals, person- ally to lay hold of their inner life in order to bring them into a state of salvation. Particular communions have leaned some to one side and some to the other. Romanism has cultivated the social element; lesser communities have laid greater stress on individual faith. Both objects ought always to be united. Let us learn from the pedagogic example of the Lord. Here He reaches the community through the individual; but the individual must first be educated to the faith and knowledge of the truth. There are three steps.

I. The first is reached BY AWAKENING IN THE WOMAN A SENSE OF A DEEPER WANT, the desire for something better than this well can offer.

1. She had regarded life as a matter of sensual enjoyment. The accusations of conscience had not troubled her, and she was happy in her way.

2. Jesus makes her discontented. It was not cruel, only inevitably painful, as is a surgical operation. To destroy quiet is the first step to the cure. Suspended between heaven and earth our souls are drawn to God, but bound to the World, and in the latter we seek happiness. This is the delusion of sin. A life of worldliness assumes a variety of forms, from the most degraded to the most refined, but the principle is the same. And that all is vanity is the first lesson we must learn and teach, to excite the desire for “living water.”

II. “GO, CALL THY HUSBAND,” is the second stage. The first is of doubtful result. It may lead right or left; to pride and contempt of other men who have no aspiration. Christ’s words, therefore, lead us from the struggle without to that within, to sin as the occasion of the mischief. This sin we must willingly know and renounce. This the woman was led to by the look of love which read her history in her heart. This teaches us to enter lovingly into personal life. A tender solicitude unlocks the heart and encourages confession. The word which exposes sin is the law in the hand of love.

III. Conviction of sin awakens the desire for forgiveness in prayer. The inquiry respecting Gerizim and Jerusalem was no evasion, but led to the third step, where our Lord refers her to THE HISTORICAL REVELATION FOR SALVATION. “Salvation is of the Jews.” God must be worshipped in Spirit, yet the revelation of Himself was in Israel, and its end the Messias. It is not enough to tread the path of inward self-knowledge; we must walk also in the way of faith. Not only do we move to meet God, He is come to meet us. The truth of salvation is historical, and the historical gospel is a moral certainty. So the woman proved. The saved individual now seeks to save society. “She left her water-pot,” etc. Conclusion:

1. We should go forth and lead souls to Christ as Christ led this woman.

2. No doubt we shall be weary sometimes, but, if the Master was weary, we need not be ashamed, And the wells which men have dug will then be doubly refreshing; for what- ever the Creator has given to man to enjoy is also given for the refreshment of the soul.

3. But the soul lives not by these alone, and when the highest matters press we must be prepared to renounce them, for they do not quench the soul’s deepest thirst. (C. E. Luthardt, D. D.)

Characteristics of Christ displayed in this conversation

I. Our Lord’s MERCY is remarkable. That such an one as He should deal so graciously with such a sinner is a striking fact.

II. His WISDOM. How wise was every step of His way in dealing with this sinful soul!

III. His PATIENCE. How He bore with the woman’s ignorance, and what trouble He took to lead her to knowledge.

IV. His POWER. What a complete victory He won at last! How almighty must that grace be which could soften and convert such a carnal and wicked heart! (Bp. Ryle.)

Subsidiary points

I. HUMAN FOLLY AND DIVINE WISDOM in contrast.

II. OUR LORD’S REAL HUMANITY in His subjection to weariness and thirst.

III. OUR LORD’S REAL DIVINITY in the mastery of all the secrets of the human heart.

IV. OUR LORD’S WILLINGNESS TO IMPART THE DEEPEST TRUTHS TO THE HUMBLEST understanding, thus assuring us that, although God has hid these things from the wise and prudent, He has revealed them unto babes. (H. J. Van Dyke, D. D.)

When … the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John

The journey to Samaria

I. THE DEPARTURE. The reason for it was the jealousy of the Pharisees at Christ’s success.

1. Jesus saw that a storm was coming, and withdrew. To abandon the profession or defence of the gospel from dread of suffering is quite a different thing from the persecuted Christian in one city fleeing to another to there hold forth the Word of life.

2. It is that persecutors are not always the open enemies, but are sometimes the professed friends, of religion, and that the name of God has often been associated with relentless cruelty.

3. The Pharisees did not hear Christ, but received reports doubtless exaggerated, for they heard that He personally baptized.

4. The great work of the ministry is not to baptize, but to preach. They are Christ’s fellow-workers in discriminating the truth, but not fellow-workers with the Spirit in communicating grace.

II. THE ARRIVAL.

1. Although the district was alien, there were souls to be saved.

2. Christ’s presence and work at Sychar, with its illustrious antecedents, offer encouragements to prayer for those who are to come after us.

Christ driven away

I. FALSE TEACHERS ARE ENEMIES TO THE TRUE. They will join with corrupt magistrates and favour their villainies (Isaiah 9:15), as the Pharisees did Herod against John. Christ, therefore, will rather trust Herod in Galilee than the Pharisees in Judaea (cf. Acts 25:11)
.

II. IT IS NO UNCHARITABLENESS, BUT WISDOM, TO SUSPECT WICKED MEN as Christ did the PHARISEES.

III. WHEN ONE TEACHER IS GONE GOD CAN RAISE UP ANOTHER. The Pharisees thought themselves well when John was out of the way, but Christ gives them more displeasure (Mark 1:14). They thought themselves sure when Christ was crucified, but Christ raised up twelve more to do greater things than Himself. Ministers are mortal, but the Church is immortal (Psalms 2:1).

IV. PROMISES ARE TO BE SEALED TO THOSE ONLY WHO REPENT AND BELIEVE.

1. Disciples were made

2. Then were baptized.

V. GOD TURNS THE MALICE OF MEN TO THE GOOD OF HIS CHURCH The Pharisees drove Christ to Galilee, but on the way a whole city was brought to Him. An ill wind that blows nobody good. (Jeremiah Dyke.)

The retreat of Jesus

The first turning point in His official life.

I. MOTIVES. The Pharisees began to watch Him with hostile eyes; the Baptist is imprisoned.

II. CHARACTER. Free consciousness. He retreats

1. In free discretion, without fear.

2. In holy discretion, “the Lord knew.”

III. RICH RESULTS. Beneficent sojourn in Samaria.

IV. SIGNIFICANCY.

1. He ceases to baptize.

2. He tarries in Samaria on His return.

The rite of baptism

I. AS PRACTISED BY JOHN (John 1:25-28; Joh_1:33; Joh_3:23; cf. Mt Mark 1:4-8; Luke 3:8; Luk_3:20).

1. Its nature--water baptism. Its mode uncertain. The word signifies either the application of an object to water or water to an object. Hence to immerse (2 Kings 5:14) or to wash (Mark 7:4; Luke 11:38). Against immersion in the present case stand

(1) The multitudes;

In favour of pouring is the contraposition of “with water” and “with the Spirit” (John 1:33), by which the two baptisms are distinguished. The believer is not immersed in the Holy Ghost, but the Holy Ghost descends on the believer.

2. Its import--purification of the outer life; reformation rather than regeneration.

3. Its design--preparation for Messiah.

4. Its obligation--faith. The recipient was bound to believe in and go over to the Messiah when He appeared.

II. AS CELEBRATED BY CHRIST (through His disciples) (John 3:22-26).

1. Its resemblance to John’s.

2. Its difference from John’s. Administered

III. AS ADMINISTERED BY THE APOSTLES (Matthew 28:19; Mk Acts 2:38; Act_2:41; Act_7:13; Act_7:36; Act_9:18, etc.).

1. How tar it agreed with the preceding.

2. How far it went beyond the preceding. It -

(1) Rested on the authority of the risen as well as of the incarnate Christ.

Messiah, but in the Trinity.

Why Christ did not personally baptize

Lightfoot mentions because

1. He was not sent so much to baptize as to preach.

2. It might have been taken as a thing somewhat improper for Christ to baptize in His own name.

3. The baptizing that was most proper for Christ to use was not with water, but with the Holy Ghost.

4. He would prevent all quarrels and disputes among men about their baptism, which might have risen if some had been baptized by Christ and others only by His disciples. To these reasons we may add another of considerable importance. Our Lord would show us that the effect and benefit of baptism do not depend on the person who administers it. We cannot doubt that Judas Iscariot baptized some. The intention of the minister does not affect the validity of the sacrament. One thing seems abundantly clear, and that is, that baptism is not an ordinance of primary, but of subordinate, importance in Christianity. The high-flown and extravagant language used by some divines about the sacrament of baptism and its effects is quite irreconcilable with the text before us, as well as with the general teaching of Scripture (see Acts 10:48; 1 Corinthians 1:17).

The three baptisms

There are three degrees in the institution: John’s baptism, which was a general consecration to the Messianic kingdom by repentance; the baptism of Jesus, an attachment to His person as a disciple; baptism as reconstituted by Jesus after His resurrection as a consecration to the possession of salvation thenceforth acquired by Him for the whole world. We do not find that the subjects of the first baptism (the apostles, e.g.) were afterwards subjected to the second or third. It was they, on the contrary, who were charged with administering the two last (verse 2; Acts 2:1-47.). (F. Godet, D. D.)

He left Judaea

From Jerusalem to Nazareth, by way of the hill towns of Shiloh, Sychar, Nain, and Endor, the distance, as a bird would fly, is about sixty-four miles, being nearly the same as that from Oxford to London. By the camel paths, and there are no other, it is eighty miles. A good rider, having little baggage and less curiosity, may get over the ground in two Icing days; to do so, however, he must make up his mind to spend twelve hours each day in the saddle, on stony hill-sides, with very little water, and still less shade, under the blazing light of a Syrian sun. An easy journey, with time to rest and read, to see the wells, rums, and cities on the route, may be made in four days; though better still in five. The Lord and His disciples went through the land on foot, resting by the wells, under the shade of fig-trees, in the caves of rocks. The first part of this journey, a ride of thirty-six miles from the Damascus gate, to be done in about twelve hours, brings you to one of the most lovely and attractive spots in Palestine--the site of Joseph’s tomb and Jacob’s well. (W. H.Dixon.)

The original word, αφίημι, is a remarkable one; καταλεὶπο might have been expected (Matthew 4:15; Hebrews 11:27); and there is no exact parallel in the New Testament to this usage (yet comp. John 16:28). The general idea that it conveys is that of leaving anything to itself, to its own wishes, ways, fate; of withdrawing whatever controlling power was exercised before. Christ had claimed Jerusalem as the seat of His royal power, and Judaea as His kingdom. That claim He now in one sense gave up. (Canon Westcott.)

He must needs go through Samaria

Christ and the Samaritans

The ministry of Christ may be divided into two sections, the Galilean and the Judaean. Taking Capernaum as a centre and describing a circle of ten miles, and taking the Temple as a centre and describing another circle of equal radius--between these two points the life of Christ oscillated. Separating the two provinces was a strip of country inhabited by a mongrel semi-alien race--the Samaritans, between whom and the Jews there was a long.standing feud. How will Christ treat it? Will He pass round it? Will He widen the chasm? Or will He loin the two in one? Let us see.

I. WHEN CHRIST SPEAKS OF THE SAMARITANS IT IS IN WORDS OF FAVOUR AND COMMENDATION.

1. In the Samaritan “Stranger” of Luke 17:11-20, He finds the truest worship of Jehovah offered, not on Moriah, nor yet on Gerizim, but by the wayside.

2. In the parable of the Good Samaritan a comparison is drawn between the Samaritan and the Jew, to the eternal honour of the one, and the eternal shame of the other. The former is placed beside the very elite of Judaism, the priest and Levite, and the Master uses their selfish inhumanity as a foil to throw out more clearly and brightly the noble generosity of this “stranger.”

3. Christ is Himself called a Samaritan (John 8:48), doubtless because of His strong Samaritan leanings, and He does not protest.

II. CHRIST SEEKS TO REMOVE THE PREJUDICES OF HIS DISCIPLES BY PERSONAL CONTACT WITH THE DESPISED RACE.

1. The exception (Matthew 10:5) is due to their narrow views and prejudices.

2. Christ takes them with Him into Samaria (chap. 4.) and sends them to “have dealings” with the Samaritans; and tarries with them there two days (verse 40), and thus the old prejudices are removed by friendly hospitalities.

III. CHRIST OFFERED TO THE SAMARITANS THE PRIVILEGES OF HIS KINGDOM.

1. He deigns to ask a favour of the Samaritan woman and speaks one of the sublimest discourses of His ministry.

2. She and her fellow-citizens proclaim Christ the Messiah.

3. As a result of this the chasm is filled up (Acts 1:8; Act_8:5-8). Henceforth the Samaritan is no more the “stranger,” but “a fellow-citizen with the saints, and of the household of God.” (H. Burton, M. A.)

Utilizing disagreeable necessities

1. The first signs of hostility to Christ (John 4:1).

2. The prudence of the Master. Just as it was necessary for Him to die for a world’s salvation, so now it is required that He should live in order that the true cause and nature of His death may be manifest. There is therefore nothing unworthy about this escape.

3. We must seek the explanation of this movement, not in the eternal decrees. Samaria would prove a neutral zone to keep His enemies at a distance, and while passing through it would not probably be followed. And besides, it admitted of His utilizing what might have been an anxious period and a waste of time.

I. HE IGNORED A FALSE DISTINCTION. Ceremonial cleanness and goodness were confounded by the Jews; a confusion rectified by the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Church and society are still full of such distinctions.

1. It is for us, not wantonly, but on sufficient occasion to expose and set at nought the error.

2. To get at true distinctions one must first expose false ones. But we must be sure that it is false and that the true does not preponderate, and that we have something better to substitute.

3. Wisdom and courage arc, therefore, necessary.

4. No safer guide can be found than a strong desire to do good and glorify God.

II. HE CONVERTED AN INCONVENIENCE TO A SPIRITUAL USE. He is a fugitive, but He does not hurry through the country, nor forget its spiritual destitution in His own sorrows.

1. Annoyance or ill temper at the disturbance of settled plans ought not to make us weary in well doing. Many are idle in the Church because they cannot get the particular thing they like best. But the greatest discoveries and reforms have been effected by the determination to do what we can.

2. Illtreatment on the part of professors is no excuse for idleness or cynicism.

3. Nor ought we to be engrossed with our own troubles. Doing good is the way to recovery.

4. Let us try to improve the unpleasant and unfortunate people and leave the world better than we find it.

III. A SPECIAL BLESSING ATTENDED HIS IRREGULAR EXTEMPORIZED MISSION. Each incident links itself easily on to another. It almost seems a beautiful creature of circumstances. Inconveniences are often Providential. A fault in the strata may point to richer seams. (A. F. Muir, M. A.)

The needs be

I. BY THE DETERMINATE COUNSEL AND FOREKNOWLEDGE OF GOD.

1. A wandering star was to be reclaimed from its devious orbit.

2. The locality was most unpromising.

3. What the Church would have missed had this chapter been lacking.

II. THE PEERLESS VALUE OF A SINGLE SOUL IN THE SIGHT OF CHRIST. The narrative is the parable of the Lost Sheep in impressive reality.

III. THE YEARNING PERSONAL LOVE OF THE SAVIOUR.

IV. LET NONE DEEM THEMSELVES BEYOND THE PALE OF CHRIST’S SYMPATHY AND SUCCOUR. (J. Macduff, D. D.)

The occasion of the journey

He must needs go through Samaria, not only because that province lay in His way, but because He was hungry, and in poor half-heathen Samaria lay the savoury meat which His soul loved. In the same manner He must needs pass through our nature and our world, as He goes from the glory of the eternity past to the glory of the eternity to come. It was not any physical necessity; for the Maker of all worlds might bane found another path from glory to glory without visiting this shooting star. But He must needs pass through the abode of fallen humanity on His way to the throne of the kingdom, because He longed to save the lost with a longing like hunger, and here only could be found the food that would satisfy His soul. His own sovereign love laid the necessity upon Himself. The sun, His creature, is under an inherent necessity of giving out light; so Christ, the light of the world, must needs give out the light of life, and therefore He casts Himself in the way of a dark world, as the hungry seeks food and the thirsty makes his way towards water-springs. (W. Arnot, D. D.)

In the path of Christ

Happy for them that they lay in our Saviour’s way to be looked upon: His paths drop fatness. Luther had rather be in hell with Christ than in heaven without Him. (J. Trapp.)

Providence shown in conversions

Now, there are divers things in those providences Which are versant about this work, and exceedingly sweet and taking; as, viz., The wonderful strangeness and unaccountableness of this work of Providence in casting us into the way, and ordering the occasions, yea, the minutest circumstances about this work. Thus you find in Acts 8:26-30. The eunuch, at that very instant when he was reading the prophet Isaiah, had an interpreter, one among a thousand, that joins his chariot just as his mind was, by a fit occasion, prepared to receive the first light of the knowledge of Christ. So, for the conversion of the Samaritans, it is observed John 4:4) Christ must needs go that way, because it lay just in the road betwixt Judea and Galilee, and at the sixth hour, i.e., high noon, He rests Himself upon Jacob’s well, still seeming to have no other design but His own refreshment, by sitting and drinking there; but, oh! what a train of blessed providences follow this, which seemed but an accidental thing! First, the woman of Samaria, and then many more in that city, are brought to believe in Christ, as you find in John 4:29; Joh_4:41. (J. Flavel.)

Unquenchable enthusiasm

When I was going to Europe in 1867, my friend Mr. Stuart, of Philadelphia, said, “Be sure to be at the General Assembly in Edinburgh, in June. I was there last year,” said he, “and it did me a world of good.” He said that a returned missionary (Dr. Duff) from India was invited to speak to the General Assembly on the wants of India. This veteran missionary, after a brief address, told the pastors who were present to go home and stir up their churches to send young men to India to preach the gospel. He spoke with such earnestness, that after awhile he fainted, and they carried him from the Hall. When he recovered he asked where he was, and they told him the circumstances under which he had been brought there. “Yes,” he said, “I was making a plea for India, and I did not quite finish my speech, did I?” After being told that he did not, he said, “Well, take me back and let me finish it.” But they said, “No, you will die in the attempt.” “Well,” said he, “I shall die if I do not,” and the old man asked again that they would allow him to finish his plea, When he was taken back, the whole congregation stood as one man, and as they brought him on the platform, with a trembling voice he said: “Fathers and mothers of Scotland, is it true that you will not let your sons go to India? I spent twenty-five years of my life there. I lost my health, and I have come back with sickness and shattered health. If it is true that we have no strong grandsons to go to India, I will pack up what I have and be off to-morrow, and I will let those heathen know that if I cannot live for them I will die for them.” (D. L. Moody.)

Commendable enthusiasm

Exception being taken, as I have said, to his energy and vehemence, Rowland Hill told how he had once seen a vast bank of earth, below which some men were at work, suddenly rend asunder; and leaving its bed, precipitate itself forward to bury them alive before they could utter a cry, or move a foot to escape. And who then, he asked, found fault with me, because, in my anxiety to save them, my cries for help were loud enough to call the neighbourhood t6 the rescue, and be heard a long mile away. Left there, they perished, miserably perished--needing what God, not man, always is, “a very present help in trouble.” (Dr. Guthrie.)

Our attitude towards Samaria

There is much in the disposition of the Samaritans that reminds us of the feelings of thousands of our own population to-day. Not only are they alienated from our faith, but they suspect us of a haughty and exclusive, or at least patronising attitude towards them. There is no fiercer resentment than the pharisaic spirit excites. Note the example of Christ.

I. CHRIST DOES NOT AVOID SAMARIA. He will not shun those who entertain prejudices unpleasant to encounter. And we shall never restore the slums to piety if we skirt them with dainty feet.

II. CHRIST DOES NOT HURRY THROUGH SAMARIA, BUT SEEKS CONVERSE WITH ITS INHABITANTS. None mere hurried visits to the headquarters of prejudice, rushing as through a cloud of suffocating smoke we must encounter, but amidst which we will not stay, will suffice. There must be true intercourse.

III. CHRIST IS FORBEARING IN HIS ATTITUDE. His first overture is met with a half-playful, half-bitter reminder of what He never sanctioned, the division of sentiment between Jew and Samaritan. What do we oftener meet? It is irritating to be taunted with the conduct of those whose spirit we do not share, though we may nominally share their religious name. But we ruin our influence by recrimination or bitter rejoinder. Like Christ, we must gently ignore the taunt.

IV. CHRIST, WITH SACRED TACT, INTRODUCES HIS GOSPEL. Had He commenced controversially, the woman’s heart would have been hardened; had He commenced with His final announcement (John 4:26), she would have been sceptical; had He commenced with such words as He used to learned Nicodemus, she would have been hopelessly bewildered. But He takes “water” for His text to this water-carrier, and in a picture lesson unfolds the truth. Ours are blind eyes if they see not texts in the commonest things, where-from we may preach the gospel of the kingdom. In that gospel Jew and Samaritan alike find hope and peace. (W. Hawkins.)

He cometh to a city of Samaria called Sychar

The locality

This name is only found in St. John 4:5, but it is universally considered to be the same as Sichem or Shechem, which is frequently mentioned in the Old Testament history. Dr. Robinson (Bib. Res. 3.118) says, “In consequence of the barred of the Jews, and in allusion to the idolatry of the Samaritans, the town Sichem probably received among the Jewish common people the by-name of Sychar, which we find in the Gospel of St. John; while Stephen, in addressing the more courtly Sanhedrim, employs the ancient name (Acts 7:16). Sychar might be derived from a Hebrew root, meaning either falsehood or drunkard.” Josephus describes Sheehem as between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. The present Nabulus is a corruption of Neapolis; and Neapolis succeeded the more ancient Shechem. The city received its new name from Vespasian. The situation of the town is one of surpassing beauty. It lies in a sheltered valley, protected by Gerizim on the south and Ebal on the north. The feet of these mountains, where they rise from the town, are not more than 500 yards apart. The bottom of the valley is about 1,800 feet above the level of the sea, and the top of Gerizim 800 feet higher still. The site of the present city, which is believed to have been also that of the Hebrew city, occurs exactly on the water- summit; and streams issuing from the numerous springs there, flow down the opposite slopes of the valley, spreading verdure and fertility in every direction. Travellers vie with each other in the language which they employ to describe the scene that bursts here so suddenly upon them on arriving in spring or early summer at this paradise of the Holy Land. “Here,” says Dr. Robinson (3:96) “ a scene of luxuriant and almost unparalleled verdure burst upon our view. The whole valley was filled with gardens of vegetables, and orchards of all kinds of fruit, watered by several fountains, which burst forth in various parts, and flow westward in refreshing streams. It came upon us suddenly like a scene of fairy enchantment. We saw nothing to compare with it in all Palestine. Here, beneath the shade of an immense mulberry-tree, by the side of a purling rill, we pitched our tent for the remainder of the day and night We rose early, awakened by the songs of nightingales and other birds, of which the gardens around us were full.” (F. I. Dunwell, B. A.)

Its history

Few places in Palestine, after Jerusalem, have had so much of Bible history connected with them. Here God first appeared to Abraham Genesis 12:6). Here Jacob dwelt when he first returned from Padanaram, and here the disgraceful history of Dinah, and the consequent murder of the Shechemites took place (Genesis 34:2, etc.). Here Joseph’s brethren fed their flocks when Jacob sent him to them, little thinking he would not see him again for many years (Genesis 37:12). Here, when Israel took possession of the land of Canaan, was one of the cities of refuge (Joshua 20:7-8). Here Joshua gathered all the tribes, when he addressed them for the last time (Joshua 24:1). Here the bones of Joseph were buried, and all the patriarchs were interred (Joshua 24:32; Acts 7:16). Here the principal events in the history of Abimeleeh took 9:1, etc.). Here Rehoboam met the tribes of Israel after Solomon’s death, and gave the answer which rent his kingdom in two 1 Kings 12:1). Here Jeroboam first dwelt, when he was made king of Israel (1 Kings 12:25). And finally, close by Sheehem was the city of Samaria itself, and the two hills of Ebal and Gerizim, where the solemn blessings and cursings were recited, after Israel entered Canaan (Joshua 8:33). A more interesting neighbourhood it is difficult to imagine. Whichever way the eye of a wearied traveller looked, he would see something to remind him of Israel’s history. (Bp. Ryle.)

The parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. In two different ways this had come into the hands of Jacob. First, he had purchased it from the “children of Humor,” and then, when the Amorite invaded it, and took violent, unrighteous possession, he had, with his “sword and his bow,” recovered it. The land thus belonged to Jacob by right of purchase and by right of conquest: it became the property of his son by gift, by inheritance, and by grateful acceptance on his part. Our spiritual Jacob has both purchased our inheritance and taken it out of the hand of the Amorite; so likewise He bestows it freely on His dear children and they gratefully receive it, and rejoice in it as their portion. Eternal life is at once the gift of God and the fruit of faith. It becomes ours according to His eternal purpose, and also by the faith which accepts it--such faith as that of Joseph. Joseph was in Egypt, apparently independent of Canaan. The time when he or his seed could claim the inheritance was far distant--four hundred years of dreadful bondage were included in the intervening period--but Joseph believed. “God will surely visit you,” said he to his descendants, when he was dying, “ and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.” A similar faith had dictated the words of Jacob. “Beheld I die, but God shall be with you, and bring you again to the land of your fathers.” A faith having the same origin, exercised against the same discouragements, and producing the same blessed fruits of patience, endurance, and hope, must be ours. (A. Beith, D. D.)

Now Jacobs well was there

Jesus found at the well

Some years since there lived in the west of England a well-known character called “Foolish Dick.” Not being considered quite sharp, one day he was going for a pitcher of water, when a good old man hailed him with “So, Dick, you are going to the well.” “Yes,” he replied. “Well, Dick, the woman of Samaria found Jesus at the well.” “Did she?” was the answer. “Yes,” said the good old Christian. Dick passed on, full of thought; the remark riveted on his mind by the Holy Spirit, quickening him into new life. He thought, “Why should I not find Jesus at the well? Oh, that I could find Him! Will He come to me?” He prayed, and found Christ at the well; left his water-pot to tell his neighbours what be had found, and from that time proved the reality of his conversion by his holy and active life, proclaiming Christ to others.

Suffering begets sympathy

Jesus Himself being weary was the more able and apt to help this poor Samaritress. He that hath had the toothache will pity those that have it. “We are orphans all,” said Queen Elizabeth in her speech to the children at Christ’s Hospital, “let me enjoy your prayers, and ye shall be sure of my assistance.” (J. Trapp.)

No sympathy without suffering

Johnson, whose robust frame was not in the least affected by cold, scolded me as if my shivering had been a paltry effeminacy, saying, “Why do you shiver?” Sir William Scott told me that when he complained of a headache, in the post-chaise, Johnson treated him in the same manner. “At your age, sir, I had no headache.” (Boswell.)

Jesus sitting on the well

Many things remind us of our Lord: a well, a weary peasant resting at noon. How truly human was Jesus!

1. How worn was His humanity. He was more weary than His disciples.

2. His self-denials even then were remarkable.

3. He has thus made Himself able to sympathize with

I. LET YOUR CONSCIENCE DRAW A SPIRITUAL PICTURE OF YOUR WEARIED SAVIOUR. He is wearied with our

1. Sins (Isaiah 43:24).

2. Formal worship (Isaiah 1:14).

3. Errings through unbelief (Psalms 95:10).

4. Resistance of His Spirit (Isaiah 63:10).

5. Cavillings and rebellions (Malachi 2:17).

Perhaps we have specially wearied the Lord, as we read in Amos 2:13, where singular provocations are mentioned. That is a grave question asked by the prophet Isaiah (vii. 13).

II. LET YOUR CONSCIENCE DRAW A SPIRITUAL PICTURE OF YOUR WAITING SAVIOUR. He waits

1. For comers to the well: He seizes on all occasions to bless, such as affliction, the hearing of the Word, the recurrence of a birthday, or even the simplest event of life. Men have other errands; they come to the well only to draw water, but the Lord meets them with His greater errand.

2. For the most sinful: she that had five husbands.

3. To enlighten, convince, convert.

4. To accept and to commission.

5. To begin by one convert the ingathering of a great harvest. How long He has waited for some of you! At how many points has He been on the outlook for you? Is He not waiting for you at this very hour? Will you not yield to His patient love?

III. LET YOUR PENITENCE DRAW ANOTHER PICTURE. Alter the position of the character.

1. Be yourself weary of your sinful way.

2. Sit down on the well of your Lord’s gracious ordinances.

3. Wait and watch till your Saviour conies.

4. Ask Him to give you to drink, and, in so doing, give Him to drink, for this is His best refreshment.

5. Drink yourselves of the living water and then run to tell others.

Conclusion: Will you not do this at once? May His Holy Spirit so direct you! (C. H. Spurgeon,)

The weary pilgrim

1. If now, with all the comforts of tent and equipage, the modern traveller finds locomotion oppressive and exhausting, what must it have been to Christ with no aid but the staff and rough sandal?

2. It is in such incidental occurrences that our Lord’s humanity and condescension are most touchingly exemplified.

3. He worked miracles for others, never for Himself.

4. My Saviour is my brother. He took not on Him the nature of angels.

5. But my Saviour is my Lord or He could never have relieved my want.

I. Let the WEARY WITH LIFE’S JOURNEY, with pain, travail, and loneliness consider Him, lest they be weary and faint in their souls.

II. Let the WEARY WITH SIN who have come up through hot valleys of temptation, and are now sitting by poisoned wells, the pitcher broken at the cistern, the zest of life gone, without shelter, hear Him say, “Come unto Me and I will give you rest,”

III. Let those WEARY WITH THE BURDEN AND HEAT OF THE DAY IN THE MIDST OF THEIR LIFE’S CALLING, in manhood’s sixth hour, one half of existence over, hasten to Him, lest the valley of death, like the valley of Shechem, be close at hand while the fountain of life is neglected. Conclusion. You are Spiritually between the Ebal of courses and the Gerizim of blessings--Which are you to choose? (J. R. Macduff, D. D.)

Christ in His human weakness and Divine exaltation

I. WEARY AND YET THE REST OF A WEARY SOUL.

II. THIRSTY AND YET A FOUNTAIN.

III. HUNGRY AND YET ENJOYING HEAVENLY FOOD.

IV. LEFT ALONE AND YET IN SPIRIT SURROUNDED WITH APPROACHING NATIONS. (Lange.)

Weariness and work

1. This world is a place of weariness through sin; but love is a weariness that heaven approves, that of the Shepherd seeking the lost sheep.

2. There is a great mystery in this weariness: for the weary man was God; but He was weary that we might have rest.

I. CHRIST’S WEARINESS AS IT REFLECTS OUR OWN.

1. Christ was weary in His work, not of it.

2. We need not be surprised, therefore, if we are weary.

3. When so, wait upon Him to renew thy strength.

II. WEARINESS CAN BE PUT TO PURPOSE.

1. Under the most unlikely circumstances God can bring us work and refreshment at the same time. Christ had to all appearance turned His back on His work; but He had not, and when He seemed most unfit He did it most effectively. So Paul was taken from work to prison, but then he was instrumental in the jailers conversion.

2. The willing heart will often create its own opportunities. Christ was weary but watchful. A willing heart can find its work at any time and place.

We think we could do more were we better placed. But Christ says, “He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much.”

3. An earnest mind will avail itself of small opportunities, and through little things become really great. Christ was contented with a congregation of one. He did not preach sensational sermons, but sermons which created a sensation. He spake as earnestly to one as to a thousand.

III. CHRIST ASKS US THROUGH HIS WEARY REPRESENTATIVES TO MINISTER TO HIS WEARINESS. The poor, sick, widows, orphans, overworked pastors, etc., in Christ’s name cry, “Give me to drink.” (W. Poole Balfern.)

The realness of the scene

By a singular fate this authentic and expressive memorial of the earliest dawn of Jewish history became the memorial no less authentic and expressive of its sacred close. Of all the special localities of our Lord’s life in Palestine, this is almost the only one absolutely undisputed. By the edge of the well, in the touching language of the ancient hymn, “Quoereus me, sedisti lassus.” Here He halted, as travellers still halt, in the noon or evening of the day. Up that valley His disciples “went away into the city.” Down the same gorge came the woman to draw water, according to the unchanged custom of the East; which still, in the lively concourse of veiled figures round the wayside wells, reproduce the image of Rebekah, and Rachel, and Zipporah. Above them, as they talked, rose “this mountain” of Gerizim, crowned by the Temple, of which vestiges still remain, where the Samaritan sect “said men ought to worship,” and to which still, after so many centuries, their descendants turn as to the only sacred spot in the universe: the strongest example of local worship in the world, where the sacredness of local worship was declared to be at an end. And round about them spread far and wide the noble plain of waving corn. It was still winter or early spring, “four months yet to the harvest;” and the bright golden ears had not yet “whitened” their unbroken expanse of verdure. He gazed upon them; and we almost seem to see how the glorious vision of the Gentile world, with each successive turn in the conversation, unfolded itself more and more distinctly before Him, as He sate absorbed in the opening prospect, silent amidst His silent and astonished disciples. (Dean Stanley.)

Jacob’s welt an emblem of the sanctuary

Note that

I. NO GOOD DEEDS ARE EVER DONE IN VAIN, AND THAT THEY HAVE POWER TO BLESS MANY AGES TO COME.

1. None can measure his power for good. Influence may be mightier after death than in life. When Jacob dug that well, he little thought of the multitudes for whose refreshment he was providing, or of this sacred incident. Do you think the discoverer of printing foresaw the penny newspaper, or Columbus New York, and Boston, and Chicago? God watches over good efforts, and influences to bless them.

2. But if Jacob knew not all his well would do, he knew it would bless. How like a well is a gospel sanctuary! Look at the desert all around--how refreshing this spot in contrast. Here the weary find rest, the thirsty water.

3. Churches, like wells

II. JESUS STILL REFRESHES HIMSELF AT WELLS BUILT BY HIS PEOPLE.

1. What was it that refreshed Him here? “My meat,” etc.

2. And Jesus still comes into our sanctuaries, and asks for small gifts of love as the return for His own greater love. He is yearning to find satisfaction in souls--waiting to see the full fruits of His servants efforts to save men.

3. How grateful was Jesus for this seat. He commanded John to record this gratitude. None of us will ever regret anything done to please Jesus.

4. You say, if I had seen Him, I would have invited Him to my home. Have you opened you heart to the heavenly Guest?

III. THIS WELL IS CHRIST’S APPOINTED PLACE TO MEET UNSATISFIED SOULS.

1. He was there before the woman, waiting for her, and thoughtfully sent away the disciples that no restraint might check her conversation. Has He not promised to meet His people in His house? Have you not often said, “It was as though the preacher knew all my circumstances.”

2. That woman, often like ourselves, little expected to find her Saviour.

3. She left her water-pot, and how often have you left your burdens.

IV. THIS WELL IS THE PLACE FOR QUIET FREE CONVERSATION WITH THE SAVIOUR, where Christ wants to enlighten, refresh, and pardon. (R. H.Lovell.)

Why religious ordinances are sometimes unprofitable

The ordinances of religion are compared to wells of water; but then they are like Jacob’s well. The water lies far below the surface, and to the man of the world, the mere professor of religion, who has the name but not the faith of a Christian, we may say, as the woman said to our Lord, “Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep.” Faith is, as it were, the rope, and our souls the vessels, which we let down into this well to fill them with living water. But that they do no good to some forms no reason why we should despise or neglect ordinances. It is no fault in the bread that, thrust between a dead man’s teeth, it does not nourish him. Water will revive a withering, but not a withered, plant; wine will revive a dying, but not a dead, man; the breath of your mouth, or the breeze of heaven, will rekindle the smouldering coal, but not the cold, grey ashes of the hearth. And it is only spiritual life that can derive benefit from such ordinances as are intended to revive the faint and give strength to the weary. (D. Guthrie, D. D.)

The ordinances necessary

Christ is the well of the water of life. It is by faith the soul reaches out after this living water, Faith is the soul’s muscular action, by which the water is drawn up and brought into use. But faith needs as an implement those means which Christ has appointed. These means are the pitcher in which the water is conveyed. Faith is not a Christ; neither are sacraments a Christ; but faith (under all circumstances) and sacraments where they may be had, are necessary to the appropriation and enjoyment of Christ. (Dean Goulburn.)

Influence after death

It is related of a broker in one of the Italian cities that his strict economy brought on him the reputation of miserliness. He lived plainly and poorly, and at his death a hundred thousand men in the city were ready to curse him until his will was opened, in which he declared that early his heart was touched with the sufferings of the poor in the city for the lack of water. Springs there were none, and the public wells were bad; and he had spent his life in accumulating a fortune that should be devoted to bringing, by an aqueduct, from the neighbouring mountains, streams that should pour abundantly into the baths and dwellings of the poor of the city; and he not only denied himself of many of the comforts of life, but toiled by day and by night, yea, and bore obloquy, that he might bless his fellow-citizens. He is dead; but those streams pour their health yet into the city. (H. W. Beecher.)

Value of a well in the East

When we remember that in the land where most of the Scriptures were written there was, for the greater part of the year, but burning and scorching heat; that there was no winter, as we understand the term; that water was as precious as gold; and that the digging of a well was the work of kings and princes; that shadow was a luxury, to attain which hours of sore and weary travelling were accounted well spent--we can understand the beauty and force of such figures as Jesus uses in speaking to the woman of Samaria. Digging a well rendered a man the benefactor of his race. “Canst thou do more than dig a well?” was the meaning of the woman’s question to Jesus. (H. W. Beecher.)

Topography of Jacob’s well and neighbourhood

As the well is near magnificent springs gushing from the roots of Gerizim, and flowing to the East, the Patriarch’s task in sinking so deep a well and building a wall round it, can only be explained by the jealousy which the Canaanites, like all Eastern peoples, regarded their own springs. To have trusted to these would have been to invite trouble. It was, therefore, much better for Jacob to have a well of his own, so as to be independent. This well lies a little off the road, on the right hand. There is nothing visible now above ground. A little chapel, about twenty feet long, once built over the well, has long ago fallen; its stones lying about in heaps. The ground slopes up to the fragments of the broken-down wall. The church dates from the fifth century, but, except these stones, the only traces of it are some remains of tessellated pavements and carvings, which are hidden beneath the rubbish. Over the well is a large stone, with a round hole in the middle, large enough for the skin buckets of the peasantry to pass down. This stone is probably as old as the twelfth century. The mouth Isaiah 7:5 feet across, and its depth, which some centuries ago was 105 feet, is still about 75 feet, though for ages every visitor has thrown down stones to hear the echo when they strike the bottom. It is cut through a thick bed of soil, and then through soft rock; the water filtering through the sides to the depth occasionally of 12 feet, though it is dry sometimes for years together. It is thus rather a “beer” or rain pit than a spring well; hence, the contrast between “this water” and “living water.” Our Lord must have sat with His face towards the S.W., since He speaks of Gerizim as “this mountain.” Around Him were the same sights as are before the visitor of to-day--the rich valley running up westward towards Shechem, with a rippling streamlet in its centre; the groves that border the town hiding the houses from view; the heights of Gerizim, towering in rounded masses one over another to a great height, close before Him on the south. Mount Ebal, steep but terraced almost to the top into gardens of prickly pear, lay behind them; the little hamlet of Balata, where Abraham’s altar once stood under the sacred tree; the mud huts of Sychar; a little village now called Askar, not half as far off as Shechem, and the dome of Joseph’s tomb being at its foot. To the east, beyond the great plain, was Salim, near to AEnon, where the Baptism preached, and the wooded Hill of Phinehas, with the tomb of the once fiery high priest. (C. Geikie, D. D.)

The interior of the well

Some men were set to work to clear out the mouth of the well, which was being rapidly covered up. A chamber had been excavated to the depth of ten feet, and in the floor of the chamber was the mouth of the well, like the mouth of a bottle, and just wide enough to admit a man’s body. We lowered a candle down the well and found the air perfectly good, and after the usual amount of noise and talking among the workmen and idlers, I was lashed with a good rope round the waist, and a loop for my feet, and lowered through the mouth of the well by some trusty Arabs, directed by my friend, Mr. Falcher, the Protestant missionary. The sensation was novel and disagreeable. The numerous knots in the rope continued to tighten and to creak, and after having passed through the narrow mouth I found myself suspended in a cylindrical chamber, in shape and proportion not unlike that of the barrel of a gun. The twisting of the rope caused me to revolve as I was being lowered, which produced giddiness, and there was the additional unpleasantness of vibrating from side to side, and touching the sides of the well. I suddenly heard the people from the top shouting to tell me that I had reached the bottom, so when I began to move I found myself lying on my back at the bottom of the well: looking up at the mouth the opening seemed like a star. It was fortunate that I had been securely lashed to the rope, as I had fainted during the operation of lowering. The well is seventy.five feet deep, seven feet six inches diameter, and is lined throughout with rough masonry, as it is dug in alluvial soil. The bottom of the well was perfectly dry at this time of the year (the month of May), and covered with loose stones. There was a little pitcher lying at the bottom unbroken, and this was an evidence of there being water in the well at some seasons, as the pitcher would have been broken had it fallen upon the stones. It is probable that the well was very much deeper in ancient times, for in ten years it had decreased ten feet in depth. Every one visiting the well throw stones down for the satisfaction of hearing them strike the bottom, and in this way, as well as from the debres of the ruined church built over the well during the fourth century, it has become filled up to probably more than a half of its original death. (Lieut. S. Anderson, R. E.)

Jacob’s well a type

Now Jacob’s well was there. The Samaritans were infinitely corrupt in their doctrine and worship, yet they had the fountain of the Mosaic doctrine among them. They had received the Pentateuch, and worshipped God according to Jacob’s rites, and the letter of Moses’ law. But the letter without the spirit is dead. The stagnant well of water, becoming muddy by agitation, and corrupt by lying undisturbed, is inferior for use and gratification, and is not like the running water of the living spring, which continually freshens itself, and runs itself clear, and is always replenishing itself in purity and copiousness, for use and enjoyment. A greater than Abraham, or Jacob, or Moses, must give them this spring. Jacob’s children, after the flesh, drank of that well, but his spiritual children, and they only, should drink of this water. (L. R. Bosanquet.)

Christ and the woman of Samaria

I. THE SAVIOUR AS A JEWISH TRAVELLER. Observe three things.

1. The simplicity and humbleness of His life. He comes to this earth as a poor man. Learn from this:

2. The superiority of moral to bodily pleasures. Our Saviour was thirsty, but we do not read that He immediately quenched His thirst.

3. In our Saviour a beautiful instance of amiableness and general benevolence.

II. THE VIEW GIVEN OF OUR SAVIOUR AS A DIVINE TEACHER.

“Sir, I perceive Thou art a prophet!” What did He teach?

1. He instructed the woman in divine worship.

2. Let us look on the same subject in another form, and consider the Saviour as giving the doctrine of worship.

3. And worship of God should be in accordance with His nature and character. God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must do so in spirit and in truth. Our Saviour had in view the overthrow of three great errors: one is atheism. The next error is idolatry. The other error at that time in reference to God and His worship was pantheism.

4. The other lesson our Lord Jesus Christ taught this woman was, He told her all that ever she had done.

III. THE THIRD LIGHT IN WHICH JESUS MANIFESTED HIMSELF, WAS AS THE SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD. Here He spiritualizes the scene, and represents Himself as possessing that which was essential to the happiness of men--living water. (Caleb Morris.)

The appropriateness of the place for the purpose

Not inappropriate, surely, was it that He should occupy a spot beneath the shadow of Gerizim, “the mountain of blessing;” He Himself about to become so, in a nobler sense, to an outcast, “the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” (J. R.Macduff, D. D.)

Sat thus on the well--The adverb may designate the attitude of a man who is there, awaiting what God will say; or it reproduces the notion of fatigue; thoroughly worn out with fatigue, as He was; or perhaps it signifies, without any preparation, taking things as He found them. (F. Godet, D. D.)

The sixth hour.--I think that the “sixth hour,” in the text before us, means twelve o’clock, for the following reasons.

1. It seems exceedingly improbable that St. John would reckon time in a manner different to the other three gospel-writers.

2. It is by no means clear that the Romans did reckon time in our way, and not in the Jewish way. When the Roman poet, Horace, describes himself as lying late in bed in a morning, he says, “I lie till the fourth hour.” He must surely mean ten o’clock, and not four in the afternoon.

3. It is entirely a gratuitous assumption to say that no woman ever came to draw water except in the evening. There must surely be exceptions to every rule. The fact of the woman coming alone, seems of itself to indicate that she came at an unusual hour, and not in the evening.

4. Last, but not least, it seems far more probable that our Lord would hold a conversation alone with such a person as the Samaritan woman at twelve o’clock in the day, than at six o’clock in the evening. The conversation was not a very short one. Then the woman goes away to the city, and tells the men what has happened, and they all come out to the well to see Jesus. Yet by this time, in all reasonable probability, it would be quite dark, and the night would have begun. And yet, after all this, our Lord says to the disciples, “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields” (John 4:35). There is a special seemliness in the fact that our Lord held His conversation with such a person as this Samaritan woman at noon, day. When He talked to Nicodemus, in the preceding chapter, we are told that it was at night. But when He talked to a woman of impure life, we are carefully told that it was twelve o’clock in the day. I see in this fact a beautiful carefulness to avoid even the appearance of evil, which I shall entirely miss if the sixth hour meant six o’clock in the evening. I see even more than this. I see a lesson to all ministers and teachers of the gospel, about the right mode of carrying on the work of trying to do good to souls like that of the Samaritan woman. Like their Master, they must be careful about times and hours, especially if they work alone. If a man will try to do good to a person like the Samaritan woman, alone and without witnesses, let him take heed that be walks in his Master’s footsteps, both as to the time of his proceedings as well as to the message he delivers. (Bp. Ryle.)

The self-abnegation of Christ

In the case of Nicodemus, He was ready to give him the time set for rest; here He does the same when tired and thirsty at noon. (C. E. Luthardt, D. D.)

There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water

Connection between the conversations with the woman of Samaria and with Nicodemus

I. THERE IS A STRIKING CONTRAST AND COMPLEMENT BETWEEN THE TWO. The woman, the Samaritan, the sinner, is placed over against the Rabbi, the ruler of the Jews, the Pharisee. The nature of worship takes the place of the necessity of the new birth; yet so that either truth leads up to the other. The new birth is the condition of entrance into the kingdom; true worship flows from Christ’s gift.

II. THERE IS A REMARKABLE SIMILARITY OF METHOD in Christ’s teaching in the two cases. Immediate circumstances, the wind and the water, furnished present parables, through which deeper thoughts were suggested, fitted to call out the powers and feelings of a sympathetic listener.

III. THE MODE IN WHICH OUR LORD DEALT WITH THE WOMAN finds a parallel in the synoptic gospels (Luke 7:37, etc.; comp. Matthew 26:6, etc.). The other scattered notices of the Lord’s intercourse with women form a fruitful subject for study (John 11:1-57; Joh_20:14, etc:; Matthew 9:20 and parallels, Matthew 15:22, etc., and parallels, Matthew 27:55 and parallels, Matthew 28:9, etc.; Luke 8:2, etc., Matthew 10:38, etc., Matthew 11:27, etc., Matthew 13:11, etc.). (Bp. Westcott.)

Christ and the woman

I. A MEMORABLE INTERVIEW DESCRIBED (John 4:7-8).

1. Memorable to Jesus.

2. Memorable to the woman. Because of

3. Memorable to the Evangelist. On account of

II. A PROFITABLE CONVERSATION OPENED.

1. A simple request preferred (John 4:7); natural ( 4:19); moderate 1 Kings 17:20); courteous (Psalms 45:2; Luke 5:22); condescending (Matthew 11:27); honouring the woman; gracious.

2. An astonishing answer returned (verse9). Persons of narrow intelligence generally surprised to find others capable of throwing off prejudice.

3. An important truth announced (verse10). What keeps men from becoming Christians is ignorance (Ephesians 4:18)

The drawer of water

I. WHAT BRINGS HER THERE? The distance was a mile and a half, and much nearer were two copious fountains as old as the Canaanites, besides springs in and around the city. The hour, too, was peculiar. It is only the wayfarer or caravan that pause at noon for refreshment. Moreover, it was not the public well of the city, because there was no accommodation for drawing water. The answer is a superstitious virtue supposed to attach to the well. In Europe we have many monasteries and shrines reared around sacred fountains, to which pilgrims resort. The objection to this, grounded on the profligacy of the woman, is answered by the fact that abject superstition is often allied with licentiousness; as in the case of many Mohammedans, Roman Catholics, and Hindoos.

II. THE GUIDING HAND WHICH BROUGHT HER AT THAT TIME. Nothing, in an earthly sense, was more purely accidental. Who can doubt that all unknown and unforeseen by her it was one of those ordinary every-day providences of God which we are compelled to believe if we would unriddle the mystery of the world. The same” needs be” which brought the Redeemer there brought also her. The same truth is often illustrated in our individual histories. Events apparently trivial and unimportant form the mighty levers of life shifting our whole future. (J. R. Macduff; D. D.)

The woman of Samaria

Though this woman was a sinner, her coming forth to draw water herself was commendable. It is the devil that meets with us when we are idle. The angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds while they were keeping watch over their flocks by night. Matthew was called at the receipt of custom. Peter, and Andrew, his brother, were fishing; James the son of Zebedee, and John, his brother, were mending their nets, when called by the Saviour. Elisha was ploughing when Elijah cast his mantle upon him, and said, “Follow me.” Saul was seeking his father’s asses when he met with Samuel, who anointed him king over Israel. How favourable the season! “His disciples were gone away into the city, to buy meat.” How unsuitable would company have been in a case like this. There is business that can only be tranacted between God and the soul. How often does religion take its rise from solitude. It teaches us what He is in Himself; “The gift of God”; by way of emphasis and distinction. It teaches us what He has to bestow; “living water.” It teaches us how we are to obtain this blessedness of Him. We must ask: nothing less is required, nothing more. It teaches us the reason why men do not apply to Him. It is because they do not know Him. It is in religion as it is in nature, the understanding sways the will and the affections. “Wisdom is the principal thing”; therefore we are to “get wisdom, and with all our getting to get understanding.” And hence we see the difference between this woman and blind Bartimeus, on a similar occasion. Bartimeus was sitting by the wayside begging, when Jesus was passing by--but he knew that it was Jesus; and therefore he cried, “Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.” “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (W. Jay.)

Give Me to drink

The thirsting Saviour

I. A TESTIMONY TO THE TRUE HUMANITY OF OUR LORD. In His spiritual thirst for the woman’s salvation we must not lose sight of His natural thirst. Christ was thoroughly human. Grasping this we see

1. His ability to suffer death.

2. The power of His example.

3. His kinship with us.

4. His sympathy for us.

II. AN IMPLICATION OF HIS DEITY.

1. Had He been a man claiming Divine powers would He have asked for water? A pretender would have attempted a miracle.

2. His Godlike reserve. Christ is never prodigal of miracles because conscious of the fulness of His Divine power. He uses natural means whenever they can serve His purposes.

III. AN INSTANCE OF THE FREENESS AND GREATNESS OF HIS LOVE TO SINNERS.

1. The woman embodied all that could excite the aversion of a Jew.

(1) Her Samaritan birth rendered her an object of sectarian hatred,

2. But Christ had no national animosity, sectarian bigotry, professional dignity, or self-righteous loathing.

3. He sees a lost soul in whom longings for better things have not been wholly stifled and sets Himself to save her.

IV. A LESSON OF WISDOM, TACT, AND ZEAL IN SAVING SOULS.

1. Christ suits His method to individual characters and circumstances--touching with equal ease the two extremes of society.

2. He seizes trifling opportunities.

3. He sets a signal example of turning secular things to sacred uses.

4. The lesson He here teaches can only be learned by practice.

5. The encouragement to learn this lesson is that our wise and Divinely-directed efforts in small matters may yield rich results.

V. AN EMBLEM OF HIS THIRST TO SAVE SINNERS.

1. This was deeper than His spiritual craving.

2. He thirsts now for you.

3. This thirst can only be quenched by your surrender. (A. Warrack, M. A.)

Christ’s request

In this notice

I. A GRACIOUS ACT OF SPIRITUAL AGGRESSION ON A SINNER. He did not wait for the woman to speak to Him, but was the first to begin conversation.

II. AN ACT OF MARVELLOUS CONDESCENSION. He by whom all things were made, the Creator of fountains, brooks, and rivers, is not ashamed to ask a draught of water from the hand of one of His sinful creatures.

III. AN ACT FULL OF WISDOM AND PRUDENCE. He does not at once force religion on the attention of the woman, and rebuke her for her sins. He begins with a subject apparently indifferent, and yet one of which the woman’s mind was doubtless full. He asks bet for water.

IV. AN ACT FULL OF THE NICEST TACT, and exhibiting perfect knowledge of the human mind. He asks a favour, and puts Himself under an obligation. No line of proceeding, it is well known to all wise people, would be more likely to conciliate the woman’s feelings towards Him and to make her willing to hear His teaching. Simple as the request was, it contains principles which deserve the closest attention of all who desire to do good to ignorant and thoughtless sinners. (Bp. Ryle.)

Christ abolishing prejudices

I. OF THE ANCIENTS AGAINST THE FEMALE SEX.

II. OF STATUTE AGAINST THE FALLEN.

III. OF NATIONALITY AGAINST AN ALIEN RACE.

IV. OF RELIGION AGAINST SEPARATISM AND HERESY. (Lange.)

The conference

Each one of us must come to have a personal dealing with Christ.

1. It may be at one of the crisis-hours of existence.

2. It may be at a dying hour.

3. It must be at the day of Judgment.

I. CHRIST OFTEN COMES AND SPEAKS UNEXPECTEDLY. When the woman left her home she never dreamed of this interview. Christ often comes

1. In sudden sicknesses.

2. Sudden reverses.

3. Sudden sanctuary visitations.

II. CHRIST OFTEN COMES AND SPEAKS TO THE SINNER WHEN ALONE. Had the woman come with other females at the customary evening hour this conversation would have been impossible. So in another case (chap. 8:9, 10).

III. CHRIST OFTEN SPEAKS IN THE MIDST OF THE ORDINARY DUTIES OF LIFE. So with the apostles. Christ thus puts His seal on life’s daily drudgery. (J. R.Macduff, D. D.)

Chance in the Divine economy

Here, then, we have an instance of what appeared to be chance, and what was chance as much as any human affairs can be so, being made subservient to a great and beneficial end. It was with no design of meeting the woman that Christ passed through Samaria, nor did He sit down by the well because He knew she would repair thither, but because He was weary; neither did the disciples go into the city that Christ might be left alone for this interview, but to buy meat; nor did the woman go to the well to meet a teacher and to receive instruction, but to draw water. The coincidences were all of them unconnected with each other. And this is what in common language we properly enough call chance. But in all such cases, though on the part of man the circumstances and results are undesigned and accidental, on the part of God they are foreknown and fore-ordained. (J. Fawcett, M. A.)

The real significance of the woman’s coming to Christ

As at the memorable scene of patriarchal days the ark of the testimony was placed between the adjacent hills, so now did the true Ark stand between her and the Ebal of curses directing and conducting her up to the mountain of blessing, and saying, “Woman, thy sins are forgiven thee.” Shechem, her ordinary dwelling-place, was one of the old cities of refuge. She may possibly have seen with her own eyes the manslayer hastening with fleet foot along the plain of Mokhna up the narrow valley she had just traversed to be safe within the appointed walls from the avenger of blood. That Old Testament institution and type had, in the Adorable Person standing by her side, a nobler meaning and fulfilment. Though all unconscious at the moment of her peril and danger, He was to her the great antitypical Refuge from the avenging sword of that law which she had so flagrantly outraged in heart and life. (J. R. Macduff, D. D.)

The Jewish treatment of women

It is worth noting that this freedom of speech between man and woman was condemned by the rabbins. One rabbinic precept is: “Prolong not speech with a woman”; a later edition reads: “One’s own wife is meant--how much less the wife of another”; and a third statement goes so far as to intimate perilous consequences in the next world for those who disregard this injunction. The Talmud declares it scandalous for a man to talk to a woman on the street; and women were prohibited from keeping schools because that would imply consultation with the fathers of their scholars. (S. S. Times.)

The revolution Christ effected in the treatment of women

If proof were needed of a strange abnormal disturbance in the history of the human race, it would be found in the treatment woman has received at the hands of society. Throughout the animal world the female sex is treated with consideration. Among birds and beasts the female is never systematically maltreated. This occurs only among men. The Saviour, however, in the unsullied purity of His manhood, brushed aside as cobwebs all social regulations which tended to degrade or oppress women. But He could not do it without exciting the wonderment even of those who knew Him best. Notwithstanding her life of illicit indulgence, the Saviour enters into earnest holy conversation with her. We have an account also of So, rates once holding a parley with the “strange woman.” What is the purpose of his conversation? Does he endeavour to reclaim her? Nay; he only teaches her how to ply her infamous trade with greater success, furnishing her, out of his deep knowledge of human nature, with new foibles wherewith to entrap the unwary. In extenuation of his offence it has been alleged that he was only making an experiment with his much-vaunted “method.” Maybe; but it conclusively proves that he had no adequate conception of the gross turpitude of moral evil, and that he was animated by no strong desire to win back to virtue those who had fallen from feminine integrity. What infinite distance separates the conversation of Socrates with the courtesan from the conversation of Christ with the Samaritan woman! (J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

Christ’s gentleness with the fallen

A hawthorn, near Glastonbury Church, one of the oldest churches within these realms, was reported to bud and blossom in midwinter; whereas the bushes and trees round about looked bare and naked, this particular one appeared clad in beauty. What was the cause of its flowering in mid-winter? Tradition answered that Joseph of Arimathaea, the supposed first missionary of Christianity to Britain, and the accredited founder of the Glastonbury Church, touched it one day in passing with the fringe of his garment, whereupon extraordinary virtue flowed into the bush, and it forthwith blossomed. What is not true naturally may be true spiritually. Let men of prickly characters, the cantankerous thorns of humanity, be gently brushed by the hand of love, and forthwith they will flower in all the beauty of holiness. (J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

Soul-winning tact

A colporteur entered an Austrian shop. He relates: “A little girl asked me what I wanted. ‘I have Bibles to sell.’ The little girl brought word that her parents had plenty of books, and would rather sell than buy. This led me to a little more boldness in my attack. I walked in a little nearer, and talking to some one supposed to be in the room, I explained what my books were. ‘My husband is a Roman Catholic,’ was the reply; ‘he would object to read the Bible.’ ‘But I am very fond of my Bible; may I just read a short portion to you?’ Within a second room the husband himself was at work. He overheard our conversation and the passages read, and, peeping round the corner, said he would buy a copy. By-and-by a second man issued forth from the inner room. He would also take a copy. A regular talk began, and the people said, ‘Stay and have some dinner with us.’ I did, and we parted capital friends.” (Bible Society Report.)

Tact and kindness will win souls

At Mr. Moody’s mid-day meeting, a minister rose and said he endorsed all which had gone before, and then related the following incident. “I was holding a mission in a colliery district, and in the course of the morning when I was inviting people to the evening meeting, I knocked at a door and found a woman at the washing-tub. I said to her, ‘I called to tell you I.am holding mission services at such and such a chapel, will you and your family join us?’ ‘Chapel,’ she said; ‘I am up to my eyes in washing. I have three black men coming in, and there’s that wringing machine, I gave fifty shillings for it, and it’s broken the first round.’ She was in a towering passion, and I thought I would not say any more to her, so I took a look at the machine and found it was not broken, but had only slipped out of its gear, so I unscrewed it altogether, and set it right, and then said, ‘Now you have been hindered so I’ll just take a turn at the wringing.’ So I went to work, turn, turn, turn. At last she looked up and said: ‘Where did you say the chapel was?’ I told her. She said: ‘I’ll tell my husband to-night, and we’ll come.’ That woman got blessed, and her husband and all her family, and she turned out the best worker in the village, and there was a blessed work of God in that place. She went from house to house, saying, ‘Come and hear the minister, it’s he as mended the machine!’“


Verse 9-10

John 4:9-10

How is it that Thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me?
--It is remarkable that while the Samaritan woman here is taunting the Lord with being a Jew, the Jews, in a somewhat similar passage, charge Him with being a Samaritan (
John 8:48). (G. J. Brown, M. A.)

Askest and saith

There is a singular decorum in the use of words here. The woman has said, not unnaturally, “How is it that Thou askest of me?” But αἰτε͂ιν is a word of petition as from an inferior to a superior, in this different from ἐρωτᾶν, which has more of equality in it. Christ therefore when He refers to that request of hers does not take up and allow her word. He says not, “Who is it that asketh,” but who it is that saith ( λέγων) to thee; while the asking is described as the proper attitude for her, “Thou wouldest have asked ( ἤτησας) of Him.” There lies often in such little details an implicit assertion of the unique dignity of His person, which it is very interesting and not unimportant to trace. (Abp. Trench.)

Dealings and gift of God

The former word seems to explain the first part of our Lord’s answer. She had come day by day to draw water at that well. Had she never known that that water was a gift of God? Had no thirst on a hot day or no failure of the spring taught her that? Was water a thing to “traffic in”? (F. D. Maurice.)

The significance of giving drink

Among us even an enemy might ask or receive a drink of water without fear of compromising himself or his opponent; but not so in the East. There, the giving and receiving of a drink of water is the seeking and the making of a covenant of hospitality, with all that that covenant implies. It is not, indeed, like a covenant of blood, or a covenant of salt--indissoluble; but it is like the covenant of bread-sharing, which makes a truce, for the time being, between deadliest enemies. Aboolfeda tells, for example, of the different receptions awarded by Saladeen to the king of the Franks on the one hand, and to Prince Arnald of Caracca on the other, when the two Christian leaders were received in his tent by the victorious Saracen after the battle of Hatteen. Saladeen seated the Christian king by his side, and gave him drink cooled with snow. When the king, having tasted it, offered it also to Prince Arnald, Saladeen protested, saying, “This wretch shall not drink of the water with my permission; in which there would be safety to him;” and then, rising up, he smote off the head of the prince with his own sword. Over against this we are told that when Hormozan, a Persian ruler, surrendered to the Khaleef Omar, the successor of Aboo Bekr, and was brought a prisoner into the presence of his captor, he asked at once for a drink. Omar asked him if he were thirsty. “No,” he said; “I only wish to drink in your presence, so that I may be sure of my life.” He was assured that he might rest perfectly secure; and that assurance was kept. (H. C. Trumbull, D. D.)

History of the Samaritans

After the Assyrian conquest colonies from the East were placed in the deserted cities. The country having been desolated by war wild beasts multiplied, and became the terror and scourge of the new inhabitants. The barren heights of Hermon and Lebanon are to this day infested with bears, panthers, wolves, and jackals. The strangers attributed the calamity to the anger of the local deity, of whose peculiar mode of worship they were ignorant. They therefore petitioned for Jewish priests to instruct them in religious rites; and after they had heard them “they feared the Lord, and served their own gods” (2 Kings 17:24-41). In after times the Jews refused to acknowledge them in any way, and would not permit them to assist in building the second temple, though their refusal cost them many trials (Ezra 4:1-24.). Being cast off by the Jews, the Samaritans resolved to erect a temple of their own on Gerizim. The immediate occasion appears to have been the circumstances related by Nehemiah, that a sen of Joiada, the high priest, had become son-in-law to Sanballat, and had on this account been expelled from Jerusalem Nehemiah 13:28). The date of the temple may thus be.fixed about

B.C. 420. Shechem now became the metropolis of the Samaritans as a sect, and an asylum for all apostate and lax Jews (Joseph. “Antiq.” 11:3-6). These things tended to foster enmity between the two nations, which resulted in the total destruction of the Temple of Gerizim by the Jews under John Hyrcanus. The very name Samaritan became a byword and a reproach among the Jews, just as the name Yehudy, “Jew,” is among modern Syrians; and some even supposed that the Jews nicknamed the city of Shechem Sychar, “Falsehood,” to mark their opinion of the pretended origin of its in- habitants. In our Saviour’s time the Samaritans retained their worship on Gerizim, though the temple was in ruins; and they had some vague expectations of a Messiah. During the reign of Vespasian Shechem was rebuilt, and renamed Neapolis, “New City,” an appellation which has run into the Arabic Nabulus--one of the very few instances in which the Greek has supplanted the Semitic name. The ancient Samaritans and modern Druses appear to have had very much in common both in character and origin. The ancient Samaritan was part heathen, part Jew; and the modern Druse of Mount Lebanon is part heathen, part Christian; and some have thought that the modern Druses derive their origin from the very same tribes as the ancient Samaritans. “After the second captivity of Israel, Esarhaddon re-peopled the wasted strongholds of Samaria with the tribes whose names are given with so much particularity in Scripture (2 Kings 17:24; and Ezra 4:9), races of fierce habit and degraded faith, whose heathen practices, engrafted on the corrupt Judaism which lingered amongst the earlier Samaritans, brought down on the new colonies the especial Nemesis of God. Of these fierce tribes there were some who, Cuthites in name, were of the family of the Royal Scythians, or Gordyans, from the Gordiaean mountains, whom in.subsequent times the Greeks knew by the name of Carduchi (Xen. “Anab.”), and with whom we are familiar as Koords. Some of these were settled in the Lebanon, and from them it has been said that the Druses spring, and draw the tenets of an ancient but unholy worship. (Lord Carnarvons Druses of the Lebanon.)

The hostility of the Samaritans towards the Jews

The Samaritan sought by every petty annoyance to irritate the Jew. Their country was the nearest road for the caravans of northern pilgrims going to the feasts in Jerusalem. The Samaritans churlishly refused these the poorest rites of hospitality, and compelled them often to avoid maltreament, by taking the circuitous and more fatiguing route by the Jordan Valley. Again, it was one of the few consolations enjoyed by the bands of exiled Jews in Babylon to have announced to them, by means of the only ancient telegraphic communication--beacons on the mountain-tops--the appearance of the paschal moon. The first beacon-fire was lit on the summit of Olivet, and thence caught up from mountain to mountain in luminous succession, until, within sight of the Euphrates, they could, for the moment at least, take down their harps from the willows as they remembered Zion and its holy solemnities. But the Samaritans indulged the mischievous delight of perplexing and putting them out of reckoning by the use of false signals. Another wicked and successful exploit is recorded; and occurring as it did under the government of Coponius only a few years previous to the gospel era, may have tended at this time to deepen these animosities. A band of Samaritans succeeded in stealing to the courts of the Temple of Jerusalem during the Passover season, and defiling the sacred precincts by scattering them with dead men’s bones; thus incapacitating the Jews that year from celebrating the great feast of their nation. (J. R. Macduff, D. D.)

Samaritan churlishness

On asking drink from a woman near Nablus who was filling her pitcher, we were angrily refused--“The Christian dogs might get it for themselves.” (Canon Tristram.)

The hatred of the Jews for the Samaritans

The Jew was no way behind in his manifestation of malevolence. The son of Sirach says, “There be two manner of nations which my heart abhorreth, and the third is no nation; they that sit upon the mountain of Samaria, and they that dwell among the Philistines, and that foolish people that dwell in Sichem.” So that this false race dwelling at Sichem is more offensive to the pious Sirach than apostate Israel, with its worship of the golden calves on the mountains of Samaria (Sirach 47:23-24), or even than the Philistines themselves, those hereditary enemies of God’s people. He abhors an Israel which demeans itself as if it were no Israel; he abhors the no-Israel which persists in its hostility and defiance to the true Israel; but most deeply of all does he abhor the no-Israel which demeans itself as if it were Israel, the heathen wearing the mask of Israelite. To eat with them was for a Jew “as if he did eat swine’s flesh.” He denounced the Samaritan as a base time-server who would not hesitate to purchase immunity from pains and penalties by forswearing Jehovah and kissing the impious shrine of Baal or Jove. He regarded him as unclean as the evaded leper; to harbour him in his house would entail a heritage of judgments on his children. The name Samaritan became a byword of reproach. He was publicly cursed in the synagogue--cursed in the name of Jehovah, by the writing on the two tables of the law, by the curse of the upper and lower house of judgment. He was pronounced unworthy of eternal life--excommunicated alike from the Church on earth and the Church in heaven. The bitterest word of scorn the Jew could hurl at the Infinitely Pure One was this, “Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil.” The yet untutored apostles shared the same exasperated feelings when they asked their Lord to call down fire from heaven on some Samaritan village. All worthy of remembrance is His gentle but sharp reproof, “Ye know not what spirit ye are of.” (Canon Tristram.)

The evils of national rivalry

I do not know anything more ludicrous among the self-deceptions of well-meaning people than their notion of patriotism, as requiring them to limit their efforts to the good of their own country--the notion that charity is a geographical virtue, and that what is holy and righteous to do for people on one bank of a river is quite improper and unnatural to do for people on the other. It will be a wonderful thing some day or other for the Christian world to remember that it went on thinking for two thousand years that neighbours were neighbours at Jerusalem, but not at Jericho; a wonderful thing for us English to reflect, in after years, how long it was before we Could shake hands with any one across that shallow salt wash which the very chalk dust of its two shores whitens from Folkestone to Ambletense. One magnificent attribute of the colouring of the late twelfth and the whole thirteenth and the early fourteenth century was the union of one colour with another by reciprocal interference, that is to say, if a mass of red is to be set beside a mass of blue, a piece of the red will be carried into the blue, and the reverse, sometimes in nearly equal proportions. And I call it a magnificent principle, for it is an eternal and universal one, not in act only, but in human life. It is the great principle of brotherhood, not by equality, nor by likeness, but by giving and receiving; the souls that are unlike, and the nations that are unlike, and the natures that are unlike, being bound into one noble whole, by each receiving something from and of the other’s gifts and the other’s glory. (John Ruskin.)

The evils of sectarian bigotry

The utter absence of real charity and love among men in the days when our Lord was upon earth ought not to be overlooked. Well would it be if men had never quarrelled about religion after He left the world! Quarrels among the crew of a sinking ship are not more hideous, unseemly, and irrational than the majority of quarrels among professors of religion. An historian might truly apply St. John’s words to many a period in Church history, and say, “The Romanists have no dealings with the Protestants,” or “the Lutherans have no dealings with the Calvinists,” or “the Calvinists have no dealings with the Arminians,” or “the Episcopalians have no dealings with the Presbyterians,” or “the Baptists have no dealings with those who baptize infants,” or “the Plymouth Brethren have no dealings with anybody who does not join their company.” These things ought not so to be. They are the scandal of Christianity, the joy of the devil, and the greatest stumbling-block to the spread of the gospel. (Bp. Ryle.)

The Jews and Samaritans

Josephus writeth that at Samaria was a sanctuary opened by Sanballat for all renegade Jews, etc. The Jews therefore hated the presence, the fire, the fashion, the books of a Samaritan. Neither was there any hatred lost on the Samaritan’s part, for if he had but touched a Jew he would have thrown himself into the nearest water, clothes and all. (J. Trapp.)

The forbearance of Christ

You may have gone along the road on a hot summer day, tired and thirsty, and have seen the gleam of a cottage in the distance. Suppose you went to the door and asked for a drink of water, exactly as our Lord did; but your speech betrayed you, and you were asked, How do you, being a Protestant, ask drink of me, a Roman Catholic; or, How do you, being Scotch, ask of me who am Irish, for the Scotch have no dealings with the Irish? You would have ground your heel on the gravel, and vowed never to give any one the chance of so speaking to you again. But insults are just as they are taken; and you can’t insult a man who won’t let you. Jesus bows His head, and lets your ignorant speeches fly past Him. (John McNeill.)

Christ cares not for classes or races, but for souls

People when they talk of “the working classes” think that they have described the whole thing with one touch. They imagine that, like the “enter such and such a one” in Shakespeare’s stage directions, when they have said “the working classes,” then everything by way of definition that is to be said, is said. They label the article, so to speak, and then expect you to understand all about it. How difficult it is indeed to bridge across the chasm between class and class I But more difficult it is to remember that “the working class,” or any class, is made up of individual souls. Our dear Lord did not speak to classes only. Jesus spoke to souls. He took men one by one, and each finite creature with his infinite future, each immortal being with his own history, his own work, his own sins, his own feelings, his own sorrows, was an object of tender interest to Jesus Christ. (Knox Little.)


Verse 10

John 4:10

If thou knewest the gift of God

Wayside opportunities

I.
THE SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPORTANCE OF WAYSIDE OPPORTUNITIES. Speaking after the ordinary manner this transaction was accidental; apparently unpremeditated on the part of Christ, unexpected on the part of the woman.

1. We go into transactions which involve our highest good or greatest loss as unexpectedly. The woman was looking for the Messiah, but she little expected to find Him a tired traveller. You expect to find God in Church: do you ever expect to find Him in common events?

2. The character of a man, his real strength or weakness, appears not in his seizure of great events but of ordinary ones--not in martyrdom, but in endurance.

3. Opportunities for serving Christ are offered when truth has to be done or spoken, in doing and speaking it not boastfully or independently or impudently, but simply and in love.

4. You meet Christ by the wayside in every duty, great or small, which calls you from the wrong to the right.

5. Opportunities for religious instruction and worship are not confined to one day, place, or act, but every day, everywhere, and by everything that brings us in contact with God. And as the highest religious truth in nature lies close by the way if we will only pluck it, so in the Bible the great truths lie on the surface.

II. How CHRIST USED HIS OPPORTUNITIES.

1. He made them the occasion of a great and effective religious work.

2. The freedom and spontaneousness of Christ’s teaching fill us with wonder. It is perfectly independent of times and places, but makes all times and places consecrated and effective.

3. Why? Because religion in Him was a real matter. It is unreality that makes it unnatural, constrained, vague.

4. The man who is truly religious never forces His religion on any one. It goes wherever he goes. If the conversation takes a religious turn, what he says comes as spontaneously as it did from Christ.

5. This is the power of effective preaching. Some preaching is simply the setting forth of abstract doctrines. The real preaching passes the life up into the doctrines, being based on the realities of life.

III. THE WOMANS OPPORTUNITY.

1. That of ministration to the necessities of Christ. We cannot do this as she did; but Christ’s doctrine is, that what is done to the least of His brethren is done to Him. With every needy, weak claimant by the wayside Christ comes.

2. That of reception. The gift of God was her opportunity. Our evil is that we do not know our wants, and therefore do not know our opportunities. (E. H.Chapin, D. D.)

The two fountains

I. THERE IS A CONTRAST BETWEEN CHRIST’S PRESENT BODILY NEED AND HIS PERMANENT SPIRITUAL ABUNDANCE. “Give me to drink … He would have given thee living water.”

1. The contrasts in the life of Jesus are very striking.

2. The living water was not mere happiness, but the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life. There is in man a thirst for God which only the Spirit can quench, a thirst of need or a thirst of desire.

3. Jesus would not have had living water to bestow had He not been in a condition to require the refreshment He asked. It was because He assumed a humanity, tempted in all points like as we are, that He could give the water of life.

II. THERE IS A CONTRAST HERE BETWEEN THE NARROWNESS OF RELIGIOUS PREJUDICE AND THE GENEROSITY OF CHRISTIAN GRACE. To tell a thirsty man that he belongs to another religion! The gift of man is hindered by what should have arrested and inspired it, “the gift of God.” Knows no obstacle but our unfitness.

1. The desire to bless was strong, constant, and spontaneous in Jesus.

2. As we possess Christ’s Spirit we shall do likewise. Do we want occasions for doing good? It is the occasions rather that want us; and the heart filled with Divine love will use occasions as they present themselves, just as water flows through the channels made for it.

3. In proportion to our likeness to Him will be our generosity. Living water cannot be restrained. Mere beliefs, feelings, customs, may be stagnant ponds, hut the power of the Divine Spirit is like running water: its movement keeps it fresh. Love must act to live. Grace gains by giving.

III. HERE IS A CONTRAST BETWEEN THE WOMAN’S RELATION TO CHRIST AND HER OWN CONCEPTION OF IT. She did not know Him or the boon He bore. A man may know and not do, but he cannot do unless he know. And knowledge of the principles of religion would secure its possession. If men knew Christ’s unspeakable gift they could not fail to seek it. The woman’s ignorance made her look on Christ as one to be ministered to. Had she known Him she would have been the supplicant. Our ignorance of Him is continually misrepresenting His requirements.

1. He requests our obedience, and we consider whether or not we shall comply, as if in doing we were to oblige Him. A full knowledge will make us realize our indebtedness to Him, and to see in His mighty help the only possibility of doing His will and to crave it.

2. The thought applies to the efficiency of works of faith and love. We think that is due to the intrinsic excellence of our deeds. But He employs us and renders His work effectual.

3. The same is applicable to rewards, which we expect on the ground of worthness; but all our goodness is from Him, and knowledge of Christ would make eternal glory a thing to be sought, not deserved.

IV. A CONTRAST BETWEEN EAGERNESS FOR THE LOWER GOOD AND INDIFFERENCE TO THE HIGHER. When the woman mistook Christ as meaning literal running water she said, “Give me the water.” Yet we are not told that when she learnt the sense of Jesus, she asked to be supplied with His spiritual gift. So men labour for the perishing and neglect the eternal. (A. J. Morris.)

The gift of God and living water

I. THE GIFT OF GOD.

1. There is nothing that is not a gift of God. “Every good and perfect gift is from above.” But what are all earthly gifts combined compared to the gift of God’s only-begotten Son?

2. The greatest gift sanctifies all minor ones: as the sun beautifies the tamest landscape. Christ is like the numeral which, put before the unmeaning cyphers, invests them with value.

3. While feelingly alive to God’s goodness in His other gifts we can heartily join in the estimate of the apostle, “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.” With this, “Having nothing we possess all things.”

II. LIVING WATER--the purchased blessing of Christ’s salvation, beginning with pardon here, and culminating in glory. Observe, it is

1. Living water. The tiniest stream has more true glory than the stagnant lake: the smallest flower than the inanimate trunk of the giant tree. So with all dead things wherein the soul has no part, and which are earthy, the mere accident of fleeting existence. They are streams, but not living streams--they evaporate as they flow; but the blessings of salvation are as deathless as the God who gave them.

2. The fountain head of this water is living. The gift of God is not dry doctrine, but a living Being.

III. THIS VERSE IS A GOLDEN GATE, TO OPEN WHICH THERE ARE TWO KEYS.

1. The key of faith. Had the woman apprehended Christ’s meaning, what a barrier there would have appeared between her and mercy--how often must she climb Gerizim to load its altars with sacrifices! Christ says, “If thou knewest the gift of God.” Faith brings the soul into immediate contact with the Saviour without the intervention of preparations and penances.

2. The key of prayer. “Thou wouldst have asked.” How many blessings are lost for the want of this I How often is the Divine saying verified, “I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye my face in vain!” (J. R.Macduff, D. D.)

Living water

The life of the Lord, living water, in distinction from the stale water of this world’s life.

I. THE LATTER PROVOKES THIRST, THE FORMER QUENCHES IT.

II. THE ONE BECOMES FOUL, THE OTHER TAKES AWAY FOULNESS.

III. THE ONE STANDS IN A MARSH, THE OTHER GUSHES AND FLOWS.

IV. THE ONE SINKS OR EVAPORATES, THE OTHER BECOMES AN ETERNAL FOUNTAIN. (Lange.)

Christ’s testimony concerning His mission

It is said that “there is no passion so strong in human nature as an educated religious hatred,” and history by many an example proves the assertion true. When fathers not only hand down to their children an heritage of antagonism against any party or sect, but, from a sense of duty to God, conscientiously teach them that the party or the sect is their natural foe with whom no terms can ever be made and no intercourse be held, it is not difficult to see what result will ensue. Bitterness, contempt, strife must be inevitable fruits of such an education. At any moment the passionate hostility will flame forth, and all humane and generous feeling will wither in the burning heat. How often you may find generation after generation inheriting and perpetuating the hatreds and conflicts of their ancestors! The memory of some wrong inflicted long ages ago, or of some fierce controversy which ought to have been dead, buried, and forgotten, is cherished with religious zeal, and manifests itself whenever an opportunity occurs. “Peace on earth and goodwill among men” are made almost impossible, because we all more or less inherit our ancestors’ prejudices. We start in life with an animus against certain people or forms of thought, and the hardest of all tasks is to free ourselves from the narrowing effects of our education. Illustrations of educated religious hatred are not wanting in the various churches of Christendom at the present day, and they are sometimes as fierce as the enmity was between the Jew and the Samaritan. This, as you know, rose to such a pitch that they refused all intercourse with each other. The education of the Jew made him a very determined hater, and every patriotic impulse and the whole fervour of his religious feeling quickened and intensified the hatred and contempt with which he looked upon a mongrel race who practised idolatry--the greatest crime known to a Jew--under the pretence of a rival worship of Jehovah. It was because of this strong national abhorrence that the woman of Samaria, when asked by this weary stranger for a draught of water, exclaimed, “How is it that Thou, being a Jew, asketh drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” It was a natural surprise on her part to find one of the proud race turned into a suppliant. No doubt she regarded Him as an enemy, and felt something of the antagonism of her race and education excited by His request. But I do not think that she meant to be particularly cruel, or to allow animosity to destroy her humanity. She had no intention to refuse what He asked. She seems to have been a shrewd, yet genial, easy-dispositioned sort of creature; but, human-like--perhaps woman-like--she could not refrain from this little bit of tantalisation and apparent triumph before giving the stranger what He, in His weariness, so much required. However, this bitter utterance of hers gives our Lord the opportunity which He desired to teach her some great spiritual truths. He makes no mention of the enmity of the two peoples; He will not enter upon that old controversy which she had started; He will not stir, by the slightest word of His, any anger in the soul He seeks to save. Yet in a way He accepts the challenge, and responds to her words, though in a different maturer from that which she had expected. She had seemingly set herself in antagonism against Him--“Thou” asketh “me!”--and Christ answers by putting His power of supply over against her need, “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.” You will mark here an important difference. Christ mentions nothing about Samaritan or Jew. He does not say, “If thou, being a Samaritan, hadst asked of Me, a Jew, I would have given thee living water.”

I. THE CHARACTER IN WHICH JESUS CHRIST PRESENTS HIMSELF TO THE WORLD. He declares that He is the gift of God. He claims to be a person of the highest importance. He does not disguise Himself, but boldly announces the majesty of His nature and the glory of His work. The woman saw in Him as yet only a wearied, travel-stained man of another race, and as such she treated Him. Her eye could not penetrate beneath the outward form to the Divine nature enshrined within it. He begins by awakening her curiosity concerning Himself. “You regard Me,” He seems to say, “only as a Jew; but if thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink, your speech and conduct would be entirely changed; for I have resources in Me of which you know nothing.” “Living water.” As we think of it, however, what could be more delightfully expressive than such a figure? Perhaps we in these cold lands, where water is often in superabundance, cannot appreciate the deep and attractive beauty of the phrase; but to an Eastern mind the idea conveyed by it is of the most fascinating character. Water is inexpressibly precious in a land where it is often scarce, where a well is a family fortune. Had she never known that the water was a gift of God? Had not thirst on a hot day, or the failure of the spring, taught her that? Was water a thing to traffic in? Did she never think of the gift of water as something very free and universal? Christ stands as God’s response to the thirst of human souls. Friends, there is no real need of your natures, however deep, that Christ cannot and does not meet. There is one who wants to know truth. He is ever asking questions that trouble and burden him. Is there a God? Is He mindful of men? Is He a Father? Is there a life hereafter, or are we extinguished at death? Brother, Christ meets that thirst of yours with living water, for he that hath seen Christ hath seen the Father, and He has brought life and immortality to light. There is another who has aspirations after nobleness, yet is sadly, bitterly conscious of sin. He would rise, but he is dragged down. Christ came to enter into your condition, to fight with your temptations, to sacrifice Himself for the removal of your sins, to stand by you in the terrific encounter, to sanctify your nature, to make it strong and brave and pure.

II. THE EFFECT WHICH A RECOGNITION OF CHRIST WOULD PRODUCE IN HUMAN HEARTS. There are three things here which are like links in a chain, a golden chain--three steps which naturally follow one after the other. First, “If thou knewest;” second, “Thou wouldest have asked;” third, “He would have given.” Let us see how these processes and results are related to one another.

1. The first is--knowledge. Mark how tenderly and gently our Lord charges His solitary hearer with ignorance. There is an exquisite tone of compassion in the words, “if thou knewest.” It recognizes at once that there is no wilful opposition to Him as the Christ, or to His great mission, for she had hitherto had no chance of knowing anything whatever about Him. Her religious responsibility had not yet begun, Reproach! condemnation! Christ has nothing of all this for the ignorant; it is their misfortune, not their fault. We have received the knowledge; Christ has been revealed to us. He stands before us in the glory of His character as the gift of God. To know Christ, that is the first thing; to know Him in all the glory of His Divine commission, in all the plentitude of His life-giving power, in all the reviving, refreshing, inspiring sweetness of His love, this is what is necessary, necessary to awaken trust and love; for does not Christ Himself declare, “If thou knewest the gift of God, thou wouldest have asked, He would have given”? Here we have the second step or link.

2. It is confidence. Knowledge produces trust. “They that know Thy name will put their truest in Thee.” Jesus Christ’s confidence in the effect of the revelation of Himself is most decisive. Most firmly do I believe that this is everywhere true. It is He who has created the desire, the appetite for these things, by making them known to us. It is as with children--so long as they are ignorant of the various good things which others enjoy, so long, of course, they have no wish for them; but bring them within the range of their knowledge, show them how beautiful and desirable and attainable they are, and immediately the craving to possess them arises. Their conceptions are enlarged by every new object presented to their view, and, as a rule, the desire to obtain it follows. It is so in all that pertains to our civilized life--it is knowledge that awakens appetite and longing to possess. All this, however, is general, and the particular illustration is, perhaps, that which we most require. Therefore I say that as soon as you and I see Christ as He really is, as soon as we know Him in the full purpose of His mission, we must seek the gift He has to bestow. When I see that He has come to teach me about God, I want to know about God; when I see that He has come to redeem me from sin, I realize how much I need redemption from sin; when I hear Him offering heart-rest amid the strifes of the world, and eternal rest hereafter, I know that is just the supreme and unspeakable blessing which will satisfy me. I never felt all that till Christ was revealed to me, and so in my ignorance I did not cry, “Give me to drink.”

3. The third link in the chain, the supreme result, is this--the asking is always followed by the giving. The asking must precede giving; but let this condition be fulfilled, and the result will ensue. So Christ teaches this ignorant woman the great secret of Divine giving. It is the response to prayer. (W. Braden.)

Christ and the woman of Samaria

These words open UP to you three of the features of the Lord Jesus.

1. It shows you His care of individual souls.

2. Christ loves to save the worst.

3. Christ bears with stupidity. This woman was very stupid in Divine things; the words of Christ seemed to make no impression. Let us attend closely to these words, and let us consider

I. THAT CHRIST IS THE GIFT OF GOD. “If thou knewest the gift of God,” etc. This is one of the sweetest names Christ bears--“the gift of God.” “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift”; “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son”; “The gift of God is eternal life.” Whose gift is He? The gift of God. Some seem to think that no good thing can come from God. When they hear that God has kindled eternal fire for the wicked, they say, can any good thing come from Him? But, ah! there is this and this good thing. Observe what the gift is--“The gift of God.” He did not give a creature. He did not give angel or seraph. He gave His Son. Why did He give this gift? “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,” etc: Ah! here is the guilt of unbelief, that you do not take up what God has laid down.

II. CHRIST IS NEAR TO SINNERS. “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it was that said unto thee, give Me to drink,” etc.

1. He is nigh thee on account of His two natures (John 1:18).

2. Christ has promised to be near in His ordinances -- “I will come near and bless you.” In secret prayer He records His name. In the broken bread and in the poured out wine He records His name. There are some of you who are awakened by the Spirit; now it is to such that Christ is near. Christ is as near to you as He was to the woman of Samaria. If Christ is so near, you ought to improve Him. You know that the farmers know how to improve the seasons. You know, brethren, that merchants do not let seasons pass.

III. IT IS IGNORANCE THAT KEEPS SINNERS FROM APPLYING TO CHRIST. “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink,” etc. It was ignorance that made the Jews crucify Christ. It was ignorance that made Paul persecute the Church. It was ignorance that made the woman answer Christ so rashly at the well. You are sailing over the sea of life, and you do not know that there are pearls below you. There is a thought comes over me, and it is this--that some of you will know when it is too late.

IV. WHAT IT IS THAT CHRIST IS WILLING TO GIVE SINNERS, even the chief, “If thou knewest the gift of God,” etc. The living water here spoken of is the Holy Spirit. Christ offered her here the very thing that she needed. It was an impure heart; now, Christ here says, I will give thee water to make thy heart clean. Again, this woman’s heart was full of sin. She had a constant craving for sin. But Christ says, I will here give thee water that will make thee thirst no more. Again, this woman’s heart was con- stantly boiling up with sin. Christ says to her, I wilt here give thee a well of water springing up--not a pond that may dry up--but a well of living water springing up into everlasting life. Again, this woman’s heart would have ended in the second death. Christ says, I will here give thee water--a well of water that will spring up to everlasting life. (R. M. McCheyne.)

The gift of living water

The turning points in our career have commonly nothing in them to distinguish them from common events, nothing to show that they are turning points. We do not know the faces that lie hidden all around us. We pass all our life along side of that which would make all eternity different to us, and yet, for lack of knowledge, for lack of consideration, for lack often of one hour’s serious, heart-searching thought, the thin veil continues to hide from us our true and lasting blessedness. Like the crew that were perishing from thirst, though surrounded by the fresh waters of the River Amazon that penetrated far into the salt ocean; so are we surrounded on all hands by God--the living, loving God--and upheld by Him, and living in Him, yet do not know Him, and refrain from dipping our buckets and drawing out of His life-giving fulness. How often, looking on those who, like this Samaritan woman, have gone wrong and know no recovery, who go through their daily duties sad and heavy at heart and weary of sin--how often do these words rise to our lips, “If only thou knewest!” How often does one long to be able to shed a sudden and universal light into the minds of men, that they may see things as they really are, that would reveal to them the goodness, the power, the all-conquering love of God! Two particulars our Lord mentions as being defective in this woman’s knowledge.

I. SHE DID NOT KNOW THE GIFT OF GOD. Her expectations were limited by her earthly condition and her physical wants. She had no belief that she had to do with the eternal loving God, and that God desired to communicate to her what was in Himself--deep and lasting blessedness. Through all ages, and for all men, there remains this gift of God, sought and found by those who know Him; different from, and superior to, the best human gifts, inheritances, and acquisitions; not to be drawn out of the deepest, most cherished wells of man’s sinking; steadily arrogating to itself an infinite superiority to all that men have regarded and busily sunk their pitchers in--the gift which each man must ask for himself, and having for himself,knows to be the gift of God to him, the recognition by God of his personal wants, and the assurance to him of God’s everlasting regard. This gift of God, which carries to each soul the sense of God’s love, is his deliverance from all evil, his reunion with God Himself.

II. SHE DID NOT KNOW WHO IT WAS that said to her, “Give Me to drink.” And until we know Christ, we cannot know God. Often, like this woman, we are in Christ’s presence without knowing it, and listen, like her, to His appeals without understanding the majesty of His person and the greatness of our opportunity. It is always the same request that He urges, “Give Me to drink.” Is it cruelty to refuse a cup of cold water to a thirsty child, and no cruelty to refuse to quench the thirst of Him who hung upon the cross for us? Ought you to feel no shame that the Lord is still in want of what you can give? Has Christ not sufficiently shown the reality of His thirst for your friendship and faith? (Marcus Dods, D. D.)

Characteristics of living water

I. BRIGHTNESS.

II. REFRESHMENT.

III. FREENESS.

IV. ABUNDANCE.

V. CONTINUITY. “He, every one that thirsteth, come.” Now. (T. DeWitt Talmage, D. D.)

The gift of God

I. WHAT IS THE GIFT OF GOD?

1. The truth. The Old Testament gives this thought more than once. So Christ was taking an old illustration and applying it to His gospel. “The old, old story” is the story still. We commonly call this gift revelation. Men could not discover or shape it. Consider

2. Christ Himself (1 Corinthians 10:4). Nor does this oppose the first interpretation, for Christ is “the Truth,” and pre-eminently “the gift of God.”

3. The present opportunity. Every invitation and opportunity is a gift of God. This woman embraced it. How many neglect it and lose it!

II. HOW THIS GIFT DESERVES THE NAME.

1. To be a gift it must be free. And so it is free and unmerited. The sinner has no resources. You cannot offer to God as purchase money what is His own.

2. That it is a gift appears in the eternity of its plan. God’s generosity is shown in His eternal purpose.

3. The fulness of the word appears when we consider how it is pressed on our acceptance. “The word is nigh thee,” brought to our very door.

4. The truth of the title given to the living water appears still more clearly when we learn how thoroughly it becomes ours in accepting it.

1. Springs of water are not for beauty, but for use and reproduction.

2. This reproduction is not a thing of constraint, except so far as constrained by the love of Christ.

3. Therefore with joy draw this water out of the well of salvation.

Conclusion: The inheritance of this gift brings responsibility. (J. J. Black, LL. B.)

The gift Of God

Perhaps no cry in Cairo is more striking than that of the water carrier. “The gift of God,” he says, as he goes along with his water skin on his shoulder it is very likely that water, so invaluable, and so often scarce in hot countries, was in Christ’s days spoken of, as now, as “the gift of God,” to denote its preciousness; if so the expression to the woman would be extremely forcible and full of meaning. (Ragged Life in Egypt.)

The gift of the Spirit

The purifying, refreshing, and fertilizing qualities of water aptly symbolize the operations of the Holy Spirit (John 7:38, Zechariah 14:6; Isaiah 44:3).

I. THE HOLY GHOST IS “THE GIFT OF GOD,” and is so styled by way of preeminence. He is a gift

1. Which virtually comprehends every other blessing.

2. Without it every other gift is unsatisfying.

3. Its attainment not only compensated for the loss of Christ, but made His departure expedient (John 16:7).

4. Without it even the unspeakable gift of the Saviour is vouchsafed in vain 1 Peter 1:2).

II. The Holy Ghost is here represented as the GIFT OF CHRIST as well. “He would have given thee.”

1. From first to last the merits of Christ are the only procuring cause of our redemption.

2. As Mediator He has obtained the disposal of this gift (Col Acts 2:33; Ephesians 4:7).

III. PRAYER IS THE APPOINTED MEANS FOR OBTAINING THIS GIFT. “Thou wouldst have asked.”

1. While Christ declares His readiness to bestow, He intimates the necessity of application. So does the Scripture throughout (Eze

36:37). This at once consults the honour of God and the infirmity of man; leaving to God the glory of supplying our necessities, but constituting a test of our humility, faith, and obedience.

2. The efficacy as well as the necessity of prayer is pointed out. “He would have given” (Luke 11:13).

IV. ONE CAUSE WHY MEN NEGLECT THIS GIFT IS THEIR IGNORANCE RESPECTING IT. They know not its nature and value; nor their own need of it; nor the manner of obtaining it; nor Christ’s power and willingness to impart it; therefore they make no inquiries about it. “If thou knewest.”

1. Whence does this ignorance arise? not from want of opportunity, instruction, or capacity, but want of attention to revealed truth. Whatever excuse may be urged for the woman there is none for you.

2. This ignorance will not extenuate guilt (Isaiah 5:12-13; Isa_27:11; Luke 19:44).

Ignorance and instruction

I. THE WOMAN’S IGNORANCE. Knowledge is acquired by few; ignorance is inherited by all.

1. She was ignorant of the Messiah with whom she was conversing. She saw the Jew, but not the Son of God; the weary man, but not the rest for weary souls; the thirsty, pilgrim, but not one who could quench the world’s thirst; one who sent for provisions, not one whose meat and drink was His Father’s will; a lonely person, but not one who had myriads of angels at His command.

2. She was ignorant of spiritual things. She mistook living water for running water. She asks for material and overlooks eternal things. Earth was all, and heaven nothing.

3. She was ignorant of the gift of God. She valued the well, but could only trace it to Jacob, not to God. God gives us all good gifts; some of them through our fathers, some through our own hands. All these must perish. One gift comes direct; that abides, even the Holy Spirit.

II. CHRIST’S INSTRUCTIONS. They were

1. Progressive. The first impression was that He was a Jew; next she wanted to compare Him with Jacob; next He is a prophet; lastly the Messiah. Such was Christ’s gradual unfolding of Himself to her.

2. Effective. They had their desired effect in spite of her efforts to thwart them. He touched her conscience, awakened her thirst for God, and gave Himself for its satisfaction, after continuous evasions.

3. Practical.

III. GOD’S BLESSING.

1. Christ was so blessed that He forgot His thirst.

2. The woman was so blessed that she forgot her pitcher. As heaven becomes clear we lose sight of earth. (W. Griffith.)

Saving knowledge

One difficulty lay in the way of this woman’s salvation--ignorance of Christ. She was not an uninstructed woman. She was acquainted with portions of Bible history. She was versed in sectarian peculiarities. She shared the hopes of the Jewish and Samaritan people. In this age there are hundreds who know something about everything save Christ. Our text speaks

I. OF A GIFT, AND OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF IT.

1. It informs that the gift is Christ Himself.

2. The definite article shows this to be God’s gift beyond all others; the gift which comprehends and sanctifies all others.

3. Knowledge is put with the gift.

Christ.

II. IF thou knowest the gift of God, WHAT THEN?

1. It supposes that many have not this knowledge.

2. It suggests that all may know it, and that a great change will come over them.

3. Every point in Christ’s character, if known, would work good for us.

4. If we take a walk abroad, to how many could we apply the text, and its suggestions. If they knew the gift of God

(1) The working classes would spend their sabbaths differently.

(3) The Christless preacher would abandon his eloquent flights, and declare the preciousness of Christ’s salvation.

III. HOW DOES THE “IF” CONCERN BELIEVERS? There are tens of thousands who know now, “this gift. Is this your fault?

1. How shall they hear without a preacher?

2. Have you spoken so as to be understood?

3. If not, resolve that for the future no man shall perish for lack of knowledge through your fault. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The preaching of Christ

Our Lord found many a topic of discourse in the scenes around Him. Even the humblest objects shine in His hands as I have seen a fragment of broken glass or earthenware, as it caught the sunbeam, light up, flashing like a diamond. With the stone of Jacob’s well for a pulpit, and its water for a text, He preached salvation to the Samaritan woman. A little child, which He takes from its mother’s side, and holds up blushing in His arms before the astonished audience, is the text for a sermon on humility. A husbandman on a neighbouring height, between Him and the sky, who strides with long and measured steps over the field he sows, supplies a text from which He discourses on the Gospel and its effects on different classes of hearers. In a woman baking; in two women who sit by some cottage door grinding at the mill; in an old, strong fortalice, perched on a rock, whence it looks across the brawling torrent to the ruined and roofless gable of a house swept away by mountain floods--Jesus found texts. From the birds that sung above His head, and the lilies that blossomed at His feet, He discoursed on the care of God--these His text, and providence His theme. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Salvation must be accepted as a free gift

A Christian lady was visiting a poor, sickly woman, and after conversing with her for a little she asked her if she had found salvation yet. “No,” she replied, “but I am working hard for it.” “Ah, you will never get it that way,” the lady said. “Christ did all the working when He suffered and died for us, and made complete atonement for our sins. You must take salvation solely as a gift of free unmerited grace, else you can never have it at all.” The poor woman was at first amazed beyond measure, and felt for the moment as if all hope had been taken from her; but very soon the enlightenment came, and she was enabled to rest joyously on Jesus alone.

Christ, a priceless blessing

Charles, Duke of Burgundy, being slain in battle by the Switzers at Nantz, anno 1476, had a jewel of very great value, which, being found about him, was sold by a soldier to a priest for a crown in money; the priest sold it for two crowns; afterwards it was sold for seven hundred florins, then for twelve thousand ducats, and last of all, for twenty thousand ducats, and set into the Pope’s triple crown, where it is to be seen at this day. But Christ Jesus is of far more value, better than rubies, saith Solomon; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to Him. He is that pearl of great price which the merchant purchased with all that ever he had. No man can buy such gold too dear. Joseph, then a precious jewel of the world, was far more precious, had the Ishmaelitish merchants known so much, than all the balms and myrrhs that they transported; and so is Christ, as all will yield that know Him. (J. Spencer.)

Salvation is a free gift

Mr. Miller spoke of dealing with a very intelligent young man, an engineer, at one of the meetings in the Temperance Institute. The sermon had been on the grace of God, and one of the illustrations that Mr. Moody used was very helpful to the young man. It was that of a teacher who offered his watch to various members of his class, who one after another declined to receive it, thinking that the teacher was only joking with them. Presently, however, a very little boy reached out his hand and took it. This anecdote threw light into the man’s mind; he had no idea that salvation was so free, or that, in fact, it was open to every man to receive or refuse it.

Living water

I. WHAT ARE WE TO UNDERSTAND BY THE GIFT REPRESENTED BY LIVING WATER.

1. Christ, in an especial manner, is the “gift” of God (John 3:16; Romans 8:32; 2 Corinthians 9:15).

2. But the Holy Spirit is rather intended because He

(1) Cleanses the soul from the guilt and pollution of sin (Ezekiel 36:25).

II. THE NECESSITY OF THIS WATER.

1. We are filthy, and need to be cleansed.

2. We are unhappy, and need to be refreshed.

3. We are dead, and need to be made alive.

4. We are barren, and need to be made fruitful.

III. THE EXCELLENCY OF THIS WATER (verse 14).

IV. WHERE THIS WATER IS TO BE HAD, BY WHOM, AND ON WHAT TERMS.

1. It is to be had in Christ, not only as our God, but as our Brother.

2. It may be had

3. Though it was purchased dear by Christ, He gave a great price that He might have a right to impart it to sinners, and that He might render them capable of receiving it, yet we may have it as a free gift, “without money and without price.”

V. THE REASON WHY MEN ARE INDIFFERENT ABOUT IT, AND EITHER APPLY NOT TO CHRIST FOR IT, OR APPLY WITHOUT SUCCESS.

1. They know it not (John 14:17); neither its nature, value, nor necessity.

2. They know not Christ in the dignity of His person--in His great condescension and love--in the sufferings He endured that we might have this water--and as the fountain of it.

3. They do not apply, confess their need, nor ask its communication, or, if they ask, they do not ask aright, sincerely, earnestly, importunately, perseveringly, believingly, consistently.

Application:

1. Ignorance, arising from an aversion to saving knowledge, and the love of sin, is no excuse (Isaiah 5:12-13; Luke 19:44).

2. The state and danger of those who remain destitute of the sacred influence of the Spirit.

3. The duty and advantage of immediate and fervent supplication for it Proverbs 1:22-28; Pro_1:32). (J. Benson.)

The living water

Water is the emblem of the Holy Ghost. All that is necessary to our life, and which has not died for us, is the emblem of the Holy Ghost. Breath, Light, Fire, Water: these are the figures which set Him forth. We need not dwell at any length upon the meaning of the words. Within us are great needs and deep thirsts which God only can satisfy: a thirst which grows within us by all else with which we seek to quench it. To know God; to rest in His love; to be led by His wisdom; to seek to please Him; to have His presence; to journey towards His house as our home--this is our rest, our peace, our satisfaction. (Mark Guy Pearse.)


Verse 11-12

John 4:11-12

Thou hast nothing to draw with, and the Well is deep

The woman’s first rejoinder

I.
It is the property of natural men to take up spiritual things in a carnal way, and they are not able to discern grace till they have it; for, so doth this woman understand Christ, as if He were speaking of elementary water.

II. We are naturally enemies to our own good, for she reasons against this living water, as, in her judgment, impossible to be had or given.

III. We are also naturally so addicted to our own carnal sense, that we will believe nothing revealed by Christ further than we can see a reason or outward appearance for it; for she judged it impossible He could have living water, seeing He could not draw it out of that well, nor show a better.

IV. A chief deceiving principle, making men careless of truth and grace, is their pretence of antiquity and succession unto it, and their descent from religious progenitors; for she boasted Jacob was their father, who gave the well, and therefore slighted the offer of a better, as being well enough in her own conceit.

V. None are so ready to boast of antiquity and of interest in pious progenitors as those who have least cause so to do; for they were but heathens who had come in the room of Jacob’s children, who had forfeited their right; and they were far from Jacob’s spirit, who would satisfy their soul with that which only supplied his bodily necessity, and served his cattle as well as him.

VI. It is a notable injury done unto Christ to plead any antiquity or succession to it, in prejudice of Him or His truth, or to cry up any above Him; for it was her fault to cry up Jacob, and her interest in him, that she might slight Him and His offer: “Art thou greater than our father Jacob?” etc.

VII. Sobriety and a simple way of living. It is a notable ornament to grace in the godly; when nature, which is content with little, is not overcharged with creatures, to the dishonour of God, abuse of the creatures, and prejudice of men’s better state; and when men by their carriage declare that their bodies and flesh is not their best part, which they care most for, so much doth Jacob’s practice teach us. (G. Hutcheson.)

The source

Our Lord’s object was to bring the woman to seek salvation of Him. Our desire is the immediate conversion of all now present. The Samaritan woman accepted the Saviour upon the first asking. Many of you have been invited to Jesus many times--will you not at last comply? Our Lord aimed at her heart by plain teaching and home dealing--we will take the same course with our hearers. When His interestingemblem failed to reach her, He fell to downright literalism, and unveiled her life. Anything is better than allowing a soul to perish.

I. WE WILL EXPOUND THE PRECEDING TEACHING. The figure was that of living water in contrast to the water collected in Jacob’s well, which was merely the gatherings of the surrounding hills--land-water, not spring-water.

1. Christ meant that His grace is like water from a springing well.

2. Furthermore, He intimated to the woman that

II. WE WILL ANSWER THE QUESTION OF THE TEXT. In ignorance the woman,-inquired, “Whence then hast Thou that living water?” We can at this time give a fuller reply than could have been given when our Lord sat on the well. He has now a boundless power to save, and that power arises

1. From His Divine nature, allied with His perfect humanity.

2. From the purpose and appointment of God.

3. From the anointing of the Holy Ghost.

4. From His redeeming work, which operated for good even before its actual accomplishment, and which is in full operation now.

5. From the power of His intercession at the Father’s right hand.

6. From His representative life in glory. Now all power is delivered into His hand (Matthew 28:18).

III. WE WILL DRAW CERTAIN INFERENCES FROM THE ANSWER.

1. Then He is still able to bless. Since He has this living water only from His unchanging self, He therefore has it now as fully as ever.

2. Then He needs nothing from us. He is Himself the one sole Fountain, full and all-sufficient for ever.

3. Then we need not fear exhausting His fulness.

4. Then at all times we may come to Him, and we need never fear that He will deny us. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

verse 11 may be affirmed

I. With regard to THE INSUFFICIENCY OF REASON APART FROM REVELATION IN FATHOMING THE DEEP THINGS OF GOD. The name of Jehovah is “secret” or “wonderful,” and so are all the problems which concern the human spirit and its relationship to God. The world, for 4,000 years deifying reason, strove to work out the solution. But “the world by wisdom knew not God” or man. But when reason fails, revelation, like rope and pitcher, fulcrum and lever, comes to our aid. In the Bible we have something to draw with, deep though the well may be.

II. WITH REGARD TO THE MYSTERY OF GOD’S PROVIDENTIAL DEALINGS. Many a sorrowing one has wailed out, “Thy judgments are a great deep,” and there is nothing to gauge them in this imperfect world. But the hour will come when you shall have the needed appliance “In Thy light we shall see light.”

III. With regard to THE UNVEILING OF THE FUTURE. With all the pain of its mystery is it not a mercy that the well is deep, and that we have nothing to draw with? But our greatest comfort is that it is not too deep for Him, and He is drawing up what will work together for good to those who love Him. (J. R.Macduff, D. D.)

Nothing?

I. DO NOT ALL THE STREAMS OF LIFE FLOW FROM HIM?

II. WHO FILLED THE OCEANS FROM THE HOLLOW OF HIS HAND?

III. WHO CAUSES THE CLOUDS AND MAKES THEM TREASURIES OF HIS RAIN?

IV. WHO FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS HAS OPENED FOUNTAINS OF JOY IN MYRIADS OF HEARTS? (Van Doren.)

Art Thou greater than our father Jacob?

Hero-worship

I. THIS IDOLATRY OF HEROES HAS BEEN MAN’S INFIRMITY FOR AGES.

II. THE INUTILITY OF THE RELICS OF ALL THE SAINTED MARTYRS WHEN TREASURED BY SUPERSTITION.

III. SAMARIA, THE DWELLING OF JACOB AND THE TOMB OF JOSEPH, WAS A LAND OF DARKNESS. (Van Doren.)

The bucket

The ὑδρια, here “bucket” of most of our early versions, must not be confounded with the ὑδρια, or “water-pot” (John 4:28). It is the situla, generally made of skin, with three cross sticks tied round the mouth to keep it open. It is let down by a rope of goat’s hair, and may be seen lying on the curb-stones of almost every well in the land. We may suppose the woman to have held this in her hand while she talked with the Lord, and reminded Him that He had nothing of the kind. (Abp. Trench.)

Conduits for the water of life

This well of the water of life is very deep, and we have nothing to draw with; therefore we must have our pipes and conduits to convey the same unto us; which are the Word of God preached, and the administration of the sacraments (John 5:25; Joh_6:63). (W. Perkins.)

Deep wells

1. The well was so deep that it had already lasted a thousand and a half years. It was so deep that after as many more centuries have passed away it still exists. The neighbouring Sychar is no longer;but this spring rises as at the beginning as if to

(1) Show the perpetuity of Nature’s simplest and purest gifts.

2. More enduring than that ancient fountain, and ever fresh as its drops, and deep as the wants of man, Christ’s gospel gushed up among the fainting nations. And profound as it was, that was no reason why all should not come empty-handed; no need of anything to draw with but a sincere and earnest wish to be supplied. What had the world done to deserve it? What had it brought to secure it? It had done evil and brought nothing but its emptiness and insufficiency. This train of reflection may be carried further.

I. THE NATURE THAT WE SHARE IS DEEP. It would seem, if we were acquainted with anything it would be with this. We are perpetually observing it and acting it. And yet it is scarcely less beyond our perfect penetration than its Maker Himself. Whence we? What? Whither? Some navigator once struck the bottom of the Atlantic midway between its opposite shores; but who shall sound the soul of man?--so mean, so noble; so weak and mighty; so good and evil. What shall we draw with? With fellow-feeling and good-will. Enter with a generous sympathy into the joy and sorrow of others, and you shall know “what spirit you are of.”

II. HUMAN LIFE IS DEEP. Its successive ages as they move along from infancy to decrepitude, its common concerns, sudden changes, inscrutable appointments, various fortunes, unavoidable accidents, bewilder us. What shall we draw with? We must bring a spirit of submission, a religious spirit. We may hang for ever over the abysses of our being, and only grow giddy. We shall survey it best when we look above it to that Almighty One by whom its whole mystic relations arc combined--“Our life is hidden in God.” Through Him it must receive its interpretations.

III. RELIGIOUS TRUTH IS DEEP. Some have said that it is impossible to understand in the least so immeasurable a subject. I do not say how much we can absolutely know of God. But there is a capacity in us to be fully satisfied. Faith removes the worst difficulties by taking away every disposition of mistrust and resistance out of the heart. (N. L.Frothringham.)

The difficulty of arriving at truth

I. WHENCE IT COMES TO PASS THAT TRUTH WHICH SEEMS SO NECESSARY FOR EVERY MAN TO KNOW, SHOULD YET GENERALLY BE SO DIFFICULT FOR ANY MAN TO COME AT.

1. It has been an ancient complaint among philosophers that truth hath lain in so deep a pit that they have never been able to discover the bottom of it. The like complaint we meet with in Scripture (Job 28:1-28.; Ecclesiastes 3:11; Ecc_11:5; Ecc_8:16).

2. This is true

(1) Of the knowledge of the works of God in the power of nature.

3. This arises from the following facts:

II. BY WHAT MEANS EVERY SERIOUS AND SINCERE PERSON MAY YET CERTAINLY OBTAIN TO SUCH A DEGREE OF TRUTH AS IS NECESSARY FOR SALVATION.

1. He must take care that he in the first place resolves to do the will of God, then he shall know of the doctrine (Psalms 25:14).

2. He must be firmly resolved never to be deluded into the persuasion of anything contrary to plain and evident reason, which is the truth of God’s creation; contrary to the attributes of God, which are the truth of the Divine nature; or contrary to the eternal differences of good and evil, which are the truth and foundation of all religion in general. Had men kept to this “candle of the Lord,” men even of the meanest capacities could never have believed

3. He must diligently study Holy Scripture as the only authoritative guide in religion, so as to obey its plain precepts and believe its plain doctrines, and not be contentious or uncharitable about those he does not understand. (S. Clarke, M. A.)

What may be seen in the well

There is a tradition regarding one of the other sacred wells of Palestine--the Well of the Wise Men between Jerusalem and Bethlehem--that when the Eastern Magi had at one time lost the guidance of the mystic star, while stooping over this fountain they saw it once more reflected in its waters; forthwith it guided them to the place where the young child was--“When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” True, at all events, is this beautiful tradition regarding God’s providential dispensations. At times we lose the guiding star; it is swept from our firmament; we travel on in darkness, in our unpiloted way, led in our sorrowful musing to exclaim, “Where is now my God?” But when on our bended knees we stoop over the well--ay, often in our very darkest night of mystery and sadness--lo! the heavenly light reappears; we see the lost star of Providence mirrored in the fountain of salvation. The work and the love of Christ explain what is otherwise often inexplicable. God our Maker--God our Redeemer--giveth “songs in the night.” (J. R. Macduff, D. D.)

Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again.

The contrast

I. IN EVERY BREAST THERE IS A CRAVING AFTER HAPPINESS. “Who will show us any good?” There are many streams of human enjoyment; some lawful and having the favour of God upon them; some mean and unworthy. But even the best, apart from the infinite excellence, can give no permanent satisfaction. The finite--philosophy, rank, conquest, gold--can never satisfy that which was born for the infinite.

II. WHAT IS TO TAKE THE PLACE OF THIS WORLD’S BROKEN CISTERNS? You cannot dislodge one object of earthly affection without the substitution of something better. Nature abhors a vacuum.

III. CHRIST DOES NOT CONDEMN MANY EARTHLY STREAMS OR FORBID THEM. The wants of our physical and social natures are co- ordinate with our spiritual. Jesus recognizes both, but says, “If you restrict your journeyings to the wells of human happiness you will not be satisfied. But I have a well of living waters.”

IV. THE BELIEVER HAS AN INNER WELL IN HIS SOUL which makes him independent of earthly good. This source of lasting joy is ever full, and having access to it he may say, “Having nothing, yet possessing all things.” Christ in us the hope of glory. (J. R. Macduff, D. D.)

True religion

I. IS THE GIFT OF CHRIST. This fact is confirmed

1. By reason. The evidences supplied by

(1) Nature,

2. By the Bible.

3. By the song of the redeemed in heaven. This fact shows that

II. HAS ITS RESIDENCE IN MAN’S INNER NATURE. Therefore

1. It cannot be destroyed by outward circumstances. In the cases of Job and Paul.

2. It will ever maintain its hold in man. Circumstances may take away every other gift, but not this.

III. TRANSCENDS IN VALUE THE BEST THINGS IN NATURE.

1. It gives permanent satisfaction to the soul in this life--unlike the best other things.

2. It raises its possessor to perfect happiness in the future.

IV. IS TO BE SECURED BY MAN’S OWN EXERTIONS. “Whosoever drinketh.”

1. This is natural. God gives food, but we must eat: so God works in us what we have to work out.

2. This is reasonable.

V. PRODUCES THE SAME EFFECT IN EVERY HEART. Whoever he may be religion will give him satisfaction. This shows

1. That it demands the reception of man universally.

2. That it will one day secure universal order. (W. Griffiths.)

The blessings of the gospel

I. IN THEIR PHYSICAL TYPE. “Water.”

1. The flow of water represents the spread of the gospel (Isaiah 35:6-7; Isa_43:19-20).

2. The influence of water on vegetation illustrates the power of religion on human life (Psalms 1:3; Jeremiah 17:8).

3. The pleasant quietude of water represents the repose of soul which God affords (Psalms 23:2).

4. The quickening energy of water typifies the vivifying power of God’s Spirit (Ezekiel 36:25).

(a) Vegetable and animal life are absolutely dependent on water.

(b) Water as an obstacle to terrestrial radiation saves our world daily from death.

(c) So in every way the life of the soul depends on Christ.

II. IS THEIR CONDITION OF PROFIT. “Drinketh.” They are

1. For all.

2. For all on one condition.

3. For all on the same condition--personal appropriation.

III. IN THE MEDIUM OF THEIR COMMUNICATION. “I shall give him.” We are indebted to the sun for all water fit for use. The sun lifts the water of the sea in the form of vapour, and by its unequal heat in different sections of the air causes the vapour to descend in rain and dew. All our fresh water owes its origin to this. The impure compound of the sea passes through heaven’s laboratory and descends fit for use. All the energies of the Spirit’s life are passed beneath Christ’s magic touch.

IV. IN THEIR PRACTICAL INFLUENCE. “In Him,” etc. As the mountain is to water, so is a heart full of Christian sympathies to spiritual energies.

1. The water in dew and rain falls on the mountain; living things are refreshed, the land made fertile and beautiful; life made joyous.

2. The hills absorb the excess of moisture, the water percolating through the rock to inner caverns.

3. Thus when there is no rain or dew, and the heat is great, the mountain pours forth the stream it has treasured up to satisfy the wants of thirsty comers. So the child of God

1. Receives.

2. Is blessed.

3. Gives and blesses others. (Evan Lewis, B. A.)

Life’s ever springing well

You have been busy all the week with external things, let us now turn to the inner life. We make even our religion too much external--let us turn from ecclesiastical ceremonies and questions to the life of the soul. Spiritual life is

I. A DIVINE GIFT.

1. It is not a principle dwelling in man naturally, to be brought out of obscurity. Man is dead in trespasses and sins.

2. It is not produced in men by their own efforts, through the imitation of good examples, early instruction or gradual reform.

3. It is the gift

4. What is the practical lesson but that we must make our solemn appeal to the mercy of God for it? Justice awards death; grace alone can bring life.

II. INWARD AND PERSONAL.

1. “In Him.” Unconverted men find it too much trouble to look after the inward life, but take an easier method and imitate its outward manifestation. In the churches are many Christians like the stuffed animals in a museum: there is no difference between them and the living except in the vital point. The invisible, but most real, indwelling of the Holy Spirit makes the difference between the sinner and the saint.

2. “In Him.” It is a personal matter. The presence of life in fifty relatives is of no service to the fifty-first if he is dead. All religion that is not personal is void. All the virtue that adorned your ancestors will not save you. The water which Jesus gives must be in every one of us if we would be saved.

3. How fares it with thee? Suppose there were no chapels or churches or means of grace, wouldst thou still be a Christian?

III. A VIGOROUS AND ACTIVE PRINCIPLE. Not a stagnant pool, nor a stream gently gliding on, but a spring forcing itself upwards. Springs are in perpetual motion, and no known power can stop them.

1. If heaps of rubbish are piled upon them they will force a course for themselves. So grace can well up

(1) Through a mass of ignorance--as in very uninstructed but very beautiful Christians.

2. Surrounding circumstances do not operate upon them as might be supposed. In frosty weather when the river is all ice the spring-head flows as ever. So a Christian may be placed in the worst circumstances, in an ungodly family, without the means of grace, but the inner life will not freeze.

3. This life passes through the severest ordeals and survives them--poverty, suffering, slander; over these the Christian triumphs.

4. Temptations threaten to destroy it; but let a man cast what rubbish he may into a living spring, the spring will purify itself and eject the filth, and so will the true Christian.

IV. A CONTINUAL AND EVERLASTING THING. Jesus might well have reminded the woman how many had gathered round that well and passed away, but there was the old well unchanged. So all the world may change, but the inward principle in the Christian does not decay. Some wells are drained dry by drought, or because some deeper well has taken away the supplies. But the Christian’s spring never fails, because he has struck the main fountain. His life is hid with Christ in God.

V. PRE-EMINENTLY AND CONSTANTLY SATISFACTORY. He who has Christ in him, the hope of glory, is perfectly satisfied. He could not have been content with the whole world beside.

1. Learning would only have revealed his ignorance.

2. Fame would only have made him more ambitious.

3. Wealth would have bowed him down with avarice. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

The spring of living water

Suggests

I. THE CONTINUAL FRESHNESS OF LIFE IN CHRIST’S DISCIPLES. The idea of a running brook is that of freshness, a cheerfulness that never grows dull, an unwearied energy.

1. We have not to go far before we see weary faces that tell us that life has lost its freshness and has become a dreary thing, like a stream whose course has been obstructed, when the water stagnates and cannot carry off the foul and decaying things which have accumulated.

2. This has not been because of evil intent, but because life has become so dull and wearisome that they have not cared to keep it fresh and pure.

3. Once these lives were pure and gladsome, but something has come down into them that has put a stop to it all.

4. What is the cure? Not by removing the log or boulder, but by increasing the flow so that the stream can pass over or by it, or sweep it away. So God deals not with our circumstances, but with ourselves. He augments our spiritual life that in the rush of the mighty torrent the obstruction is removed.

II. ALL THE MUSIC AND BRIGHTNESS OF THE BROOK ARISE FROM THINGS THAT WOULD PROVE OBSTACLES WERE IT WEAKER. The pebbles or boulders would alike stop the music and flow of the stream that was not large enough to pass them. So it is with us. If we have within us that spring that leapeth up into eternal life it will make music out of the very things that would otherwise have stopped our prayers. Out of the cares of life,the sudden shocks of misfortune, there shall be nothing but joyous song. (A. Poulton.)

The springing fountain

There are two kinds of wells, one a simple reservoir, another containing the waters of a spring. It is the latter kind which is spoken about here, as is clear not only from the meaning of the word in the Greek, but also from the description of it as “springing up.” That suggests at once the activity of a fountain. A fountain is the emblem of motion, not of rest. Its motion is derived from itself, not imparted to it from without. Its silver column rises ever heavenward, though gravitation is too strong for it, and drags it back again. So Christ promises to this ignorant, sinful Samaritan woman that if she chose He would plant in her soul a gift which would thus well up, by its own inherent energy, and fill her spirit with music, and refreshment, and satisfaction.

I. First, CHRIST’S GIFT IS REPRESENTED HERE AS A FOUNTAIN WITHIN. Most men draw their supplies from without; they are rich, happy, strong, only when externals minister to them strength, happiness, riches. For the most of us, what we have is that which determines our felicity. Take the lowest type of life, for instance, the men of whom, alas! the majority, I suppose, every time is composed, who live altogether on the low plane of the world, and for the world alone, whether their worldliness take the form of sensuous appetite, or of desire to acquire wealth and outward possessions. The thirst of the body is the type of the experience of all such people. It is satisfied and slaked for a moment, and then back comes the tyrannous appetite again. And, alas! the things that you drink to satisfy the thirst of your souls are too often like a publican’s adulterated beer, which has got salt in it, and chemicals, and all sorts of things to stir up, instead of slaking and quenching the thirst. And even if we rise up in a higher region and look at the experience of the men who have in some measure learned that a man’s life “consisteth not in the abundance of the things that he possesses,” nor in the abundance of the gratification that his animal nature gets, but that there must be an inward spring of satisfaction, if there is to be any satisfaction at all; if we take men who live for thought, and truth, and mental culture, and yield themselves up to the enthusiasm for some great cause, and are proud of saying, “My mind to me a kingdom is,” though that is a far higher style of life than the former, yet even that higher type of man has so many of his roots in the external world that he is at the mercy of chances and changes, and he, too, has deep in his heart a thirst that nothing, no truth, no wisdom, no culture, nothing that addresses itself to one part of his nature, though it be the noblest and the loftiest, can ever satisfy and slake. If you have Christ in your heart then life is possible, peace is possible, joy is possible, under all circumstances and in all places. Every- thing which the soul can desire, it possesses. You will be like men that live in a beleaguered castle, and in the courtyard a sparkling spring, fed from some source high up in the mountains, and finding its way in there by underground channels which no besiegers can ever touch. The world may be all wintry and white with snow, but there will be a bright little fire burning on your own hearthstone. You will carry within yourselves all the essentials to blessedness. If you have “Christ in the vessel” you can smile at the storm.

II. Christ’s gift is a springing fountain. The emblem, of course, suggests motion by its own inherent impulse. Water may be stagnant, or it may yield to the force of gravity and slide down a descending river-bed, or may be pumped up and lifted by external force applied to it, or it may roll as it does in the sea, drawn by the moon, driven by the winds, borne along by currents that owe their origin to outward heat or cold. But a fountain rises by an energy implanted within itself, and is the very emblem of joyous, free, self- dependent and self-regulated activity. “And so,” says Christ, “The water that I shall give him shall be in him a springing fountain;” it shall not lie there stagnant, but leap like a living thing, up into the sunshine, and flash there, turned into diamonds, when the bright rays smile upon it. So here is the promise of two things; the promise of activity, and the thought of activity, which is its own law.

1. The promise of activity. Some of us are fretting ourselves to pieces, or are sick of a vague disease, and are morbid and miserable because the highest and noblest parts of our nature have never been brought into exercise. Surely this promise of Christ’s should come as a true gospel to such, offering as it does, if we will trust ourselves to Him, a springing fountain of activity into our hearts that shall fill our whole being with joyous energy, and make it a delight to live and to work. It will bring to us new powers, new motives; it will set all the wheels of life going at double speed.

2. And there is not only a promise of activity here, but of activity which is its own law and impulse. There is a blessed promise in two ways. In the first place, law will be changed into delight. We shall not be driven by a commandment standing over us with whip and lash, or coming behind us with spur and goad, but that which we ought to do we shall rejoice to do; and inclination and duty will coincide in all our lives when our life is Christ’s life in us. And then, in the second place, that same thought of an activity which is its own impulse and its own law suggests another aspect of the blessedness, namely, that it sets us free from the tyranny of external circumstances which absolutely shape the lives of so many of us.

III. The last point here is THAT CHRIST’S GIFT IS A FOUNTAIN, “SPRINGING UP INTO EVERLASTING LIFE.” The water of a fountain rises by its own impulse, but howsoever its silver column may climb it always falls back into its marble basin. But this fountain rises higher, and at each successive jet higher, tending towards, and finally touching, its goal, which is at the same time its course. The water seeks its own level, and the fountain climbs until it reaches Him from whom it comes, and the eternal life in which He lives. We might put that thought in two ways.

1. The gift is eternal in its duration. The Christian character is identical in both worlds, and however the forms and details of pursuits may vary, the essential principle remains one. So that the life of a Christian man on earth and his life in heaven are but one stream, as it were, which may indeed, like sonic of those American rivers, run for a time through a deep, dark canon, or in an underground passage, but conies out at the further end into broader, brighter plains and summer lands; where it flows with a quieter current and with the sunshine reflected on its untroubled surface into the calm ocean, He has one gift and one life for earth and heaven--Christ and His Spirit, and the life that is consequent upon both.

2. And then the other side of this great thought is that the gift tends to, is directed towards, or aims at and reaches, everlasting life. The whole of the Christian experience on earth is a prophecy and an anticipation of heaven. Christ’s gift mocks no man, it sets in motion no hopes that it does not fulfil; it stimulates to no work that it does not crown with success. If you want a life that reaches its goal, a life in which all your desires are satisfied, a life that is full of joyous energy, that of a free man emancipated from circumstances and from the tyranny of unwelcomed law, and victorious over externals, open your hearts to the gift that Christ offers you; the gift of Himself, of His death and passion, of His sacrifice and atonement, of His indwelling and sanctifying Spirit. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Human expedients and Divine provision

I. HUMAN EXPEDIENTS of happiness. “Whosoever … thirst again.”

1. Gross and dissipated pleasure brings disappointment and remorse.

2. In refined and intellectual pursuits “is much grief, and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.”

3. Business brings gain, but “they that will be rich fall into a snare,” etc.

4. Leisure makes the hours hang heavily, is attended with satiety, and becomes a burden.

5. The conscience-stricken seeks a palliative in drowsy reflection or in resolutions and duties, but finds that he is compassing himself about with sparks that yield no warmth. All “broken cisterns” and “vanity and vexation of spirit.”

II. DIVINE PROVISION. “Whosoever … shall never thirst,” etc. This water, the saving grace of Christ, is

1. Excellent in its nature. The property of water is to cool, cleanse, fertilize, and refresh; no element is so indispensable. The rich grace of Christ produces, maintains, increases, completes life and makes it immortal.

2. Divine in its origin. Seek it not in ordinances; they are only channels. Use them, but do not rest in them. Look to Jesus, the author and fountain of life.

3. Free in its communication. “Give.” Nothing is more free than a gift. Why is the grace of Christ so free? Because

4. Satisfying in its effects. “Shall never thirst”

5. Constant in its supplies

6. Active in its operations. It is not given to be dormant, but to operate.

7. Eternally glorious in its results.

III. BY WAY OF IMPROVEMENT INQUIRE WHAT YOU THINK OF THIS.

1. Some are ignorant and careless.

2. In some there is beginning of thirst.

3. Some have drunk. Then

Holy water

I. THE WAY OF OBTAINING TRUE RELIGION.

1. It must come to us as a gift. There is no suggestion

The Divine life is not in us by nature, cannot be produced by culture, nor infused by ceremonies, nor propagated. Wisdom cannot impart it, nor power fashion it, nor money buy it, nor merit procure it; grace alone can give it.

2. It is a gift from Jesus. All its details are connected with Him: redemption, forgiveness, deliverance from the power of sin, instruction, example. He is our all in all.

3. It is a gift that must be received. When we drink water it enters into us and becomes part of us: even so must we receive Christ into our innermost self; not professing to believe in Him or admiring Him; but so trusting Him, loving Him, living in Him that He becomes one with us.

II. THE SATISFYING POWER OF TRUE RELIGION.

1. Grace relieves our soul thirst as soon as received. A man once startled from sinful indifference finds an “aching void” within him. He tries riches, but money cannot satisfy him; he seeks after knowledge, but study is a meanness; he dazzles his fancy with fame, charms his eye with beauty and his ear with music, but “all is vanity.” But he who has received Christ has received at-one-ment with God, and God delights in him.

2. Grace continues to quench our thirst--though it strives to return it is always met by the well within.

3. This is a matchless blessing and averts a thousand ills. What should we have been without it?

III. THE ABIDING CHARACTER OF TRUE RELIGION.

1. It is “in Him.” Here is a man trying to write poetry, but it is not in him, and it cannot come out of him, so he rhymes his nonsense, but a poet he never becomes; but if a man has it in him who can take it away? So with art and education. Much more with religion.

2. It is in him a well of living water, always there as an operative force as permanent as Jacob’s well which was there in the patriarch’s day, and is there now. True religion is like a well, because it is independent of surroundings and circumstances. In summer and winter does it flow. The pond overflows because there has been a shower of rain, but the deep well is full in the drought. So the believer is not exalted by wealth nor crushed by poverty.

3. It is a well that is springing and never ceases to flow. The great motives which set a believer working at first are as forcible in old age.

4. It springs up into everlasting life. Grace blossoms into glory.

IV. THE PRACTICAL OUTCOME OF ALL THIS.

1. Where did you get your religion? From your Father, or is it of your own manufacture?

2. What has your religion done for you? Has it quenched your thirst?

3. Does your religion abide with you or do you remove it with your Sunday hat?

4. Does your religion spring up within you by the energy of the Holy Spirit? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Living water

The incident shows

1. The equal right of womankind to spiritual privileges.

2. The intellectual capacity of woman. The topics discussed were no less abstract than those talked over with Nicodemus.

3. Our Lord’s mode of inculcating religious truth.

I. RELIGION TYPIFIED BY WATER. Water has three main uses.

1. Fertilizing. There is an inspiring power in the truths, motives, and enjoyments of religion, and tends to transform the man.

2. Purifying. Religion cleanses the character, sanctifies the life, destroys sinful habits, fosters pure thoughts, kindles holy feelings, and stimulates to holy conduct.

3. Thirst quenching. Religion meets the soul’s aspiration for life by the promise of life everlasting; quenches its thirstings for happiness by giving it fellowship with God; meets its dissatisfaction with the world by opening before it heaven’s joy.

II. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF RELIGION AS TYPIFIED BY THE WELL-WATER.

1. Its activity is implied in its being a spring well, not a pool. Religion is a never-ceasing stream of influence. When it is still it stagnates and becomes foul, promotive of the worst qualities of human nature.

2. This activity is elevating and progressive in its effects. Water springs up into life in all it nourishes. In the tree it Supplies the roots with sap, which is water springing up into fruit and flower. The results of religion are growth in those moral qualities which live for ever in happiness.

III. THE ADVANTAGES OF RELIGION AS TYPIFIED BY THE WELL IN THE MAN.

1. Where it is within the man it exercises its power over his life apart from external influences and in spite of them. Men’s moral characters must be moulded from within. External motives demoralize.

2. The comforts of religion, seeing they are within the man, are ever sure and uninterrupted. In ancient times when cities were liable to be besieged and all outside sources cut off, it was a matter of no small moment to have wells within the walls. This rendered the inhabitants more defiant of the enemy, seeing they were thus scarce of the necessaries of life. (A. J. Parry.)

Living water

1. It is characteristic of John that this metaphor omitted in the other Gospels should be preserved by him.

2. This emblem of spiritual vitality was not new (Isaiah 12:3; Isa_41:17; Isa_14:18;Jeremiah 2:13).

3. The prophetic Scriptures, however, were unknown to the woman, for the Samaritans only received the Pentateuch, and had she known them it is not likely that she would have caught their inner sense.

4. Christ is the true well of life. In Him all fulness dwells. What a claim to be made by the carpenter of Nazareth; either an unpardonable exaggeration or a witness to His Divinity.

5. The water drawn from Christ as the well is the Spirit of life He imparts.

6. The points of analogy are obvious.

7. The point of contrast was that water from Jacob’s well would give but temporary relief, because water imbibed is soon worked off or consumed in the waste of the system. But the living water is not spent or exhausted in the operation of the spiritual life. The Holy Ghost abides.

8. See how we have to do with the Christ without and the Christ within. As the woman had to go beyond the town to reach the well, so every one must go beyond himself and his whole social environment and come to Jesus. Then Christ enters the heart that has asked of Him and dwells there.

9. There ought to be increase of spiritual life. The inward well may be deepened and the stream have a more copious flow. Alas! how often is it choked and all but dried up with worldliness!

10. The career of Jesus is an example of life in the Spirit. How strong its current was is shown by His forgetfulness of His physical want when the opportunity came of opening spiritual things. (Donald Fraser, D. D.)

Living water

I. THE NATURE OF THE GIFT. Spring water, i.e., Christ Himself the Life is His own gift.

II. ITS CHARACTERISTICS.

1. Always fresh.

2. A spring of water is in perpetual motion; so

(1) Christ, in history and in the soul, is ever different and yet the same. The sky presents the same outline of clouds on no two days; the sea, visit it when we may, never looks quite as it looked before. Yet they are the same. So Christ is to us what He was to our forefathers, and yet displays to each successive generation new aspects of His power and perfection: at the same time stability and progress.

His throne; for His truths have moved the depths of our being, so that whether a man accepts them or not he cannot rest as though he had never heard them. Faculties dormant for years are stirred to meet Him, and He keeps them in motion by fresh aspects of His power and beauty.

3. Springing water fertilizes.

(a) The intellect; for He made it capable of the productions of genius.

(b) The affections. Family life in Europe is His work. His authority reflected in the Christian father, His tenderness in the Christian mother, His obedience in the Christian child.

(c) The will; making it capable of new measures of sacrifice and heroism.

III. THE SCENE OR SEAT OF THE GIFT. “In Him.”

1. Others have done great works

2. Christ has done more--more than the founding of a kingdom or of a philosophy; for a government may be hated while obeyed, a philosophy accepted without love. But Christ reigns and teaches in human hearts as a friend.

3. Hence Christians know the secret of man’s dignity. Before Christ came the dignity of man as man was unknown. When He came He placed within the reach of emperor and slave the only ennobling gift--His presence and power within.

4. This gift is also the secret of the Christian’s spiritual independence. If Christians were dependent on the things of sense, the world might crush it out. The world prescribed Christian worship, destroyed the Scriptures, but was powerless against the presence of the Divine Redeemer.

IV. ITS EFFECT. “Everlasting life.” Without it man would not be happy in heaven. (Canon Liddon.)

Living water, or vital religion

I. In its SOURCE.

1. It is a gift. Human nature is an arid desert, unproductive of a single drop of water.

2. It is a free gift. Water is one of the freest gifts of nature. You charge for milk, you give water. Christ gives liberally, and upbraids not. He is too rich to sell, we too poor to buy.

3. It is a free gift, which only Himself can give--not His apostles or their successors.

4. A free gift to whomsoever desires it. He has enough to quench the thirst of all mankind.

II. In its NATURE.

1. It is personal. Christian nations do not make Christian individuals, but vice versa The former one a great blessing, the latter a greater.

2. It is inward.

3. It is Divine--the same in kind as in God. “All my springs are in Thee.”

III. In its OPERATION.

1. It is active. It varies in feeling; but let us not forget that it is first principle--a well of water, not necessarily hot water. You may adopt means to make it hot, but hot or cold it is water all the same.

2. It is cleansing.

3. It is satisfying (Psalms 36:8).

IV. In its DESTINATION.

1. It is aspiring. Christianity is aspiring, but not satiating, not inconsistent with hope and effort. The believer wants nothing but God, but more of Him.

2. It will at last reach everlasting life. The life implanted in regeneration will continue for ever. (J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

The water of life

I. ITS DONOR. Yonder poor man who asks for refresh-ment

1. Professes to have this water.

2. Is able to supply it.

3. Was appointed to give it.

4. Has the disposition to do so.

5. Has never denied it.

II. ITS RESIDENCE. “In Him.”

1. The internal principle of religion is not to be opposed to external practice: works must evidence experience.

2. Yet Divine things must be known and felt before they can govern us. God begins with the heart.

3. The religion of some people is all external.

III. ITS ACTIVITY.

1. Real Christians are everywhere represented as active--husband-men, reapers, warriors, racers.

2. The design of the gospel is to produce a people zealous for good works.

3. The graces of the Holy Spirit are not dormant, but active.

4. All the images of the gospel imply the same thing--leaven, fire, force of vegetation.

IV. ITS TENDENCY.

1. It weans us from the world.

2. It sets our affections on things above.

3. It promotes the heavenly life below. (W. Jay.)

The longing for unknown happiness

“We have an idea of happiness,” says a great French writer, who has bequeathed, as a legacy, the stray but profound imaginings of his mind about God--“we have an idea of happiness, and yet we cannot grasp it; we are conscious of an image of the true, yet we possess only the false. There is an ignorance; yet not absolute. There is a knowledge; yet not certainty.” Yes. We are always haunted by a memory or stimulated by a hope. We are always looking after something; we hardly know what it is. (Knox Little.)

Riches unsatisfying

Very few men acquire wealth in such a manner as to receive pleasure from it. Just as long as there is the enthusiasm of the chase they enjoy it; but when they begin to look around, and think of settling down, they find that that part by which joy enters is dead in them.

They have spent their lives in heaping up colossal piles of treasure, which stand, at the end, like the pyramids in the desert sands, holding only the dust of kings. (H. W. Beecher.)

The unsatisfying nature of worldly things

As a cup of pleasant wine offered to a condemned man on the way to his execution; as the feast of him who sat under a naked sword hanging perpendicularly over his head by a slender thread; as Adam’s forbidden fruit, seconded by a flaming sword; as Belshazzar’s dainties overlooked by a handwriting against the wall: such are all the empty delights of the world--in their matter and expectation, earthly; in their acquisition, painful; in their fruition, nauseous and cloying; in their duration, dying and perishing; in their operation, hardening, effeminating, leavening, puffing up, estranging the heart from God; in their consequences seconded with anxiety, solitude, fear, sorrow, despair, disappointment. (J. Spencer.)

Worldly things unsatisfying

He that seeks to satisfy his lusts goes about an endless business. “Give, give!” is the horse-leech’s language. The worldling hath enough to sink him but not to satisfy him. (J. Trapp.)

Worldly things unsatisfying

I have read a story of a man whom Chrysostom did feign to be in prison. “Oh,” saith he, “if I had but liberty, I would desire no more!” He had it; and then cried, “If I had enough for necessity, I would desire no more.” He had it; and then cried, “Had I a little for variety, I would desire no more.” He had it; and then cried, “Had I any office, were it the meanest, I would desire no more.” He had it; and cried again, “Had I but a magistracy, though over one town only, I would desire no more.” He had it; and then sighed, “Were I but a prince, I would desire no more.” He had it; and then sighed, “Were I but a king, I would desire no more.” He had it; and then cried, “Were I but an emperor, I would desire no more.” He had it; and then exclaimed, “Were I but emperor of the whole world, I would then desire no more.” He had it; and then he sat down with Alexander, and wept that there were no more worlds for him to possess. Now, did any man come to enjoy what he is said to desire, it would be but a very mean portion compared with God. (Thomas Brooks.)

The worth of the water of life

I. WHAT IS MEANT BY THIS WATER CHRIST GIVETH. The gifts and graces of the Spirit (John 7:38-39).

1. The gift of regeneration to become God’s child.

2. The gift of faith to believe God’s promises.

3. The gift of obedience to do God’s will.

4. The gift of prayer to seek God’s presence.

5. The gift of comfort to endure God’s trials.

6. The gift of strength to hold out and continue God’s servant.

II. CHRIST IS ABLE AND WILLING TO GIVE THIS WATER.

1. Able (Psalms 36:9; Zechariah 13:1; Colossians 1:19; Col_2:3).

2. Willing (Matthew 11:28; John 7:37; Rev Isaiah 55:1).

III. HOW CHRIST BESTOWS THIS WATER.

1. By the preaching of the Word.

2. By the sacraments.

3. By prayer.

IV. THE PARTIES TO WHOM CHRIST WILL GIVE THIS WATER. Those wire thirst (Isaiah 4:1; Matthew 5:6; John 7:27; Revelation 22:18). If there be no thirsting, there shall be no refreshing.

V. THE BENEFIT OF ENJOINING THE WATER. Never thirst, because the fountain is never dry.

VI. THE SIGNS OF HAVING THIS WATER.

1. A clear sight of thine own soul’s estate.

2. Purity of heart.

3. Satisfaction in Christ. (S. Hieron.)

The deceptive character of this world’s good

Many years ago, when the Egyptian troops conquered Nubia, a regiment was destroyed by thirst in crossing this desert. The men, being upon a limited supply of water, suffered from extreme thirst, and deceived by the appearance of a mirage that exactly resembled a beautiful lake, they insisted on being taken to its banks by the Arab guide. It was in vain that the guide assured them that the lake was unreal, and he refused to lose the precious time by wandering from his course. Words led to blows, and he was killed by the soldiers whose lives depended on his guidance. The whole regiment turned from the track and rushed towards the welcome waters. Thirsty and faint, over the burning sands they hurried; heavier and heavier their footsteps became, hotter and hotter their breath, as deeper they pushed into the desert, farther and farther from the lost track where the pilot lay in his blood; and still the mocking spirits of the desert, the affects of the mirage, led them on, and the lake, glistening in the sunshine, tempted them to bathe in its cool waters, close to their eyes, but never at their lips. At length the delusion vanished; the fatal lake had turned to burning sand. Raging thirst and horrible despair! the pathless desert and the murdered guide! lost! lost! all lost! Not a man ever left the desert, but they were subsequently discovered, parched and withered corpses, by the Arabs sent in search. (Sir S. Baker.)

Unsatisfactory nature of this world’s good

A striking proof we have of this is the example of Solomon, who, with every advantage, made the experiment what earth and earthly things could do to satisfy the soul of man. Whichever way he turned, and in whatever quarter he inquired, he found that all is vanity and vexation of spirit. If he thought to prove his heart with mirth, and to enjoy pleasure, this also was vanity; so that he was forced to say of laughter, “It is mad,” and of mirth, “What doeth it?” If he increased his goods, and gathered silver and gold, he found what the experience of all ages has confirmed, that he who loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver, nor he that loveth abundance with increase--this also was vanity. (J. Fawcett, M. A.)

The most renowned of earthly conquerors seated himself by that well. He brought the monarchs of the world to be his drawers of water; each with his massive goblet going down for the draught, and laying the tribute at the victor’s feet. But the tears of the proud recipient have passed into a proverb; and if we could ask him to translate these dumb tears into words, his reply would be, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again.” (J. R.Macduff, D. D.)

Perinal supplies

There is an Eastern legend which says that there was a fair fountain by which an angel once rested, and in a favoured hour he infused into it a mysterious power, so that if only some drops of its water were scattered in a barren plain a fountain would spring up; and thenceforth any traveller who came to the spring might, after refreshing himself, take some water from it, and carry with him on his journey the secret of unfailing springs, and might suffer no fear of thirst. And is not the water which Christ gives like that, only it is given by the Lord of angels? (Donald Fraser, D. D.)

Life-streams

The Son of God gives living water--first, by giving Himself to redeem the world which was pining away in death; and secondly, by making the life which is in Him for the redeemed, to be, through the Holy Ghost (Romans 8:2), a happy, blessed life in them. In the beginning life was in Him (John 1:4); and this life-stream of the eternal Word, which forth from Paradise flowed through this world’s dark valley of death, until its whole fulness was collected in the flesh of the Son of Man--this life-stream will never dry up, but will ever become deeper and broader (Ezekiel 47:1-23.); in the kingdom of grace, imparting grace for grace to all who drink thereof for their healing from sin and death, and in the paradise of the new, glorified earth, refreshing the perfected saints with rapture for ever and ever (Revelation 22:1-17). (R. Berser.)

The freeness of salvation and the cost of the means

Dr. Adam Clarke once preached on the words, “Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.” At the conclusion of the discourse he announced a collection. “How can you, Doctor,” asked a lady afterwards, “reconcile the freeness of the water of life with the collection at the close”? “Oh, madame,” answered the learned and venerable divine, “God gives the water without money and without price; but you must pay for the water-works, for the pipes, and the pitchers which convey the water to your neighbourhood.” Remember, you pay nothing to God; you are charged nothing for the water; but you cannot have convenient chapels to sit in without paying for them, nor a regular ministry to urge the water on your acceptance, without making a suitable provision for its support. (J. C. Jones, D. D.)

The satisfaction within

I visited two lakes not far apart in a mountainous district of North Wales, namely, Bala and Arenig. Having noticed that one was somewhat muddy and discoloured whilst the other was beautiful and clear, quite transparent down to its bed, where the eye could distinctly see the fishes flitting to and fro, I asked my companion what might be the reason for this difference. He replied, Bala Lake, whose waters are discoloured, is replenished by streams which flow into it, and which bring with them the soft and debris they gather up in their course down the hill-side and through the alluvial earth. But the Arenig, whose water is so beautifully transparent and placid, is supplied by springs bubbling up within its own bosom; hence they bring with them no defiling elements. Herein I found a parable. The motives which are supplied by the world--its pride, its wealth, its fashion, and fame--are corrupt, and as they enter the mind they pollute it. But those supplied by religion, which is a well-spring within, are pure in themselves and purify the whole man. (A. J. Parry.)

The best happiness within

Here the fountain is within, the streams of happiness have their source in the heart itself, they do not flow to a man from without, but spring up in his own happy breast. A good man, it is written, shall be satisfied from himself; he is not happy because his corn and wine and oil are increased; but because God lifts up upon him the light of His countenance, and fills him with joy and peace in believing, so that he abounds in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost. He despises not the earthly comforts which God gives him, nor does he turn austerely from them. Nay, he enjoys them with double relish as the gifts of a reconciled Father, and eats his meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God. The joys of friendship and social intercourse, and the charities of domestic life, he can taste too as well as others, and has them of a purer and more exalted kind. But still his best happiness is from within, a peaceful conscience, a pure heart, a firm trust in God, a freedom from anxious care and covetous desire, love of the brethren, the delight of doing good, patience in adversity, and the hope of eternal glory. (J. Fawcett, M. A.)

Man’s longings satisfied by Christ

If you look over the dreamy aspirations of the Ancient and Middle Ages, you will find that they resolve themselves into two--a thirst for the elixir of immortality, and a longing for the philosopher’s stone. The elixir was believed to possess the power to impart immortality to man, and the stone to possess the power to convert all baser metals into pure gold. The elixir was to set me right, the stone to set my circumstances right. But I need not remind you that the alchemists could neither concoct the one nor discover the other. Notwithstanding all their efforts, man remained both mortal and indigent. But these, like all other deep longings of our nature, are met and satisfied in Christianity. Christ gives to man “the white stone with the new name”--this is the real Philosopher’s Stone, and it will set our circumstances right by and by. He also gives us the Water of Life, which is the genuine Elixir of Immortality, and will render our persons really and truly immortal. (J. C. Jones, D. D.)

“Swinging up into everlasting life”

Water, by a well-known law of hydrostatics, never rises above its own level; and so the best of earthly joys and rills of pleasure can rise no higher than earth: they begin and terminate here. But the living water with which Christ fills the soul, springing from heaven, conducts to heaven again. Flowing from the Infinite--flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, from the city of the crystal sea--it elevates to the Infinite. It finds its level in the river of the water of life which flows in the midst of the celestial Paradise. And just as on earth, so long as our mighty lake-reservoirs are full of water and the channel unimpeded, the marble fountain in street or garden, sends up, on the gravitation principle, its crystal jets in unfailing constancy; so (with reverence we say it) never shall these fountains of peace and joy and reconciliation and hope cease in the heart of the believer until the mighty reservoirs of Deity are exhausted; in other words, until God Himself ceases to be God. Everlasting life is their source, and everlasting life is their magnificent duration. We have witnessed the memorable and interesting spot at the roots of Mount Hermon, familiarly known as “the sources of the Jordan.” There, the river of Palestine is seen bubbling out of a dark cave, and thence hastens on through its long tortuous course to lose its waters in the Sea of Death. That is the picture and illustration of every stream of earthly happiness. They terminate with the grave. But this inner fountain in the hidden man of the believer’s heart flows onward to the Sea of Life; and the hour which terminates the worldling’s happiness only truly begins his. (J. R. Macduff, D. D.)

Jesus a spring

A little girl who had been instructed in a Sunday School in the country was very fond of her Bible. There was a spring at a small distance from her cottage, from which the family supplied themselves with water. Her father had noticed that she was sometimes longer than necessary in going to the spring. One day he followed her unperceived, and observed her set down the pitcher and kneel to pray. He waited till she arose, and then, coming forward, said, “Well, my dear, was the water sweet?” “Yes, father,” said she; “and if you were but to taste one drop of the water I have been tasting, you would never drink of the waters of this world any more.” “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him,” says Jesus, “shall never thirst.”

Religion a spring

When you were children, as you went along through the park, has your eye been attracted by a tiny jet of water springing up among the green grass? You said, “It is a spring!” And then, because you had nothing to do in those happy days, you said, “I will cover it up, and keep the spring down.” You have gathered leaves and earth and stones, and built a compact house, and said, “No more water from that poor spring will ever get out of that prison.” By and by the earth loosened and fell and crumbled away before the irresistible stream of gentle water. (J. Watson, M. A.)

Salvation to be received as a free gift

A great many people are looking at their feelings; a great many people are looking at themselves. Do not be looking at your feelings, but look at heaven. Suppose a man who had been in the habit of meeting in the street one whom he had known for years as a beggar, and were to see him to-night with a nice suit of clothes on, and were to accost him with, “Hullo, beggar,” and he were to answer, “Don’t call me a beggar; I am no beggar.” “But are you not a beggar?” “No, sir, I am not a beggar.” “What is the reason you are not a beggar?” “Why, I was sitting there to-day, and I put out my hand and asked a man to give me something. A gentleman came along, and put five thousand dollars right into my hand.” “How do you know it is good money?” “I took it to the bank.” “How did you get it?” “I put my hand out, and he just put it in my hand.” “How do you know it is the right kind of a hand?” “Oh, pooh, what do I care what kind of a hand it was?” (D. L. Moody.)

Christian character forceful

A gentleman relates that he was one morning riding along a new road, where he saw the road-makers hard at work blocking up a little spring which kept gushing out in the road they were making. They put in earth and stones, and beat them down, to choke the fountain, and then rolled the roller up and down to make the road solid. So they worked and worked away, and contrived to keep the spring under during the day. But at night, when the traveller returned, the little spring, which had been hindered, but not destroyed, was at work again, dislodging the stones, throwing out the dirt, and scooping for itself a channel. So it is often with God’s children. (G. Litting, LL. B.)

Earthly and spiritual blessings

His lips water not after homely provision that hath lately tasted of delicate sustenance. (Trapp.)

The activity of grace

I tell you the living spring cannot be stayed in its action. If you have a cistern-full of water it will be quiet enough, but if it be a spring it is for ever seething, bubbling, gushing. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The inward spring

The Christian has a fens perennis within him. He is satisfied from himself. The men of the world borrow all their joy from without, and, like gathered flowers, though fair and sweet for a season, it must soon wither and become offensive. Joy from within is like smelling the rose on the tree--it is more sweet and fair, and, I must add, it is immortal. (G. H. Salter.)


Verse 15

John 4:15

Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not.
--

The thirst of life and its satisfaction in Christ

I. The poor sinful heart--astray and deceived--UNSATISFIED.

II. The soul led aright and brought to itself by repentance--BEGINNING TO BE SATISFIED.

III. The soul transformed into purity and blessed life by grace--PARTIALLY SATISFIED.

IV. The soul in glory rejoicing in the beatific vision--FULLY SATISFIED.

The water of life

I. I AM TO TRY TO EXCITE YOUR DESIRE BY A DESCRIPTION OF THIS WATER. Spiritual things must be described by natural analogies. You must have water or you die. So must you have grace. Water is

1. Thirst removing.

2. Life preserving.

3. Filth purging.

4. Softening. The hardest heart yields before the power of the love of God.

5. Fire quenching. The fire of lust, envy, malice, anger, and unholy desire.

6. Spring creating. Wherever the water of life falls it makes a new spring, and never gets fiat, dull, or dead.

7. Fruit producing in proportion to the quantity we drink.

8. Heaven ascending. Water rises to its level. If we have grace that began with us it will never get higher than ourselves. If grace which the priest gave, no higher than the priest. But the true grace of God comes down from heaven, and will carry us whence it came.

II. TO CHEER YOUR HEARTS WITH SOME REFLECTIONS UPON THE LIKELIHOOD OF YOUR GETTING THIS LIVING WATER. Supposing that you want it.

1. No ordinary man would deny another water. The giving of grace by the Saviour no more than the giving of water by you.

2. If you would refuse water to some, you would not refuse it to the thirsty; and Jesus never refused a thirsty sinner yet.

3. There is plenty of it, and it is free. John speaks of a river. Who fears to exhaust the Thames? The source may be private, but as soon as it gets a considerable stream it becomes a public highway and water supply.

4. It flows on purpose for the thirsty. What could Christ have made an atonement for but for sinners?

5. No one has been refused yet.

6. It is to Christ’s glory to give it, and therefore be sure that He will not withhold it. The more a physician cures the greater his fame; the more Christ saves the higher His honour.

III. TO URGE YOU TO PRAY THIS PRAYER. A desire is like seed in the sack, but prayer sows it in the furrow: like water in the bottle, but prayer drinks thereof.

1. Begin, then, by honouring Christ. The woman gave Him the highest title she knew. You call Him “Lord”; for if you reject His divinity you shut yourself out from His kingdom.

2. Confess your undeservingness. “Give,” not “sell.” Mercy must be given.

3. Make this a personal prayer. “Give it me.” Never mind your neighbours or your children just now. Look after their salvation when you are saved.

4. Offer it in the present tense. The worst of most men is that they would serve the devil all their lives and then cheat him of their souls at last. If God be God serve Him now. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Spiritual laziness

The spirit of the second reason for this request animates men to this day. The prevalent disposition is to seek religious benefit in some way which does not involve endeavour and responsibility.

I. MEN DO NOT EXPECT PHYSICAL RESULTS EXCEPT BY APPROPRIATE EFFORT. Parents do not pray that God would inspire their boys with a useful trade. They apprentice them and pray God that they may attend to their business and take proper steps to learn. Skill of hand is to be developed by training and not by praying. There are those who still speak of luck, but the number decreases with intelligence and enterprise.

II. MEN DO NOT LOOK FOR INTELLECTUAL RESULTS EXCEPT BY THE APPLICATION OF MEANS TO ENDS.

1. We never pray for general knowledge, nor teach our children to do so; but to use their eyes and ears, to keep company with intelligent persons. And this is not inconsistent with the prayer that God will sustain us in the exertion of our natural faculties. So no one prays for books, or the results of professional skill without the drill which leads to them.

2. There is one apparent exception, that of genius. But genius is only what belongs to one whose organization is so fine and large that it acts by its own stimulus. If on the art side, we have an art genius. A man is a genius in the direction in which his faculties are highly organized. Such work more easily than others, but they have to work much. The eagle moves faster and easier than the ant, but both move by the same (muscular) power. And the greatest geniuses in poetry (Milton), in music (Handel), in war (Frederick and Napoleon), have been the hardest workers.

III. BUT MEN DO LOOK FOR RELIGIOUS RESULTS WITHOUT PERSONAL EFFORT.

1. There is an impression that God works irresistibly by His Spirit, and that the distinguishing qualities of Christian life fall down upon us of their own accord like dewdrops on the flowers. Now we must pray for everything that it is proper for us to have, for the highest as well as for the lowest; but there is no more reason that we should pray for morality than for corn, for meekness than for flowers.

2. Religiousness is rightmindedness towards God and man. To be religious is to act in accordance with the laws of the mind from the highest to the lowest of its endowments. I should have, of course, no hope as a minister without a belief in the all-prevalent vitalizing Spirit, and should as soon attempt to raise flowers where there was no atmosphere, and fruits without light and heat, as to regenerate men without the Holy Ghost. Nevertheless this Divine influence is not irresistible in such a sense as to relieve men from the responsibility of developing every one of the spiritual elements. God wakes up the soul and then says, “Work out what I work in” Philippians 2:12-13).

3. Conversion is not a completed work. Here is a lazy vagabond, depending on his relations, and he is taken to the West and put upon 150 acres of ground and told to work out his own living. The ground is not converted yet; but he goes to work and brings it under cultivation. He has been converted from a street beggar into a man of means and respectability; but his own conversion is no more complete than that of his farm. When a man is converted he has a new start and has to go forward. If a man, therefore, expects there is any labour-saving conversion he is greatly mistaken.

4. Conversion makes a man a disciple, and places him in Christ’s school, where he has to learn and place himself under discipline. And the experiences of Christ’s school are not to be had by prayer only. If an intemperate man wants to be temperate, a passionate man meek, a proud man humble, he must not only pray, but tame himself. (H. W. Beecher.)

Carnal pleasures tire

Hilly ways are wearisome ways, and tire the ambitious man. Carnal pleasures are dirty ways, and tire the licentious man. Desires of gain are thorny ways, and tire the covetous man. Emulations of higher men are dark and blind ways, and tire the envious man. Every way that is out of the way wearies us. Lassati sumus, et lassis non datur requies; we labour, and have no rest when we have done; we are wearied with our sins, and have no satisfaction in them; we go to bed to-night, weary of our sinful labours, and we will rise freshly to-morrow to the same sinful labours again (Lamentations 5:5; Isaiah 5:18). (Dr. Donne.)

The heavenly and the earthly mind

Never was there such a contrast in a conversation as that presented in the conversation between Christ and the woman of Samaria. Christ speaking from the top of all spiritual apprehension, the woman from the bottom of sensuous knowledge. (H. W.Beecher.)

Spiritual thirst prepares us to receive the living water

They say that the water of the Nile is very sweet. We have heard some of our fellow-countrymen assert that a very little of it was too much for them, and that they never wished to drink of it again. There is no use in disputing about tastes, but surely people might agree upon the quality of the water. Yet some praise this Nile water to the skies, and others call it muddy stuff. The reason why the water of the Nile is so sweet to Egyptians is that their climate is dry, and the people are thirsty, and other water is scarce. Under a burning sun a drink of water is very refreshing. To the soul that is thirsty after mercy and reconciliation and eternal life, every promise of the Lord is delightful. Nothing puts such a savour and flavour into the gospel as that work of the Holy Spirit, by which we are made to feel our great need of it. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

Mercy a free gift

It is not “Sell me this water,” but “Give me this water.” Confess that it is a gift: thou shalt never have it otherwise. Mercy must be given, or thou shalt never have it. “Sir, give me, give me, give me of Thy free mercy, give it me, Lord. I come empty-handed, naked, poor and miserable, Give it me. I have nought to buy it with.” Friend, does your pride kick at this? Be wise, I pray thee, and bow thy neck to the yoke of grace. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Salvation must be realized by the soul

You go to the throne of grace; to a fountain deeper than Jacob’s well; you draw water, living water, from it; but, instead of drinking the water, as you should, you are satisfied with having raised the bucket to the ground, and you retire. The end of drawing water is to drink it: the meaning of praying is to reach something beyond it. Prayer is not a religious duty, but the means of attaining spiritual blessings. (J. Cumming, D. D.)


Verses 16-18

John 4:16-18

Go, call thy husband, and come hither.

Whence learn

1. As grace is little known or esteemed of so long as we know not our misery, so, where the offer of mercy doth not persuade, Christ will discover their misery to make them either come quickly to Him, or else resolve on hell; for, therefore, after the former offers had no success, doth He rip up her bosom.

2. Christ is very meek and tender, even in discovering of misery to men, so long as they are not incorrigible, and is willing that they should judge and accuse themselves, that He may deal tenderly with them; therefore doth He so mildly bid her, “Go, call thy husband,” that He might draw a confession out of her own mouth.

3. It is not every sin whereof natural men are guilty for which they can at first be capable of conviction, for every sin will not be odious to every one in every condition, but there are some sins which only grace, and much grace, and grace in exercise, will see to be sinful; therefore, though she was guilty of many other sins, yet Christ pitcheth only on this sin of gross filthiness as that which would be seen best by her.

4. It is not every sight of sin that will convince the sinner, but Christ must put it home upon the conscience, and discover sin to be marked by His all-searching eye, before it work upon him; for she knew her own condition (and therefore saith, “I have no husband,” as shifting the matter whereof she supposed Him to be ignorant), but without any sense, till He rip up her bosom and let her say He knew her.

5. Christ will commend a small good under much dross, and particularly He accounts of a true acknowledgment, even of a heinous crime, as a commendable duty. Therefore doth He make so much of her confession, “Thou hast well said, thou saidst truly.”

6. Christ hath particular knowledge of what sins men are lying in, how hid soever, and particularly He hath an eye upon secret uncleanness; and how loath soever sinners be to be discovered by Christ, yet, where He pleaseth and hath a purpose of mercy, no shirtings will hide them. So much doth this large discovery, after her shifting confession, teach, “Thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou hast is not thy husband.”

7. Such is the pollution of our nature, that lust will be insatiable unless grace curb it. So much appeareth in this woman who, after so many marriages, doth live in uncleanness. (G. Hutcheson.)

The woman answered,… no husband.--These words were an honest and truthful confession, so far as they went. The way in which our Lord received her declaration makes it probable that she did not profess to be a widow, and very likely her dress showed that she was not. In this point of view the honesty of her confession is noteworthy. There is always more hope of one who honestly and bluntly confesses sin than of a smooth-tongued hypocrite. Our Lord’s commendation of the woman’s honest confession deserves notice. It teaches us that we should make the best of an ignorant sinner’s words. An unskilful physician of souls would probably have rebuked the woman sharply for her wickedness, if her words led him to suspect it. Our Lord, on the contrary, says, “Thou hast well said.” (Bp. Ryle.)

The power of private reproof

John Wesley, having to travel some distance in a stage coach, fell in with a pleasant-tempered, well-informed officer, whose conversation was sprightly and entertaining, but frequently mingled with oaths. When they were about to take the next stage, Mr. Wesley took the officer aside, and, after expressing the pleasure he had enjoyed in his company, told him that he was thereby encouraged to ask from him a very great favour. “I would take a pleasure in obliging you,” said the officer, “and am sure that you will not prefer an unreasonable request.” “Then,” said Mr. Wesley, “as we have to travel together some time, I beg that, if I should so far forget myself as to swear, you will kindly reprove me.” The officer immediately saw the motive, and, feeling the force of the request, said with a Smile, “None but Mr. Wesley could have conceived a reproof in such a manner.” (J. Gill.)

Preparation for blessing needful

She has asked for this living water. She knows not that the well must first be dug. In the depth of her spirit there is a power of life; but like the source of a spring, it is hidden. Many a hard rock of impenitence was there, and many a layer of every-day transgression, and many a habit once formable as clay, now hard as adamant, and many a deposit of carnal thought which had left nothing but its dregs behind. All this must be dug through before she can have the living water, and this well, too, must be deep. The command, “Go, call thy husband,” is the first stroke breaking up the surface of that fair appearance, and revealing the foulness of the life beneath it. (H. W. Watkins, D. D.)

Sin must be confessed before salvation can be obtained

There is no salvation till you confess your sin. There was a man in India who, one evening having nothing else to do, went to play at religion with the parson--as some of you have come here this afternoon. “Religion is all verywell,” began the officer, “but you must admit that there are difficulties--about the miracles, for instance.” The chaplain knew his man, and quietly answered him, “Yes, there are some things in the Bible not very plain, I admit; but the seventh commandment is very plain.” The man’s temper rose, and he swung himself out of the tent; but a little later he came back, no longer to raise false difficulties, but to ask how a poor adulterous British officer might be saved. There are men and women here kept from salvation by what kept back this Samaritan woman. Give up that man, give up that woman, if you would be saved. The pitcher must be emptied before it can be filled. (John McNeill.)

Conscience must be aroused

Here He comes home to her conscience; so must all that will do good, striving not so much to please as to profit. The eagle, though she love her young ones dearly, yet she pricketh and beateth them out of their nest; so must preachers drive men out of their nest of pleasure. (J. Trapp.)

A plain word spoken in season

A lad in his teens had his home for a time with a good woman, who made him very comfortable; and when he was leaving her, he asked if there were anything he could do in return for the motherly care she had shown him. Her reply was, “Yes, ‘Let the wicked forsake his way,’ etc.” (Isaiah 55:7). The young man’s life had not been at all strikingly vicious, but the above passage of Scripture, thus unexpectedly presented to him, was blessed by the Holy Spirit, and took such hold on his mind that he could not rest till he had sought and found the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour.

Christ’s skill in dealing with the conscience

No mariner is more prompt to mark and utilize every breeze, no plant more sensitive to sun and rain, or more skilful to convert the one into colour and the other into sap, than Jesus to observe and adapt Himself to the changes of the hearts of men for their salvation. (G. A. Chadwick, D. D.)

Christ looks into the inner life

The eye of Jesus, which from the throne saw a sinful and saddened world; which saw Nathanael under the fig tree and Zacchaeus up in the sycamore tree; the eye which from the hill-top gazed on doomed Jerusalem, and which now follows both saint and sinner through all their ways; that bright, beautiful, expressive, sleepless, all-seeing eye pierced the veil of deceit which this sinner thought impenetrable, discerned her ways, read her thoughts, and dissected all her motives with more than microscopic distinctness. Then, with the master skill of more than a prophet, Jesus exposed her whole wanton career as by a lightning flash; and fastening upon her existing and current offence “as the crown and consummation of all her sins,” He seized her conscience. (J. H.Hitchens, D. D.)

We must faithfully apply the truth

A minister was spending a few days in a town, and while there a young man was thrown much in his society. The young man was not a Christian, but learning that the minister intended to preach in the city gaol, asked to be allowed to accompany him. The minister preached to the audience with So much earnestness as to deeply impress the friend who had accompanied him. On their return home the young man said, “The men to whom you preached to-day must have been moved. Such preaching cannot fail to influence.” “Friend,” answered the minister, “were you influenced?” “You were not preaching to me, but to your convicts,” was quickly answered. “I was preaching to you as much as to them. You need the same Saviour as they.” The word so faithfully spoken God blessed in bringing this wanderer home to Himself.


Verses 17-26

Verse 19

John 4:19

Sir, I perceive that Thou art a prophet

Personal preaching

General discourses are like the beams of the sun dispersed in the air; they may warm us a little, but that is all.
Conviction is like a burning glass, that gathers all the beams into one point or centre, and fastens them upon the soul, and so kindles and inflames it … It is not the flourishing or brandishing of a sword in the air that will wound or pierce, but the stroke of the weapon must be brought home to the body, or no wound will be given … While Nathan kept aloof in a general discourse and told him a parable, David was never troubled with the sense of his sin, never suspected it concerned him; but when he closed with him and told him, “Thou art the man,” then David’s heart smote him; he cries out of his sin, and sues for mercy This is the preaching that Solomon commends, “The words of the wise are like goads,” that must be run into the flesh, as nails driven up to the head, fastened and riveted into the soul of a sinner
Ecclesiastes 12:10-11; Acts 2:37; Colossians 1:28; Hebrews 4:12). (Bp. Brownrig.)

Sinners avoid the truth

I could not help smiling as I read the next passage. She is making a wild attempt to get away, to get off the hook. She tries to draw a red-herring across the scent by bringing up that old religious squabble. Just like you: you will go home, some of you, and take me to dinner, while I call God and your conscience to witness that I have struck you between the eyes. Yes, you will talk about me, not about your sin; you will come near to calling me coarse, thou coarsest sinner out of hell, that lovest thy sin! Have a care, my friend. (John McNeill.)


Verses 20-29

John 4:20-29

Our fathers worshipped in this mountain

The advent of Christ in relation to the heathen

This is the first mission to the heathen.

I. Our Lord’s MISSIONARY METHOD. He tries to excite in the woman a longing for something higher than the life she was living. In order to do this He touches her conscience and lays His finger on her sin. She, seeing that she is in the presence of a prophet, embraces the opportunity of getting settled a long-standing controversy. In His reply, our Lord does not pretend that there is no difference when there is, but teaches that the difference is to pass away in the light of a higher truth which embraces both sides. The Jews knew what they worshipped, as the Samaritan and the heathen do not. Salvation was of the Jews, and not of the Samaritan or heathen.

II. Our Lord’s MISSIONARY DOCTRINE. The offering of a man’s whole self to God, and not the substitution of anything in its place. But man can only offer himself, i.e., worship in spirit, by being re-born of the Holy Spirit; can only worship in truth by being united to Him who is the Truth. Man can therefore worship the Father in spirit and in truth by the offering of his whole self in union with the Eternal Son and by being filled with the Eternal Spirit.

III. Our Lord’s AUDIENCE REPRESENTS THE HEATHEN WORLD.

1. In her separation. She is outside She kingdom of God and the chosen race.

2. In her unconscious thirst for God--the living water.

3. In her sin.

4. In her blind worship of the unknown God.

IV. THE REVELATION OF WEAK POINTS IN MODERN MISSIONS.

1. There is too much vagueness in modern Christianity as to whom and what we worship--no clear grasp of the incarnation and regeneration by the Holy Spirit. Our Lord’s “We know what we worship” much wanted.

2. There is too much feeling that Christianity is a thing of European civilization, and not universal.

3. It was the despised Samaritans, and not the favoured Jews, nor even the apostles, who were the first to find out that Christ was tim Saviour of the world.

V. Our Lord’s VINDICATION OF CHRISTIAN MISSIONS in the declaration that the Father seeketh worship. He knew that man cannot find satisfaction save in Him. (Canon Vernon Hutton.)

Human curiosity and Divine mystery

1. According to the Grecian sage, all knowledge commences with wonder or curiosity. Without this knowledge would never have taken the strides it has. But it is not always those objects which most excite our curiosity that we are most capable of becoming acquainted with. This is true with the objects of nature, the sun, e.g., but much more with that sublimest of all objects, the unseen God. And because He shrouds Himself round with a veil of mystery, all the more our hearts desire to know something about Him. And yet “who can by searching find out God?” And then we have to reflect upon the errors into which men have fallen in their attempt to make the discovery, their attempt to satisfy their desire by a substitute of their own imagination, which ended in leaving the desire unsatisfied and the object still unknown.

2. But just as the art of optics was required to enable men of science to make progress in their knowledge of the sun, so it was necessary, before men could be acquainted with God, that He should be brought within the region of human observation. “Lord, show us the Father!” was the cry of humanity. “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” was the response.

3. This woman was a subject of spiritual curiosity, and desired to know something of God. She identified herself with a religion which, however, instead of leading her to God, only supplied a substitute for Him. “Ye worship ye know not what.” She knew what many a man of the nineteenth century knows to his cost, that this was true. As at Athens so at Gerizim there was an altar to the unknown God.

4. What was wanting at Gerizim? Two elements conspicuous in the creed of the Jew--a system of ritual in the temple worship, with all its symbolic teaching, and the utterances of the prophets. These two elements were closely connected with the promise as to the “seed of the woman,” with the person and work of the Messiah, with God’s attitude towards guilt in laying the iniquity of us all on the head of His guiltless Son. Thus the Jew was able to form such an ideal of the character of God as was impossible to the Samaritans. So the former “knew what He worshipped.” Is not agnosticism the inevitable result of not receiving or of rejecting the revelation of God through Christ in the present day?

5. This agnosticism is not to be wondered at even with our clearer light. God is defined as an infinite Spirit--two splendid negations. When the woman heard Christ’s declaration of the nature of God, she immediately fell back on another thought--the Messiah. Trace the progress of this spiritual growth--the awakening of a vague thirst; the definite conviction of sin; the desire to worship truly; the conviction of the coming of a perfect teacher; Christ’s disclosure of His Messiahship; His glad communication; the conviction on her word and by personal experience, of the Samaritans that Christ was the Saviour of the world. (W. M. H. Aitken, M. A.)

The Church of the future

I. This Church is to be looked for NOT IN THE PREVALENCE OF ANY SINGLE FORM OF WORSHIP OR IN ANY PHILOSOPHICAL CREED, though both of these will go along subordinately as working forces, BUT IN THE CONDITION OF THE HUMAN RACE. There will never be a time in which it will not be necessary to compass education by definite institutions. But these are only instruments. So in the course of religion this or that sect is only a kitchen where the loaf is prepared; and the loaf is mankind. And yet we have just the same exclusive and conceited views of our particular sect as the Jews had of theirs. But local churches are but streams flowing into the ocean until the “earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” The smallest rill is of use; the navigable river is invaluable; but none of them, not even the Amazon, is the ocean. And when the whole human family are gathered into one substantial brotherhood, living as sons of God, the Divine influence circling the whole, that will be the Church of the future.

II. In that great Church MEN WILL EMPLOY EDUCATING, INSTITUTIONS AND DOCTRINAL FORMS but such things will fall out of their present idolatrous position, and become merely relative and subordinate. Of course it will have a creed. What is a man who has no beliefs? But the form of creeds will be changed while the substance will remain. Belief, existence, and authority of a personal God will never die out, but will come forth in clearer light. So with the moral government of God, the influence of the Holy Spirit, the sinfulness, yet salvability, and destiny of man, and the vicarious suffering of Jesus.

III. IN THIS CHURCH ORDINANCES WILL BE HINTS, HELPS, BUT NEVER AUTHORITIES. They are like child’s, clothes which are necessary for the child, but are not the child; like school books, useful helps but not yokes. Men make idols and middle walls of ordinances: whereas their only use is to produce good fruit.

IV. In this Church NOT ONLY MAY WE EXPECT GREAT LIGHT ON SCRIPTURE, BUT A RECONCILIATION BETWEEN REVEALED AND SCIENTIFIC TRUTH SO THAT THEY WILL CO-OPERATE AS FACTS OF A COMMON REVELATION. The distinction between secular and religious, revealed and natural, will be much narrowed if not entirely done away. All truth will be sacred. Nature and religion will stand upon a common level, not by lowering religion, but by lifting up our conceptions of nature. (H. W. Beecher.)

The old worship and the new

I. Consider HOW THE DESCRIPTION OF CHRISTIAN WORSHIP HERE GIVEN SHOULD AFFECT THE EXTERNAL CIRCUMSTANCES OF OUR WORSHIP.

1. Nothing can be more unphilosophical than to appeal to any Jewish precedent without inquiring whether the ancient institutions rested on permanent principles or were merely temporary.

2. When God commanded His people to construct a sanctuary that He might dwell among them it was to impress the truth that He was a God nigh at hand and not afar off, and by restricting ceremonial worship to that spot to emphasize the fact of the Divine unity.

3. Great then as were the gains of such a sanctuary yet the arrangement was not without its perils.

4. It is contrary to the whole genius of Christianity to suppose that God is nearer to us in one spot than another, or that He confers special sanctity on material structures. The temple was a sign of God’s willingness to listen to human worship, and was the visible embodiment of the Divine promise; a Church is the visible embodiment of human faith. The two ideas essentially differ.

5. The design of the temple structure was symbolical throughout. There was a local manifestation of God, and therefore a most holy place. God was approached by a ritual which only priests could perform. And if we believed in Christ’s presence in the consecrated bread there ought to be an altar; and if ministers are priests a chancel devoted to their use. But Christ, on the contrary, is in regenerated souls. If any part of a church is sacred every part is so. Every part is altar, for Christians are the body of Christ; every part is chancel, for Christians are a royal priesthood; every part is holy of holies, because the glory Thou hast given Me I have given them.”

6. But should not the structure of our buildings indicate their sacred purpose? Yes. I may be led to the choice of a certain order of architecture to indicate what it is; but in the interior I should be guided by the fact that Christians are to assemble there to be instructed and to worship. If it is convenient to have transepts, have them, but not to symbolize the Cross; and to diminish the convenience of the building by placing the chancel out of line with the nave to indicate the inclination of Christ’s crucified body is to ignore the chief end for which it was erected. Have a tower and side aisles, if convenient, but not to remind us of the Trinity.

7. The same principles should determine the order of service. Everything should be made subordinate to the spirituality, intelligence, and reality of worship. The Jewish service was instructive and symbolic rather than aesthetic; and in discussing the questions of a liturgy versus free prayer, we have to ask, not what is most imposing, trot what is most useful to devotion. The same with Psalmody.

II. THE SPECIAL PROVISION FOR A TRUE AND SPIRITUAL WORSHIP IN THE DISPENSATION UNDER WHICH WE LIVE.

1. God is revealed to us in His moral and spiritual attributes as He never was before Christ. We preserve the whole wealth of previous revelations; but the moral perfections have been revealed in a new and higher way, in the life of Christ, which renders possible a higher form of spiritual worship.

2. The Holy Ghost has a more intimate union with those who serve God., and exerts a mightier power over their spiritual life. He was indeed operant in Old Testament times--but nowhere do we meet with such disclosures as in the Epistles. There is possible, therefore, to us an energy and depth of spiritual life to which they could not attain. It follows, then, that we may have a more spiritual worship because all our spiritual affections may be inspired with a fuller life and nobler vigour.

3. A nearer and truer approach to God is granted under the new dispensation than under the old. “The truth” liberated from all merely symbolical circumstances. At the Ascension these passed away and the realities were revealed. We stand in the real Holy of Holies, of which that of the Temple was a shadow. In conclusion, notice the greatness of the obligation which our Lord’s words impose on the Church.

That Church exists for a threefold purpose:

1. To make known to man the love of God in Christ.

2. To increase the knowledge of God’s character and will among those who know Him, and to train them, body, soul, and spirit, to the keeping of His commandments.

3. To maintain from age to age a true and spiritual worship. To fulfil the last in this restless age is no easy task, but one of the most solemn obligation. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

Christian worship

I. NEGATIVELY CONSIDERED.

1. It is not sectarian. Sectarianism is not denominationalism, but spiritual monopoly. The former may be justifiable, but never the latter. Party distinctions as such are of no importance in the sight of God. God is no respecter of persons, and all persons have a right to worship Him according to their conscience.

2. It is not local. Here both Jews and Samaritans were in error. In the former case Deuteronomy 12:5; Deu_12:7 was perverted, and the command to sacrifice at a given place interpreted to invest that place with a special sanctity apart from the character of the worshipper. The same feeling prevails amongst Hindoos and Mohammedans; how passing strange that it should ever have prevailed among Christians.

3. It is not external. Music, vestments, and ceremonies may, and often do, excite the emotions which will be produced by any other pageant, and which are totally disconnected with devotion.

II. POSITIVELY CONSIDERED.

1. It is spiritual. Lip homage is offensive to man much more to God. When local and external worship was in full operation something more was necessary to acceptance (1 Kings 8:27). In one respect this worship was independent of the moral character of the worshipper. But no typical character belongs to Christian worship, and without devout feelings it is worse than useless.

2. It is filial. Terror is the predominating spirit of idolatry. Its ceremonies are therefore deprecatory and often cruel. Awe was the predominating spirit of Jewish worship. Christianity merges the sterner attributes of the Divine character into those more attractive. God is a Father, and to worship Him truly is to offer the affection of sons.

3. It is universal. Non-restricted

Conclusion: In the exercises of God’s house avoid

Spiritual worship

I. ERRORS WHICH HAVE INTERFERED WITH THE PURITY OF RELIGIOUS WORSHIP.

1. That which arises from a tendency to localize God. “Where?” asked the woman. “Nowhere in particular--everywhere,” said Christ. We see this tendency among

What is sanctity of place? It belongs to the law of association. Worship, e.g., in a festive room would suggest notions uncongenial with devotion. Hence the use of consecration, sitting apart. This view said to be dangerous and unsettling. But

(a) Consider the shock this woman received; all her little religion had clung to Gerizim and was shattered at a blow.

(b) We are only concerned with the truth, and God’s truth cannot be dangerous. The fact is, the Church is holy if a holy congregation be in it; if not, it is bricks and mortar. The holiest place is not where architecture and music yield their spell, but perhaps a wretched pallet on which one of Christ’s humblest ones is dying.

2. That which arises from the idea that forms are immutable--“Our fathers worshipped,” etc. A form is the shape in which an age expresses a feeling. The sprat of religion remains but the expression alters.

3. That which arises from ignorance, “Ye worship ye know not what.” The feeling of devoutness is inherent. But the question is, what we worship. To many there are three deities

4. That which mistakes the nature of reverence. The woman had reverence; veneration for antiquity--the mountain, the prophet. But what was her life? Reverence, etc., are a class of feelings which belong to the imagination and are neither good nor bad. Some men are constitutionally so framed that they do not thrill at painted windows, but adore God, and love Christ, and admire goodness and hate evil. They have bowed their souls before justice, mercy, truth, and therefore stand erect before everything else that the world calls sublime.

II. TRUE CHARACTER OF SPIRITUAL WORSHIP.

1. A right appreciation of God’s character

2. Spiritual character. “In Spirit and in truth. Holy character a kind of worship.” Before a material God a material knee would have to bow; before a spiritual God nothing but prostration of spirit acceptable. Application;

1. Christ came to sweep away everything that prevented immediate contact with God.

2. Scripture insists on truth of character. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

The true worship of God

I. IS NOT RESTRICTED TO LOCALITIES.

1. Before the Advent it was The Pentateuch, to which Jews and Samaritans appealed, decided this without naming the locality (Exodus 30:24; Deuteronomy 12:5; Deu_21:11; Deu_16:6; Deu_26:2; Deu_31:11). In selecting Jerusalem the Jews believed themselves to be under Divine guidance (Psalms 132:13; 2 Chronicles 7:17; Isaiah 56:7; Zechariah 14:17). The Samaritans finding no mention of Jerusalem, but observing the prominence given to Gerizim (Deuteronomy 11:29; Deu_27:12; Joshua 8:33), built aTemple there. Christ, however, waived the controversy, and announced a new era emancipating the spirit of worship from place and form.

2. Since Pentecost it cannot be so restricted.

II. LIES IN THE LINE OF GOD’S GRACIOUS REVELATIONS (verse 22).

1. It had been so with the Jews. Accepting the prophets, they had a more accurate idea of God. God’s gracious purposes had developed along the line of Jewish history.

2. It must continue to be so with the Christian. Having manifested himself in Christ, any worship that ignores this must be unacceptable Colossians 2:23). It must also accept the subsequent revelations of the Spirit.

III. ACCORDS WITH THE BEING AND ESSENCE OF GOD HIMSELF (verses 23, 24).

1. Spiritual, since God is Spirit. Not a Spirit, one among many, nor impersonal because the article is wanting, but absolute Being; hence worship must ascend from the innermost personality.

2. True, since God is this Truth.

3. Filial, since God is the Father (Matthew 5:45; Mat_6:9; Romans 7:15; Galatians 4:6).

Lessons:

1. Controversies mostly settle themselves when left to time.

2. Questions about the externals of worship do not belong to its essence.

3. Christian freedom is not the same thing as will worship.

4. The characteristics of Christian worship fit it to be universal.

5. In these lie the prophecy of its triumph.

6. The Founder of such worship requires no surer witness to His supreme Divinity. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

Our fathers worshipped in this mountain

Not where, but how is the main thing

Dr. Guthrie tells of a poor woman who dwelt in one of the darkest and most wretched quarters of Edinburgh. Away from her native home, and without one earthly friend, she had floated there, a stranger in a strange land, to sink into the most abject poverty; her condition but one degree better than our Saviour’s--in common with the fox, she had a hole to lay her head in. Yet, although poor and outwardly wretched, she was a child of God, one of the jewels which, if sought for, we should sometimes find in dust-heaps. With a bashfulness not unnatural, she had shrunk from exposing her poverty to the stare of well-robed congregations, resorting on Sabbath-days to the well--appropiate place--where a pious man was wont to preach to ragged outcasts, crying in the name of Jesus, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink.” In ignorance of this, and supposing that she was living, like the mass around her, in careless neglect of her soul, Dr. Guthrie begun to warn her; but she interrupted him, and, drawing herself up with an air of humble dignity, and half offended, said, “Sir, I worship at the well, and am sure that if we are true believers in Jesus, and love him, and try to follow Him, we shall never be asked at the Judgment-day, ‘Where did you worship?’” (Clerical Library.)

How to worship God

1. Is He a Saviour? Then we should come to Him as sinners; for sinners only need a Saviour. All others will be rejected. There can be no acceptable worship until we are convinced of sin, and humbled on account of it.

2. Is God a Father? Then we should worship Him as children.

3. Is He a Spirit? Then, “We must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” Whether as a Saviour, a Father, or the Great God, He will accept only the worship of the mind, the heart, the understanding. An idol god might be satisfied with the bended knee and uplifted hand, but our God looks on the heart. (Dean Close.)

This mountain

The Samaritans now believe what in all likelihood they believed in our Saviour’s time, about mount Gerizim. It is for them the holy mountain of the world; on its summit was the seat of Paradise; from its dust Adam was formed; and the spot is still pointed out where he reared his first altar; the place, too, where Seth did the same. Gerizim is the Ararat of Scripture, on which the ark rested (Genesis 8:4); which the waters of the flood never overflowed; and which thus no dead thing borne by those waters had defiled. They point out, further, the exact spot on which Noah reared an altar when the flood had subsided (Genesis 8:20); and its seven steps on each of which he offered a burnt-offering. The altar, too, is to this day standing on which Abraham had bound his son, and the spot known where the ram was caught. At the summit is Bethel (Genesis 28:12; Gen_28:19). There is a good deal more in the same fashion. That poor woman, who may have accepted all this with implicit faith, would have had warrant for more than her boast if only a small part of it had been true. (Archbishop Trench.)

Mount Gerizim

The Patriarch Jacob had offered sacrifice at Sychar, or Shechem (Genesis 33:20). From Mount Gerizim the six tribes had solemnly pronounced the blessings that should be on those who kept the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 27:12). At Shechem, Joshua before his death, had recounted to the assembled Israelites God’s merciful dealings with them (Joshua 24:1-33). A temple, if not then standing, had formerly stood on Mount Gerizim. All this might seem to convey a kind of right and legality to the worship offered there. But God had chosen one place for His worship, one place only for sacrifices to be offered to Him Deuteronomy 12:13). This place was Jerusalem. Neither length of time, nor the eminence of the worshippers, could invest any other place with the right, which God had given to Jerusalem alone. (F. I.Dunwell, B. A.)

Veneration for places of ancient worship

The reverence of this woman for the place where her father worshipped is common to men of every country and every creed. When surrounded by revered walls consecrated by the confessions and thanksgivings of many generations, a solemn awe steals over the heart, which the most gorgeous cathedral, fresh from the hands of the architect, fails to inspire. Nor is this impression produced merely by the-pathetic beauty which clings to noble and stately structures in their decay. We are affected, not because the broken columns and the crumbling tracery, grey with long exposure and covered with the kindly growth of ivy, have a loveliness to the eye far surpassing that which the ancient builders looked upon; the rudest, meanest building, the open moor, the mountain side, if our fathers worshipped there, stir the deepest and most sacred emotions of human nature. To this day the miserable remnant of the Samaritans cling with indestructible affection to their ancient mountain; and among the Jewish people the passion has not been exhausted by the centuries of suffering, shame, and despair. Week by week men and women and little children sit down in the dust outside the walls of the Mosque, which stands where the Temple once stood, and utter loud and grievous wailings over the fall of their beautiful sanctuary, and pray for its restoration. (R. W. Dale, D. D.)

Traditional religion

Custom, as it is commonly said, is a second nature; and men cannot easily leave that which they have long used themselves to; and they will not easily leave that which they have seen and known to be used by their predecessors. The Ephraimites, in the Book of Judges, that had been brought up to say Sibboleth all their life, cannot say Shibboleth to save their life; but they perish, two-and-forty thousand This, the more is the pity, is the religion of too many thousands in this land and time; men and women are too commonly and generally pinned in religion, and in practice of religious things, upon the customs and usages of ancient days, and they are loth to be parted from them. The woman of Sychar was zealous for the temple upon mount Gerizim; but the best reason she can give for that is that her fathers worshipped there. (J. Lightfoot, D. D.)

The breadth of Spiritual religion

The more spiritual is a man’s religion the more expansive and broad it always is. A stream may leave its deposits in the pool it flows through, but the stream itself hurries on to other pools in the thick woods. And so God’s gifts a soul may selfishly appropriate. But God Himself the more truly a soul possess Him, the more truly it will long and try to share Him. (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)

The vanity of religious controversy

What was it to her, living in sin, whether Jerusalem or Samaria was the more acceptable place for worship? She could not worship acceptably in either of them. How easily every one sees, in her case, that she had no business with these curious questions; that the one thing for her to do was, as Christ had told her her sin, to desire Him to tell her how she might escape the punishment due to it. And yet her fault is far from being uncommon. There are many who are living in the known breach of God’s plainest commandments, who yet will pay some attention to religion; but then it must not be a personal thing; it must not be admitted into their conscience, and allowed to interfere with their vices. These it is not convenient for them to part with. They will lie and defraud, or drink to excess, or live in the lust of uncleanness, or in a covetous and worldly spirit; these things they do, and will do. They ask not therefore any religious questions which come close to their conscience; but they inquire what form of worship is most scriptural, what mode of preaching to be preferred; whether churchmen or dissenters come nearest to the primitive standard of church government; or what denomination is best. What is it to you which denomination of Christians is the best? Let which will be best, you are wrong, and in the road to hell, even though you should belong to the purest society in the world. There is one question only which concerns you at present; and this it behoves every one of you to put with all earnestness, and without delay--“What shall I do to be saved?” (J. Fawcett, M. A.)

Ye say.

Religion is not a hear-say, a presumtion, a supposition; it is not a customary pretension and profession; it is not an affection of any mode; it is not a piety of any particular fancy, consisting in some pathetic devotions, vehement expressions, bodily severities, affected anomalies, and aversions from the innocent usage of others; but it consisteth in a profound humility and an universal charity (Matthew 5:1-11). (Dr. Whichcote.)

Christianity non-centralized

In the days of the apostles, the Church Catholic had no local centre. Jerusalem was destroyed for this, I believe, among other special reasons, that it might not become such. Christianity was designed for every land alike; it was gifted with power to make every city a Jerusalem, a habitation of peace, a city of God; and every man, of every tribe, a citizen of the Zion above (Deuteronomy 34:6). (J. Boyd.)


Verse 22-23

John 4:22-23

Ye worship ye know not what

The true worship

I.
THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE SAMARITANS AND THE JEWS.

1. Samaritan worship was offered in ignorance. They were little better qualified than the Athenians. Rejecting the prophets, their faith rested on tradition, and was given up to superstition. As they were ignorant of the object so they were of the form of worship which God had appointed. “Will worship,” however costly and apparently honouring, is rejected. So the Saviour brought home to the woman the sad fact that she had never worshipped. This is just the case of those who only repeat the words of prayer taught them in childhood.

2. The true worshipper’s worship with knowledge.

3. A special relation existed between the Jews and the great Salvation.

II. THE TRUE WORSHIP.

1. Who are the true worshippers? Those

(1) Who have Spiritual knowledge of God;

2. What is it to worship the Father?

3. What is worship in Spirit?

4. What is worship in truth?

5. What is “the hour?”

III. ONLY THE TRUE WORSHIP IS PLEASING TO GOD. The Father has a right to determine this and has done so. (A. Beith, D. D.)

Christ’s revelation of God

I. THIS REVELATION INCLUDES THREE THINGS.

1. God is real--not a dream or picture, a thought or an abstraction. The living God is. Thou art born of Him, and thy power to think of Him is proof of His existence.

2. God is Spiritual--not a material substance or a physical force. These cannot create thought, feeling, and free will. I am greater than mountains, rivers, gravitation, electricity; I reason, love, hope, will. The object of my worship must be like me and far above me.

3. God is personal

. But adoration fixes itself on a single person.

. But we can no more worship this than a leaf can a tree, or a wave the ocean.

. But behind the power we seek the Will, behind the law the Giver.

II. THE INFERENCE is swift and inevitable.

1. Our worship must correspond to the reality of God’s nature.

2. The text does not condemn outward forms. Christ used and instituted them. But all forms are dead and meaningless without reality.

3. In the temple there must be a spiritual altar; on the altar a living fire--the motion of the heart towards God. As fire is manifest in light and heat so is worship in praise and prayer. Without the intercourse of the two spirits it is only a painted fire.

Lessons:

1. When you are bewildered in your religion remember that the most adorable attributes are not metaphysical but spiritual. Our Father brings Him near to us.

2. True worship is no light thing. It is not found in a careless sleepy hour; not possible to a divided frivolous mind.

3. This text does not unconsecrate the Church; it consecrates the world. (H. J. Van Dyke, D. D.)

We know what we worship

Can we be sure of God?

I. CHRIST SPEAKS OF GOD the Father, the God of salvation, God the Spirit, IN A TONE OF INTENSE AND UNFALTERING CONVICTION. “We know”--not guess, dream, desire. He knows Him not as an empty name, or a key to interpret creation, or as a central sun of the philosophy of Providence. At least, then, Jesus is not an agnostic, but knew God as God knew Him. Christ is our example as thinker and knower. Can we then climb to the height of His full assurance of understanding?

II. THIS QUESTION, ALWAYS INTERESTING, IS JUST NOW CHARGED WITH EXTRAORDINARY URGENCY. These are days of the revision and reconstruction of religious knowledge.

1. The word God is so overwhelming and vast that some thoughtful souls shrink from declaring their belief in Him. Atheism has done us this service: that it has forced on us what a great thing it is to maintain the existence of God.

2. Others occupying a different standpoint infer that we have not the faculties requisite for grasping this revelation.

3. It is essential to manhood, conduct and character that we do not trifle with this question. Either God can be known or He cannot, and we ought to settle what the facts really are and be sure that there is no chance of knowing God, or else search for Him with all the heart; for what a man knows and is sure of is the measure of His peace, power and growth. For the world’s regeneration God must be more than an enigma, He must be known.

III. THE ANSWER TO THIS INQUIRY IS NOT SO DIFFICULT AS IT SEEMS. It is not dependent upon the range of our information, but upon the use of the right organs and methods of verification. Though we know little we need not be less positive and assured about it. We may rejoice in the boundless expanse and be sure of the patch of blue above us, and of the ray of truth that shines through it: though we cannot embrace its illimitable sketches of beauty and glory. A real agnosticism is for ever being married to a practical and life-enriching positivism. Though we cannot be sure of anything, it does not follow that we can be sure of nothing. “We cannot by searching find out God.” Even Moses could only catch a glimpse of the glory of His goodness. Who of us knows his friend in his totality, much less God. Christ’s knowledge was limited and yet He knew the Father so well that He took the plan of His life from Him as a boy of twelve, and never lost it till He said, “Father, into Thy hands I commend my Spirit.” This is the secret of human progress. Men built in certitute have been creators of new epochs and saviours of men. Paul’s “I know” was the inspiration of His “One thing I do.”

IV. If God then cannot be fully known, WHAT IS THE KNOWLEDGE WE MAY HAVE, HOW MAY WE GET IT AND TEST ITS VALIDITY? Christ gives the answer, “for salvation is of the Jews.” We Jews know God because we are the depositaries of salvation for ourselves and for all men. Salvation is life, character, ethical stability, enthusiasm for righteousness, God. We are gloriously and divinely saved, and therefore divinely and surely taught.

1. This tells us that nothing assures like life and fortifies like experience. Truth is set in the clear radiance of our deliverance from false thoughts, base passions, wrong aims, and mean deeds.

2. The case cited by Christ proves His principle. From the Jews salvation has gone forth. They were a people saved of the Lord and knew Him through their salvations.

3. It follows that our assurance of God does not depend upon our speculative faculties, but on our practical powers which every marl can and must use.

(a) The existence of an energy, infinite and omnipresent, underlying and comprehending all the phenomena of the universe.

(b) That it works for righteousness.

(c) That it is personal, a living and holy will.

How we may know God

The writer asked an aged negress if she had known Washington. She answered by asking, “Do you know God? I hope I know something of Him, ma’am.” “How, then, may one know God, sir?” “We may learn something about His goodness and handiwork from what we see in yonder garden, and in these beautiful trees.” “You are right, massa; but is there no other way of knowing him?” “Yes, ma’am, we may also learn something of Him from His dealings with the sons of men, the history of nations, and the lives of individuals.” “Can we? But in no other way?” “From the Bible we gain more knowledge of God than from all the other sources put together.” “Yes, indeed! and is there no other way?” “By experience.” Laying her hand upon her heart, and lifting her bleared eyes to heaven, she exclaimed, “Ah, now you have it, massa!” (New Cyclopaedia.)

Ignorant worshippers

The Dowager-Duchess of Richmond went one Sunday with her daughter to the Chapel-Royal, at St. James’s, but being late, they could find no places. After looking about some time, and seeing the case was hopeless, she said to her daughter, “Come away, Louisa; at any rate, we have done the civil thing.” (Raikes Diary.)

Ignorant worship affects the life for evil

A Thug at Meirut, who had been guilty of many murders; was arrested, and cast, heavily ironed, into prison. There a missionary visited him, and preached Christ to him with such success, that he professed conversion. As he was brought before the judge, and confronted by many witnesses, he said, pointing to them, “No need of these; I am ready to avow the crimes of my dreadful life.” He then proceeded to declare, that, having been brought up among the Thugs, he fully believed, that, by the shedding of the blood of each victim, he had not only pleased the dreadful goddess Kali, but procured her favour for himself. And he recounted murder after murder in which he had been engaged, some of them attended with such cruelty, that those present who had begun to feel some pity for him again shrunk back; the judge himself lifting up his bands, and exclaiming, “How could you be guilty of enormities like these!” The only reply the poor man made to the judge was to place his hand in the bosom of his linen vest to take forth a little book; then, holding it up in his hand, he “said, “Had I but received this book sooner, the book of Jesus, my Saviour and my God, I should not have done it.”

God may be worshipped anywhere

Isaac’s closet was a field. He went out to meditate in the field at the eventide. David’s closet was his bedchamber. “Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still.” Our Lord’s closet was a mountain. “When he had sent the multitude away, He went up into a mountain apart to pray, and when the evening was come, He was there alone.” Peter’s closet was upon the house-top. Peter “went upon the house-top to pray, about the sixth hour.” Hezekiah’s closet was turning his face towards the wall, and praying unto the Lord. (E. Bakersteth.)

Salvation is of the Jews

One nation and all nations

I. THE WHOLE PRIDE OF MODERN WISDOM IS THIS: “SALVATION OF MAN IS FROM MAN.” This has been differently understood.

1. Human nature formerly was each individual man.

2. Latterly human nature has been considered one person or society.

3. However, at no time could man have regarded himself merely as an individual being, for society is to man what the soil is to the plant.

4. Between the two man found a resting place in nationality, a beneficent idea when we place it in the line where individuality and humanity meet. But so far from this individuality lost its finest character. Personal religion, by being made national property, was merged in the community and humanity was almost entirely effaced.

II. HISTORY IS FROM ONE POINT OF VIEW THE CHRONOLOGY OF NATIONALITIES, AND GOD HAS RECTIFIED AND CONSECRATED THE IDEA OF NATIONALITY TO THE TRIUMPH OF THE PRINCIPLES OF INDIVIDUALITY AND HUMANITY.

1. Thus the Christian can accept Christ’s statement that Christianity is of the Jews. Non-Christians, however, object.

2. About the term salvation there is no dispute. It is the welfare of human nature and the fulfilment of its destinies. Christ came to save humanity as well as man.

3. In what sense, then, can it come from the Jews? No one will, of course, mistake the channel for the source (Revelation 7:10). In its ignorance ancient poetry represented certain countries as the abode of the sun. This is false in physics but true in morals. In the world of grace the rising sun has a home. Salvation is of the Jews. How? Not because Christ was born and lived in Palestine, spoke its language, chose Jews as disciples, or was crucified by Jews. Salvation is of the Jews as the water of stream comes from the basin in the rock at the top of the mountain. There the water is collected and from thence it flows, but the water is from heaven.

4. This being established, let us avail ourselves of the doctrine that each people is the bearer and representative of an idea, and that each idea in order to fix itself in the world has need of a people. This truth is invariably cultivated at the expense of other truths, and thus becomes exaggerated, and is never more than part of the truth. Now if this be the case, might not a whole people in conformity with this great law be the apostle of the truth which contains all truth! Now God has dealt with a certain people in a manner favourable to the discharge of this function. The Jews were a Theocracy, a people amongst whom God lived, whom God governed, to whom He spake, and whose law was His worship, a people elected for this very purpose.

5. But why confine this truth to the Jews? Was it the whole truth? How is this national deposit reconciliable with the doctrine that salvation is personal acceptance of Christ? Let us see. Christ and your soul have met! But at what cost? You are dying with thirst; a drop of water from the river revives you. It was only a drop, not the river, but the whole volume of water was necessary to carry along the drop. The river therefore saved you. In the same way the Church saved you because it gave you the knowledge of Christ whom you savingly received. The Church by its volume and might carries forward that element by which you are renewed. How has that current been formed? Look well at those waves red with human blood and dark with martyr ashes. Your Christianity, however individual it may be, is extracted from the Christianity of sixty generations.

6. Why, then, since each of us proceeds from the Church, should not the Church proceed from the Jews. As everything ends with the individual, so everything begins. The Church was within the Jewish nation, this whole nation was in the loins of Abraham the father of us all. So the ancient posterity of Jacob find a place in the work of individual salvation.

III. OUR PROPOSITION WOULD BE TOO EASILY DEFENDED IF WE COULD SAY THAT CHRIST IS ONLY THE LAST DEVELOPMENT OF THE WISDOM OF THE JEWS. It is not because He is a Jew, but because He is God manifest in the flesh, that He is our salvation. Yet

1. The Jewish race from which He came fulfilled an important function in preparing for His advent. The Old Testament is a progressive instruction that leads us gradually up to Him. The law in the letter is succeeded by the law in the Spirit, a ritual worship by the worship of the heart, legislation by prophecy, Abraham by Moses, Moses by Isaiah, so that when the King arrives there is a people ready to receive Him.

2. This people, which will be the first fruits of a universal Father, could only be drawn from the Jewish people.

3. But apart from the spiritual Israel, the Jewish people as a whole received from God the education necessary to be the forerunner of Christ among the nations, and when Christianity, after having collected in Judaea all that belonged to it, finds Jewish colonies which Divine Providence had scattered which became the first Christian churches.

4. The Jews also carried their history with them which became an immortal lesson for the human race, viz., the manner in which God interposes in human affairs, just as a specimen of a plant explains the whole species.

5. Here we must turn to Romans 11:12. As a political society and race, the Jews had to fall away, because the new economy appealed to individuals. But the falling away is not to be for ever. It must, is, and will be gathered anew according to the principle of individuality and the law of liberty. The world will yet see its fulness, and what will that fulness be? Isaiah 49:16-19). (A. Vinet, D. D.)

The spiritual ignorance of the Samaritans

The assertion of this, as the great calamity of the Samaritan--that he knew not what he worshipped--is abundantly borne out by history. It was in all times a country ofsuperstition, the early home of Baal worshippers, the later home of enchanters and fanatics, and of sects putting forward pretensions to all kind of spiritual powers. The Jew, on the contrary, clung to a distinct object of adoration. He was a protestant against the worship of spiritual fantasies. This poor shadow showed what the substance was which the Jew had inherited, and which was his distinction among all nations. Salvation was to go forth from his land. And salvation, so our Lord teaches us, consists in knowing what we worship; for that knowledge saves men from slavery to the world’s idols, and to the idols of their own hearts, which is their great curse and misery. (F. D. Maurice, M. A.)

The straightforwardness of Jesus

In speaking here to a Samaritan, He indicates some points in which the Jews were superior, and in which her nation might well follow them: while to the Jews, on the other hand (as in the case of the parable of the good Samaritan, and in His remark after the miracle of healing ten lepers), He takes occasion to notice some superiority in the conduct of Samaritans, wherein their nation might well follow them. Thus He corrects the failings of each by pointing out some superiority in the other: reproving each to their own face, but commending them to others: exactly the converse of that conduct which is too common among those who profess to be His disciples, who, on the contrary, are often in the unchristian habit of flattering people in their presence and slandering them behind their back: keeping their faults from themselves, but making them known to others. (G. J. Brown, M. A.)

Aptness of Christ

Our Saviour always had in view the posture of mind of the persons whom He addressed. He did not entertain the Pharisees with invectives against the open impiety of their Sadducean rivals; nor, on the other hand, did He soothe the Sadducee’s ear with descriptions of Pharisaical pomp and folly. In the presence of the Pharisees, He preached against hypocrisy;to the Sadducees He proved the resurrection of the dead. In like manner, of that known enmity, which subsisted between the Jews and Samaritans, this faithful Teacher took no undue advantage to make friends or proselytes of either. Upon the Jews He inculcated a more comprehensive benevolence; with the Samaritan He defended the orthodoxy of the Jewish creed. (Archdeacon Paley.)


Verse 23-24

John 4:23-24

The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers

Worship

I.
ITS GROUNDS OR REASONS.

1. The perfection of the Divine character. “God is a Spirit.” These words are

2. The nature of man. Intellectual ability, genius, and learning, which are the possessions of the few, call forth our admiration, but there is that in us all which is greater than these, namely, the power to worship our Creator. All men have this; but in many it exists only in a latent state. Thousands of human souls are nothing better than the burial-places of their own faculties. It seems as if some malignant spiritual magician had waved his terrible wand over human nature, causing a deep sleep to fall upon its noblest instincts, and thus preventing its development. One of the greatest dangers of the present time is the weakening of this power in men. The heathen worship senseless idols; the ancient Greeks worshipped beauty; in the days of chivalry men worshipped physical strength, military dignity, valour, and courage; but the tendency of many in our own age is to worship nothing. Even in the Church the idea of worship does not occupy the place it did in other times. The leading conception appears to be preaching.

II. ITS CONSTITUENT ELEMENTS.

1. Meditation upon God. Holy and thoughtful Hebrews contemplated His character in the works of creation, the goodness of His providence, and the words He had spoken by His prophets. These are the three mirrors in which they beheld “the beauty of the Lord.” A greater and clearer manifestation has been given to us “in the face of Jesus Christ.” It follows that He should be set most prominently before the mind in all our acts of worship.

2. Devout contemplation produces reverence, without which there is no true worship.

3. Worship is transcendent wonder. “Oh, the depth of the riches,” etc. “Great and marvellous are Thy works,” etc. “Who shall not fear Thee?”

4. Worship is communion with God. “Our fellowship is with the Father.”

5. A profound sense of humility and self-abasement. The angels hide their faces in His presence. Contemplate His holiness, and sin will appear hateful. Behold His greatness, and you will feel how humble you ought to be. (T. Jones, D. D.)

God seeks worshippers

Oh, how should this fire up our hearts to spiritual worship, that God seeks for such, with “Let me see Thy face, hear Thy voice!” (Song of Solomon 2:14). He soliciteth suitors. (J. Trapp.)

Living worshippers the only true worshippers

The magistrates (among the New England Puritans) insisted on the presence of every man at public worship. Roger Williams reprobated the law; the worst statute in the English code was that which did but enforce attendance upon the parish church. “An unbelieving soul is dead in sin”; such was his argument; and to force the indifferent from one worship to another “was like shifting a dead man into several changes of apparel.” (Littles Historical Lights.”)

True worship binds together all human souls

An officer from one of the ships in port--a serious young man--spent the interval between the English and native services with me at the mission-house. As the congregation began to assemble he accompanied me to the door of the chapel, intending to take leave when the exercises should begin, as he was unacquainted with the language, and had been already longer from his ship than he designed; but after standing a few minutes, and seeing hundreds of natives assembling quietly and seriously from various directions, he suddenly exclaimed, while tears glistened in his eye, “No!--this is too much; I cannot go till I worship with these heathen!” (Stewart.)

A true worshipper

“I have in my congregation,” said a minister of the gospel, “a worthy aged woman, who has for many years been so deaf as not to distinguish the loudest sound; and yet she is always one of the first in the meeting. On asking the reason of her constant attendance, as it was impossible for her to hear my voice, she answered, “Though I cannot hear you, I come to God’s house because I love it, and would be found in His ways; and He gives me many a sweet thought upon the text when it is pointed out to me. Another reason is, because I am in the best company, in the most immediate presence of God, and among His saints, the honourable of the earth.”

Worship

(Church Dedication)

I. WE OUGHT TO ENTER THIS HOUSE WITH JOY, FOR IT IS DEDICATED TO WORSHIP.

1. Worship is man’s highest end, for it is the employment of his highest faculties in the sublimest object

2. Worship has been disparaged by representing it as a priestly contrivance for selfish ends.

3. But how came the priest into being, and who gave him power? Religion was earlier than government.

4. In the earliest ages men recognized an immediate interference of the Deity in what powerfully struck the senses. These rude notions have been dispelled by science, which reveals fixed laws.

(5) The soul, in proportion as it enlarges its capacities and refines its affections, discerns within itself a more glorious type of the Divinity.

5. All other wants are superficial and transcient: the profoundest of all is the want of God.

6. Let us rejoice, then, in tits house. Heaven has no higher joy, the universe no higher work, than worship.

II. When we consider THE PARTICULAR WORSHIP TO BE HERE OFFERED, IT OUGHT TO AWAKEN PIOUS JOY.

1. Worship is of different forms--some unworthy. The idea of God has been selfishly seized and so obscured that little of its purifying power has remained, and men have, by pompous machinery and obsequious adulation, endeavoured to bend the Almighty to their particular interests.

2. This house is not reared to perpetuate the superstitions of past or present. Here are none of the idols which degraded ancient temples, none of the forms which in a rude age Providence allowed to the Jews; none of the cumbersome ceremonies with which Christ has been overlaid.

III. THIS HOUSE IS REARED TO ASSIST THE WORSHIP OF THE FATHER IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH. For the worship

1. Of one Infinite Person.

2. The Father. God has not always been so worshipped, but Christ has for ever revealed Him as such. What a privilege I What does the term import? Not merely that He is Creator--He made the mountain and the insect--but that He communicates an existence like His own. He made us in His image and likeness, and makes us partakers of the Divine nature. God is a Spirit, and we are spirits. In calling God Father I understand

3. Of the Infinite Father in spirit and in truth.

IV. THE GREAT END OF WORSHIPPING HERE IS THAT YOU MAY WORSHIP EVERYWHERE, that your houses and places of business may be consecrated to God. Adore Him

1. As He is revealed in the universe.

2. As He is revealed in His rational and moral offspring by fulfilling His purposes in regard to Him. Reverence the human soul as His chosen sanctuary, in yourselves and in others, and labour to carry it forward to perfection. Mercy is most acceptable worship. He who rears one child in Christian virtue or recovers one fellow-creature to God builds a temple more precious and enduring than Solomon’s or St. Peter’s. (W. E.Channing, D. D.)

The spirituality of worship

I. THE GREAT PECULIARITY OF CHRISTIANITY and proof of its Divinity IS THAT IT IS FITTED TO BE THE RELIGION OF EVERY AGE AND COUNTRY. There is nothing in its institutions which confines it to one place rather than another; and nothing in its requirements which makes its exercise easier at this time or that. The heathen attached special sacredness to some shrine; the Jews could perform the most solemn acts of their worship nowhere but at Jerusalem. This was enough to prove that Judaism was not designed to be permanent, because it could not be universal. Christianity takes the whole world for its Jerusalem, and attaches no sacredness to certain lands and temples. A kind of sanctity must be attached to the scenes of Christ’s life, of course. But it is not a religious sacredness. A church built on Calvary would be no holier than anywhere else.

II. EVERYWHERE THE FATHER SEEKS TO BE WORSHIPPED IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH. Why? Because of His nature. Composed as we are of body and soul, men have formed improper notions of the Godhead, because we are unable to form ideas of a purely Spiritual Being. The Deity differing immeasurably from ourselves, to invest Him with our imperfections is to destroy reverence. Were He not a Spirit He could not possess the properties which belong to the Divine Being--omnipresence, e.g.--a body cannot be present in different places at the same time; infinitude--a body cannot fill the universe. But in His spiritual nature He must be immeasurably removed from the highest ranks of created intelligence. We want to stretch beyond spirit, because we cannot but believe that God is infinitely beyond angels; and it is our duty to maintain the thought that God is far above all created excellence.

III. ACCEPTABLE WORSHIP, THEN, MUST TAKE ITS CHARACTER FROM THE NATURE OF GOD. It follows, therefore, that carnal and ceremonial worship will not be acceptable. Prayer must be based on God’s perfections. It were useless to pray unless persuaded of His omnipresence--who could worship a being who was not within hearing?--and equally useless unless convinced of His unchangeableness. Who could pray unless God’s promises and precepts were immutable? This worship is not optional, but obligatory.

IV. SPIRITUAL WORSHIP DOES NOT EXCLUDE BODILY.

1. The body as well as the soul is to be sanctified and glorified; with both, therefore, God is to be honoured.

2. Where there is inward worship there will not be outward irreverence.

3. But it is indifferent except as the index and accompaniment of the soul.

V. BUT THIS WORSHIP IS PRIMARILY SPIRITUAL.

1. It is an act of the understanding. Not “What ye know not,” but “What we know.” God as known by the light of nature and revelation.

2. It is an act of the will--surrender and submission to God.

3. An act of the affections--delighting in and sympathizing with God.

4. An act of faith

5. An act of reverence. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Spiritual worship

I. THE NATURE OF GOD. “God is a Spirit.”

1. How little we know about spirit. We can only contrast it with matter. “The Egyptians are men,” etc. “A spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see Me have.”

2. The heathen entertained sensual views of God, and “changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image like to corruptible man,” etc.

3. But God is a Spirit, and therefore

4. As we can understand so little about God as a Spirit, we are grateful for His revelation.

II. THE SERVICE HE REQUIRES.

1. Sincere. However fair the impression and imposing the ceremonial, formality is abhorent to Him. We scorn insincere professions and friendships, and an earthly monarch would repel the adulation of a traitor.

2. Spiritual: the homage of the heart. God’s complaint of His ancient people was that they drew nigh with their lips only. To this a spiritual state is necessary, for “the carnal mind is enmity against God”; and also renewal of the Holy Spirit, “praying in the Holy Ghost.”

3. Elevation and enlargement in contrast to the Samaritan worship “in the mountain” and to that of the Jews at Jerusalem. No creature was allowed to be offered to God, “except such as could run and fly.”

4. God will not reject the tremulous and broken utterances of a contrite heart.

III. HIS WILLINGNESS TO RECEIVE THIS WORSHIP.

IV. THE BLESSINGS IT WILL CONFER ON OURSELVES.

1. Deepened gratitude.

2. Elevated affections.

3. Relief from care.

4. Preparation for heaven. (T. Barrass.)

Spiritual worship

Note

1. The difference between interest in theology and interest in religion. Here was a woman living in sin, and yet deeply interested in theological controversy. Controversy sharpens our disputative faculties and wakes our speculative ones. Religion is love to God and man. The woman’s con- duct is typical. The moment Christ appears, she examines His views, not on righteousness, but was He sound on the Temple.

2. All that was worth noticing in the question had disappeared. Wrong as the Samaritan was, he was not so wrong as the Jew for excommunicating him, or half so wrong as he himself was for hating the Jew. Just as worship disappeared in this miserable controversy, so is Christianity going down in ours. Which was worse--to worship on a wrong hill, or to mistake the very essence of worship? Consider

I. THE FOUNDATION ON WHICH THE NEW RELIGION RESTS is the revelation made by Christ concerning

1. The Fatherhood of God. This is the emphatic word. Men had worshipped the Father before. The Greeks and Romans spoke of a “Father of gods and men”; the Jewish prophet said, “Have we not all one Father?” But universality was want- ing. Therefore the old question was all in all--Where is He to be worshipped? The real question hidden under that was, Who are His children? The appearance of God was the answer: God is the Father of the family of man.

2. The spirituality of God. The definition is not theological, but practical. It is chiefly negative. It says what God is not--not Matter. He is Mind, which has no place. Of love, generosity, thought, can you say, Where?

3. The personality of God--“seeketh.”

II. THE NATURE OF SPIRITUAL WORSHIP.

1. Universal as against Samaritan or Jewish exclusiveness. The “where” is unimportant.

2. “In spirit.” This the better Jews had gradually seen. “What doth the Lord require of thee,” etc. All true life is worship.

3. “In truth.” The correspondence between acts and laws. God dwells in the humble heart. To be humble, to love God, is His spiritual worship. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Spiritual worship

In this there is

I. APPREHENSION OF THE OBJECT, AND ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF ITS PERFECTION.

II. UNION WITH THE OBJECT, AND AFFECTION TO IT.

III. SENSE OR INFIRMITY, AND DEPENDENCE ON THE OBJECT.

IV. THESE ARE THINGS IN WORSHIP, OF WHICH NOTHING CAN BE DONE BUT BY THE SPIRIT (Acts 17:23). (Dr. Whichcote.)

Spiritual worship

I. SOME GENERAL PROPOSITIONS. Spiritual worship

1. Is founded upon and riseth from the spirituality of God.

2. Is manifest by the light of nature to be due to Him; not the outward means, which depended on a law, but the inward manner. “Sacrifice to the gods, not so much clothed with purple garments as with a pure heart” (Menander)
. This could not but result

3. Spiritual worship, therefore, was always required by God, and always offered Him. His spirituality fails not, and spirituality must run through all the rights of worship, and did (Deuteronomy 30:10).

4. It is, consequently, every man’s duty to worship God in spirit as to worship Him at all. He that denies worship to be due to God denies His Deity; he that waives spiritual worship, denies His spirituality.

5. The ceremonial law was abolished to promote spirituality of worship.

6. The gospel service is spiritual. Spirituality is the genius of the gospel Romans 12:1). Its matter--love of, and faith in, God--its motives John 1:17), its manner, its assistances, are all spiritual.

7. Yet the worship of our bodies is not to be rejected.

II. WHAT SPIRITUAL WORSHIP IS.

1. From a spiritual nature (Ephesians 2:10).

2. By the influence of the Spirit of God (Romans 8:13; Rom_8:26; Ephesians 6:18).

3. Done in sincerity--from the heart (Romans 1:9; Pr Exodus 25:7; Psalms 119:108). This is the salt which seasons every sacrifice, and without the heart worship is a stage play (Romans 10:10).

4. Performed with unitedness of heart (Psalms 86:11; Ezekiel 33:31; Matthew 6:6; Psalms 119:10).

5. Discharged with spiritual activity (Psalms 57:8), and acting spiritual habits (Psalms 103:1). Hence the necessity of

4:11; 5:13, 14).

6. Offered with delight (Psalms 43:4; Ephesians 5:18-19).

7. Paid with deep reverence (Isaiah 6:2; Hebrews 12:28), and humility (Hosea 2:4; Isaiah 6:5; 1 Chronicles 29:14). God commanded not the fiercer creatures to be sacrificed, but the meek; none that had stings in their tails or venom in their tongues.

8. Performed with holiness (Psalms 93:5; Hebrews 9:14; Revelation 4:8).

9. Performed with spiritual ends and raised aims at God’s glory Hebrews 11:6; Revelation 4:11). Some worship as poor men offer a present to rich--not to honour them, but to gain a richer reward Malachi 3:14).

10. Offered in the name of Christ (1 Peter 2:5; Revelation 8:3).

III. WHY A SPIRITUAL WORSHIP IS DUE TO GOD, and to be offered to Him.

1. The best we have is robe presented in worship, on the grounds

2. We cannot else act towards God according to the nature of rational creatures. Spiritual worship is due to God because of His nature, and from us because of ours. To withhold our spiritual faculties is to deny them the end and use for which they were given.

3. Without the engagement of our spirits, no act is an act of worship. The posture of the body is best to testify the affection of the mind.

4. There is in worship an approach of God to man. Ought not our spirits to be prepared to receive Him? (Exodus 19:10-11; Ezekiel 48:35).

5. To have this worship is God’s end in redemption and sanctification Malachi 3:3; 1 Peter 3:18; 1Pe_2:5).

6. Other worship cannot be acceptable, God being a Spirit (1 Peter 2:5).

IV. TO MAKE USE OF THIS. It serves

1. For information. If spiritual worship be required

2. For examination.

3. For comfort.

4. For exhortation. (S. Charnock, B. D.)

The spirituality of worship

is distinct from

I. FORMALISM and ritualism.

II. INTELLECTUALISM.

III. FANATIC SPIRITUALISM. (P. Schaff, D. D.)

The spirituality and simplicity of Christian worship: its grandeur and glory

If we compare the worship of God under the New Testament economy with that under the Old, or that of false gods, the latter is far more impressive and imposing; and, naturally, men do despise the simplicity of the former, for almost from the first an effort has been made to carnalize and embellish it.

I. CHRISTIAN WORSHIP IS PRE-EMINENTLY NOT MADE TO DEPEND ON SYMBOL BECAUSE MORE ELEVATED. The Jewish dispensation was typical and prophetic, the Christian memorial. In foreshadowing more minuteness is required than in calling to mind. A traveller needs very little to recall the scenes he has witnessed, but the non-traveller requires much explanation. We have a full revelation, and do not therefore require scenic representation.

II. THE OLD WORSHIP WAS LARGELY DEFEATED. The people were constantly being entangled, worshipped God with their lips, their emotions were wrought upon, their devotions were dead.

III. THE OLD ECONOMY WAS STEREOTYPED, severe, uniform. We do not allow children liberty of action, and so in these old times, God prescribed to the child at school everything strictly; when Christ came a measure of liberty was granted from ceremonies.

IV. OUR SIMPLE WORSHIP BRINGS BEFORE US THE THINGS OF GOD IN THE LIGHT OF GOD’S TRUTH AND IN DEPENDENCE ON THE POWER OF GOD’S SPIRIT. When men are acted on by their senses they are apt to forget the end of all. A telescope is made to see the stars with, but if the astronomer’s mind is occupied with the beauty of his instrument, its end is lost. So we need to be on the watch lest amusement and gratification shut out the true purpose of prayer.

V. THE RULES FOR CHRISTIAN WORSHIP are

1. Let all things be done in decency and order.

2. Unto edifying. (Canon H. Stowell, M. A.)

The axe at the root

1. The worship Christ here established involved a change--“The hour cometh.”

2. It was a distinguishing kind of worship, separating the true worshippers from the false.

3. It was directed towards the Father as its object.

4. It originates in a work of grace--“seeketh.”

5. Its nature is Spirit and Truth.

I. THE HISTORY OF WORSHIP.

1. Before the Flood it was of the simple form; the outward ordinances were few, the chief of which were the offering of animal sacrifices. Connected with this, no doubt, was the meeting of gracious hearts for prayer, and also the ministration of truth since Enoch prophesied. But this worship was too spiritual. Cain commenced a schism, and set up taste and self as a guide in religious worship. The result was a general neglect of religion.

2. The patriarchal method. The head of the family offered sacrifice, and, as in the case of Job, household religion was maintained. But very early, although he could not forget God after the Deluge, man began to interpose visible objects between himself and God. The use of Teraphim became common even among those who had some knowledge of God. The nations being dispersed, soon lost the idea of the invisible, and worshipped idols.

3. The ceremonial form was instituted after the spiritual had broken down. This was suitable to the infancy of the Church, but is as unsuitable now as swaddling clothes would be to full grown men. But even while it existed it was spoken of as soon to be superseded, was frequently broken through by Divine authority, and had no visible thing to worship. In spite of it all, however, idolatry was the common sin of Israel, from which they had to be purged by the Captivity.

4. Since that day God has been treated in one of three ways

5. Christ comes to tell us now that His worship is wholly spiritual.

II. ACCOUNT FOR THE RARITY OF SPIRITUAL WORSHIP.

1. Because man has fallen, that as his body wants clothing so he is always dressing up his religion.

2. It is more difficult to worship God in spirit than in form.

3. To worship God spiritually men must part with their sins.

4. Men cannot traffic in spiritual religion.

III. WHY IS SUCH WORSHIP TO BE RENDERED? Why not with windmills, as in Thibet?

1. God seeks spiritual worship. To set up our own forms, therefore, is to insult God.

2. God is a spirit, otherwise it might be right to worship Him with material substances or something congenial to humanity.

IV. WHAT THEN?

1. Let us be particularly jealous of anything which looks like going back to ceremonialism.

2. Let us make it matter of heart searching as to whether this service has been ours. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. IN SPIRIT, as regards the inward power.

II. IN TRUTH, the outward form; the first strikes at hypocrisy, the last at idolatry. (Caryl.)

Where to pray

We had gone out of doors, and are sent within. Go entirely within--and if perchance you seek some lofty place, some holy place, show yourself within a temple of God. For the temple of God is holy; which temple are ye? If you wish to pray in a temple, pray in yourself. But first be a temple of God, because He will hear the one who prays in His temple. (Augustine.)

Appropriate worship

He that shall serve God, as a Spirit, in spirit and in truth; he that shall serve God, as Holy, with probity of manners; as Omniscient, with reverence of thought; as everywhere present, with composure of actions; as bountiful, with willingness of heart; as merciful, with imitating that mercy we hope for--such a one shows what

Christianity is, and that it is the only standard of a “reasonable service” Micah 6:6-8; Ephesians 5:1-2). (Dean Young.)

Seeketh

The expression is peculiar. There is something like it in the sentence, “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost” Luke 19:10). It seems to show the exceeding compassion of the Father, and His infinite willingness to save souls. He does not merely “wait” for men to come to Him. He “seeks” for them. It also shows the wide opening of God the Father’s mercy under the gospel. He no longer confines His grace to the Jews. He now seeks and desires to gather in everywhere true worshippers out of every nation. (Bp. Ryle.)


Verse 24

John 4:24

God is a Spirit, and they that worship Hill must worship Him in spirit and in truth

God is a Spirit

There are two ways of knowing and describing God--Affirmatively, which ascribes to Him whatever is excellent; Negatively, which separates from Him whatever is imperfect.
The first is like a painting, which adds one colour to another to make a lovely picture; the other like a carving, which cuts away what is superfluous. The latter is the easier. When we say that God is infinite, immense, immutable, they are negatives. Spirit, too, is a negation--not a body. We transfer the term to God because spirit is the highest excellence in our nature. It is signified in the Divine Name (
Exodus 3:14), and expressly declared in text and Hebrews 12:9.

I. THE DOCTRINE. God is a pure spiritual being. Other-wise

1. He could not be the Creator. Every artificer has his model first in his mind.

2. He could not be One. If He had a body He would be capable of division. Where there is the greatest unity there is the greatest simplicity Deuteronomy 6:4).

3. He could not be invisible (1 Timothy 1:17; John 5:37). Sometimes a representation is made to the inward sense (1Ki Isaiah 6:1), but not of the Essence. Sometimes men are said to see Him face to face (Genesis 32:30; Deuteronomy 34:10), but only in the sense of fuller manifestation.

4. He could not be infinite (2 Chronicles 2:6). The very heavens have their limits.

5. He could not be independent. What is compounded of parts depends on those parts, and is after them; as the parts of a watch are in time before it. But God is not so (Isaiah 44:6).

6. He would not be immutable (Malachi 3:6).

7. He could not be omnipresent (Deuteronomy 4:39; Jeremiah 23:24), since a body can not be in two places at the same time.

8. He could not be the most perfect Being. The most perfect is the most spiritual and simple, as gold among metals is most free from alloy (1 John 1:5).

II. THE OBJECTION. How can God be a spirit when bodily members are ascribed to Him?

1. This is in condescension to our weakness. We arc not able to conceive a spirit but by some physical attribute.

2. These signify the acts of God as they bear some likeness to ours. His wisdom is called His eye; His efficiency, His hand and arm; by His face, we understand the manifestation of His favour; by His mouth, the revelation of His will; by His heart, the sincerity of His affections, etc.

3. Truly those members which are the instruments of the highest actions are thus employed.

4. These may be figuratively understood with respect to the Incarnation.

5. We must conceive of them, therefore, not according to the letter but the intent. When Christ calls Himself a Vine, Bread, Light, who understands Him literally?

III. THE USE. If God be a pure spiritual Being, then

1. Man is not the image of God according to his external form, but in the spiritual faculties (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10). It is unreasonable to form any image of Him. This was forbidden by Pythagoras, undreamt of by the Romans for 170 years, and deemed wicked by the Germans. God has absolutely prohibited it (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 5:8-9; Isaiah 11:13).

(1) We cannot fashion His image. Can we that of our own souls?

2. Our conceptions must be directed towards God as a pure, perfect spirit, than which nothing can be conceived more perfect, pure, and spiritual. Conceive of Him as excellent without any imperfection; a spirit without parts; great without quantity; perfect without quality; everywhere without place; powerful without members; understanding without ignorance; and when you have risen to the highest, consider Him as infinitely beyond.

3. No corporeal thing can defile Him, no more than the quagmire can tame the sunbeam.

4. He is active and communicative. The more anything approaches the nature of spirit, the more diffusive it is--air, e.g. As a spirit God is

5. He is immortal (1 Timothy 1:17).

6. We see how to communicate with Him; by our spirits. We can only know and embrace a spirit with our spirits (Psalms 51:17; Ephesians 4:23).

7. He only can be the true satisfaction of our spirits.

8. We must take most care of that wherein we are most like God.

9. We must take heed of those sins which are spiritual (2 Corinthians 7:1). (S. Charnock, B. D.)

The spirituality of God

I. GOD IS INVISIBLE. We can only see what has form. It is no imperfection in our vision that it cannot see what it was never made to see. A spirit can only be known by its operations through a material body. God manifests Himself not to sense, but to experience.

II. GOD CANNOT ASSUME A MATERIAL FORM, for it would confine Him, whereas He is everywhere. Whoever imagined the form of God. The most rapt prophet has only seen light unapproachable as His symbol.

III. GOD HAS ASSUMED TERMS BY WHICH HE HAS MANIFESTED HIMSELF.

1. The pillar of cloud.

2. The burning bush.

3. The elements, as at Sinai.

4. A more definite form in Isaiah 6:1-13.

5. In the fiery furnace as a man.

6. As the angel of the covenant.

IV. GOD HAS REVEALED HIMSELF IN THE HUMANITY OF CHRIST. “The image of the invisible God.” (J. T. Duryea, D. D.)

Of God and His natural perfections

I. THERE IS BUT ONE GOD. We are led to this

1. By the light of nature. There can be but one infinite and supreme; it is a contradiction to suppose otherwise. The wiser of the heathen philosophers had their one supreme god.

2. By revelation (Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 43:10; Mark 12:29).

II. THIS GOD IS A SPIRIT.

1. He is incorporeal and invisible (Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 6:16; John 5:37).

2. He lives and acts (John 5:26; Psalms 36:9).

3. He has understanding and will (Psalms 104:24; Ephesians 1:11; Isaiah 28:29; Daniel 4:35).

III. THIS GOD IS AN INFINITELY PERFECT SPIRIT, and is distinguished in a transcendent manner from other spirits.

1. An infinite Spirit (Isaiah 40:15-17).

2. A self-sufficient and independent Spirit (Exodus 3:14; IsaJob 22:2, 3; Revelation 4:11).

3. An eternal Spirit (Psalms 90:2; Psa_9:7; Psa_102:27).

4. An unchangeable Spirit (James 1:17).

46:10, 11).

5. An omnipresent Spirit (Jeremiah 23:24; Acts 17:27-28; Psalms 139:7-10).

6. An all-knowing Spirit (Psalms 147:5; Hebrews 4:13; Job 34:21-22). On this ground He challenges the heathen (Isaiah 41:22-23). All this He knows of Himself without any external medium (Is Psalms 94:10).

7. An Almighty Spirit (Psalms 33:6; Ephesians 3:20).

Application

1. How absurd and abominable are all images of God (Jeremiah 10:8, Romans 1:23-25).

2. What awful sentiments should we entertain of Him.

3. What a dreadful enemy and what a comfortable friend He must be.

4. How thankfully should we embrace a gospel revelation which makes Him accessible. (J. Guyse, D. D.)

The nature and worship of God

I. GOD IS A SPIRIT. All the substances with which we are acquainted are resolvable into material and spiritual. Between them there is this essential difference, that no matter, however refined, can be so organized as to be capable of originating a single feeling. Where, therefore, there is a judgment, will, afflictions, there is the subsistence which we call spirit. Of this kind is the spirit of man. But human and angelic spirits are finite; God is infinite. Because God is an infinite Spirit

1. He is present in every place, and therefore His worshippers may in every place find Him. “Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit?”

2. From this property arises the perfection of His knowledge, His omniscience. However matter may be extended, it would possess no consciousness of any object with which it might come in contact. But when we conceive of spiritual presence we conceive of consciousness and knowledge too. Wherever we are present we know. Apply this to God. He is present to mark the risings of desire. Let this admonish the sinner. But it is at the same time most encouraging to the real worshipper, who is conscious of his own sincerity, to know that God searcheth the heart.

3. Hence arises the consideration of His ceaseless activity. We feel conscious of something of this in ourselves. We find no weariness in the operations even of a finite spirit; the power of the soul is now far too mighty for the feebleness of the body. But “My Father worketh hitherto,” etc. Every faithful worshipper is absolutely sure, not only of the notice of His eye, but of the unwearied operation of His hand.

4. We thence infer the unchangeableness of His nature. An infinite Spirit must, of necessity, be immutable. Even we, imperfect and changeable as we are, yet, in some degree, partake of this property. The body grows and increases in strength, and then it weakens and decays. Not so the spirit; that remains essentially the same. There are two kinds of change of which created spirits are capable, and which strongly mark their natural imperfection: they may change from good to bad; and from good to better. But God fills the whole orb of perfection at once.

II. GOD OUGHT TO BE WORSHIPPED because

1. He ought to be acknowledged; and publicly worshipped, because publicly acknowledged.

2. It is in acts of religious worship that we acquire just views of ourselves. If we do not regularly draw nigh to God, there will spring up within us a principle fatal to our peace and destructive of our salvation. The acts of solemn worship always prevent our thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think.

3. We have no reason to expect the slightest blessing except through the medium of His worship. God will be inquired of by us.

4. The exalted pleasure which the soul receives from religious worship. “How amiable are Thy tabernacles,” etc.

5. It is one direct means of preparing us for heaven. A great part of the happiness of heaven will consist in worship.

III. WE MUST WORSHIP HIM IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH.

1. “In truth.”

2. “In spirit.” It is possible to worship Him in truth, and not in spirit. Orthodoxy does not necessarily produce piety. What is implied in this. It is to worship Him

(a) Desire.

(b) Faith or trust.

(c) Gratitude. (R. Watson.)

Christian worship a necessity

When Felix, the youthful martyr of Abitina, having confessed himself a Christian, was asked whether he had attended meetings, he replied, with an explosion of scorn, “As if a Christian could live without the Lord’s ordinance.” (Rendall.)

True worship is spontaneous

A little girl went out to pray in the fresh snow. When she came in she said, “Mamma, I couldn’t help praying when I was out at play.” “What did you pray, my dear?” “I prayed the snow.prayer, mamma, that I once learned at the Sunday School: ‘ Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.’” “What a beautiful prayer! And here is a sweet promise to go with it: ‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.’” And what can wash them white, clean from every stain of sin? The Bible answers, “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (R. A. Bertram.)

God is a Spirit

God is a Spirit, as man is a spirit. There is no difference as to what may be termed the popular characters of spirit, between the spirit of man, and God, considered as a Spirit; for God made man in His own image. But there is one great and radical difference. Human and angelic spirits are finite; God, whom we worship, is infinite. (R. Watson.)

Spiritual worship essential

We cannot be truly said to worship God if we want sincerity; a statue upon a tomb, with eyes and hands lifted up, offers as good and as true a service--nay, it is better, it represents all that it can be framed to, but for us to worship without our spirits is a presenting God with a picture, an echo, voice, and nothing else, a complement; a mere lie, “a compassing Him about with lies.” (S. Charnock.)

What is spiritual worship

Our worship is spiritual when the door of the heart is shut against all intruders, as our Saviour commands in closet-duties. It was not His meaning to command the shutting of the closet door, and leaving the heart door open for every thought that would be apt to haunt us. (S. Charnock.)

God’s spirituality a necessity

If God were an infinite body, He could not fill heaven and earth, but with the exclusion of all creatures. Two bodies cannot be in the same space; they may be near one another, but not in any of the same points together. A body bounded He hath not, for that would destroy His immensity; He could not then fill heaven and earth, because a body cannot be at one and the same time in two different spaces; but God doth not fill heaven at one time, and the earth at another, but both at the same time. Besides, a limited body cannot be said to fill the whole earth, but one particular space in the earth at a time. A body may fill the earth with its virtue, as the sun, but not with its substance. Nothing can be everywhere with a corporeal weight and mass; but God, being infinite, is not tied to any part of the world, but penetrates all, and equally act, by His infinite power in all. (S. Charnock.)

The spirituality of God

The knowledge of God is the foundation of all true religion.

I. GOD IS A SPIRIT. In proportion as we are able to subject objects to the process of analysis and combination, we ascertain their true properties. Hence, the material world is more known than the immaterial.

1. We learn, that the spiritual mode of existence attributed to the Deity is essentially different from any sensible or material mode. When our Lord, therefore, said, that God was a Spirit, He asserted there was an infinite difference in all the essential properties of His nature from matter in any of its possible modifications.

2. The vast superiority of a spiritual over a material or compound nature. Mind is universally esteemed more valuable than matter in its most beautiful forms. But the superiority of spirit is not only apparent over matter, but over a nature compounded of matter and spirit. Once more; this compound nature is inferior to the spiritual, inasmuch as it is necessarily liable to change: it has an inherent tendency to dissolution. Again, spirituality of essence appears to be the condition of infinite perfection. It is that alone in which infinite perfection can inhere. We have already seen that mind is the test of power, wisdom, intelligene; and that none of the moral perfections of Jehovah can be predicated of simple matter. Justice, goodness, love, and compassion, are principles that belong exclusively to spirit. But we cannot infer, from the possession of these moral excellences, that God is simply spirit; for these qualities may attach to a complex nature, as they sometimes do in man. It is the infinity of His perfections that indicates the exclusive character of His essence.

II. DRAW SOME PRACTICAL DEDUCTIONS. The first is suggested by the context. “They that worship Him.” The construction of the sentence denotes the necessary connection that subsists between acceptable worship, and the nature of the object worshipped. If God is a Spirit, then we must worship Him with our spirits.

2. The spirituality of the Divine essence is the foundation of an intimate union between God and His intelligent creation, and should encourage our approach to Him. It forms a union of nature which could not subsist were He mere matter, and which cannot be with regard to substances that are exclusively material.

3. The spirituality of the Divine nature constitutes God an inexhaustible source of blessedness. We are conversant in the present world with material objects; they are the occasion of a great portion of our pleasures. But we are all conscious that they are an unsatisfying portion. To conclude: What a character of condescension and mercy does our subject give to the gospel of Jesus Christ: that economy of grace which makes God known in the Person of His Son. (S. Summers.)

The nature of acceptable worship

I. LET US OFFER SOME GENERAL REMARKS ON PUBLIC WORSHIP.

1. All places are alike acceptable with God.

2. Public worship should be conducted according to the Word of God.

3. Public worship is the duty and privilege of all believers.

4. Public worship requires due preparation and right feelings in entering upon it.

5. Public worship should be constant and regular.

6. Public worship should be followed by reflection and prayer.

II. THE NATURE AND IMPORTANCE OF THE DIRECTIONS CONTAINED IN THE TEXT. “God is a Spirit,” etc. That is, He is not a corporeal being, therefore not confined to any locality, etc.

1. God is a Spirit, therefore He requires the worship Of the mind.

2. God is an invisible Spirit, and therefore He must be worshipped in the spirit of faith.

3. God is a great and glorious Spirit, and therefore we must worship Him in the spirit of reverence and fear.

4. God is a holy Spirit, therefore we must worship Him with contrition and prayer.

5. God is a merciful and gracious Spirit, and therefore we should worship Him in the spirit of confidence and hope.

6. God is a Spirit of infinite benevolence and love, and therefore we should worship Him in the spirit of affection and delight.

7. God is an omniscient Spirit, and therefore we must worship Him in sincerity and truth.

Application:

1. Remember your constant unworthiness and need.

2. Christ’s preciousness and merit.

3. And the Spirit’s willingness to aid you, if you seek His influences. (Jabez Burns, D. D.)

Christian worship

The spirit of adoration is as old as the records of humanity. Adam heard the voice of God in the garden. Abel offered sacrifice to an unseen power; and the guilty Cain bowed with his gift, though it was not accepted. From the border line of light, where authentic history fails us, we feel our way back towards the birth of man by the ruins of temples and the fragments of solemn tradition. Of early races and nations that have perished, we know, in many instances, nothing more than this--they worshipped. The disposition to worship belongs to the structure of the human soul. Religious ideas are changed by the progress and diffusion of knowledge. Forms and theories of worship are shattered and left behind by the enlargement and march of the intellect. Is it probable that worship itself will be outgrown? Sometimes we hear of fears that it may be so--that the advance of science will yet eradicate the tendency to prayer and homage. The answer is this: “Is it likely that the progress of science will degrade human nature and extinguish one of the deepest elements of human nobleness? “With the gain of knowledge we instinctively associate the advance of our race. Think, for a moment, of this globe filled with inhabitants, and no spire or dome of praise on it, no pulse or throb of adoration in all its millions! Think of this globe simply in its physical aspect, “a crust of fossils and a core of fire,” spinning in the bleak immensity, and bearing myriads on myriads of intelligent creatures yearly around the sun, without wonder, without awe, without any cry from brain or heart into the surrounding mystery ! Suppose that the minds of these multitudes shall be cultured far beyond the average of even the most favoured classes now, would you account it an advance of human nature, if all this knowledge was gained at the cost of the sense of a vast, incomprehensible power, within whose sweep the world and all its interests is bound? Worship will cease when wonder dies in the heart of man, and when the sense of the infinite is expunged from his soul. Is the progress of knowledge likely to produce either of these results? How can all the light we can collect and concentrate from finite facts release us from the conception of the infinite, or help us to enclose it within the tiny measure of our thought? And when has science so explained anything as to banish wonder from the mind that appreciates the explanation? Ah! against what folly are we arguing thus? Our knowledge in this universe to dry up the springs of awe, and deliver us from the weakness of adoration? Let the man come forward who is ready to say, under the starry arch of night, “I know so much of nature that I blow as a bubble from me the thought of God, and count it childish to entertain the thought of a Sovereign Mind!” Did Newton feel like saying that? Would Herschel say that in his observatory? If they had said it, should we think of them as greater men than now? It will not be the progress of knowledge, but the decay of the noble elements in human nature, that will ever banish worship from the world. Indeed the glory of knowledge is in fellowship with the devout sentiment. There are three purposes for which we may study truth--to obtain power over nature, to cultivate and enlarge our minds, and to discern and acknowledge a revelation from a boundless and invisible thought. I say nothing in disparagement of the first two. They are essential to civilization. The last is not inconsistent with devotion to the others. But if men stop with the first two, do they not miss the highest relations of truth? It is to refresh men with this noblest relation of truth and knowledge that churches are built. Worship is the exercise which the Church is to sustain. And all the aspects of truth which will bend the mind of man in humility, and exalt it in adoration, are legitimately within the range of the pulpit, and are, indeed, a portion of its trust. I have said that the glory, of knowledge lies in the acceptance of truth as a manifestation of an Infinite mind. And this is a conception that cannot be outgrown. It is ultimate. We can grow in the acknowledgment of it, in the power and blessedness which acquaintance with it brings; but the wisest man that will ever live will never go beyond it. Civilization depends on the continuance of faith in the personality and holiness of God. It is only through that faith that the consciences of men will be illumined, the will of man curbed, the devotion and sacrifice of heroes in the cause of truth inspired and confirmed. But there is still a higher conception connected with the personality and purity of God--the word “Father.” God is one, God is holy, God is the Father--the Infinite is love; then the attraction is complete in the heavens for allthe faculties of man, and for all human faculties in every race, in every age, and in all stages of progress and attainment. We owe this final revelation to Jesus Christ. The sense of mystery, the sense of beauty, the will, the conscience, the affections--all are drawn upward to that name with which, through Him, the Infinite has clothed Himself. Adoration of the Father is the distinctively Christian worship. (T. Starr King.)

The nature and worship of God

I. THE NATURE OF GOD.

1. Being a Spirit, He is a living substance; for though all living things be not spirits, every spirit is a living thing. The soul and angels are spirits, therefore live, but not in themselves (Acts 17:28). God lives in and of Himself (John 5:26; Psalms 36:9).

2. He is incorporeal, or without body (Luke 24:39). The Anthropomorphites and Audiarii of old, and so some new heretics, have asserted that God has a body, contrary to Romans 1:23; Is

40:18. Objection: God is said to have

Answer: (1) God speaks after the manner of men and to our capacity. We see by the eye: by that, therefore, God signifies to us His omniscience, etc.

3. He cannot be felt, because no body. Objection, Acts 17:27. Answer: We cannot feel God Himself, but by His creatures (Romans 1:19-20).

4. He is invisible and cannot be seen (Job 9:11; 1 John 4:12). No man can see Him (Exodus 33:20; 1 Timothy 6:16). Reason: God has no body, shape, nor colour, and we cannot see our souls. Objection: God appeared to Abraham (Genesis 18:1), and to Israel Deuteronomy 5:24), and others. Answer: Only by special manifestations of His glory. Objection: We shall see God (1 John 3:2; 1 Corinthians 13:12). Answer: With our soul, not with our bodily eyes.

II. THE WORSHIP HE DESIRES. Not as if no external rites were to be used. Christ Himself lifted up His eyes (John 17:1); knelt (Luke 22:41); fell on His face (Matthew 26:39); and instituted the sacrament (see also Ephesians 3:14; Acts 21:5). We are to worship in spirit and in truth.

1. Not with the types and shadows of the Old Testament, but according to the truth of them as exhibited in the New (John 1:17; Joh_17:17).

2. Not under any bodily shape, because He is a Spirit. The Samaritans worshipped Him under the representation of a dove on Mount Gerizim; hence their worship was called” strange worship” by the Jews. This was not to worship in truth (Romans 1:23-25). But we are to worship God only am a Spirit, and so truly, not entertaining our gross conceits, or making any picture of Him (Deuteronomy 4:14-16).

3. Not only with external, but with internal worship.

4. By putting our trust and confidence in Him (Psalms 37:3-6).

5. By devoting ourselves wholly to His service and obedient to His commands (1 Samuel 15:22).

Application:

1. This is the only worship acceptable to Him (Isaiah 1:11-12).

2. This is agreeable to His nature; He is a spirit and knows the heart Ezekiel 33:31). (Bp. Beveridge.)

Spiritual religion

Our religion is true, deep, high, and broad in proportion as it grasps the fact that God is a Spirit, and as it recognizes that that which gives life and force to natural and historical religion is spirituality.

I. This aspect of the Divine nature CLEARS AWAY MANY PERPLEXITIES AND DIFFICULTIES WHICH GATHER ROUND THE DOCTRINE OF GOD. The same is true regarding man considered as a spirit.

1. The forms of expression borrowed from nature which describe God--rock, fortress, shield, etc.

will mislead us if taken literally.

2. The same is true with regard to the anthropomorphic expressions of the ancient covenant--hands, feet, husband, king, father.

3. And yet again with reference to the metaphysical words of a later time--procession, generation, substance, person. Each of these taken literallyleads us away from the spiritual, essential nature of God. But

4. There are three supreme. Biblical definitions which are all of a spiritual character: God is “Spirit,” “Light,” “Love.” Let us hold fast to these; they express the moral nature of God and the very essence of the Christian faith.

II. This same aspect tells us how GOD WILLS THAT THE WORLD SHOULD BE BROUGHT TO HIM.

1. Not by compulsion.

2. Not by the external decrees of authority.

3. Not by reproaches and curses.

4. Not by mere miracles and signs of outward power, which, although secondary means of persuasion, are not the main instruments.

5. But by the internal evidence of the spirit of Christianity, which was the earliest method.

III. IT IS THROUGH THE INWARD SPIRIT OF THINGS, AND NOT THROUGH THE OUTWARD FORM, THAT GOD IS APPROACHED.

1. It is not the letter of any creed or ordinance, or even of the Bible, but the meaning and inner spirit which vivifies and explains everything. “The letter killeth, the Spirit giveth life.”

2. The signs and ordinances of religion derive all their force from the directness with which they address our reason, conscience, and affections. The outward form may vary, but if the inward meaning is the same the essential grace is there.

3. God can be worshipped on heath or mountain side or upper room as well as in the most splendid cathedral; but also in the cathedral as well as on the heath, etc. And that is the more spiritual aspect of religion which recognizes the possibility of both; which comprehends the highest manifestations of the human spirit in architecture, music, painting, poetry, and yet steadily subordinates them to the moral purposes of truth, justice, and purity.

4. It is not the sublime and the grand, but the mean, ugly, and barbarous which binds itself to idolatrous usages; not the vast aisles of a venerable abbey, hut the narrow cell; not the awe-inspiring figures wrought by Raphael or Michael Angelo, but the hideous block picture. Luther said, “Do not listen to those who open their mouths and call out ‘Spirit, Spirit, Spirit!’ and then break down all the bridges by which the Spirit can enter.” No! Make the best of all the gifts of God. They are all bridges, but only bridges. (Dean Stanley.)

The simplicity of Christ’s sublime disclosures

Pythagoras taught the maxim to his disciples and scrupulously observed it himself, “Never wear the types of the gods upon your rings.” That is to say, do not publish your highest and most sacred truths to the ignorant and uninitiated. Jesus Christ acts here, however, on a totally different principle; in the fulness of His heart He makes to this poor sinful woman some of His sublimest revelations. (J. C. Jones, D. D.)

God like the wind

This disclosure doubtless is of infinite depth; but that exquisite saying of Gregory the Great’s that Scripture has depths for an elephant to swim in and shallows in which a lamb can wade, is capable of being pushed a little further. Oftentimes the same Scripture is at once a depth for one and a shallow for another, and thus it is here. We shall do little honour to our Lord’s skill in teaching, His adaptation of His words to the needs of His hearers, if, in seeking high things, we failed to find in these words some simple truth, such as that poor ignorant woman was capable of grasping, and such as at that moment she needed. “God is a Spirit”; we must not miss, assuredly she did not miss, the significant image on which this word reposes; like the wind therefore, to which He is likened, breathing and blowing where He will, penetrating everywhere, owning no circumscriptions, tied to no place, neither to Mount Zion nor to Mount Gerizim; but rather filling all space with His presence (Psalms 139:7; 1 Kings 8:27; Isaiah 66:1), in His essence and, as involved in this very title, free. On this it follows that “they who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” (Abp. Trench.)

The worship God desires

The best, the purest, the holiest and most pious worship of the gods is to worship them with a heart and tongue always pure, upright, and untainted. (Cicero.)


Verse 25-26

John 4:25-26

I know that Messias cometh … I… am He

Second evasion and reply

The stricken deer tries once more to wrench the arrow from the wound; the wanderer thus caught amid the entangling thorns makes yet one other effort to escape the pursuing shepherd; the bold transgressor, unable to discuss these high spiritual themes, tries to stifle her convictions by the new plea of procrastination, wishing to break off the conversation in the spirit of conscious-stricken Felix.

I. POSTPONING THE QUESTION OF SALVATION TO AN INDEFINITE CONVENIENT SEASON, THE CRY OF THE CONVICTED SOUL IS “GIVE ME THIS WATER!”--BUT NOT YET.

1. “Give me this water!” is the cry of youth--but not yet. Disturb not my bright sunny morning; wait till I reach the threshold of manhood.

2. “Give me this water!” is the cry of ripening manhood--but not yet. Disturb me not in the burden and heat of the day; wait till I have leisure and breathing-time; wait till the eventide sets in, and the shadows are lengthening, and the drawers of water stand with their pitchers around life’s fountains.

3. “Give me this water!” is the cry of old age--but not yet. Though far advanced in the pilgrimage journey, my strength is yet firm. I have a long evening ere the sunset hour. I may linger yet a while amid these olive-glades ere the flagon be let down for a draught.

4. “Give me this water!” is the cry of the dying. But postponement cannot be pled now; procrastination merges into despair. “Give me this water!” but it is too late.

II. IN HER ATTEMPTS AT EVASION THE WOMAN HAD NOT BEEN ABLE TO SHAKE OFF HER CONVICTIONS THAT SHE STOOD BEFORE A SUPERIOR BEING.

1. She had called Him prophet. The Jews looked for a kingly Messiah, the Samaritans for a prophetic. As she listened to His wondrous disclosures did the thought flash across her mind, “Can this be He?” The world was then expecting a Divine advent. Besides the prediction of Moses, her own Pentateuch had told her of the prophet who fifteen hundred years before had lifted up his voice on the hills on which she could now gaze. Caravans passing daily Jacob’s well must have brought tidings of John’s testimony.

2. The crisis of her life had come. Will the Saviour abandon her to her procrastination and say, as was said of her tribe, “Ephraim is joined to his idols, let him alone?” or will He disclose His Divine Person? Such a disclosure may be fraught with peril. But the destiny of a human soul depends upon it; He will save others, but not Himself.

III. WHAT A REJOINDER TO HER QUESTION--“Art Thou greater than our father Jacob?” Yes, I am the Shiloh of whom he spake, the ladder he beheld, the angel with whom he wrestled. The Baptist’s words have their first echo and fulfilment, “He will gather His wheat into the garner.” She understands all now--the penetrating revelations, the living water, salvation. The Giver of all stands by her and offers them to her. She requires no miracles.

IV. THE IMMEDIATE SEQUEL IS UNRECORDED. Her feelings are left to our imagination. She may have been dumb with silence or tears. But angels rejoiced over this returning sinner as she starts on an errand of mercy to her native town. Lessons:

1. Christ stands at the door of every heart.

2. None need despair; the first may be last and the last first; for Samaritan as well as Jerusalem sinners may find mercy.

3. Christ speaks in many ways--in the mercies He bestows, in the blessings He withholds; in life’s storms and sunshine.

4. Christ speaks at every season.

Messias

Messiah

The Hebrew, Messias in the Syriac, and Christ in the Greek, means “the Anointed One.” Anointing with oil was the ancient form of consecration. Christ was anointed with the Holy Ghost.

I. THE PROOFS OF CHRIST’S MESSIAHSHIP.

1. He was generally expected.

2. The miracles of Christ were the proof to which He always referred. These were

3. The prophecies of the Old Testament were fulfilled in Him and in no one else.

4. The character of our Lord. “Which of you convinceth Me of sin?” Some have thought that if Virtue were to walk on earth all men would immediately worship her. Plato knew better. He says the good man “would be tortured, spit upon, have his eyes put out, and be crucified.”

II. THE NATURE AND BLESSINGS OF CHRIST’S MESSIAHSHIP.

1. He is the true prophet.

(a) How weighty His lessons--life and immortality, faith, self-denial, prayer, humility, love.

(b) How beautiful His illustrations--cornfields, lilies, leaven, fishing.

(c) How kind His manner--what tenderness to young and afflicted, what encouragement to the timid.

(d) How faithful His warnings. “Never man spake like this man.”

(a) When He spoke to our hearts it was with power.

(b) We learned more from Him in five minutes than in all our lives from others.

2. Christ is High Priest.

3. Christ is King.

The woman of Samaria

And in bringing a man to this state, we may observe that, commonly, some one particular sin, gross in its nature, and to which he has been addicted, is charged home upon the conscience. But a broad surface is not likely to penetrate; it must be pointed to enter. The indictment which arraigns this criminal, like every other, exhibits some specific charge; and the man exclaims, “O my swearing, my lying, my Sabbath-breaking, my prayerless life!” “Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.” But she exclaims, “Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Two reasons may be assigned for her proposing this question so instantly and abruptly. It has been supposed

1. That it was by way of diversion. But it has also been supposed

2. That her aim was to seize the present moment to gain information as to what was deemed important, and which she concluded this know- ing one might afford. Herein two things are observable

1. Observe the omniscience of our Lord, and bring it home to yourselves.

2. Let us worship the Lord, “ in the beauties of holiness”; and in order to this, never forget the information which our Saviour has given us.

3. Let us inquire whether He has manifested Himself to us. (W. Jay.)

Why this revelation of Messiahship was made to the woman and not to the Pharisees

The eagle has to strive hard and swoop round a great deal before he soars above the clouds, the weight of his body being a disadvantage to him to ascend. The lark, however, though smaller of stature and feebler of wing, soars up with rapidity and ease, the slightness of her body greatly facilitating her ascent. Thus minds of powerful calibre, heavily equipped with native and educational endowments, find it difficult to make their way up to the calm presence of God, their very ability being an impediment to them. Seeing every difficulty and feeling the force of every objection, they have to turn round and round and ascend laboriously in spiral columns. But many souls, small as larks, shoot up easily and gracefully, almost in a straight line, carolling all the way as they go, to the pure serene blue of the Divine Presence. To the Samaritan woman, and not to the learned Pharisees, did Christ openly avow His Messiahship, and present Himself in the majestic nakedness of His Divine mission. (J. C. Jones, D. D.)

The Samaritan view of the Messiah

The Samaritans still expect a Messiah to whom they give the name of Assaief (from שׁרב, to return), which means “he who brings back” or converts, or else, “he who returns”; because the waiting of the Samaritans being founded on Deuteronomy 18:18, the Messiah is in their view a Moses who returns. At the present day they call him El-Muhdy. There is a remarkable contrast between this woman’s notion and that of the worldly and political Jews. The Samaritan idea was incomplete; the Messiah was a prophet, not a king. But it did not contain anything else; and hence Jesus can appropriate itself to Himself, and here declare Himself the Christ, which He never did in Israel till the last moment (John 17:3 ; Matthew 26:64). (F. Godet, D. D.)

Christ earnestly desired is quickly found

No sooner do we think of Christ with the least true desire after Him, but He is presently with us. He invited Himself to Zaccheus’ table. (J. Trapp.)


Verses 27-42

John 4:27-42

And upon this

Sowing and reaping

I.
WITH A SOLITARY PUPIL.

1. Face-to-face work (John 4:27, John 1:42-43; Joh_1:47; Joh_21:16; Acts 3:4; Act_9:5).

2. The convert’s message (John 4:29; Matthew 9:31; Mark 5:20; Mar_7:36; John 1:41; Joh_1:45; Joh_9:25).

3. The dawning conviction (John 4:29; Matthew 14:33; Mat_27:54; Mark John 6:69; Joh_20:28; Acts 9:20).

II. WITH A GROUP OF DISCIPLES.

1. Correcting misapprehensions (John 4:34; Matthew 5:17; Mat_5:22; Mat_5:29; Mark 12:27; Luke 13:2-3; John 9:3; Galatians 6:7).

2. Indicating labour (John 4:35; Ecclesiastes 9:10; Matthew 10:6; Mat_20:4; Mat_28:19; Mark 16:15; 1 Corinthians 1:17).

3. Extending inducements (John 4:36; Daniel 12:3; Matthew 10:22, Mark 9:41; Revelation 2:7; Rev_2:10).

III. WITH A CITY’S POPULATION.

1. Commended in the city (John 4:39; Acts 8:5; Act_8:40; Act_9:27; Act_11:19; Act_14:6-7, Romans 1:15).

2. Honoured by the city (John 4:40; John 3:5; Matthew 8:34; Mat_21:10; Mark 1:33; Mar_6:56; Acts 14:13).

3. Accepted by a city (John 4:42; Matthew 9:35; Acts 2:43; Act_8:8; Act_13:44; Act_18:10; Revelation 21:23). (Sunday School Times.)

Sowing and reaping

I. CONFIDENCE IN CHRIST (John 4:27-30).

1. On the part of the apostles, who kept silence at the strange communion. They witnessed the power of Christ to awaken new life within the soul. Further on they knew better, but as yet they were caste-bound Jews. In view of their ancient prejudices, their silence is much to their credit. The Master may be always trusted to do right. Let us not question.

2. On the part of the woman. Not simply that she felt that her water-pot would be safe, but in her Saviour. The ground of this trust was Christ’s knowledge of the secret life (Daniel 2:28-30; Dan_2:47). History is full of such proofs of Christ’s Divinity. He who looks within the Gospel sees his own heart mirrored. Truly this is the book of God.

II. THE SOUL’S TRUE NATURE (John 4:31-34).

1. “Man shall not live by bread alone “ (Matthew 3:4).

2. Noble souls are fed by the simple consciousness of doing good. The patriot, mother, wife, student, missionary have forgotten hunger.

3. The best way to lift a soul above temptation is to fill it with a worthy aspiration. An empty soul is a standing invitation to the roving spirits of evil. The music of Orpheus is a surer guard than the wax of Ulysses in the ears.

4. The noblest purpose that can occupy a soul is to do God’s will and finish His work.

III. THE COPARTNERSHIP OF THE HARVEST. (John 4:35-38).

1. There is always an interval between seed-time and harvest.

2. There is a fellowship in toil and fruitage between the dead and the living. The influence of the dead is continuous. “Their works do follow them.”

3. “No man liveth to himself.” One supplements another’s toil. Joseph needed a Moses; Moses a Joshua; Joshua a Samuel; Samuel on the one hand a David, and on the other Elijah and the prophets. All these were perfected in Christ. How this should sweep away bigotry and encourage charity!

4. Our responsibility to the past and the future.

5. The community of sower and reaper in wages.

IV. TESTIMONY AND EXPERIENCE (verses 39-42).

1. How readily the woman became a missionary!

2. The genuineness of the faith and grace of the Samaritan believers is seen in that their belief on good testimony led them to believe on good experience. (H. C. McCook, D. D.)

Sowing and reaping

I. THE GREAT TEACHER, AS HE AVAILS HIMSELF OF AN INSIGNIFICANT AND UNPROMISING OPPORTUNITY. The disciples marvelled at His doing what was beneath a Rabbi’s dignity. The same spirit interposed between Christ and little children. The woman, moreover, was a despised, hated, and ignorant Samaritan.

1. This was unpromising ground, but Jesus did not consider it beneath His notice.

2. In this unpromising soil He sows the best seed. An audience of one was not too small to call forth His richest treasures of truth.

3. Here is an example for every teacher. Wesley remembered his father saying to his mother, “How could you have the patience to tell that blockhead the same thing twenty times over?” “Because if I had only told him nineteen times I should have lost all my labour.”

4. Never mind if your seed falls by the wayside: a bird may carry it elsewhere.

II. THE DELIGHT OF THE TEACHER IN HIS WORK. He has sources of refreshment unknown to the disciples. He would rather work than eat.

1. No one can do his work well until he has learned to enjoy it.

2. The delight of labour is not only in that part of it which is interesting and agreeable. A teacher of imbecile children had one boy of five who had never spoken or given an intelligent look. He lay beside the child for half an hour every day, reading aloud, and watching eagerly for any volition. At length, being utterly weary, he did not read. The child began to be uneasy, and then, alter repeated efforts, the child placed his fingers on the teacher’s lips, as much as to say: “Make that sound again.” After a time the boy was taught to walk, and speak, and think.

III. THE GREAT SOWER EXPECTING A SPEEDY HARVEST. Men are too prone not to look for an early reaping, and so sometimes miss the harvest. We sow with too little hope. Four months, said the disciples. “Now,” said the Master. Expectancy is needful for courage and patience. Always look for near results. Do not pull up the stalk to see if it has taken root, but watch, and wait, and believe.

IV. THE DISPROPORTOINATENESS OF THE HARVEST. The audience and time were seemingly unfavourable--the result was that many believed.

1. The woman heard and heeded. Then she ran, as did the woman from the empty tomb, to tell those nearest.

2. All barriers were broken down. They believed not only because He spoke as never man spoke, but because He spoke the truth they needed.

3. God alone gives the increase, but He does so to the feeblest efforts. (Sermons by the Monday Club.)

A fourfold theme

I. PREJUDICE CREATING WONDER. The disciples had never examined the question as to the inferiority of women for themselves.

II. REVERENCE LIMITING INQUIRY. Though not understanding or deeming it improper, they did not dare to question. Genuine reverence will not allow the intellect to interrogate the Almighty, but recognizes the infinite disparity between the thoughts and ways of God and those of men. It becomes us to be humble listeners rather than busy critics.

III. CHRISTIANITY WORKING IN LIFE. Mark how faith worked in the woman.

1. Emotionally. The more Divine our feeling the less our care for worldly things.

2. Proselytingly. Her strong desire made her a blessed missionary.

3. Religiously. She knew that Christ had sounded the depths of her history.

4. Influentially. Real earnestness wields a magic wand.

IV. MAN FEASTING ON THE INVISIBLE.

1. A common natural fact--the influence of the emotions on the physical appetite.

2. The rare moral fact--the consciousness of acting in harmony with the Divine will, creating forgetfulness to bodily need. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The Samaritan woman and her mission

1. Christ, with divinely skilful art, seeks after a single soul. We must have large congregations or we are disinclined for soul winning.

2. See the skill which compassion taught Him. Souls yield not to force, but to gentleness and wisdom.

3. The disciples marvel because Christ talked with a woman, a Samaritan, a sinner.

4. How could they do so after Christ had chosen them? It is sad when saved ones affect super-fine spirituality and turn away from such as Jesus would have welcomed.

5. In consequence of their interruption one of the sweetest conferences ever held was broken up. No breakers of communion are more blameable or frequent than Christ’s disciples when out of sympathy with their Master.

6. Although the conference was broken up it was over-ruled for good. Since the woman cannot contemplate Christ nor hear Him, she will give herself to holy activity. Driven away from sitting like Mary at the Master’s feet, let us rise to play the worker. When you are taken out of your usual course by a jerk, the Lord has special work for you to do.

7. The woman now becomes a messenger for Christ. From conference to testimony.

8. She leaves her waterpot

9. Observe particularly her mode of address.

I. THE INVITATION.

1. It was a clever, as well as a genuine and hearty invitation. “Come, see,” was putting it most fairly, and men like a fair proposal. This is Christ’s own word to His first disciples, and they used it when pleading with others.

2. It threw the responsibility on them. I may preach the gospel to you, but I cannot go to Christ in your stead.

3. It was pleasantly put, so as to prove the sympathy of the speaker--not “go,” but “come.” A sister’s heart spoke in that word.

4. What a blessed vanishing of the speaker there is! Preaching is spoiled by self-consciousness. The fish knows little about the angler, but he knows when he has swallowed the hook.

II. THE ARGUMENT.

1. The argument lies concealed. The woman does not argue the point. “If Jesus be the Christ, then you should come with me and see Him,” because she is persuaded that the people have agreed to it. You are not so practical as these people. You believe that Jesus is the Christ; why then don’t you believe in Him as your Saviour?

2. What she did argue was this--this man, is He not the Christ? because

The mission of the woman

I. HOW MARVELLOUS IN THE EYES OF MEN ARE CHRIST’S DEALINGS WITH SOULS.

1. The feeling of the disciples does not stand alone in the Bible (Lu Acts 9:26; Act_12:16).

2. This feeling is common now.

3. If there was more real faith there would be less surprise at conversions Matthew 11:25; Mark 6:6).

II. HOW ABSORBING IS THE INFLUENCE OF GRACE WHEN IT FIRST COMES INTO A SINNER’S HEART (verse 28).

1. We see the expulsive power of the grace of the Holy Ghost, driving out old tastes and interests (Matthew 9:9; Mark 1:19; Acts 9:20).

2. This conduct is uncommon in the present day. Why? Because so few really feel their sins and flee to Christ.

III. HOW ZEALOUS A TRULY CONVERTED PERSON IS TO DO GOOD TO OTHERS (verses 28, 29).

1. She employed no abstruse argument in favour of our Lord’s claims.

2. Out of the abundance of her heart her mouth spoke

Gospel work in Sychar

I. THE GLORY OF ALL TRUE USEFULNESS BELONGS TO CHRIST (John 4:27). The woman is nameless, and nothing else is known of her.

II. COMMONPLACE SELF-DENIAL AN EVIDENCE OF GRACE (John 4:28). To leave a waterpot for a thirsty disciple better sometimes than the bequest of a fortune. Simon made a feast for Jesus, but the woman with the alabaster box showed more generosity.

III. THE NEAREST FIELD OF USEFULNESS IS OFTEN THE BEST (John 4:28). She knew the prejudices of the city and the great shock they would receive. But this was the field closest to hand. Many people spend half a lifetime in looking for their vocation, whereas God is always saying, “Begin at home” Mark 5:19).

IV. WOMEN ARE SOMETIMES MORE USEFUL THAN MEN. They have more tact, fervency, fortitude.

V. THE PRIVILEGE OF “HIM THAT HEARETH” IS THAT HE MAY SAY “COME” (verse 29). The Greek is an adverb of beckoning, a gesture of language, “Hither.” Let no one hesitate for addresses or acts. He who temporizes will be like Demas; he who calculates like Ananias; he who covets like Achan; but he who gives himself wholly to Christ’s service will say, “Come and see.”

VI. REVELATION OF ONE’S SINS THE CLEAREST EVIDENCE OF JESUS’ NEARNESS.

VII. NO GREAT TALENT NEEDED IN ORDER TO DO GOOD (verse 30). It is piety, not education, spirituality and experience, not culture or learning which God uses in the conversion of souls.

VIII. THE SUREST MEANS OF PERSONAL GROWTH IS PATIENT LABOUR FOR THE GROWTH OF OTHERS (verses 31-36).

IX. DIVISION OF LABOUR ESSENTIAL FOR THE WORK OF THE GOSPEL (verse 37). Some cannot preach like Whitefield; who can write letters like Harlan Page. Ingatherings are the result, often, not of preaching but prayers.

X. THE TRUTHS OF THE GOSPEL COME TO US BETTER BY EXPERIENCE THAN TESTIMONY. (verses 39-41). “If any man will do His will,” etc.

XI. THE BEST MEMORIAL OF ANY ONE IS FOUND IN THE SOULS HE HAS WON (verse 42). The Empress Helena’s church has perished, the memory of the woman and her work has made the well immortal. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

Upon this came His disciples and marvelled … yet no man said, What seekest Thou?

Moments of silence

I. Sacred story records many CRISIS-HOURS OF THRILLING INTEREST. Eli trembling for the ark; David trembling for the fate of Absalom.

II. WHO OF US HAS NOT KNOWN SIMILAR SEASONS?

1. When the telegraph has flashed the message of a distant bereavement; when we have watched an approaching dissolution.

2. Or to take the converse of these, a birth; a return; the first success in business; the triumph of an honourable ambition. These are like the illi dies of the old Roman, days marked with white or black chalk, symbols of joy or sorrow.

3. But what season can be compared to the crisis-hour of a soul’s conversion; what day so worthy to be marked with the white chalk of gladness?

III. SUCH SEASONS THRILL THE SPIRIT INTO SILENCE.

1. Is it a time of overpowering sorrow? The word expresses our meaning; the lips refuse to tell out the secrets of the dumb-stricken heart.

2. Is it some joyful occasion? Joy has its stunning moment, and holds fast the flood-gates of speech.

3. Such is the picture before us. The disciples have just come up. They hear the last most momentous words. And now not a word is uttered. All three parties are spell bound; the woman a moment before so garrulous; the disciples with all their curiosity; the Master more than all.

IV. The great lesson of the incident is THE DUTY OF SILENCE UNDER THE DIVINE DISPENSATIONS.

1. Often, like the disciples, we hays reason to marvel at the Lord’s doings. Providence often seems a dark enigma. God’s name is “Secret,” and blind unbelief is prone to ask, “What seekest Thou?” in the sudden ruin el business prospects; the pillaging of dearer household treasure; the breaking of the strong staff.

2. But the duty, the prerogative, the triumph of faith is to be silent, owning the faithfulness of God as David, “I was dumb, I opened not my mouth, because Thou didst it”; as Aaron who, under a deeper trial, “held his peace”; as our Lord who, “was oppressed, afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth.”

3. This duty is often inculcated (Psalms 37:7 (marg.), 62:1; Zechariah 2:13; Habakkuk 2:1-3).

4. Blessed it will be for us if, amid “frowning providences” instead of questioning, we are ready to hear the voice of the invisible saying, “Hold thee still and know that I am God.” The dutiful servant asks no reason of his master; nor the loyal soldier of his commander; the faithful workman asks no reason for those rude gashes in the quarry; he is content to wait till its sculptor fashions the unshapely block into symmetry. (J. R.Macduff, D. D.)

The seclusion of Oriental women

The privilege “of free speech with a woman is only accorded, in the East, to the most intimate friends of the family, who are privileged to see her face unveiled. Niebuhr, travelling in Arabia, and meeting a woman by the way, saluted her with the customary formula of Arabian politeness: Salamu ‘alaykum, “Peace be upon you”; but, to his astonishment, he received no response, the woman turning her back at once upon him. The reason of this proceeding became clear to Niebuhr when his Arabian companions expressed displeasure, and informed him that to address a woman by the way was a grievous insult to her. When Burton retails his piquant conversations with the Abyssinian slave-girls in Egypt, it is to be borne in mind that he is speaking of the slave-market, where men and women are treated like oxen; and that slave-girls, though they have not the rights of the free woman, are also free from many of the restrictions imposed upon her. In general, it may be said that the old rule of the Rabbins is still in force in the East; speech with a woman on the street is a grievous scandal. (S. S. Times.)

Jewish prejudice against women

A Rabbinical prejudice prevailed to the effect that woman is not capable of profound religious instruction: “Do not prolong conversation with a woman; let no one converse with a woman in the street, not even with his own wife; rather burn the sayings of the law than teach them to women. (F. Godet, D. D.)

The test of friendship

Even those whom we love and honour, and with whom our relations are peculiarly intimate, are likely to do things which we cannot at the time fully understand or account for. Then it is that our friendship is tested, and that it can show itself at its truest and best. A friend can be trusted even when he cannot be understood. A real friend will trust even when he does not understand. Nor does a friend always want to ask what or why when he is in doubt as to a loved one’s conduct--which does not bear on his possible duty to that loved one. Peculiarly is it true that our Saviour’s course, even in His dealings with ourselves, is not always understood by us. We must trust Him because we know Him, even while we do not know just what He is doing, and why, in His loving control of our interests and of His own. (H. C. Trumbull, D. D.)

The reticence of the disciples

Although the hesitancy of the disciples to ask Jesus why He spoke with the woman, was due to their reverence for His character, and their trust in Him, rather than their fear of Him as their Master, yet it is to be noted that their silence was eminently Oriental. Let a high official do anything, however foolish or however unjust, and his servants will stand by impassively, giving no sign that they notice that anything unusual is taking place. After the Indian mutiny, it was remarked by many of the English officers that their body servants, who must have been aware of what was about to happen, not only gave no sign of their knowledge, but bore supercilious, and in some instances unjust, treatment from their masters without changing their attitude of impassive docility, or giving other evidence that their day of vengeance was about to dawn. Of course, when this impassive obsequiousness gets a chance to avenge itself, it does so with an excess of Oriental vindictiveness which an Occidental can hardly understand. Let the balance of power be suddenly changed, and the slavish inferiors who before cringed in the presence of their tyrant, will tread him in the dust with savage joy. (S. S. Times.)

Christ’s treatment of the waifs and strays

A certain painter was once employed to adorn a window in one of our national cathedrals, a work which he did with credit and skill. The artist, however, had an ingenious inventive apprentice, who picked up and preserved all the bits of glass that were nipped off and thrown away as useless. But out of these rejected pieces--so runs the story--he constructed a window of such exquisite beauty as to command greater attention and win heal-tier applause than that designed by the master artist. Thus the Scribes and Pharisees of Judaism, the poets and philosophers of Gentilism, the renowned builders of social fabric, had been constructing their imposing temples out of the best men and chastest women of their respective ages and countries; the slaves, the harlots, the publicans, had been contemptuously rejected, and trampled upon as worthless refuse. At last Jesus Christ appeared; He fixed His kind, compassionate eyes on the huge heap of human rubbish; He associated with the offscouring of society; and lo! He built a grander temple and made more beautiful windows than the world had ever beheld before, out of the soiled characters rejected by the architects and builders of states and churches as vile, noxious offal. The woman of Samaria, the “woman who was a sinner,” Mary Magdalene, how attractively the light of Divine grace streams down upon our world through their variegated histories. (J. Cynddylan Jones.)


Verses 28-30

John 4:28-30

The woman left her waterpot, and went her way into the city

A woman’s zeal

I.
THE ENGROSSING NATURE OF CONVERSION.

1. To meet Christ causes ordinary events to shrink into insignificance. Paul for three days did “neither eat nor drink.” Bunyan “ran about the streets distracted.” Fuller was “so moved that he was unable to pursue his customary avocations.” These were extraordinary cases, but it is impossible to be turned from darkness to light and remain impassive. The adjusting of eternal relationships and attending to immortal interests may well make a man distracted.

2. It were better to renounce all work than to attend to the demands of the soul. To neglect the latter for the former is neither reason nor duty.

3. Religion will afterwards not impede but assist the performance of duty. The woman no doubt regained her waterpot, and cheerfully resumed her domestic toil.

4. All our instruments may become useful illustrations of God’s spiritual work. The waterpot must have been a continual reminder.

II. THE MISSIONARY SPIRIT EVOKED.

1. Religious joy seeks to make others share in it. Every Christian should be a centre of light and usefulness.

2. She wisely acted on the spur of the moment. Had she waited courage might have failed or excuses suggested. Nothing quenches fire like delay.

3. She hasted lest Christ should depart. The waterpot would impede her. Any time would do for water. There are times when Jesus is at the door; if these are neglected He may not return.

III. THE FORCIBLE APPEAL.

1. Attention called to an object of acknowledged importance.

2. An inference suggested from a fact of personal history.

3. An invitation given (John 1:46; Joh_1:39).

IV. THE HEARTY RESPONSE. (S. R. Aldridge, LL. B.)

The Woman of Samaria

In the conversion of the woman of Samaria, we have an example of this grace; an example

1. Its freeness: in selecting for its object a profligate creature, not only without her desert, but without her desire.

2. Its sweetness: in having no recourse to violence or terror, but in adopting the most suitable, gentle, and insinuating means to convince and soften her.

3. Its power: in changing her heart and sanctifying her life.

4. Its effects: for here we see grace in its triumph, grace in its glory. No sooner is she enlightened, than she is inflamed; no sooner is she a convert, than she becomes a preacher. However this may be, the character of the persons to whom our Saviour reveals Himself has always scandalized flesh and blood. If the disciples were astonished at our Saviour’s conversation with the woman, their behaviour was dutiful and submissive; they said nothing, but acquiesced in the rectitude of His procedure. And hence I would remark two things. The first regards the advice of Solomon, “If thou hast thought evil, lay thine hand upon thy mouth.” Honour our Lord with our reverence and implicit confidence when we meet with anything in His conduct that seems inexplicable.

Short as the interview was, our Saviour had effectually gained her heart.

1. Perhaps it was from kindness to our Lord and His disciples.

2. Perhaps she left her waterpot from indifference. Wholly occupied now about greater things, she forgot her errand. The feelings of young converts are often very lively.

3. Perhaps, finally, she left it as an impediment to her haste, willing to lose no time in bearing home the welcome intelligence. No sooner is her opportunity of getting good over, than she seizes an opportunity of doing good.

Five things may be remarked.

1. I admire her benevolence.

2. I admire her zeal. See how urgent she is. She even begins with a pressing invitation, “Come.”

3. I admire her wisdom. “Come, see a man who told me all things that I did: is not this the Christ?” “You all acknowledge that Messiah cometh, and that when He is come He will tell us all things.”

4. I admire her honesty. She does not say, He has told me everything pertaining to the worship of God; but “all things that ever I did.” Now, if a person knew your faults, you would wish to have him shunned.

5. I admire her courage. It was no small trial for a plain and wicked woman to go openly and address the inhabitants of the place where she lived, and was perhaps well known, upon a religious subject.

We now conclude, with observing

1. What a real and wonderful change does conversion always accomplish.

2. Divine grace is not an inoperative principle. As the sun no sooner rises than it shines, and as fire is no sooner kindled than it burns, so grace acts as soon as it exists.

3. Behold an apology for what some would deem officiousness. How often do you hear, as soon as any attempt is made to bring people to seriousness,

“Pray do not intermeddle with us. Go to heaven your own way, and leave us to go ours.” Is not charity to the soul, the soul of charity?

4. Be persuaded to resemble this woman. Endeavour to diffuse the savour of the Redeemer’s knowledge, and to bring souls to Christ. It is absurd to complain of a want of opportunities and means. Much is in your power, much more than you are willing to allow. (W. Jay.)

The home missionary

1. The impulse is natural to communicate to others what- ever may have been imparted to ourselves. The successful son sends word quickly home; the soldier of the forlorn hope hastens to communicate intelligence of his safety and success. The shepherd calls his neighbours to rejoice with him, and the father of the prodigal throws open his banqueting halls; Mary Magdalene “departed quickly from the sepulchre” to the disciples to communicate her joy. So with the woman of Samaria.

2. This is ever the result of saving conversion. Christianity must be expansive. The work of the Spirit is a life ever giving.

3. How unlike the selfish, grasping spirit of the world! 4. Christian influence is not confined to the active. The sick Christian may speak with a speechless eloquence. Notice

I. THE WOMAN’S CREDENTIALS.

1. Honesty and outspoken candour. In ordinary circumstances she would have shrunk from such a self-revelation. We should have expected efforts to keep them from Christ lest He should disclose more. But her honest avowal could not but have its weight with her fellow-townsmen.

2. Her earnestness; perhaps at first derided as fanatical, or hypocritical to serve her own ends. But her pleadings are irresistible. Earnestness is the power of the ministry, not charm of intellect or subtlety of reasoning, or sorcery of eloquence, but living words welling up from experience.

3. Her happiness. She had what they all wanted.

II. THE SUBJECT OF HER MESSAGE. She tells what we should have expected her to withhold.

2. She omits what we should have expected her to proclaim--the well, everlasting life.

3. The effective and influential characteristic of the gospel message is not figurative descriptions and metaphysical disputes, but the direct commending of the truth to the conscience, awakening the sense of sin, and thus preparing it for the remedy. In conclusion, notice the power of feeble influences. Never undervalue weak instrumentality. (J. R. Macduff.)

The forgotten waterpot

She came to draw water, and when she had lighted upon the true Well, she after that despised the material one; teaching us even by this trifling instance when we are listening to spiritual matters to overlook the things of this life, and make no account of them. For what the apostles did, that, after her ability, did this woman also. They, when they were called, left their nets: she of her own accord, without the command of any, leaves her waterpot, and winged by joy performs the office of evangelists. And she calls not one or two, as did Andrew and Philip, but having aroused a whole city and so brought them to Him. (Chrysostom.)

With her waterpot on her shoulder she had hitherto been listening to the Lord’s discourse. She was the forerunner of those Bechuan women who would stand for hours together, with their milking-pails in their hands, as if rooted to the ground, whilst Moffat was preaching to them the gospel of the living water. (R. Berser, D. D.)

Sudden conversion

Here was a genuine case. This woman came a prejudiced Samaritan, and left a believing Christian; she came a confirmed sinner, and left a contrite and believing penitent; she came absorbed in the temporalities of life, and left engrossed with eternal solemnities. In the New Testament there are twenty-four cases, including this, of sudden conversion. Let us then never call in question the possibility of a sinner being led to Christ in the course of a few hours. (J. H. Hitchens, D. D.)

The expansive power of Christianity

The work of the Spirit of God in the heart is not a fiction, not a form, but a life. To use the simile of this narrative, it is a fountain not only “springing up” (bubbling up), but overflowing its cistern, and the superfluous supply going forth to gladden other waste places. Not the mass of stagnant water without outlet, but the clear, sparkling lake, discharging its rush of living streams which sing their joyous way along the contiguous valleys, and make their course known by the thread of green beautifying and fertilizing as they flow, Or, if we may employ another figure, let it be the stone thrown into the same still lake. The ripples formed are deepest in the centre. Christianity is deepest in the heart in which its truths have sunk; but its influence expands in everwidening concentric circles, till the wavelets touch the shore. Religion, intensest in a man’s own soul and life, should embrace family, household, kindred, neighbourhood, country, until it knows no circumference but the world! Christianity breaks down all walls of narrow isolation, and proclaims the true brotherhood of the race. Selfishness closes the heart, shuts out from it the rains and dews and summer sunshine; but Christianity, or rather the great Sun of light, shines;--the closed petals gradually unfold in the genial beams: and they keep not their fragrance to themselves, but waft it all around. Every such flower--the smallest that blushes unseen to the world--becomes a little censer swinging its incense-perfume in the silent air, or sending it far and wide by the passing breeze. (J. R.Macduff, D. D.)

God wilt honour zeal

While I was in London there was a man away off in India--a godly father--who had a son in London, and the father obtained a furlough and came right from India to England to see after his boy’s spiritual welfare. Do you think God let that man come thus far without honouring that faith? No. He converted that son. (D. L. Moody.)


Verse 29-30

John 4:29-30

Come see a Man which told me all things whatever I did: is not this the Christ?

Christ and modern scepticism

This judgment on the claims of Christ is the verdict of common sense in contrast to that of Nicodemus, which was the verdict of scholarship. It is for learned men to study for us the question of miracles, which are the foundation of intellectual belief; but that which secures for Jesus the faith and heart of the common people is the Word of Jesus. Christ’s teaching was at first a riddle to the woman, but an unexpected fact startled her into seriousness and conviction. There was another who was in the secret of her life, and this revelation by one who, humanly speaking, knew nothing of the rumours in circulation about her, prepared her for the revelation that He was the Christ.

I. CHRIST’S KNOWLEDGE OF HUMAN NATURE IS A SUFFICIENT WARRANT FOR OUR BELIEF IN HIS DIVINE MISSION. The teachers to whom we give the highest rank are those who teach us how to live. They stand higher than the mere scientist or philosopher. In the present day the scientist is more popular than the preacher. But that is because the question which inspires all his labours is “What is man?” and this question derives all its significance from two others--“What is man appointed to do?” “What is man destined to be?” People are therefore looking to him to evolve a new theory of life, and to become a moralist at some time. Some have already become preachers--of another gospel, which is not another. Taking one age with another, the foremost teachers have been those who have dealt with morals and character.

II. WHATEVER VIEW MAY BE TAKEN OF CHRIST’S KNOWLEDGE OF MAN, NO SUBSEQUENT TEACHER HAS MADE ANY ADDITION TO IT. We know nothing that helps us to understand man’s position upon earth, and the reasons that have made it what it is, which cannot be traced to Matthew 5:1-48; Mat_6:1-34; Mat_7:1-29. There were illustrious teachers before Christ, but there is a great gulf between the obscurities and uncertain foundations of their teaching on man and the clear, authoritative teaching of Jesus Christ. Pagan teachers

1. Were ignorant of the origin of man.

2. Were at a loss to account for moral evil. These problems defied their reason, and therefore they remitted them to the imagination of the poets, and with the poets they found very eloquent expression in the mythologies.

III. THERE ARE MEN WHO REJECT THE WORDS OF CHRIST ON THESE SUBJECTS, BUT WHO EXPRESS THE HIGHEST ADMIRATION OF HIS CHARACTER AND WISDOM. Now it is essentially unscientific to affirm arbitrarily that while Christ was right on one subject, He was wrong in another. He was right in every doctrine, and the very men who object to receive all He said, by the pre-eminence which they give to Christ say He is above their criticism. Bring to the examination of His life and teaching every new method of analysis and research; bring the latest discovery on the antiquity of man, and the last speculation of the evolutionist and the metaphysician, and you leave the Redeemer where the Jews, and where you found Him. There He is, and you cannot touch Him.

IV. THERE ARE TWO MODERN MOVEMENTS RESPECTING CHRIST equally vigorous and conspicuous.

1. An anti-Christian scepticism. This is undeniable, but its power may be exaggerated. The ungodliness of our age happens to assume a sceptical guise, but it will assume another by and by. It must not be imagined that it represents the intelligence and judgment of society. There is a religion in the heart of the masses of the people waiting to be evoked.

2. A growing belief in Jesus, not so much fostered by the literature of the Church as by the words of Jesus. Thousands are studying the New Testament outside all churches. The Stranger that met the woman is silting on other wells all over the world, and looking for thirsty souls. Conclusion:

It is the duty and vocation of churches to plant themselves upon the highways of thought and life and look out for thirsty travellers and offer them the water of life freely, (E. E. Jenkins, M. A.)

The self-revealer

I. THE WOMAN’S FAITH AND HOW IT WAS TO BE TESTED.

1. She was a most unlikely subject. A Samaritan scorning the Jews, having her own notion of the Messiah.

2. Christ was most unlikely to strike her as the Messiah. A Jew; a suppliant for water.

3. Yet she was thoroughly convinced, for she leaves her water-pot and carries with enthusiasm the joyful news into the city.

4. This is what has happened ever since. It is not those who are in a most favourable position for believing who are readiest to believe. There are thousands of young people who have been trained in Christianity who never dream of loving Christ, whilst there are thousands for many years utterly untouched by Christian influences who find in themselves a strange power to lay hold of Christ. Beware of the subtle influence of familiarity with Divine things.

II. HOW THIS WOMAN GOT HER FAITH.

1. Not by miracles. A miracle suggests omnipotence, but does not prove it.

2. There is a much higher thing than power--knowledge. She felt herself in the presence of omniscience.

3. Upon this knowledge of bar secret life she based her belief in the Messiah (John 4:25, cf verse 29).

III. WHAT THIS WOMAN DID WITH HER FAITH. She put it into her proclamation of Jesus. (G. W. Conder.)

The duty of spreading the Gospel

Huber, the great naturalist, tells us, that if a single wasp discovers a deposit of honey or other food, he will return to his nest, and impart the good news to his companions, who will sally forth in great numbers to partake of the fare which has been discovered for them. Shall we who have found honey in the rock Christ Jesus, be less considerate of our fellow-men than wasps are of their fellow-insects? Ought we not rather like the Samaritan woman to hasten to tell the good news? Common humanity should prevent one of us from concealing the great discovery which grace has enabled us to make. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Every Christian must be a missionary

According to Christ’s law, every Christian is to be active in spreading the faith, which was delivered, not to the ministers, but to the saints, to every one of them, that they might maintain it, and spread it according to the gift which the Spirit has given them. Shall I venture a parable? A certain band of warlike knights had been exceedingly victorious in all their conflicts. They were men of valour and of indomitable courage; they had carried everything before them, and subdued province after province for their king. But on a sudden they said in the council-chamber, “We have at our head a most valiant warrior, one whose arm is stout enough to smite down fifty of his adversaries; would it not be better if, leaving a few such as he to go out to the fight, the mere men-at-arms, who make up the ordinary ranks, were to rest at home? We should be much more at our ease; our horses would not so often be covered with foam, nor our armour be bruised, the many would enjoy abundant leisure, and great things would be done by the valiant few.” Now, the foremost champions, with fear and trembling, undertook the task and went to the conflict, and they fought well, as the rolls of fame can testify; to the best of their ability they unhorsed their foes and performed great exploits. But still, from the very hour in which that scheme was planned and carried out no city was taken, no province was conquered. If we are to subdue the earth, every one of us must join in the fight. We must not exempt a single soldier of the Cross, neither man nor woman, rich or poor. We shall see great things when we all agree to this, and put it in practice. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

The joy of having found Christ

No sooner do you pass the brow of the St. Gothard pass, on your way to Italy, than you perceive that, beyond all question, you are on the sunny side of the Alps. The snow lying there is nothing in comparison to the vast accumulation upon the Swiss side of the summit, the wind ceases to be sharp and cutting, and a very few minutes’ ride brings you into a balmy air which makes you forget that you are so greatly elevated above the sea level. There is a very manifest difference between the southern side and the bleak northern aspect. He who climbs above the cares of the world, and turns his face to his God, has found the sunny side of life. The world’s side of the hill is chill and freezing to a spiritual mind, but the Lord’s presence gives a warmth of joy which turns winter into summer. Some pilgrims to heaven appear never to have passed the summit of religious difficulty; they are still toiling over the Devil’s Bridge, or loitering at Andermatt, or plunging into the deep snowdrifts of their own personal unworthiness, ever learning, but never coming to a full knowledge of the truth; they have not attained to comfortable perception of the glory, preciousness, and all-sufficiency of the Lord Jesus, and therefore abide amid the winter of their doubts and fears. If they had but faith to surmount their spiritual impediments, how changed would everything become! It is fair travelling with a sunny land smiling before your eyes, especially when you retain a grateful remembrance of the bleak and wintry road which you have traversed; but it is sorry work to be always stopping on the Swiss side of the mountain. How is it that so many do this? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Weak instruments useful

Weak means may, by God’s blessing, work great matters. He can make the words of Naaman’s servant greater in operation than the words of great Elisha, and by a poor captive girl bring him to the prophet. (J. Trapp.)

How souls are won

No address is so powerful as that which comes in private from heart to heart, with all the living power of a lip warm with love. God is more likely to bless this form of address than any other. There is no escaping from the directness of such an appeal, and it is hard to resist its pleading power. “Come, George, and walk down the road with me!” was the call of an earnest preacher to one of his hearers. In the course of that walk the preacher’s private word had by God’s blessing accomplished in George what all his ‘former teachings had failed to do. George yielded himself to Christ, and declared that the personal talking while going along the street was the means of his decision. It is a great delight to the pastor of the Tabernacle frequently to see certain elders in the corners of the building after service conversing with individuals. Are we backward in such labours? Do we altogether neglect them? How shall we answer for it at the last great day? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Tell the news

At the first invitation to penitents to come forward, only half a dozen responded to the call; but as soon as these stood up rejoicing in God, another company came forward. No sooner was the joy of pardon received into the mourners’ hearts, than they hastened to seek after others. One young man, about twenty years of age, was overheard praying, immediately after he felt relieved of his guilty load, “Please, Lord, let me tell somebody, or I shall die.” Upon receiving permission he gladly stood up, and related what God had just done for his soul. (W. Booth.)

Come

In travelling across the arid desert, scouts upon camels and dromedaries are sent off in every direction to scour the country and look for springs of water. When these are discovered the finder immediately calls aloud of the nearest, “Come!” and this one repeats the word “Come!” to the next, and so this word passes from one to another until all hear and are gathered at the well. Now those of us who are Christians must do the same. We have heard the good news that Jesus Christ bore our sins in His own body on the tree. We have found the well of living waters, and we must raise the cry, “Come!”

Christ the Saviour of great sinners

A woman came to a minister one day, carrying a bundle of wet sand. “Do you see what this is, sir?” said she. “Yes,” was the reply, “it is wet sand.” “But do you know what it means?” “I do not know exactly what you mean by it; what is it?” “Ah, sir,” she said, “that’s me, and the number of my sins they cannot be counted.” And then she exclaimed, “Oh wretched creature that I am! how can a wretch as I ever be saved? Where did you get the sand?” asked the minister. “At the Beacon.” “Go back then to the Beacon; take a spade with you; dig, dig, and raise a great mound; shovel it up as high as ever you can, then leave it there; take your stand by the sea-shore, and watch the effect of the waves upon the heap of sand.” “Ah, sir,” she exclaimed, “I see what you mean--the blood, the blood, the blood of Christ; it would wash it all away.” (New Cyclopaedia.)

Master eat … I have meat to eat that ye know not of

The two forgettings

I. CHRIST forgets HIS EARTHLY FOOD.

II. THE WOMAN forgets HER EARTHLY PITCHERS. (J. P. Lange, D. D.)

The zeal and food of Christ

I. His ZEAL.

1. For His Father’s house (John 2:17), purity of worship.

2. For His Father’s will (John 9:4), the salvation of men.

3. For His Father’s children (John 17:9), the sanctification of His Church.

II. His FOOD.

1. Heavenly in origin.

2. Spiritual in character.

3. Sustaining in quality.

4. Sufficient in supply. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

The Lord’s meat

I. It was a roadside conversation, an “accidental” interview. And yet in less time than an ordinary religious service HE HAS TOLD MANKIND THREE SECRETS.

1. What rest or peace is for every unsatisfied heart.

2. Who it is that knows these hearts through and through.

3. What God is, and how He may be found.

4. These are secrets, because for four thousand years the loftiest intellects had been striving to find them out. Prophets and kings, Solomons and Platos, desired to see these things, and did not.

II. WHERE SHOULD WE SAY THIS REVELATION WOULD BE MADE,

1. In some crowded church, advertised beforehand, with thousands of people and a popular orator?

2. In some lecture-hall with sharp-witted students stimulated by some master brain?

3. Notice that the occasion was commonplace. The teacher sat on the stones of a wayside well. The audience was one woman, not respectable. Men of the world that day were about their business. Fortunes were building and wasting. Rome was ruling. Athens was carving and painting and making orations. Jerusalem was garnishing the sepulchres of the righteous, and devouring widows’ houses. But in one still spot two people were talking together of things which have helped to revolutionize the world.

III. WHILE THUS ENGAGED THE TEACHER’S ATTENTION WAS DISTRACTED. The disciples came and asked Him to eat. Then were repeated instances when, at the moment He needed sympathy most, those around Him went on chattering about superficial trifles, misunderstanding His teaching and His life. But Christ’s patience always triumphed. He simply announces

1. The fact that He had meat they knew not of.

2. While Christ would not sunder what God hath joined together, the hungering body and the immaterial soul, yet His mission is to bring the two into their right relation, and set the one over the other as its master. Eating and drinking are well enough in their place and time, but man shall not live by bread only. It is something higher that makes life worth living--the life and work of Christ.

3. Why should this be called meat? Food does two things.

(a) although many people have lost the longing for a purer life by indulgence, they had it once.

(b) The desire for better things is stronger in finer natures than in coarse.

(c) Do we not all want something deeply, and are miserable when we cannot get relief.

(d) The restless heart needs to be shown the secret of its discontent, and Christ comes into the world to show it.

(e) Ask yourselves if you do not sometimes feel it.

4. Christ further tells us that the life of love and duty is the carrying out of God’s plan.

5. Christ uplifts the ideal of a “finished” life and work. “Finished,” because to the last stroke spent and the last breath drawn Christ gives it power and grace. No matter how long life is or how short if it is faithful. No matter where death is, if within us is the life of Him who liveth evermore. (Bp. Huntington.)

Mysterious meat

The disciples had gone to buy meat: and for this they cannot be censured. Do not say that they were carnal or unspiritual, for most spiritual people must eat to live. And then I admire their care for their Master. It is right for the spiritual man to forget his hunger, but it is equally right for his true friends to remind him that he ought to eat for his health’s sake. Jesus has now gone, but His mystical body remains. If you know of any of His people in poverty, ask them to partake of your abundance, lest haply your Lord should say “I was an hungered,” etc. Having done this justice to the twelve, let us do honour to Christ. His mind was absorbed in spiritual objects, and He wished to lead them to that higher field.

I. THERE ARE REFRESHMENTS THAT ARE LITTLE KNOWN. “Man shall not live by bread alone.” Our Lord found refreshments that were not known to His disciples, and the reason for this was

1. That this nourishment was enjoyed on a higher plan than they had yet reached.

2. It implied a greater sinking of self than they as yet knew. In being a servant obeying the will of another, He feels Himself so much at home, that it revives Him to think of it. Not in self but in self-surrender is there fulness for the heart.

3. Christ was in fuller harmony with God than His disciples.

4. Christ was sustained because He understood the art of seeing much in little. As a wise man sees a forest in an acorn so our Lord saw the vast results Of this little incident.

II. THESE SECRET REFRESHMENTS SATISFIED OUR LORD.

1. He had so long hungered to be at His work.

2. When He got at His work He gave Himself wholly to it.

3. He found great joy in the work itself.

4. He forgot to eat bread because of the enthusiasm which filled Him in the pursuit of that soul.

5. He was moved greatly by the sympathy of pity.

6. He felt great joy in present success.

7. He saw the prospect of better things.

III. LET US AT ONCE SEEK THIS REFRESHMENT.

1. Let us remember that we are sent of God

2. Let us find joy at once in God’s work and will.

3. Let us get to work and leap into our place at once.

4. We may also anticipate the wages. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The hidden support of life

1. In the case of human creatures life is a higher thing than existence. The soul is superior to the body. The body has its wants, but the supply of these is only the means of doing the will of God by the soul. When the means are elevated into the end manhood is sunk into animalism. How often is a young man tempted into sensuality by the invitation, “Let us see life.” But sensuality is not life for a man.

2. In the prosecution of life we must lay our account with privations and conflicts. We do not begin in a paradise of innocence. The very first motions of real life within often take the form of conflict.

3. Under such experiences the strength of the man comes from hidden support. He has meat to eat of which others know not. This hidden meat is the food of heroes and has always nourished those who have “resisted unto blood, striving against sin.”

4. When a man has no such secret support his life loses all spiritual importance and becomes a mere grovelling thing of animal enjoyment. The soul is starved and all true nobleness disappears. Now let us particularize some of the forms of this hidden support

I. A GOOD CONSCIENCE. This when rectified by the Holy Spirit is God’s representative in the soul. Its approbation therefore being the reflex of the approval of God is a great source of support, even as its condemnation must always be a cause of weakness and pain. A good conscience is a continual feast, and they who have that within can do without the banquets of the world.

II. A WORTHY AMBITION. If we are intent on the attainment of some fixed purpose we shall be sustained amid trials which would otherwise have overmastered us. We see that exemplified on a lower level, in the case of Warren Hastings, e.g. Let the Christian set his soul on the attainment of some good, not for Himself, but for his fellow men, then that purpose will bear him up. Christ, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, etc. This is the secret of the strength of those who have given their lives for missions, Livingstone, e.g.

III. FAITH IN THE UNSEEN AND IN THE FUTURE, as in the case of Moses. What the student is doing for his scholarship, and the merchant for his wealth, the Christian is doing for his recompense of eternal reward, Both alike are walking by faith, but the Christian’s faith takes in eternity.

IV. DIVINE COMPANIONSHIP. “I am not alone because the Father is with Me,” said Jesus. “The Lord stood by me and strengthened me,” said Paul. God is “a very present help in time of trouble,” not only for great emergencies, but for the common weariness of a common day. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Heavenly nourishment

I. OUR LORD’S ENTIRE DEVOTEDNESS TO HIS FATHER’S WILL. This is no isolated instance. Turn to any part of His life and you see the same principle.

1. He was profoundly submissive to that will.

2. He manifested His delight in it.

3. He felt the necessity for His work as Saviour, knowing as He did the dreadful power of sin.

4. Love was the foundation of His obedience.

II. OUR LORD FOUND NOURISHMENT AND SATISFACTION IN DOING HIS FATHER’S WILL.

1. There may be entire devotion arising out of a sense of obligation.

2. Our Lord’s devotion sprang from delight in it.

3. It so absorbed Him that He forgot His hunger, being spiritually fed, “He saw the travail of His soul,” etc.

III. THE END WHICH OUR LORD KEPT IN VIEW. “To finish His work.” So at the close He was able to say “It is finished.” His was a perfect life. Every part was filled in as it went on, no imperfect fragments, nothing left out or to be done over again.

IV. LESSONS.

1. Every Christian should regard it as his meat to do the Father’s will. “As the Father hath sent Me even so send I you.”

2. All may learn what a joy it is to save the lost. (G. W. Humphries, B. A.)

My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me.

Consider Messiah’s ministry of salvation as

I. A WORK WHICH HE PERFORMED.

1. He speaks here in His capacity of Son and Servant. In His essential nature He is one with the Father, but in the actual execution of the Divine purpose, He stands in a low place charged with a specific mission.

2. The will of the Sender is learned best by looking at the Sent. The Gift reveals the Giver’s heart. The Christ sent into the world is fitted to draw men to God, not to drive them from Him. The will of the Father corresponds with the Messenger sent to execute it. God is love and Christ embodies that love.

3. The desire of God could not be carried into effect without Christ sent.

4. This work is not left half done. Creation was completed ere God rested. His next more glorious work will be finished too. The earth was complete as a habitation for man ere the children were brought to it as their home. So will heaven be.

II. THE FOOD IN WHICH HE DELIGHTED.

1. It is not enough to learn what Jesus did and suffered, we must look into the secret motives of His heart.

2. Knowing all that redemption would bring upon Himself, He longed for the work as His daily bread. In this glass we see reflected the nature and intensity of the Saviour’s eagerness to save.

3. Jesus is Lord of all. The stars are His, He values them, but they do not satisfy His soul. He does not need to redeem bright worlds and unfallen angels; they cannot, therefore, appease His hunger. To seek the strayed, and save the lost--this is His meat.

4. “Blessed are they that hunger; for this they shall be filled.” This He felt; and His joy will be full when all the ransomed shall reign with Him.

5. Over Jerusalem He wept for hunger. His appetite brought Him from heaven to the cradle and the cross.

6. It is difficult to reconcile Christ’s desire with His omnipotence. Had he not power to accomplish His desire? Could He not have seized a whole city, as angels seized Lot, and hurried them to heaven? This would not have satisfied Him. Material acquisitions cannot sustain the spirit. Though all power is given to Him He will not satisfy His physical hunger by converting stones into bread, nor His spiritual by lifting multitudes to heaven by omnipotence.

7. With the limits of our capacity and condition the appetite of the Master may be shared by the servants. Our spiritual hunger is first a desire to get and then a desire to give salvation. In the second part of the process the disciple enters into the joy of His Lord. (W. Arnot, D. D.)

Jesus about His Father’s business

It is peculiarly pleasing to observe the interest which God the Father takes in the work of salvation. In our childhood in grace we conceived God as an austere Judge made propitious by Christ. Since then we have learned the Father through the Son. This interest is three times hinted at in the text.

I. HIS SOUL WAS IN ALL HE DID. The task was not irksome. There are men who work with such reserve and coldness that you perceive it is but the shell that acts, not the man’s whole soul. But our Lord’s whole Being was at work. His Father’s service was His element.

II. HE WAS GLAD WHEN HE SAW HIS WORK SUCCEEDING. An infallible proof of His devotedness. You know when a man’s heart is in his work by the joy he feels in it. True ministers call preaching pleasure, not duty. Let Him see a penitent and the Man of Sorrows wears a smile on His sorrowful face.

III. HE WAS ANGRY WHEN HIS WORK WAS OPPOSED. When good men see penitents discouraged or evil rampant they do well to be angry.

IV. HE WEPT WHEN HIS WORK WAS UNSUCCESSFUL. Never otherwise. He will weep over unpenitent Jerusalem, but not on the cross.

V. HE WAS NOT DISCOURAGED BY OPPOSITION. How often, when our motives are misconstrued and our efforts hampered, are we tempted to give up! But Christ went on His way apologizing for nothing, doing His work whatever men thought of it or acted against it.

VI. HE ALWAYS LABOURED never resting: intruding on sleep for prayer and helpfulness. His three years seemed like three centuries.

VII. WHEN IN FULL LABOUR HE DOES NOT SEEM TO HAVE FELT FATIGUE as here, and when hungry forgot to eat bread. He seemed to get refreshed in His work, and instead of getting tired renewed His strength. This could not have happened unless His soul had been in it.

VIII. OUR LORD NEVER SWERVED FROM HIS ONE OBJECT, although tempted by the devil with the world and by the Galileans with a crown.

IX. HE WAS NOT DAUNTED BY THE THOUGHT OF DEATH. This thought was not before Him as a possible prospect of momentary heroism, but a certain prospect all His life through. And to this He hastened as the crowning point of His work. In conclusion

1. Let the timid soul who thinks that Christ is unwilling to save be encouraged by all this.

2. Let the mind that was in Christ Jesus be in all Christian men. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

Sources of Christ’s satisfaction

I. IN THE FACT OF SERVICE. It is no mean satisfaction to a servant of God to feel, “I am here of no private choice or purpose of my own; I have been sent hither by a Divine hand.” What a freedom from anxiety and discouragement! The humblest task is made glorious by the authority of the Giver. Many think there is no glory but in independence. But we are so made that we are not sufficient to ourselves, and therefore, the selfish man is wretched. True joy is the joy of sympathy, but no human love can satisfy the soul’s demands. In God’s favour alone is life. This favour is accorded only to His servants,

II. IN THE LAW OF THE SERVICE. God’s will, many persons think there is no joy but in doing their own will, and to walk in the plain path of duty is repulsive to them. And merely walking in the path of duty will not bring joy. There is no acceptable obedience that does not spring from love. But there is all joy in that Christ found it so. And this is not wonderful. The will of God is the outcome of His perfections, and therefore that will must be the perfection of blessedness. Can you choose so well for yourself as that will which measures all things. This holds good both with regard to the suffering and the doing of God’s will.

III. IN THE FIELD OF SERVICE.. Every man has his work Divinely allotted and adjusted. This work is various, and all of it must be accepted as given of God. Then satisfaction will be found in

1. Doing the work may not have been successful, but if it has been done, we have the satisfaction of having fulfilled our task. There are those who will only work when there is human applause and visible results.

2. The effectual accomplishment of the work, and receiving the glad, “Well done.” (J. Riddell.)

Service should be willing service

When the Spartans marched into battle they advanced with cheerful songs, willing to fight; but when the Persians entered the conflict, you could hear, as the regiments came on, the crack of whips by which the officers drove the cowards to the fray. You need not wonder that a few Spartans were more than a match for thousands of Persians, that in fact they were like lions in the midst of sheep. So let it be with the Church; never should she need to be forced to reluctant action, but full of irrepressible life, she should long for conflict against everything which is contrary to God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Joyful service

“I wish I could mind God as my little dog minds me,” said a little boy, looking thoughtfully on his shaggy friend; “he always looked so pleased to mind, and I don’t.” What a painful truth did this child speak! Shall the poor little dog thus readily obey his master, and we rebel against God, who is our Creator, our Preserver, our Father, our Saviour, and the bountiful Giver of everything we love. (Christian Treasury.)

God’s work is our work

The other evening I was spending a few hours with a friend, and a lady who happened to be present when we were talking about this missionary work, said, “But, Mr. John, do you not know that we have a great deal of our own work to do?” “Why, madame,” said I, “is not the missionary work your work? Is it not the work of the Churches?” That seemed to be a new light to her altogether; and there are a great many people in these days who seem to think that this work is the work of the missionaries arid not their own. I go to China to do your work. If I go into the deep well, it is for you to hold the rope you must not leave me there. (Griffith John.)

Enthusiasm

When George Moore was deputed to the relief of Paris, after the seige, he hastened off to reach the place as quickly as possible. “I think I should have died,” he said, “if I had not been the first man in Paris.” (Smiles.)

The power of concentration

In the eighteenth century, an immense burning glass was constructed in France, in which all the heat, falling on a great lens, was then concentrated on a smaller one till at the focus such was the heat that iron, gold, and other metals ran like melted butter. Another one, made in England by Parker, fused the most refractory substances, and diamonds were reduced by it to vapour. (H. O. Mackey.)

The satisfying power of a great aspiration

It was this prospect that cheered and refreshed Him. When our 33rd regiment was nearing Magdala, they had marched for hours over burning plains, under a scorching sky, without water or rest, and the heat began to tell upon the men--many were ready to fall down from exhaustion--when suddenly the sharp cracking of rifles told our soldiers that the foe was in the front and fighting had begun. Hunger, thirst, exhaustion, were all forgotten in the excitement and desire for the fray. If a desire like this could make soldiers forget weariness, much more a desire to save a sinner could so fill the loving, tender heart of Jesus with such delight and satisfaction. (R. H. Lovell.)

Christ’s improvement on common things

I observe our Saviour applying every accidental occurrence to His holy purposes, as it were, by a kind of chemistry, separating the gross matter, and subliming ordinary affairs to heavenly doctrine; insomuch that there was scarcely any common affair of life,… but He spiritualized it, and applied it to His designs. Now, if we would learn of Him, we might with great ease, and without all violence, surprise men into religion, and not only at every turn introduce pious discourse, but render the subject of it intelligible to the meanest capacities; and withal by those sensible-resemblances give such lively touches upon the minds of men, as that what we delivered upon those occasions would stick and remain with them … As, for instance, when we visit a sick friend or neighbour, what a fair opportunity have we to discourse of the immorality of the soul! And what an easy transition is it from a physician to a Saviour! Or, why may we not as well cheer up our afflicted friend with the comforts of religion, as well as amuse or divert him with impertinent stories? Or, suppose friends to be together and disposed to be merry, why may not some word come in seasonably of the everlasting friendship in heaven, or the continual feast of a good conscience? Why may not the common chat about news be elevated to the consideration of the good tidings of the Gospel? What hinders but our dishes of meat may be seasoned with a gracious word or two about the food of our souls? When men are talking of old age, it would be no great strain, if thence our thoughts rise up to eternal life; nor is any great flight of fancy requisite to improve all the accidents of our lives to the contemplation of Divine Providence, which orders and governs them. In a word, everything is capable of improvement, if we be not wanting; we shall never want opportunity, if we embrace it; anything will serve an intent mind and a devout heart to these purposes (Proverbs 15:23; Lake 8:1, 5). (Dr. Goodman.)

The superlative value of food

A traveller lost his way in an Eastern desert. His provisions were exhausted, and he had already wandered about for several days without food, when he descried under a palm tree on his track the marks of a recent encampment. He approached the spot tremulous with hope. He found a bag which the travellers had left behind, filled with something that appeared to be dates. He opened it eagerly, expecting to satisfy his hunger, when lo! it contained only pearls! He sat down and wept. What are pearls to a man who is dying for want of bread? (W. Arnott, D. D.)

Love the secret of successful work

There is absolutely nothing more absorbing on the one hand, or more satisfying on the other, than successful effort in behalf of a cause or of a person loved by us. This is alike true from the lowest plane to the highest. Even a child will forget to be ready for his meals, if he once gets fairly into a game with his playmates outside, before lunch-time or supper-time. Many a hard student is sorry to stop his work in order to eat or to sleep. And when one can hope to finish a piece of work for one whom he loves, by keeping at it a few hours longer--who wouldn’t rather do that than have a good dinner? If the work of the Lord drags in our hands, it is not because that work is not worth living for, and dying for; but it is because we fail of a fitting interest to its doing. (H. C.Trumbull, D. D.)

True work

We should aim to be too active to stagnate, too busy to freeze. We should be like Cromwell, who not only struck when the iron was hot, but made it hot by striking; like the missionary, who said, “If there be happiness on earth, it is in labouring in the service of Christ.” (Family Churchman.)

Soul food

Many who have gathered crowds about them, who have produced a marked impression on those crowds, have said truly that such success was meat and drink to them. If it did not feed their vanity, but sustained them because it showed them that they were doing God’s will and finishing His work, they may have understood some- thing of Christ’s meaning. But the secret food He partook of certainly came from no “sudden success that followed His words. First, He met with a woman who had in general answered Him with levity; then a few people of her own rank came at her call. How little would such honours satisfy the ambition of some eloquent disciple of Christ, who has the power of influencing thousands! Could it satisfy Him who came to found a kingdom of which there was to be no end? Yes; for in their first sheaves He could see certain pledges of a world’s ingathering. The corn-fields would not be reaped for four months; these men whom He saw coming showed Him that the other harvest was nearer still. (F. D. Maurice.)

The ruling passion

When a man dies his friends often say of him, in praise of his diligence, energy, and concentration, “He lived simply to carry through that important line of railway”; or, “His only object was to extort from the Government a more scientific education for the people”; or, “He devoted himself to the cause of Free Trade”; or, “He was a martyr to his exertions in favour of Protection.” It was his one idea; it grew with his growth; he could think of nothing else; he spared neither time nor money to it; it was his monomania. He did his work in his day, and did it well, because he was heart and soul in it; and the world is in debt to him for it. Now, why should it not be said of us, “Well, he is gone, he was a man of one idea, he cared for nothing but that God’s will be done on earth as in heaven. He was eaten up with this; he made it his hobby; it was meat and drink to him. And whereas the other men left behind the railway or the cheap bread, our friend has left behind him a better world.” (Family Churchman.)


Verses 31-54

Verses 35-38

John 4:35-38

Say not ye there are yet four months and then cometh harvest

The spiritual culture of the world

Not unfrequently does the Bible represent the great work of the moral reformation of the world by that of husbandry.

I. THE SERVANTS OF GOD SHOULD EARNESTLY SEIZE EVERY OPPORTUNITY FOR THE SPIRITUAL CULTURE OF MAN. Don’t think the work distant, to be waited for, it is present and must be attended to at once.

1. Moral seasons are not like material ones, beyond our agency. We cannot hasten the months of harvest. Years come and go irrespective of our choice or effort. But in the moral domain you can change temperature, create seasons, turn foul weather into fair, and make a moral November as bright and genial as June. “Say ye not then.” Make no excuses.

2. The feeblest honest effort to improve the world will develop encouraging symptoms to persevere. Christ’s conversation with the woman stirred the heart of the whole city. True thoughts increase the soul’s appetites and supplies. The more you give the more you need.

II. A LONG SUCCESSION OF AGENTS ARE REQUIRED FOR THE SPIRITUAL CULTURE OF MANKIND. “One soweth, another reapeth.” “Paul plants, Apollo waters.” John sowed seeds for Polycarp, he for Athanasius, he for Angustine, he for Anselm; Bernard for Tauler, Luther for Calvin, he for Chemitz; Wickliffe for Tyndale, and he for Coverdale, etc. This suggests

1. The moral connection of the race. Man transmits his principles as well as his nature.

2. The slow progress of moral principles. Humanity requires ages for the full appreciation of great truths.

3. The humble part which individuals play in the history of the world. What we sow may not appear till we are gone. We pluck a few ripe ears, drop a seed or two and then pass on.

4. Results are not the right rules for conduct. We see more the effects of other men’s labours than our own. We have to do with work, consequences must be left to God.

III. THERE IS A VITAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ALL TRUE WORKERS IN THE SPIRITUAL CULTURE OF THE WORLD.

1. In working out one grand purpose. Whether they reap or sow.

2. In participating in the same rewards. In the universal rejoicing there will be no under-rating of the humblest, and the greatest will not glory in himself. Each will rejoice in another’s labours rather than his own, all ascribing their achievement to all inspiring love. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The gospel harvest

I. THE GREAT HARVEST REMAINS YET TO BE GATHERED IN. The purposes of grace have as yet received a very partial accomplishment. This is seen if we will consider

1. God’s gracious intentions as announced to us by the ancient seers.

2. The means which God has employed to fulfil His purposes. The incarnation, death, resurrection, and glorification of His Son, and the creation of a Church to proclaim these saving facts to the whole world. Nothing short of the salvation of mankind can indemnify the Redeemer and enable him to see the travail of his soul.

3. The preparatory processes.

(a) Among the Jews the progress of redemptive disclosures.

(b) Among the Gentiles the progress of a civilization which should help to carry the Gospel to every creature.

(a) In early Christian times.

(b) Subsequent to the Reformation.

4. If such has been the length of time over which the preparations have extended, if such the grandeur of the means employed, if such the extent of the plan announced--what must be the harvest that is before us?

II. HAVE WE REASON TO HOPE THAT THE HARVEST IS NEAR? The expectation of seeing it burst on the world in full or hid splendour by stupendous miracle is not to be encouraged. There is no reason to expect it through any other agency than that which God has already employed. As for the signs, observe

1. That the whole world has become accessible to the gospel to a degree altogether unprecedented.

2. The commanding and influential position of those portions of the globe, where Christianity exists in its purest and most active forms.

3. The general spread of knowledge and extension of education.

4. The success already achieved.

III. THE SENTIMENTS AND CONDUCT WITH WHICH THIS STATE OF THINGS SHOULD BE MET BY THE CHURCH OF CHRIST.

1. Attention.

2. Thankfulness, “Blessed are our eyes, for they see.”

3. Zealous efforts.

4. Steady perseverance. (B. Godwin.)

The gospel harvest

I. A DESCRIPTION OF THE EXISTING CONDITION OF THE WORLD. The “fields” are the world; they were “white unto harvest,” ready for the accomplishment of the work of mercy.

1. It was the time which had been appointed in the predetermination of the Divine counsels for introducing the economy of grace. It was “the fulness of time.”

2. The fields were “white” because of the spiritual necessities which then actually pressed upon the circumstances of man. No time could have been more apt. Jews and Gentiles were alike at the furthest limit to which want could possibly impel.

3. The time of the Saviour’s advent was one of great expectancy. Among the Jews were many like Simeon; among the Gentiles many like the Magi. The state of the world since has always to some extent admitted the application of the words “white unto harvest,” and some periods more particularly than others

II. A STATEMENT OF THE DIFFERENT OFFICES OF LABOUR APPOINTED AND HELD IN CONNECTION WITH THE CONDITION DESCRIBED.

1. As to the origin of the offices to be contemplated they are of Divine appointment. “The Lord of the harvest” alone sends forth labourers; and here the Redeemer asserts His own prerogative, “I sent you.”

2. The nature of the offices thus exhibited. He that sows has not the immediate tokens of success; he that reaps gathers at once the ripened corn. So the office of some has been to prepare the mind, to settle preliminaries, to lay foundations; of others to follow and to garner the result. The labour of the prophets, and the success of the apostles, is typical of much modern Christian labour. The reformers laboured, ministers now reap. And while we reap from generations past, we sow for generations to come.

3. The spirit in which these offices should be sustained. There should be

(1) Contentedness.

III. THE PROMISE OF THE BLESSING BY THE BESTOWMENT OF WHICH THOSE OFFICES SHALL BE CONSUMMATED.

1. There is a recompense granted to the faithful exercise of the duties which the offices comprehend. “He that reapeth,” etc.

2. There will be a final meeting of all the labourers for mutual communion and joy, “together.” (J. Parsons.)

Earnestness essential to success

Duncan Matheson, the Scottish evangelist, when in the Crimea, was not slow in seeking out men of his own spirit in the army. His first acquaintance was Hector Macpherson, drum-major 93rd Highlanders, a soldier both of his country and of the Cross, of whom the missionary used to tell the following story:--“One day, a chaplain, newly arrived, called on the sergeant and asked his advice as to the best method of conducting his work. ‘Come with me,’ said Hector, ‘to the hill-top. Now look around you. See yonder the pickets of Liprandi’s army. See yon batteries on the right, and the men at the guns. Mark yon trains of ammunition. Hear the roar of that cannon. Look where you may, it is all earnest here. There is not a man but feels it is a death struggle. If we don’t conquer the Russians, the Russians will conquer us. We are all in earnest, sir; we are not playing at soldiers here. If you would do good you must be in earnest too. An earnest man will always win his way.’” (New Cyclopadia.)

The fields are white

Leonard Keyser, who was burned at Scherding, in 1527, as a Protestant, when he came near to the stake, exclaimed, as he looked at the crowd, “Behold the harvest! O Master, send forth Thy labourers.” (Bowes.)

The heathen are waiting for the gospel

Rev. J. Hudson Taylor related, in Chinas Millions, the bitter hardships he, with Rev. W. C. Burns, experienced during his early days in China. The sketch closes with an account of a remarkable incident. After they had spoken one day in the city of Ningpo one of the listening crowd said: “I have long sought for the truth; I and my father before me. I have found no rest in Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism; but I do find rest in what I have heard here. Henceforth I believe in Jesus.” Afterwards he asked Mr. Taylor how long the glad tidings had been known in England. When he was told, “Some hundreds of years,” he looked amazed. “What!” he exclaimed, “is it possible, and yet you have only now come to preach them to us? My father sought after the truth for more than twenty years, and died without finding it. Why did you not come sooner?”

The woman of Samaria

After expressing His own regard to the work that was given Him to do, our Saviour stimulates His disciples to similar zeal. For this purpose He employs three arguments, all borrowed from husbandry.

1. The first is taken from the necessity for their exertions. When the grain is ripe, the sickle must be thrust in.

2. The second is taken from the profitableness of their exertion. The reaper is well paid.

3. The third is taken from the facility of their exertion; the work being prepared to their hands. “They besought Him that He would tarry with them.”

How natural was this!

1. They were eager to give Him entertainment.

2. They wished to be instructed by him more perfectly. It is the nature of grace to wish its increase.

3. They hoped that He would be useful to those of their families and of their neighbours, who had been either unable or unwilling to come. What a work of God was here!

Let me conclude by calling upon you to observe, who were the subjects of this work, and who was the instrument.

1. The subjects were Samaritans, not Jews: and we may exclaim with our Lord, on another occasion, we “have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.”

2. The instrument was, not a philosopher, not an apostle armed with tongues and miracles, but a poor, wicked, but converted woman. (W. Jay.)

Zeal for soul-gathering

In Switzerland, where land is very precious because rock abounds and the rugged soil is chary in its yieldings, you see the husbandman looking after a little tuft of grass growing on one of the edges of a lofty cliff. From the valley he had caught a sight of it and thought of clambering up to where if grew, but the rock was all too steep. From a ledge nearer the top of the precipitous wall he looked down, but could see no pathway to the coveted morsel of green. That armful of grass would feed his goat, or help to fill the cottage loft with winter fodder for the cow. Every armful is an item, and he cannot forego that tempting clump. He looks, and looks, and looks again, but looks in vain. By-and-by, he fetches his bold boy who can follow wherever a chamois can climb, but the boy after a hard scramble comes back with the tidings, “Father, it cannot be done.” Father’s answer is, “Boy, it must be done.” It is only an armful, and would not be worth a farthing to us, but to the poor mountaineer even a farthing or a far- thing’s worth is precious. The grass waves its flowers in the breeze and scorns the daring climbers from below; but where there is a will, there is a way; and what cannot be reached from below may be gained from above. With a rope slung round him, or firmly grasped in his accustomed hand, with a stout stake or tree to hold it up above, the Switzer is let down till he gets to the jutting crag, there he stands with his sickle, reaps the grass, ties it into a bundle, puts it under his arm, and climbing back again, joyfully returns with his little harvest. Poor pay, you think, for such dangerous toil; but, fellow-worker for Jesus, I wish we were as venturesome for souls, and as careful of them, as these poor peasants are concerning miserable bundles of grass. I wish that we sometimes looked up or down upon apparently inaccessible spots, and resolved to reach immortal souls who are to be found there, and pined to bring them to Christ. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Love to souls

An old man in Watton, whom Mr. Thornton had in vain urged to come to church, was taken ill and confined to his bed. Mr. Thornton went to the cottage, and asked to see him. The old man, hearing his voice below, answered, in no very courteous tone, “I don’t want you here; you may go away.” The following day the curate was again at the foot of the stairs. “Well, my friend, may I come up to-day and sit beside you?” Again he received the same reply, “I don’t want you here.” Twenty-one days successively Mr. Thornton paid his visit to the cottage, and on the twenty-second his perseverance was rewarded. He was permitted to enter the room of the aged sufferer, to read the Bible, and pray by his bedside. The poor man recovered, and became one of the most regular attendants at the house of God. (Life of Rev. S. Thornton.)

The wages of doing good--joy

A person was once asked what had been the happiest moment she had ever known. She was one who had had more than a common share of the good things of this world. She had a bright home and many friends. She had achieved success in a brilliant society, and won literary fame, and had drunk deep of intellectual pleasures in the course of a life which was far spent. Yet she said the happiest moment she had ever known was that in which a withered old woman tottered into the room, held out her shaking hands towards her, and wept for joy as she exclaimed, “I said I’d come and thank you for saving my boy, though I dropped on the road.” Her boy was a poacher, who, in a midnight affray, inadvertently, as he said--wilfully, as others declared--shot a gamekeeper. He was tried for his life, and almost to the last moment he had no counsel, as neither he nor his miserable old mother had the means of securing one. The lady, knowing nothing of him, heard incidentally that if he remained undefended it would go hard with him, and she engaged a first-rate counsel on his behalf. The result was that although his sentence was death, it was accompanied by a recommendation to mercy. A petition, which was afterwards drawn up by his defender, procured a commutation of the extreme penalty; and so it was that the joys of happy love, and fame, and pleasure, paled before the grateful light in the poor old mother’s eyes as she spoke her homely thanks, and then dropped back to her obscurity and was no more seen. (Good Words.)

Fruit after many days

I was called, in Philadelphia, to visit a sick girl in a very worldly and irreligious household, with whom I had but little acquaintance, and went anticipating only a painful visit of warning to a careless soul. To my astonishment, I found a gentle child of grace, perhaps eighteen years of age, sinking in a consumption, but perfectly clear in mind, and happy, in hope. “How,” I asked, “have you learned all this in your condition here?” Her answer was most precious. “I had a faithful Sunday-school teacher; and though I left her some years ago, and never gave her much satisfaction, yet when I was taken sick, I took my little Bible, and went over the lessons she used to teach me, and God has taught me here alone.” She then showed me her little Bible, turned down and marked with many Sunday-school lessons, her constant and loved companion. Dear child, she had no other religious companion. But she departed in sweet peace and hope, and my visits to her while she lived were full of satisfaction and delight. Similar incidents of actual conversion under Sunday-school instruction have occurred in such numbers, that I might fill many sheets of paper with them. (S. H. Tyng, D. D.)

The wages of doing good

Occasionally a benevolent action wrought in faith brings with it an instantaneous recompense in kind; therein Providence is seen as smiling upon the deed. The late John Andrew Jones, a poor Baptist minister, whilst walking in Cheapside, was appealed to by some one he knew for help. He had but a shilling in the world, and poised it in his mind, to give or not to give? The greater distress of his acquaintance prevailed, and he gave his all, walking away with a sweet remembrance of the promise, “He that hath pity upon the poor, lendeth unto the Lord, and that which he hath given, will He pay him again.” He had not gone a hundred yards further before he met a gentleman who said, “Ah, Mr. Jones, I am glad to see you. I have had this sovereign in my waistcoat pocket this week past for some poor minister, and you may as well have it.” Mr. Jones was wont to add, when telling the story, “If I had not stopped to give relief I should have missed the gentleman and the sovereign too.”

The reaper’s joy

One Sunday, in the house of God, the minister noticed the restlessness and anxiety of a little girl during the morning service. After the service, he addressed the teacher thus:--“You have had a very unquiet class to-day, and one of the children I observed was particularly restless; why did you not keep her quiet?” “Oh, sir, you mean Sarah She has for these three months past set her heart upon bringing her father here, and this morning he had promised to come, and she was so anxious to see if she could find him among the congregation, until at length she came to me, and throwing her arms round my neck, sobbed out, “Oh, teacher, teacher, there’s my father!” How often I have had my hand grasped by loving persons who have said, “I wanted to tell you that you led me to the Saviour!” They wanted to say it to me; and often have they written to me, and cheered my heart, because they felt a personal gratitude which wanted a personal expression. A poor woman once forced me with tears to receive a small sum of money for myself. I declined it till I saw that it would hurt her feelings, for she had evidently longed for this opportunity for expressing her thankfulness for the sermons she had read. If we feel thus towards an earthly friend, how much more shall we feel it towards Him who has saved us by His blood! (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The harvest and the labourers

(in conjunction with Matthew 9:37-38):--On the occasion mentioned by Matthew there were fields of ripe cornwithin sight (Luke 6:1; Luk_6:12-13). The words reported by St. John were spoken four months earlier when the fields were comparatively bare. The one, therefore, was a similitude, the other a contrast.

1. In Samaria, Jesus bade His disciples recognize fields white to harvest. The people were ready to bear if only the gospel were delivered unto them.

2. But there was a risk of letting the favourable opportunity slip for want of preachers. What can be more vexatious to a farmer than to see his crop spoil for lack of hands? So grievous was it to Christ to see the leaders of the ration indifferent or hostile to His heavenly message.

3. The fields of opportunity are constantly widening, but the difficulty is to get an adequate supply of labourers.

4. It is easy enough to multiply ecclesiastics, but workmen who need not to be ashamed have always been too few.. And field work needs labouring men. Time is precious, and reapers must not spare themselves.

5. Labourers are all the better for a training. In every kind of activity training tells. Much more so here, as shown by Christ’s careful training of the twelve.

6. But the first requisite is that the labourers be sent by the Lord of the harvest.

7. The Church must pray for such labourers.

8. Why should we thus pray? The fields are His. He knows the value of the opportunity and the need of labourers; surely He will provide them of His own accord. But prayer is not enjoined to tell Christ what He does not know, or to persuade Him to do what He would otherwise neglect, but to bring His followers into harmony with His will. (D. Fraser, D. D.)

The great harvest

or, Christian enterprise (in conjunction with Matthew 9:36-38; Luke 10:2)

I. THE ORIGINAL MOTIVE OF ALL CHRISTIAN ENTERPRISE. “He was moved with compassion.”

1. Christian enterprise should be irrespective of class, creed, or character. “The multitudes” were a mixed assembly, a fair picture of the world. Friends and foes. Christ confined His benevolence to none. Christians should do good to all.

2. Christian enterprise should have special reference to the spiritual state of man. “Sheep without shepherd.” Our Lord did not overlook temporal and intellectual needs, but made them subservient to the spiritual.

3. Christian enterprise should be the result of feeling, deep and genuine.

II. THE PRESSING CLAIM OF ALL CHRISTIAN ENTERPRISE UPON ALL CHRISTIAN MEN (Luke 10:2).

1. The state of the harvest

(a) In point of difficulty. The conversion of one soul is a work of no ordinary magnitude; how much greater that of a world! The difficulty arises from human depravity.

(b) In consequence of its responsibilities. To control the parliament of a mighty nation far less responsible than changing the eternal destiny of myriads.

(c) In the glory connected with its final triumph.

2. The paucity of the workmen. “Labourers are few”

III. THE SPECIAL PROVIDENCE WHICH SHOULD BE EVER RECOGNIZED BY ALL CHRISTIANS IN CARRYING ON EVERY CHRISTIAN ENTERPRISE. “Pray ye therefore,” etc. There is here a recognition

1. Of the divinity of our work.

2. Of the necessity of human agents.

3. Of the importance of prayer.

4. Of final triumph. “Gathered fruit unto life eternal.” (Evan Lewis, B. A.)

On reaping

I. WHEN DOES THE REAPING COME (John 4:35)?

1. The law of nature is that there should be delay between the sowing and the reaping. It is not always so in grace. It was not so at Pentecost, nor with Philip and the eunuch, with Peter and Cornelius. Both sometimes coincide

II. WHAT DOES THE REAPING BRING?

1. Reward (John 4:36). Wages--the work itself. To be workers with God is a great reward. But fruit is also gathered. No Christian labours in vain. Sow the seed and expect the harvest.

2. Joy and mutual rejoicing. (R. V. Pryce, LL. B.)

The soul harvest

The garments worn in those days were white, and as Christ and His disciples were seated on a slight elevation, they could observe the coming of the crowds of people thus arrayed. There are times, seasons, for the natural world, but all seasons are harvest time in the moral world. Why, you ask, has Christianity been so long conquering the world? Will it speedily triumph? I answer, God is working in His wisdom and power most earnestly. He has done everything on His part; the delay is caused by our neglect. The harvest is ready; God is ready; the Church is not ready. Let us look at some of the evidence for the world’s ripeness.

I. THE CIVILIZED NATIONS HAVE PIERCED TO ALL PARTS OF THE WORLD. A century ago how much of the world was unknown, what an impulse has seized the heart of men to find out every foot of land! The destruction of one expedition gives no discouragement; others are pushed forward. Why this impulse? That we may send the gospel everywhere. Observe how geography is being taught in the schools. How different was it when we were children! Providence is thus acquainting the rising generation with the condition of the different nations.

II. THE WONDERFUL FACILITIES FOR ACCESS TO ALL PARTS OF THE WORLD. Wherever commerce can go the Bible and missionary can go.

III. THE CHURCH IS NOW ABLE TO GAIN INTELLIGENCE FROM ALMOST EVERY REGION HOURLY. If a missionary is in danger or needs assistance, help can be sent to him on the wings of lightning.

IV. ALL PARTS OF THE WORLD ARE BEING BROUGHT INTO NEIGHBOURHOOD. The realization of unity amongst nations is marvellously helping the Church.

V. THE BIBLE HAS BEEN TRANSLATED INTO ALL THE PRINCIPAL LANGUAGES. The foundation of Christian work in Mexico was laid during the European invasion by the soldiers dropping fragments of Bibles which were picked up by the natives.

VI. THE SAFETY OF THE MISSIONARY IS EVERYWHERE SECURED. God has given power over the earth into the hands of the great Protestant nations. The Cross is above the flag. The greatest earthly power to day is the Cross of Jesus Christ.

VII. THE WEALTH OF THE WORLD IS IN THE HANDS OF THE NATIONS THAT

ARE SPREADING THE GOSPEL--England, Germany, America.

(Bp. M. Simpson.)

Autumn: a season for national instruction

Autumn, or the “feast of harvest,” is not only a season for national gratitude, rejoicing, philanthropy, but also instruction. Look at the fields and mark

I. The RESUSCITATING principle of the Divine government. What you see ripened was a few months ago buried and apparently dead, but the dormant germ has been quickened by God. This principle is seen at work

1. In the mind of mankind, calling up buried thoughts and impressions.

2. In the conversion of souls, quickening the conscience, and imparting spiritual vitality.

3. On a grand scale in the general resurrection.

II. The RETRIBUTIVE principle in the Divine government. Nature gives back what she has received

1. In kind. Wheat for wheat.

2. In amount. The more she receives the more she gives. “Be not deceived,” etc.

III. The MULTIPLYING principle in the Divine government. For one grain many are returned--some thirty, some sixty, some a hundredfold. So in morals. One thought may run into thousands, one noble deed may become the parent of millions. Nothing true is lost; everything true is multiplied.

IV. The MATURING principle: the Divine government. Through slow stages of growth. The blade, the ear, the full corn in the ear. Character ripens. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Lift up your eyes, and look

I. THE STANDPOINT. In calling the disciples’ attention to the Samaritans who were ready to believe without the help of miracle, our Lord is calling upon them to take a larger, higher, and more spiritual view of things; to labour for that which is more enduring than the grass, the bread without which man cannot live. He is looking down upon us.

1. What does He see? He sees us eager, busy, absorbed, not in things unlawful, but in things below the supreme worth. Harvests, markets, eating, drinking.

2. These are not to be condemned, but are commendable in their way. But the wrong lies in the fact that we are buried in these things.

3. Christ summons us to rise above these things to His own standpoint.

II. THE VISIONS.

1. Of the world’s great spiritual need. There was something in these Samaritans not so obvious as pain, or physical hunger, and that did not seem to be of such importance as the growing corn, or the meat the disciples had brought. Look at the people around you, not with the superficial eye, but with the eye of faith, and you will see in them the children of God, wanting God. This want is not to be satisfied by better houses, sufficient bread, present comfort. There is need in man’s heart for a peace, a joy, a liberty, a life, not otherwise to be obtained but by fellowship with the Father.

2. Of the Son of man who can supply this need? This was His revelation to the woman. Every page of the Gospels shows that Christ was not indifferent to man’s physical woes. But it was for their spiritual wants that He cared most. And to become food for this He died, as a grain of wheat sinks into the ground to die, in order to bring man back to God, and become the food of the world.

3. OF the future.

White already.

Our Lord teaches the ripeness of the world for the highest blessing.

1. Men everywhere have a certain religiousness of nature: religious ideas, capacities, instincts, aspirations; in some instances starved, degraded, dulled, but still there--the sense of infinity, dependence, duty, accountability, futurity. So far, then, they are ready for the gospel--able to comprehend its works, to receive its grace, to realize its blessings.

2. Not only so, but there is in all men a felt need for the truth, grace, hope of the gospel. They are feeling after God. Not equally vivid, understood and expressed, are their longings, but they are everywhere existent.

3. But whilst we believe all this we do not believe in the immediate readiness of mankind. We feel that much must be done first There must be a sowing and ripening before the reaping. It is this spirit of doubtfulness and postponement that our Lord rebukes. “The sowing and ripening has taken place; put in your sickles.” Let us observe the cases in which our Lord’s rebuke applies.

I. Take the conversion of the YOUNG.

1. You do not expect this. The children must wait. “First the blade,” etc. So we instruct, encourage, discipline them, but should be much surprised by anything like a religious experience, and should look upon it as on premature bloomings and blossomings in garden and orchard. But what is that doctrine of yours of prevenient grace? That God gives a secret light, light, strength, bias to the soul, and as soon as we awake to consciousness we find within us the sense of law and grace.

2. Have we not been astonished at the spiritual capacity of children? They cannot ungerstand theology, but they can religion. They cannot understand entomology, botany, optics, but they admire a butterfly, love the flowers, leap with joy at the rainbow. Go to them at once with a spiritual appeal and expect the effect. Don’t talk about their wanting experience. If a chrysalis be placed in an ice-house, its development may be retarded for years, but take it into a hothouse, and it flutters a thing of beauty in a few days. So with our children.

II. Take the conversion of the MASSES.

III. Take the conversion of the SCEPTICAL, What do they want? Argumentation, say many. No; men cannot get rid of their religion so easily as some think. The atheist has eyes to see this wondrous universe, spiritual longings, thoughts, arguments within himself not to he.suppressed, and is compelled to doubt his doubts. Go to him, and speak not so much to the sceptic as to the man.

IV. Take the conversion of the SAVAGE. portion of our race. What do they want? Civilization--nature never leaps. Indeed! Is there not a leap from the caterpillar through the pupa lute the butterfly? “No,” says the man of science, “it only seems a leap.” Very good; we won’t argue. There is the penitent thief; it was not a real leap--the Spirit of God had worked the intermediate stages in silence and darkness--it only seemed a leap. Fiji, fifty years ago, was cannibal, to-day it is Christian. God is in all other dark places. “The isles wait for His law.”

V. The conversion of THE WORLD AT LARGE. This seems a long way off to the carnal eye. But it is only waiting. The sowing is done.

1. Christ is the Sower. He moves with His Spirit among the million.

2. His ripening forces have long been at work (John 1:4; Joh_1:9). The Light of the World acts when He does not manifestly shine. Go and expect fruit. You are not waiting for God; He is waiting for you. (W. L. Walkinson.)

The grain ripe

I. THE SICKLES.

1. Preaching the gospel. The sickle may have a handle of rosewood, and be adorned with precious stones, but it is worth nothing if it does not bring down the grain. We might preach the sciences from our pulpits, but Agassiz would beat us at that. We might philosophize, but Emerson would beat us at that. But he who with faith and prayer takes hold of the gospel sickle, however weak his natural arm, shall gather deep swarths of golden grain.

2. Singing the gospel. This scythe has been long neglected, much abused, but has been sharpened anew.

3. Prayer. By this John Knox reaped Scotland.

II. THE REAPERS.

1. Tract distributors.

2. Sunday-school teachers, ministers.

III. THOSE READY TO BE REAPED.

1. Those who feel too bad to be saved. You are ripe because you feel that. Christ came to save the worst.

2. The religiously educated. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

Harvest

I. THE RIPENING principle of the Divine government is at work

1. In the inorganic realm. Our system is travelling to a crisis.

2. In the vegetable realm. The oak moves from century to century from an acorn to a point when its perfection is reached.

3. In the human realm,

II. The COMPENSATORY principle in the Divine government. This principle rewards the labourer

1. According to the kind of his work. What was sown is reaped in species and quality. The same holds good in morals.

2. According to the amount. “He that soweth sparingly shall reap sparingly.” There are degrees in glory which are regulated according to degrees in goodness.

III. The CO-OPERATIVE principle. In the harvest-field you have the result of a vast combination of agencies, animate and inanimate, human and Divine. The harvest demonstrates that man is a co-worker with God. Paul plants, etc. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The fields white to harvest

I. WE MUST LOOK AT THE ASPECT OF THE FIELDS.

1. That in most places there is evidently a preparation in the minds of both Pagans and Mohammedans for receiving the servants of Christ.

2. What are the peculiar advantages which pious and zealous Christians in Britain enjoy for extending the gospel.

3. But the disposition among the heathen to receive the gospel, and the facilities which we possess for diffusing it, would be insufficient, unless the activity of the spiritual Church were awake to improve the occasion.

II. ENCOURAGEMENTS HELD OUT TO THE REAPERS.

1. The important good, which the Christian missionary effects, is, that he gathers fruit to life eternal.

2. The abundant reward which awaits him, when the toil is finished, “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

Fields white for harvest

Many Christians have a large stock of reasons for not expecting many conversions. They are for ever dwelling on the past or in the future, but never look for God’s arm being made bare now. The common reason is, “There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest. This is not the time or the man; we must wait”; and in the meantime death doth not cease to slay, and multitudes are perishing for lack of knowledge. Patience is a virtue, but sometimes decision is a greater one. Four months!--have there not been many months? That was the cry in the days of ourforefathers, in the days of our fathers, and it is four months still. Oh, to learn the Saviour’s words, “The fields are white already”! Expect a present blessing.

I. SIGNS OF HARVEST.

1. The Saviour had preached a sermon, and the whole of His congregation had been converted. He had only one hearer, it is true. But the conversion of one soul is a sign that God is going to convert others. The cholera is raging. A physician has been studying the disease. Many methods have failed. At last he hits upon the drug which cures one. “Now,” he says, “I shall have a harvest of men, for what cures one will cure all.” When Napoleon landed from Elba one man offered to serve the emperor. “Here,” said Napoleon, “is one recruit at least.” If some have found the Saviour, why not more?

2. This one was at that moment engaged in making more. It was Christ’s strategy to bless the men of Samaria through this woman. When this country was asleep half a dozen young men at Oxford felt the inspiration of God, and soon the same inspiration was felt from one end of the country to the other. There is not a plant that grows by the hedge side that does not scatter all adown the bank seeds of succeeding generations.

3. The others were coming to hear. When the fish get round the net surely some will be taken.

4. The persons who were coming to hear were those who seemed least likely to listen. When the giddy multitude crowd together to listen to the gospel it is a good sign of the coming harvest.

5. Recollect the men who have laboured before us. Has all this labour been for nothing? The days that are past have been preparing the population of England.

6. It is a sign of good when there is a stir among the people. The worst thing is stagnation. When people are not thoughtful about other things it is seldom you can get them to be thoughtful about religion. A farm overgrown with thistles is better than a barren one.

7. Old priestcrafts do not now hinder men from hearing the gospel. We can get at the people. If Luther, Bunyan, Baxter, and Alleine could have lived now, how they would have rejoiced!

II. HARVEST WANTS.

1. Many labourers. There is no machine that can do this work of soul-reaping.

2. Sharp sickles; such cutting truths as justification by faith, the total ruin of mankind, the Cross, the energy of the Holy Ghost.

3. Close binders. Those who cannot use the sickle can gather up the wheat. Invite people to the house of God.

4. Some to take the sheaves home, and assist to bring people into the Church.

5. Others to bring refreshment to the reapers. Encourage them.

III. THE FEARS OF HARVEST. The husbandman sometimes fears that

1. Through lack of labourers his harvest may be damaged. After a certain time the wheat spears out, and birds will feast upon it. Every hour that men are not saved there are capacities of usefulness that are falling out, and Satan is running away with them.

2. Some wheat may remain unreaped, and so be destroyed. If the Christian does not work, there are others who will.

3. Whether we gather in the harvest or not, there is a reaper who is silently gathering it every hour--Death. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Fields white already unto harvest

I. THE LIKENESS BETWEEN NATURAL AND SPIRITUAL HUSBANDRY.

1. The first coming of Christ was the seedtime, and His second will be the harvest. From the seed which was then dropped will spring ripened fruit.

2. Generally the seed is the Word, and the sowers are the ministers of the gospel.

3. In all cases sowing is a means to an end. No man ever cast seed into the ground for the sake of the sowing. Even when we have preached well our end is not attained.

4. The only aim that will animate a ministry is to save souls from death.

5. When anxious inquirers come and close with Christ the joy is the joy of harvest.

II. THE DISSIMILARITY. Whereas in nature an uniform period intervenes between sowing and reaping, in grace the fruits may be gathered at any season or length of time--longer or shorter.

1. Do not wait four months, for the harvest may come at an earlier period. The seed sown to-day may be ripe to-night, as at Jacob’s well and on the day of Pentecost. Ministers, therefore, should look for immediate results.

2. Do not despond although four months, four or forty years, should pass. If the cultivator of grain does not see his harvest whitening in four months, he abandons hope. Not so the Christian seed-sower. To know that some of the seed ripens early keeps his hopes active from the first; and to know that some of it ripens late prevents his hopes from sinking even to the last. (W. Arnot, D. D.)

One soweth, and another reapeth

The reaper and the wages

A double reward is promised the garnerer of souls. It is a reward which flows back to the garnerers, and it is a reward which flows out to the souls garnered.

1. He that reapeth receiveth wages; something comes to him.

2. The garnerer of souls has wage also toward others; He gathereth fruit until life eternal.

3. Consider the place where the reaper is to reap. “Lift up your eyes and look”--you need not travel far to find a place for reaping your own local church, your own special Sunday-schools, your own neighbourhood--put in at once your sickle there. (W. Hoyt, D. D.)

Sowing and reaping

In Palestine neither all the sowing nor all the reaping of the fields is done at one and the same season. As soon as one crop is out of the ground another is prepared for. Ploughing and sowing follow close upon reaping and gleaning. Different crops require different lengths of time for their maturing; and, as a consequence, the planting for one crop will sometimes be going on while another crop near it is not yet ready for the harvest. As soon as the fields are cleared, in the midsummer or in the early autumn, the ground is ploughed, and the winter wheat or some other grain is sowed, in advance of the rainy season. Again, between the early and the latter rains of the springtime, there will be ploughing, and the sowing of barley or oats or lentils for a later crop. In the second week in April I saw on the Plain of the Cornfields, not far from Jacob’s well, the grain already well ripened toward the harvest, while just southward of that region, and again, two days later, just northward of it, I saw ploughing and planting going on; so that I might have been in doubt, from my own observations, whether that were the time of seed-sowing or of harvest; and so it is likely to have been in the days of Jesus. Whether this were the springtime or the early winter, whether it were at noonday or at eventide, are points which have been much discussed in connection with the gospel narration of the visit of Jesus. It would seem most natural, from the story as it stands, to suppose that the season was the springtime, and that the hour was noonday; but, however that may be, it is obvious that there were within the eye-sweep of Jesus and His disciples the signs of seed-sowing on the one hand and of ripening harvest on the other; and that it was by calling attention to these two processes of nature in so close proximity of time and space that Jesus taught the lesson His disciples were shown that even while seed-sowing for one crop was going on in the natural world there might be also a making ready for an ingathering of former crops; so that sowing and reaping should go on together. Then came our Lord’s application of this fact in nature’s sphere. (H. C. Trumbull, D. D.)

Sowing and reaping

The proverb, “One soweth, and another reapeth,” as generally used, suggests that the rewards of labour often fall into hands that have not earned them. The profits of an invention are frequently made by others than the inventor. In diplomacy, as Leicester says, “The hap of some is that all they do is nothing, and ethers that do nothing have all the thanks.” Job could wish himself nothing worse than “Let me sow, and let another eat.” But Christ widens our view; He corrects the selfishness of the individual by fixing his thoughts on humanity, and brings the rewards of eternity to counterbalance the apparent anomalies of time. Consider

I. OUR RELATION TO THE PAST. Every man is born into an inheritance which he had no hand in earning. This distinguishes him from the brute. Instinct makes no progress. Through long millenniums the earth was preparing for man. One species of vegetation after another came and left its deposit. One kind of animals after another left their bones to petrify. Thus stratum after stratum arose.

1. Thus the child of to-day is richer than our own childhood. Take the matter of schoolbooks. The discoveries of one age are confined to the few; in the next they are the creed of the learned; in the third they become the elementary principles of education. What strides have been made in science since Galileo, Newton, and Watt! No child can begin where his father began.

2. The same holds good in religious matters.

II. OUR DUTY TO THE PRESENT. Not to rest in our inherited advantages, but to so add to them as to leave a richer inheritance. The danger of the youth to whom a large fortune has been left

1. In the direction of indolence or prodigality. It is a common remark that the children of wealthy men often come to grief.

2. In the direction of conservatism. The young heir is apt to think that he must be simply a repetition of his father. The same perils attend us in receiving the heritage of the past.

We must, therefore, set ourselves to such work as is in harmony with our generation.

1. In science Franklin went a certain length in the investigation of electricity; but his successors did not rest there. Hence we have through Henry, Morse, Wheatstone, Bell, and Edison, the telephone.

2. The literature of the present is not a reproduction of the past, but an outgrowth.

3. The theology and Church life of to-day are distinctive of to-day. Each age has to meet its own problems, and without drifting from central truths must solve them in its own way. Thus it happens that the leaders of a former generation fail to secure a hearing in the next.

III. OUR JOY IN THE FUTURE. Jesus takes in eternity and gives all workers alike a share in the reward--the reaper for his reaping, the sower for his ploughing. Conclusion:

1. How much there is in this to cheer the desponding labourer. Livingstone seemingly accomplished little in missioning Africa, but he stimulated others to evangelize. Though a man bring only one soul to Christ, he has an interest in all the successes of that soul.

2. This truth is well calculated to keep us humble. The credit is due to God. He gives the increase. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

One soweth, and another reapeth

I. HOW THIS PROVERB WAS VERIFIED IN THE CASE OF THE APOSTLES. The general view is that they went into a moral wilderness, and that planting and sowing were simultaneous. This was not the case.

1. As regards the Jews, the prophets, etc., John and our Lord had sown the seed. The harvest at Pentecost was the result of centuries of seed-sowing, and in preaching Peter was merely putting in the sickle.

2. As regards the heathen the seed had been sown

3. Thus the fields were now white unto harvest, and the apostles reaped where others had sown.

II. HOW IT MAY BE CONTINUALLY VERIFIED AMONGST OURSELVES.

1. Sudden conversions produced by preacher or friend are only the outcome, it may be, of a long series of impressions.

2. An apparently unfruitful ministry may be a preparation for a rich harvest under some successor.

III. THE GRACIOUS ASSURANCE THAT BOTH SOWER AND REAPER SHALL REJOICE TOGETHER. It may make a difference to a man as far as his present comfort is concerned whether he be a sower or a reaper, but none as far as his future is concerned. If he has done his work faithfully he shall have his reward. Moses and the prophets and the Gentile teachers will rejoice with apostles and Christian missionaries; apparently unsuccessful parents and missionaries with those who have spoken effectively. Lesson: Be not weary in well-doing--parents, teachers, preachers--you may see no fruit, but you are sowing good seed. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Sowing the gospel seed

I. THE SOWERS--men, not angels.

1. This seems strange when we consider the grandeur and breadth of the gospel Who is equal to summarizing the truths of the gospel, much less to expounding them?

2. Yet men have ever been entrusted with the gospel--Adam, Noah, Abraham, Melchizedek. On a human body was placed the priestly robe, and he who entered the Holy of Holies was a man. When another order of teachers arose neither Gabriel nor Michael were summoned, but Samuel, Elijah, and Isaiah. And when Christ came He entrusted the gospel not to the heavenly host, but to Galilean fishermen.

3. There is a fitness, however, in this. The fields are those of earth, the harvest is of men, therefore the sowers and reapers must be not angelic, but human. Knowing their weakness and fallibility, ministers may well shrink; but if they forsake the plough angels will not direct it along the furrow. And with all their fallibility they being men can weep with men’s sorrows and partake of their joys, which angels cannot. The appeal of an angel would be more powerful, that of man more pathetic. No angel could speak of human sympathies and call to remembrance the pathos of a mother’s prayers.

II. THE MAGNITUDE OF THEIR WORK.

1. The seed--the Word of God.

2. The field.

3. The personal feebleness of the instruments.

II. THE GREATNESS OF THEIR REWARD.

1. God-given help to do what they have to do.

2. The sympathy of those who are benefited by their labours.

3. The present benediction of the great Master.

4. Eternity of blessedness in heaven. (R. B. East, M. D.)

Spiritual harvest

I. THE SALVATION OF SINNERS IS THE WILL OF GOD AND THE DELIGHT OF HIS SON JESUS CHRIST. This is manifest from

1. The provision He has made for effecting it.

2. The place it has borne in the eternal counsels.

3. The preparation of infinite wisdom and almighty power in overruling the affairs of the world.

4. The succession of great men inspired to fore-announce it.

5. The manner in which it was carried into execution by the incarnation and cross of Christ.

II. THOUGH THE GOSPEL IS AT ALL TIMES NECESSARY FOR SALVATION, CERTAIN PERIODS ARE PECULIARLY FAVOURABLE TO IT.

1. Always necessary because

2. Sometimes specially seasonable.

III. WHEN SUCH A PERIOD ARRIVES CHRISTIANS ARE CALLED UPON TO EMBRACE IT AS A HARVEST TIME. Such a seasonal. Must be immediately embraced. Its duties cannot be put off to a more convenient season. It is now or never. Men are crying for the words of life. If we refuse, the curse of Meter will be ours.

2. Must be diligently pursued: from various considerations.

3. Should be joyfully performed. Harvesting is hard work, but there is much pleasure in it, and it is generally performed with cheerfulness.

IV. BOTH SUCCESS AND REWARD WILL CROWN THE FAITHFUL LABOURER.

1. One of the greatest stimulants to labour is the probability of success, but here success is certain.

2. The almighty influence of the Holy Spirit is behind it.

3. It is assured by the pledged word of the Lord of the harvest. (J. Gwyther, B. A.)

The harvest of heathen souls

I. THE PRINCIPLE OF MISSIONARY EFFORT IMPLIED.

1. This principle combines two apparent opposites: it necessitates the agency of man and preserves the supremacy of God. By the one it precludes man from yielding to the bent of his natural indolence and attaining nothing; by the other it annihilates the unseemly arrogance which would vaunt the arm of flesh as though it could accomplish everything.

2. It furnishes a reply to scepticism which asks, “Why, if God be a perfect agent, does He need man; and why, if man be an imperfect agent, does God employ him?” Lift up your eyes! Though the husbandman has to sow, on God depends the fruitful seasons. Man works for God, God works by man. It is for us to employ, it is for Him to bless the means.

II. THE DUTY ENJOINED. In the natural world we do not expect a harvest without labour, nor without God’s blessing. So Paul must plant and Apollos water, but God giveth the increase. Duty is irrespective of results.

III. THE BENEFIT TO BE CONFERRED Labourers do not depend for their hire on the upspringing of the seed, nor for its quantity or quality. Under all circumstances he is worthy of his hire. But in spiritual husbandry He who employs the sowers can also command the elemental influences. He who engages the reapers can ensure the crop, He therefore who sows not only receives present wages, but “gathereth fruit,” etc. (T. Dale, M. A.)

I. THE DUTY OF ALL WHO POSSESS THE PRECIOUS SEED TO SOW IT.

Missions

1. Our obligation to sow must be in proportion to our estimate of the value of the seed.

2. This obligation affects the Church collectively and individually.

3. It is the accredited indispensable token of union with Christ and of membership in His Church.

II. THE CERTAINY THAT THEY WHO SOW SHALL REAP.

1. “The liberal soul shall be enriched.” “He that watereth others shall himself be watered.” The exercise of grace under one aspect leads to the communication of grace under another.

2. The preciousness of the future reward may be gathered from the excellence of the present.

3. Both are sure. They may be long delayed, but the seed shall spring fresh and vigorous even as Jesus rose triumphant from the grave.

III. OVER WHAT FIELD THE SEED IS TO BE SCATTERED. “The field is the world.”

1. In its widest extent.

2. In its varieties of guilt.

3. In its diversities of promise and prospect.

IV. WHAT HARVEST WE MAY HOPE TO SOW FOR OTHERS, AND WHAT WE MAY CALCULATE ON REAPING FOR OURSELVES.

1. Remember the promise.

2. Remember its fulfilment.

V. THE MANNER IN WHICH WE CAN PROFITABLY PERFORM THE DUTY AND EFFECTUALLY ENSURE THE BENEFIT. Let each do what he can, where he can.

1. Prayerfully.

2. Earnestly.

3. Patiently.

4. Believingly. (T. Dale, M. A.)

The passion for immediate results

Men read what the Missionary Herald tells them of the progress of the gospel among the heathen; and there are those that take out their pencils and say: “The whole missionary world numbers so many millions, and there have been about so many hundred people converted by the influence of this amount of capital. That is about tea thousand dollars for one soul. It is rather dear work, ain’t it?” There are such moral arithmeticians that sum up the fruit of moral seed-sowing under arithmetical proportions. But the whole world has been stirred up by the mission cause. I am what I am because Henry Obookiah, from the Sandwich Islands, was taught at the Cornwall School in Connecticut, and in my boyhood came down to my father’s house, and produced an impression on me which has undulated, and propagated, and gone on influencing me. Some of the enthusiasm which I have felt for moral conditions came to me from seeing him. Who can tell what the retroaction of foreign missions is? Who can tell what benefit may be received here from our Western missions? Who can tell what is the effect of sending our abundance to the waste places of our own land, and to the torrid and frigid zones? It stirs up that which is not reportable. Ten thousand more leaves are born every year than the botanist ever sees. Ten thousand times more storms blow on every sea than are ever registered on charts or log-books. (H. Ward Beecher.)

Reaping

Once a vessel bound to a distant part of the world happened to be detained by contrary winds at the Isle of Wight. A minister who was on board went on shore to preach. His text was “Be clothed with humility.” Among his hearers was a thoughtless girl, who had come to display her finery rather than to be instructed. The sermon was the means of her conversion. Her name was Elizabeth Wallbridge, the celebrated “Dairyman’s Daughter,” whose interesting history by Legh Richmond has been the means amongst nearly all peoples of bringing thousands to Christ. (Family Churchman.)

Receiving wages

What wages? Christ had already told them that His own wages were to do the will of God, and to finish His work. Did they want better? They would gather in fruit--the fruit of all His work and travail, of all God’s revelations of Himself from age to age, of all the toil of patriarchs, kings, prophets. These had laboured--they were entering into their labours. They were come in at the end of a period when all things were hastening to their consummation. They would have the reward which all these men had longed for; the reward of seeing God’s full revelation of Himself, of opening the spring of eternal life, of which all might drink together. The divisions of time had nothing to do with an eternal blessing. The sower and reaper would rejoice together. Why might not Jacob, who had given the well, and the newest Samaritan convert who drank of it, share in those pleasures which are at the right hand of Him who is, and was, and is to come? (F. D. Maurice, M. A.)

Large results from humble beginnings

A small bit of rock feels something or other tickling it behind; and through a seam, at last, there trickle out some drops of water, as if the rock itself were shedding tears; and the drops increase; and a rill is formed; and it runs quietly, finding its way, down the declivity. Soon another little rill is met on the road, and they join forces; and a little further down a third is added; and then a fourth, and then a fifth, and so on, till by-and-by they make a plunge through the gorge with spray and thunder; and out comes below the stream, voluble and violent; and down in the meadows it quiets itself, and runs between flowery banks, until a mill catches it and makes it work for its way; and passing through industries it still deepens; other streams break into it here and there towards its mouth; and there the city dwells upon, and navies ride upon it; and in its pride of strength and depth and width and accomplishments, it says, “Who but I?” But that great voluminous river is itself the child of those drops, those trickling rills, those mountain springs. If it had not been for them it would not have existed nor have been nourished. We need not despise, therefore, in any direction, small things. Who can tell what that poor old nurse wrought who cared for the orphan child of her mistress that was gone, crooning songs to the child, telling her fairy stories, and making an empyrean above her? Setting loose in that little child all the germs of poetry, she fashioned its mind; and her humble, unconscious work will never be washed out; nor will the colour be taken from it; it will go on and be part and parcel of the child, if it lives to be fifty or a hundred years old. When the child has come to mature womanhood they will say: “Well, were you not brought up in your babyhood by that old nurse?” “Yes; she was a nice old creature,” and that is all you say about it; but you are very largely what you are from what she did for you. If the throbbing of her heart sets yours to throbbing more, if the outlook of her imagination threw open the windows of yours, she, I might almost say, was your creator; and though she was so humble and powerless, without learning or genius, nevertheless you were so plastic that her influence moulded you. (H. Ward Beecher.)

The penalties of neglect

To what will the wilful neglect of seed-time on the part of the whole community be equivalent but to an act of national suicide? If, again, a distant colony were dependent on the surplus produce of the land that sent it forth, and yet enough were purposely sown only for home consumption, what would such conduct be but an act of national fratricide? It would be to exhibit the maliciousness of Cain, and to bring the curse of a brother’s blood upon that guilty nation. Like the first--like an act of national suicide--would be the crime of the Church, which is bound to “love the Lord her God with all her heart,” did she not take care to provide sufficient ministration of God’s Word throughout the circumference of her immediate domestic responsibility; and, like the second--like an act of national fratricide--would her crime be, if, forgetful of the second principle of action, “thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” she made no proportionate effort and application to extend similar ministrations in those her missionary stations, which are her colonies, planted in heathen lands, and all around which there is a famine and a perishing, not for want of the natural sustenance, but of “the bread that cometh down from heaven,” and which alone “ giveth life unto the world.” (T. Dale, M. A.)

Herein is that saying true.--The frequent use of proverbial sayings in the New Testament deserves notice. It shows the value of proverbs, and the importance of teaching them to children and young people. A pointed proverb is often remembered when a long moral lesson is forgotten. (Bp. Ryle.)

Sowing and reaping

A ragged school teacher was telling a friend in Philadelphia that he was afraid he would have to discontinue the school, as he had seen no fruit whatsoever of his labours. At the moment a little ragged boy came up and asked him if he would come and see his brother who was very ill. He went with the boy into one of the lowest streets in the city. On entering the room he was struck with the supreme misery of it. Going up to the suffering boy, the teacher said, “My poor boy, what can I do for you? Shall I get you a doctor?” “Oh, no, captain,” said the boy, “but tell me, tell me, did you say that Jesus died for everybody, that He gave Himself for me?” “Yes, I did.” “And that He will receive any one who comes to Him? Yes, indeed I did, dear boy.” “Well, I know that since He gave Himself for me, that He will receive me.” And then the boy dropped back on his bundle of rags--dead.

Sowing and reaping

From the labours of ministers that are dead and gone much good fruit may be reaped by the people that survive them, and by the ministers that succeed them. John the Baptist and those that assisted him had laboured, and the disciples of Christ entered into their labours. (Matthew Henry.)

Sowing and reaping--missions

A seaman, on returning home to Scotland after a cruise in the Pacific, was asked: “Do you think the missionaries have done any good in the South Sea Islands?” “I will tell you a fact which speaks for itself,” said the sailor. “Last year I was wrecked on one of those islands, where I knew that, eight years before, a ship was wrecked and the crew murdered; and you may judge how I felt at the prospect before me--if not dashed to pieces on the rocks, to survive for only a more cruel death. When day broke we saw a number of canoes pulling for our ship, and were prepared for the worst. Think of our joy and wonder when we saw the natives in English dress, and heard some of them speak in the English language. On that very island the next Sunday we heard the gospel preached. I do not know what you think of missions, but I know what I do.”

Sowing and reaping

Mr. M was for many years a pious and indefatigable Sunday-school teacher. It pleased God to call him to suffer severe affliction and to an early death. During his long affliction though it was painful even to see him walk, he went to his class; nor would he resign as long as he could possibly reach the school. “It was my happiness,” says a writer in the Teachers Magazine, “to visit him during his trying illness, and the calmness of his mind under affliction, and his triumphant departure, I never shall forget; nor shall I cease to remember another circumstance. Turning to me, and with something like despondency, he said, ‘Well, I believe I never was useful as a Sunday-school teacher.’ Some short time after his death, I visited a Sunday School in a small town some distance from that in which Mr. M. had lived. I soon recognized among the teachers one who had been a Sunday scholar; I conversed with him, and found he was a professor of religion, and a member of a Christian Church in that town. I congratulated him upon his employment, and inquired by what means he had been led to love the Lord Jesus Christ. He replied, ‘The advice which my teacher again and again gave me, led me to reflection and to prayer, and I hope was the means of leading me to Christ.’ ‘And who was that teacher?’ He replied, ‘Mr. M.’ Yes, that same dear friend who, upon a dying bed, said he believed he had never been useful as a Sunday-school teacher.” (New Cyclopaedia.)

Sowing and reaping--tracts

A clergyman some time since, as he was riding, passed some young females near a school-house, and dropped from his carriage two tracts, which he had previously marked. Some time afterwards he was conversing with a young woman with reference to her spiritual state, and found her rejoicing in the hope of pardoned sin. He inquired the history of her religious feelings, and she traced them to a tract dropped by a traveller, which was manifestly one of the two above referred to. He was afterwards called to visit another young woman on a sick-bed, whose mind was calm and composed in view of death, which the event proved was near at hand. She traced her first serious impressions to the circumstance of two tracts being dropped by a traveller, one of which, she said, was taken up by her cousin, and the other by herself; “and now,” said she, “we are hoping both in Christ.” She had retained the tract as a precious treasure, and, putting her hand under her pillow, showed it to the clergyman, who immediately recognized the marks he had written upon it. (New Cyclopaedia.)

Other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours

I. TRACE THE STREAM OF PROVIDENTIAL EVENTS FROM THE BEGINNING SO FAR AS THEY BEAR ON THE SPIRITUAL CULTURE OF THE WORLD. The fall, the first promise, animal sacrifice, Enoch, the deluge, the colonization of the world through the confusion of tongues, the call of Abraham, and the preparation of the Jews in Egypt for their inheritance, idolatry exposed and punished by the plagues, the establishment and mission of the Jewish nation, the captivity, restoration and dispersion, the function of Persia, Greece, and Rome, the fulness of time, the papal apostacy, Luther, the Puritans, Methodism, missions, Sunday Schools, Bible Society, education.

II. NOTICE SOME OF THOSE EXISTING EVENTS WHICH HARMONIZE WITH THOSE OF PAST TIMES, AND ARE CONNECTED WITH THE HAPPINESS OF MANKIND.

1. Consider what is doing within the Church. It has awakened out of sleep. All denominations have their missionary society. All are talking about the coming of Christ.

2. Consider what is doing without the boundaries of the Church. Many, without thinking or meaning it, are contributing to the spread of the knowledge of Christ.

III. STATE THE DUTIES WHICH THE YOUNG OWE TO THIS GREAT CAUSE, AND THE WAY IN WHICH THEY MAY FURTHER IT.

1. You may do this by your own personal religion. Give yourselves first to the Lord, then to His Church.

2. Maintain a deep conviction of the importance of man’s spiritual interests, and of the necessity of religion to promote them. Knowledge will not save the world, only Christ can do that.

3. Maintain right views of the importance of truth in the conversion of the world, The divinity of Christ, His atonement, regeneration by the Holy Ghost.

4. Let all your efforts be carried on in the spirit of religion.

IV. PRESENT SOME MOTIVES TO URGE THE YOUNG TO DEVOTE THEMSELVES FULLY TO THIS CAUSE.

1. Think of the nature of the cause itself.

2. Think of the advantages you possess.

3. Remember that it remains with you whether the missionary cause shall be transmitted to posterity. (J. A. James.)

Personal effort must be encouraged

A little maid directed a great prince to Elisha. Our Saviour, by instructing one poor woman, spread instruction to a whole town. Philip preached the gospel to a single gentleman, in his chariot upon the road; and he not only received it himself, but carried it into his own country and propagated it there. This woman could say but little of Christ, but what she did say she spoke feelingly. “He told me all that ever I did.” Those are most likely to do good that can tell what God has done for their souls. (Matthew Henry.)

Mutual dependence

We enter upon life weak, unconscious infants, depending every moment on other eyes to watch for us, and other hands to minister to us, while we kindle in their hearts the most powerful emotions. But not less dependent are we on our fellow-creatures for our continuance in life from the cradle to the grave. There is not a thread of clothing which covers our body, not a luxury that is placed on our table, not an article which supplies the means of labour, not one thing which is required of us as civilized beings, but involves the labours of others on our behalf; while by the same law we cannot but contribute to their well-being. The cotton which the artizan weaves or wears has been cultivated by brothers beneath a tropical sun and possibly beneath a tyrant’s lash. The tea he drinks has been gathered for him by brothers in distant China. A mother writes a letter to her son in some distant spot in India, and conveys it in silence to the postoffice, perhaps thinking only when she may receive a reply. But how much is done before that letter reaches its destination! The hands of unknown brethren will receive and transmit it; rapid trains will convey it over leagues of railways; splendid steamships will sail with it. It is watched day and night, through calm and hurricane; and precious lives are risked to keep it in security until, in safety, after months of travel, it is delivered from the mother’s hand into that of her boy. (Family Churchman.)

And many of the Samaritans of that city believed

The first female missionary

I. HER PREVIOUS CHARACTER.

1. Of dissolute morals. Antecedent wickedness no barrier to grace, given repentance and faith (Isaiah 1:18; Isa_55:7-9; Micah 7:18; Mt 1 John 1:7-9). Examples: Manasseh (2 Kings 31:16; 2 Chronicles 33:12-15); Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:1-18); Philippian jailer Acts 16:34), and no disqualification for after service.

2. Of lively understanding. The success of the gospel not dependent on the intelligence of its preachers, but high mental endowments no misfortune. Paul and Luke have their place as well as Andrew and Peter:

3. Of religious inclinations. Divine grace often keeps alive in souls seemingly going downwards to perdition--a spark of goodness that only waits the Spirit’s breath to fan it into flame.

II. HER INSPIRING MOTIVE.

1. Not mere excitement. Her love and novelty an unsatisfactory hypothesis, since she grounds her invitation on a moral basis (verse 29).

2. Not conscious peace. She was scarcely yet rejoicing in the assurance of salvation. But

3. Simple faith. She believed Christ to be the Messiah. It was impossible, therefore, for her to be silent. She acted like David (Psalms 66:16; Psa_116:10), the apostles (Acts 4:20), Paul (2 Corinthians 4:13), the Mark 1:45).

III. Her glowing zeal (verse 28).

1. The trivial action..

2. The important revelation.

IV. HER GLADSOME MESSAGE (verse 29).

1. The startling announcement. The language of exaggeration contained a truth. Christ had not only shown His acquaintance with details of personal history, as in the case of Nathanael (John 1:48), and with the quality of her spirit, as with Peter’s (John 1:42), but had discovered her to herself so as to enable her to realize her guiltiness before God (cf. Luke 5:8)
, and her need of that living water of which she afterwards drank.

2. The joyous question. An interrogation not of doubt, but of faith. She spoke as if she believed not for joy (Luke 24:41). Her adroitness is worthy of all imitation.

3. The eager invitation. Compare Christ’s address to Andrew and John John 1:39; cf. Psalms 34:8; John 7:17).

V. HER WONDERFUL SUCCESS (John 7:30; Joh_7:39; Joh_7:41).

1. The extent of it.

2. The reason of it.

Lessons:

1. The duty of those who know the truth to publish it (John 17:18,Matthew 5:16; Mat_10:8; Acts 5:20; Romans 10:14-15).

2. The place and power of female agency in the Church, e.g., Mary Luke 1:26-38), Elizabeth (Luke 1:6), Anna (Luke 2:37), Dorcas (Acts 9:36), Lydia (Acts 16:14), Priscilla (Acts 18:26), etc.

3. The adaptation of the gospel to the highest needs of man (Isaiah lit. 7; Ezekiel 47:8; Luke 1:78-79; John 8:32; Joh_12:50; Romans 1:16).

4. The certainty that all nations will yet be obedient unto the faith Psalms 2:8; Psa_72:8; Isaiah 11:9; Daniel 2:35; Matthew 28:18; Romans 1:5; Philippians 2:11; Revelation 11:15). (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

Faith

I. IN ITS NATURE.

1. Testimony.

2. Conviction (John 4:41). Their faith advanced beyond trust in the woman’s word.

3. Experience. “Know.”

II. IN ITS OBJECTS.

1. The word of Christ (see John 4:47-53).

2. The promise of God (Matthew 8:7). Faith in the promises makes the future present, and the heirship possession.

3. The work of Christ (John 4:42).

4. The Person of Christ.

III. IN ITS RESULTS.

1. Its effects on this occasion.

2. How it grew: by stages.

3. Its issues (see Acts 8:6-25). (J. Gill.)

Testimony and experience

I. HUMAN TESTIMONY IS FREQUENTLY MADE THE MEANS OF PRODUCING FAITH IN MEN’S HEARTS. A large number owe their conversion to the personal and practical testimony of others. To encourage others to testify note that this was that of

1. A woman. A woman was the founder of the Church in Samaria; a woman was the first convert in Europe. Let none of our sisters, therefore, refrain from giving their testimony.

2. A sinful woman. Now the very life which had else been so just a cause for silence became an impelling motive for witness-bearing. The more mischief we have done, the more good we should try to do. The chief of sinners became the chief of apostles.

3. Her testimony was personal, and that was the secret of her power. She did not discuss or quote the opinion of others, as some preachers do. If we wish to win souls there is nothing like telling them what the Lord hath done for our souls.

4. Her testimony was delivered very earnestly. If our sermons are icicles they are not likely to melt the ice in your minds. If in speaking to a man you treat your conversion as commonplace, or aim at his conversion as though it was a matter that didn’t much signify, you might as well be silent.

5. Notice the judiciousness of her testimony. She did not say, “I am sure He is the Christ.” If you positively assert a thing, it is very likely some one will deny it, although they would draw the same inference if left alone. In fishing for souls you need as much judgment as in angling. We must be wise to win souls.

6. Observe the result. Many believed because of the woman’s speech. Her heart was in it, and therefore God blessed her.

7. Your not believing in Jesus does not arise from want of testimony. You have had the best testimony--of a mother, a wife, a minister.

II. FAITH MAY ARISE APART FROM THE TESTIMONY OF MEN. When you have borne testimony to a man, and he doesn’t yield to it, don’t despair of him. God has other ways of working besides the testimony of His servants.

1. Some of the Samaritans who had not received the testimony of the woman believed because of His own word. We have God’s Word amongst us now, and it will work in hearts quickened by the Spirit to remember what they learned in the Sabbath school.

2. Sickness, poverty, and other ills are God’s servants, and sin itself has led men to the Saviour.

III. PERSONAL EXPERIENCE ECLIPSES HUMAN TESTIMONY.

1. It is far more convincing.

2. More essential. A doctor’s medicine may have overwhelming testimonials, but that will do no good unless you take it.

3. More complete. Testimony may tell you something about Christ, but not much compared with what you may learn by going to Him yourself. The Queen of Sheba did not learn half of what she saw.

4. More enduring. What you receive from others you may give up, but only experience can make you faithful unto death.

5. More persuasive to others. This woman had first of all a personal experience herself. In conclusion. It is a serious thing to reject the personal witness of others, but it is false not to try for yourself whether Jesus is what He professes to be. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The world’s redemptive faith

I. ITS OBJECT. Christ.

1. He thoroughly knows all pertaining to human life (John 4:29; Joh_4:39).

2. He is susceptible to human appeals (John 4:40).

3. He is the Restorer of mankind (John 4:42).

II. ITS GROUNDS.

1. The initiatory faith. This is built on testimony (John 4:39). In their initial faith they accepted two things

2. The consummating faith (John 4:41). This faith was

Closing incidents

I. THE TWOFOLD BASIS OF ALL RELIGIOUS BELIEF.

1. The evidence of faith illustrated in the message of the woman, which elicited an unhesitating assent to the trustworthiness of the tale.

2. The evidence of sight obtained by personal converse. Of these two the first alone remains; but it is well to remember that the faith of many was kindled not by the irresistible testimony, but by that which we deem the less satisfactory.

II. MEN CRAVE FOR THE FAITH WHICH COMES THROUGH SIGHT, like Thomas, forgetting Christ’s benediction on those who have not seen and have believed. That higher blessedness is ours.

III. THE SUPERIOR EFFICACY OF PREACHING TO MIRACLE. In Judaea Christ did many miracles, yet no man received His testimony. Here He did no miracles, He simply spoke the living word, and multitudes believed. It was the same at Pentecost; and now while the temporary and miraculous agency has ceased the truly efficacious still remains. “If they hear not Moses and the prophets,” etc.

IV. THE RECEPTION OF CHRIST’S WORDS LEADS TO THE WELCOME OF CHRIST’S PERSON (John 4:40). It was a blessed and transient visit. Those who forfeited the opportunity of the hearing Him forfeited it for ever. There are tarry days of Christ in the soul; when sickness, bereavement, trial brings Him within the Shechem gates. Have we made the most of the season?

V. THE TESTIMONY OF FAITH CONFIRMED BY EXPERIENCE. This inward, subjective evidence is more convincing than that of the schools. It is the soul testing the remedies of the Great Physician.

VI. THE FUTURE OF THE SAMARITAN WOMAN AND CHURCH. Cornelius a Lapide tells us that the woman’s name was Photina, that she journeyed to Carthage, proclaiming in that vast city salvation through Christ; and that after an honoured martyrdom her head was conveyed to Rome, Where it is still preserved as a holy relic in the Basilica of St. Paul’s: moreover, that the 20th of March, the day of her death, is still held in reverence in the Roman martyrology. As for the Church (see Acts 8:14-25; Act_9:31), founded under circumstances of such interest.by this wayside fountain, it was not suffered to languish or decay. A Christian bishop, Germanus, has his name appended among the subscriptions to the councils of Ancyra and Nice, and so late as the middle of the fifth century his successor signs in the Synod of Jerusalem. Alas, however, subsequently to this, the old intolerance and hatred of the Samaritan towards the Jew was transferred to the Christian. During the reign of the Emperor Zeno savage atrocities were perpetrated by fire and sword. The Church at Shechem, now called Neapolis, was invaded during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist; the consecrated emblems, torn from the bishop’s hands, were subjected to shameful indignity, and he himself frightfully wounded in his effort to prevent the sacrilege. The emperor espousing the cause of the injured, drove the aggressors from their sacred mountain, and a church in honour of the Virgin Mary crowned the heights of Gerizim. Under the succeeding reign of Justinian, the turbulent Samaritan tribes made an ineffectual attempt to recover their lost sanctuary. They destroyed by fire five Christian temples within Neapolis, subjecting many to torture and death; but they were overpowered by the Roman troops. The brick walls which surrounded the Church on Gerizim were further strengthened; and, indeed, it is conjectured that it is a portion of this second wall or outer fortress, whose ruins survive at the present day. Shechem once more emerges from obscurity in the time of the Crusades. An appanage to the Latin bishopric of Samaria, its revenues reverted to the abbot and canons of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. But unable to escape being involved in these fierce wars, it was sacked and plundered twice by the infuriated army of Saladin, and after a varied alternation of fortune, it finally fell into the hands of the Mohammedans, where it continues at this day. (J. R.Macduff, D. D.)

Success in unexpected quarters

The historian seems to put an emphasis upon their being Samaritans. These had not that reputation for religion that the Jews had: yet the Jews, who saw Christ’s miracles draw Him from them, while the Samaritans, who saw not His miracles nor shared in His favours, invited Him to them. The proof of the Gospel’s message is not always according to the probability. (Matthew Henry.)

For the saying of the woman.

Woman as a Christianizer

I. WHEREIN IS WOMAN NOT DIFFERENT FROM MAN.

1. Certainly not as a sinner, nor as a sinner saved. Not in the plane which her averaged powers give her.

2. To her as to man belong the superiorities of the intellect, the aspirations of the Holy Ghost, the sublimities of faith or genius, the openings into the realms of prayer.

3. But all these require the human activities as their occasions.

4. Hence it must be that now as once Jesus is best pleased with Mary’s, whose activities take higher regions and aim at the better part, than with Martha’s, who lose all in the wearying round of petty cares and fitful fashions.

5. Spiritual service being the requirement of growth, and woman having an open sea to those elevations upon the condition of toil, spiritual service is her high privilege.

II. WHEREIN DOES WOMEN DIFFER FROM MAN? There is an unlikeness radical and essential. Man excels in outerness. He is stronger persistently than woman, although in a spasm woman is endowed with greater strength. Man is moral, woman emotional; the one rational, the other affectionate; the one is fibre, flax, and tow, the other silken. Man in method is decisive, woman incisive; what one would do by force the other would do by tact. From man as from Rome, we deduce principles and bring laws; from woman as from Greece we derive nice adaptations and graces; and so from both blending their contributions to the Redeemer’s cause we look for a many-sided evangelism. Difference is the law of life.

III. Let us now turn to THE WORK TO BE DONE and ask

1. What ideals of character does Christianity seek to establish? It seeks to bring into human character faith, liberty, heart purity, heart power, to bring about a reconciliation on the basis of love. Christianity would not break into hearts by mere force.

2. What has Christianity done already? The John the Baptist and purely masculine part of the work. The law of love has been from the beginning, but because of the hardness of heart, the bill of divorcement has seemed to show Christianity with the Christ out.

3. What is the character of the work to be done? After war and its chaos, peace, order, gentleness, conciliation. Lights have been carried by masculine sacrifice and heroism into forty centres of India, it remains for feminine affection and tact to carry them into 10,000,000 Zenanas around each centre.

IV. WOMAN IS PECULIARLY ADAPTED TO THIS PART OF THE WORK OF CHRISTIANIZING THE EARTH. The kind of work on hand calls for those elements which distinguish her. The old question, “would it not be unfeminine to meet mocking crowds and bear severe travel?” lose all their force by the absence of former obstacles.

V. WOMAN’S SPHERES. She does not have to seek them; they come to her.

1. All civil and ecclesiastical organizations grow out of the family. In all the earth mothers hold none but Christ’s own. The Millennium is suspended on two hooks.

2. Woman pioneered Sunday-school work. Hannah Ball was in the field before Robert Raikes, and now of the teachers in the United States, 84,000 are women, 42,000 men.

3. In the charities of life woman can do more than man, or than Government as a Christianizer: witness Florence Nightingale and the Red Cross sisters, and Grace Darling. What does the Scripture say of their predecessors? That they “were well” reported of,” “received strangers,” “washed the disciples’ feet,” “aged women as mothers,” “diligently followed good works,” “laboured much in the Lord.”

4. It was women who led the Holy Crusade against the liquor traffic in America, and it is women who arc doing the most effective Home Mission work among the poor and depraved.

5. As to foreign missions, the testimony is strong that “nothing but the hand of infinite love through the agency of Christian women can work out the full and final redemption of India.”

6. But shall women preach? Let the hearers decide. Perhaps woman is needed now in the pulpit to call ministers back to telling “the old, old story.”

7. Let but Christ’s light fall upon woman’s heart and intuition and her “mission”--she will find it--anywhere. (N. H. Axtell.)

The ministry of woman.

I. WOMAN IS EVER FOREMOST IN ALL GOOD. This is but fitting since she was first in transgression; but it is a fact, as witnessed by all historians and travellers, charity has been her vocation from the days of Dorcas to those of Elizabeth Fry. “The Sisters of Mercy” were the stars that relieved the darkness of the Middle Ages. Paul put Priscilla before Aquila. The most faithful friends of Christ were women. A woman watched by His cradle; woman stood weeping by His cross; a woman was first at the sepulchre; and from that time to this woman has most firmly laid hold upon the crown of martyrdom, and been amongst the most devoted and dauntless missionaries for Christ.

II. WOMAN HAS ALWAYS MOST FAITH. “Oh woman, great is thy faith,” the Saviour is saying still. If man be confident, woman is confiding. This is her weakness and her strength. By this she fell and by this she rises to newness of life. All churches prove this. Christ’s mother was His first disciple. Few are the Christian women that dishonour their profession or deny their faith.

III. WOMAN DOES NOT SPEAK OFFICIALLY. Had one of the apostle’s said, “Come, see a man,” etc., he would not have had such success as this unofficial woman.

IV. WOMAN DOES SPEAK MORE TENDERLY. In her tone of voice there is the key to unlock the human heart. It is not fit for strife or controversy, but for persuasion and consolation. And wherefore has she the larger share of sorrow? To kindle sympathy. Her’s also is a mother’s love not for her children only, but for mankind. The congregation wants a son of thunder, society a daughter of consolation.

V. WOMAN HAS SPECIAL INFLUENCE OVER MAN, whether for good or for evil. Her moral force is greater than all the physical force of government.

VI. WOMAN OWES MUCH TO CHRIST. To her the Gospel brought the promise and possession of the life that now is. In every country in proportion to its Christianity she has her rights and the pure joys of life. Owing so much her love to Christ should be deep, and her work for Christ energetic. But what can she do?

1. Are you a wife? If your husband be not a Christian you have to make him in love with religion, or if he be one build him up in the faith; and knowing that he has many temptations from home, see that he has none at home.

2. Are you a mother? No one but God has such power over your infant as you, and if your children are grown up, and are beyond a mother’s authority, you may yet reach them by a mother’s love.

3. Are you a sister? Your love is second in power to a mother’s.

4. Are you a mistress? A woman’s kindness will have double weight from you. Your servants have souls for whom you are responsible.

5. Are you a servant? “Adorn the doctrine of God your Saviour in all things.” If you cannot speak about religion to your employers you can live it. (J. De Kewer Williams.)

Great results from small causes.

How often will a small cause set in motion a train of events that will issue in universal good, May I be allowed to recapitulate what, I have no doubt, some of you have either heard or read before? About two hundred years ago a travelling pedlar with his bundle on his back entered a Shropshire village. He called at a farm-house and offered for sale a copy of the “Bruised Reed” by Richard Sibbes. The farmer bought the book, and the farmer’s son read it, and through it found salvation in Christ. That farmer’s son was none other than Richard Baxter. Baxter wrote a book called the “Everlasting Rest of the Saints,” which was read by a young man, who was led by it to consecrate himself to the service of God. That young man was Dr. Doddridge. Doddridge in his turn wrote a book called “The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul.” That book was diligently perused by another young man, who was led by it to a life of holiness and widespread influence. That young man was William Wilberforce, the liberator of the slave. In his turn he wrote a book entitled “A Practical View of Christianity,” the study of which was blessed to the conversion of Legh Richmond. Again, Legh Richmond wrote a book called “The Dairyman’s Daughter,” a book blessed to the salvation of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Englishmen all over the world. Let us therefore take encouragement, and labour in season and out of season, for we know not which will prosper, this or that. (J. C. Jones, D. D.)

Conviction

Conviction lies at the root of all consistent action. A mechanical genius conceives an idea. It is as clear as noon-day in his mind, but that idea is embodied, he must believe in the possibility of its embodiment; and just in proportion to the strength of his conviction as to its practicability and success, will he be consistent and earnest in working it out. Columbus conceived the existence of a continent; the conception grew into a conviction; the conviction was followed by consistent action, and that action was crowned with success by the discovery of America. A man believes that an observance of certain physical laws is conducive to health, and be acts accordingly. Another believes that obedience to certain moral laws is necessary to a good character, self-respect and peace, am[ he obeys those laws. Christianity, then, by making man’s pardon and happiness hinge on faith acts in accordance with the laws of his mental and moral being. A man, e.g., must believe in God or he will never serve Him; in sin or He will never see the necessity of a Mediator. “As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.” Convictions are the springs of actions, and actions make the man. (H. Tozer.)

He abode there two days.--According to the unwritten law of hospitality in the East, the stranger who enters your house or your tent, and touches any part of your property in claim of protection, is entitled to protection as your guest for three days and a part of the fourth day, sufficient to permit him to get safely off your territory. If a Bed’wy enters a strange camp, and touches the tent-ropes, he becomes by that act a protected guest, for the same period, of the Arab whose tent-ropes he has touched. This unwritten law of hospitality is honourably observed. Our Lord, as the protected guest of the Samaritans, could have remained in the house of His host, according to custom, for three days. If He hod desired to stay longer among the Samaritans, He could then have changed His lodging to the next house, where He would have been entitled to stay for three days longer; and He could have gone on changing from house to house, until He wished to go away. The three days’ limit, however, does not bind the host not to give more than three days’ hospitality. On the contrary, a host may press a guest to stay for weeks and months; and if the guest is too polite to leave without the host’s permission, he can generally get that permission by calling for things which he knows the host does not possess. (S. S. Times.)


Verse 41-42

John 4:41-42

Many more believed, because of His word, and said … This is indeed the Christ.

Christianity adapted to man’s moral constitution

The counterpart of this narrative at a missionary station may easily be imagined. The Missionary says, “Come, learn the missionary doctrine which has made me happy. I know it to be Divine.” The natives are induced to listen. As they grow familiar with evangelical doctrine it gains their heart. Although they cannot estimate the evidence, they believe because they have tasted and handled of the word of God.

I. UNLESS THE MISSIONARY CAN CONFINE IN THE INHERENT POWER OF THE GOSPEL HE IS HELPLESS.

1. The heathen can neither appreciate your facts, nor understand your mode of reasoning upon them. To the contemplative Brahmin, or cunning Chinese, your inductive reasoning is as unintelligible as is the subtle arguments of the Plantonic philosopher or the medieval schoolman to you.

2. But if you had crossed that chasm and learned to think as they think you would be destitute of the materials of demonstration. Upon the knowledge they possess to establish the authenticity and transmission of your sacred books appears a hopeless task.

3. And even if you had satisfied them of this the appeal must be made to miracles, and it would fail where they are, as the heathen suppose, so common; and the idea of a miracle authenticating a doctrine would be unintelligible to an Hindoo whose presumption is that the splendour of Deity shines more in good doctrine than in wonderful power.

4. Of the roll of prophecy we cannot read a word to a people whose history is confined to their own legendary tales.

5. As to the internal evidence this requires a more careful examination than you can expect, unless you can present an object of surpassing value which shall prepossess the mind in its favour.

6. The only serviceable instrument, therefore, is the Cross in its saving, all-conquering power.

7. We may be reminded of the virtues of Christians, but we cannot, alas! use that when crime has been perpetrated by professing Christians.

II. THE GOSPEL ITSELF IS SO APPROPRIATE TO THE MORAL CONSTITUTION OF MAN--APPEARS SO LIKE TRUTH--AS TO CONCILIATE A FAVOURABLE RECEPTION, AND PRODUCE CONVICTION, WHERE IT DOES NOT OFFER DEMONSTRATION. This is extremely probable on noticing the purpose it is intended to accomplish. It is intended for all men; it is an ample provision of mercy for our fallen world. It is intended only for man; angels are above, demons below its reach. But, leaving presumptive evidence, consider a few of the more important doctrines in their relation to the wants of men.

1. The Gospel is proposed as a revelation from God. Against the notion of a revelation there is no prejudice whatever; it is the favourite doctrine of mankind. Men have never been content with so much knowledge of God as may be derived from His works, but have always yearned for some more direct communication of His will. Hence, astrology, dreams, divination, sacred books. As the voice of God was the first he ever heard (in Eden) man still turns towards it a most attentive and listening ear. Revelation was the language of His infancy, and its tones after the lapse of ages and in the far country still come sweet as music to his heart. The prepos-sessions of these millions, therefore, are in your favour; they are anxiously seeking revelations, but alas! like Saul at Endor. And at Endor will you let them die? Say to these wretched devotees prostrate at the altar of “an unknown God.”--“Him whom ye ignorantly worship, declare we unto you.”

2. By the Gospel “life and immortality are brought to light.” There is no doctrine that the mind of man is so ready to receive. The search after God is a germ of it which only requires to be sanctified in order to its development. Virtue by its hope, and guilt by its terrors, attest it. Love of posthumous fame and the longing for immortality are its harbingers. Preach, then, this favourite doctrine, and as you tell the sinner he is immortal, you may hear a full, quick response from his heart.

3. If the doctrine of immortality flatter the complacency of man, the doctrine of his inherent corruption mortifies his pride, and unless the heart be girt closely round with self-righteousness, this doctrine is yet armed with the mighty power of conviction. Under the ministry of Jesus, publicans and sinners, rather than Pharisees, pressed into the kingdom. So now, the appeal to the moral law will suffice; it requires no demonstration. The inevitable consequence is the conviction of sin. Then, go speak with a friendly voice of sin, and they will understand every word; of pardon, and their voice will brighten at the prospect; as Jesus when He said, “Come unto Me all ye that labour,” etc.

4. Closely connected with this doctrine is that of the general judgment. It corresponds with many presentiments of the sinner’s heart. Unless the religious feeling be extirpated, in every man’s bosom is a tribunal before which his thoughts and actions are arranged, and acquitted or condemned. What is this but a premonition of the final assize! These presentiments may not induce the sinner to accept the Christian doctrine, but they will ensure attention, prepare the mind, and the probability, or possibility of judgment may be quite as effective as the certainty.

5. We must now pass on to the doctrine of salvation by Christ. Man is disturbed and perplexed by sin and is afraid to approach a Holy God. Hence, in order to avert His displeasure, man has indulged in sacrifice. The stern maxim is deeply inscribed in the heart of man as expounded by his history, “without the shedding of blood,” etc. To such your missionaries preach “Christ crucified.” They address hearers prepossessed in favour of the doctrine of propitiation. To the guilty conscience there is in “Behold the Lamb of God” something more cheering and consolating than all the sanguinary rites of heathenism. Man’s own religion makes exorbitant demands; yours offers an abundant supply; his god demands a sacrifice; yours presents one. Conclusion: Such, then, is Christianity; it rises in solitary grandeur above all the religions of the earth. It has no affinity with any local association or national peculiarity, but is equally adapted to man, civilized or savage, in the pole or the tropics. It speaks a language which all can understand, in tones which all must feel.

1. Confide in its powers. It cannot fail. It carries with it the Spirit of the living God.

2. Argue from its past achievement its future and final triumphs. (R. Halley, D. D.)

Three more saved

A few days after the wreck of the ill-fated steamer. Central America, which sent hundreds to a watery grave, and plunged the American nation in grief, a pilot-boat was seen, on a fair breezy morning, standing up the bay of New York. The very appearance of the vessel gave token that she was freighted with tidings of no common interest. With every sail set, and streamers flying, she leaped along the waters as if buoyant with some great joy, while the glad winds that swelled her canvas, and the sparkling waves that kissed her sides and urged her on her way, seemed to laugh with conscious delight As she drew nearer, an unusual excitement was visible on her deck, and her captain, running out to the extreme point of the bowsprit, and swing: ing his cap, appeared to be shouting something with intense earnestness and animation. At first the distance prevented his being distinctly understood. But soon, as the vessel came farther into the harbour, the words, “Three more saved! Three more saved!” reached the nearest listeners. They were caught up by the clews of the multitudinous ships that lay anchored around, and sailors sprang wildly into the rigging and shouted, “Three more saved!” They were heard on the wharfs, and the porter threw down his load, and the drayman stopped his noisy cart, and shouted, “Three more saved! “ The tidings ran along the streets, and the news-boys left off crying the latest intelligence, and shouted, “Three more saved!” Busy salesmen dropped their goods, bookkeepers their pens, bankers their discounts, tellers their gold, and merchants, hurrying on the stroke of the last hour of grace to pay their notes, paused in their headlong haste, and shouted, “Three more saved!” (New Cyclopedia of Illustrated Anecdotes.)


Verse 42

John 4:42

Now we believe not because of thy saying: we have heard Him ourselves

The Samaritan’s confession of faith

I.
THE PERSONS FROM WHOM IT CAME. Samaritans out of the covenant, with imperfect notions of God and the Spirit of His worship, yet they were so captivated by Christ’s teachings that they felt He could be no other than the world’s Saviour.

II. THE JUST NOTIONS THEY EXPRESSED OF THE OFFICE OF CHRIST.

1. That He was to effect the salvation of the world, not of their race merely.

2. That He was to save by teaching the true religion. “I know,” said the woman, “He will tell all things”--i.e., concerning the worship of God, the topic of discussion.

3. Thus they must have placed the salvation itself in such a deliverance as these means were fitted to accomplish, viz., in deliverance from ignorance, hypocrisy, and superstition.

4. They were aware that the time was actually come for this Deliverer’s appearance: Jesus said, “The hour cometh and now is.” The woman responded, “I know that the Messiah (lit.)
is now coming.” Learn then

III. THE WARMTH AND ENERGY OF THEIR CONVICTION. “We know.” Conclusion

1. Let every one take encouragement and learn the necessary assiduity in self-improvement.

2. Let no sinner despair of salvation. (Bp. Horsley.)

The progress of faith

I. ITS AWAKENING. Through indirect testimony concerning Christ. In this ease by speaking of the woman; in other cases through the witness born of and to Christ

1. By parents to children.

2. Ministers to congregations.

3. Teachers to scholars.

4. Believers generally to the world.

5. The scriptures to readers.

II. ITS CONFIRMATION. By the direct testimony of Christ Himself. In this case through Christ’s conversation with the Samaritans; in others, by the word of Christ carried home to the individual heart by the Spirit of Christ.

III. ITS ILLUMINATION. In the attainment of a true knowledge of Christ’s person and work. As here, learning led to believing, and believing to knowing; so will all in whom the ear and eye of faith are opened, the taking up of Christ’s word, and through that of Christ Himself, into the heart leads to that higher knowledge of Christ in which consists eternal life John 17:2). Lessons:

1. The value of Christian instruction.

2. The indispensableness of Christ’s own teaching.

3. The insight of faith. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

Christ the Saviour of the world

I. THE STATE OF THE WORLD REQUIRED A SAVIOUR.

II. CHRIST BECAME THE SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD.

1. He was Divinely appointed (John 6:27; Isaiah 61:1-3).

2. He voluntarily assumed the office (1 Timothy 1:15).

III. THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST AS A SAVIOUR.

1. A willing Saviour.

2. A free Saviour.

3. An all-sufficient Saviour. He can save

IV. THE EVIDENCE THAT CHRIST WAS THE SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD. “This is indeed the Christ,” etc. Those who are saved by Christ can give the same testimony, for

1. They have the witness in themselves. They have proved the “gospel to be the power of God to their salvation.”

2. Believers are well assured that Christ was the Saviour of the world, by regarding the internal evidence of the Scriptures.

3. Christianity has survived all the attempts of its enemies to destroy it.

4. It is proved that Christ was the Saviour by a reference to the pages of history.

Application:

1. Let Christians examine and be satisfied with the truth of the gospel.

2. Be thankful for such a Saviour.

3. The rejector of Christ has cause for alarm. (Helps for the Pulpit.)


Verses 43-45

John 4:43-45

And after two days He departed thence, and went into Galilee

Moral usefulness

I.
MAN MAY DO MUCH GOOD WITHIN A SHORT PERIOD. TWO days Jesus spent in Samaria, and what did He accomplish?

1. He broke up religious monotony.

2. Set minds thinking.

3. Won many to His cause.

4. Sowed truth that has yielded glorious harvests in all subsequent ages. Every man can and ought to accomplish great spiritual good in two days--not only by preaching and writing for the press, but by indoctrinating hisfamily with Christly sentiments, and distributing through the neighbourhood the “Bread of Life.” No man will be able to plead the brevity of life for moral uselessness.

II. MAN’S EFFORTS TO DO GOOD ARE OFTEN OBSTRUCTED BY A STUPID PREJUDICE.

1. Christ here states a fact. Of course there are exceptions. Home teachers are not so valued as foreign.

2. There is no good reason for it. The doctrines of a teacher should be independent of his country.

3. There are bad reasons for it. The prejudice springs from jealousy, envy, pride.

4. The prejudice Christ felt was against His usefulness. Prejudices are fetters that enslave the intellect, clouds that obscure the vision, bolts that shut out the truth.

III. MAN’S DESIRE FOR DOING GOOD SHOULD BE THE INSPIRATION OF HIS LIFE. Christ leaves Samaria, confronts a powerful prejudice, and enters Galilee. “What for?” To do good. Such should be the great aim of all men, for two reasons

1. It is the greatest work, enlightening the intellect, liberating the will, purifying the heart, transforming the man into the image of God’s son.

2. It is a most soul recompensing work. It covers a multitude of sins, wins the sympathies of immortal spirits, and secures the approbation of conscience and God. The fruits of all other fields we leave behind at death, but from this field we shall gather sheaves to all eternity.

IV. MAN’S POWER TO DO GOOD INCREASES AS HIS PAST USEFULNESS GETS RECOGNIZED (John 4:45, see chap. 2:23). The Galileans had witnessed His wonders in Jerusalem. What they knew of Him disposed them to accept Him. Man’s power of usefulness is cumulative; the more good he does the more his capacity for usefulness increases. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

A prophet hath no honour in his own country

A twice verified proverb

I. NEGATIVELY (John 4:44).

1. Regarded. Christ had an eye to this maxim when He avoided settling in Nazareth; which showed

2. Exemplified (Luke 4:29; Matthew 13:58). So Christ’s servants find the circles most difficult to impress are those of one’s household and Luke 6:40; Matthew 10:25).

3. Explained.

II. POSITIVELY (Matthew 13:57).

1. Illustrated, as in Judaea (John 2:23; Joh_4:1) and Samaria (verses 39-41), so now in Galilee, the inhabitants accorded Him a joyous welcome. The judgments of strangers are more to be relied on than those of friends. So with the apostles (Acts 13:46; Act_15:3; Act_15:7; Act_15:12; Act_18:6).

2. Justified. The behaviour of the Galileans was not an unreasoning enthusiasm. They had witnessed Christ’s miracles at Jerusalem nine months before (John 2:23), and had apparently then arrived at Nicodemus’s conclusion (John 3:2). It was, therefore, becoming and right that they should meet Him with acclamation. So already has the Gospel effected such marvels that it has a right to a cordial reception.

Lessons:

1. The power of prejudice.

2. The advantage derived by the Gospel from publicity.

3. The ultimate triumph of Christ’s kingdom. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)


Verses 46-54

John 4:46-54

There was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum

The second miracle at Cana

Who shall persuade us that we have not here a true story?

I. Notice SOME OF ITS LESS OBVIOUS POINTS.

1. Mark the word “for” in verse 44. He went into His own country because there was no honour for Him there.

2. Mark the setting of the text. A father pleads for the life of his son. Who would not have thought that the kind Saviour would instantly say, “I will?” Yet He treats the application as a great error. “Except ye see.” He disregards the man and treats him as the mouthpiece of a mistaken multitude, whose prevalent fallacy was to make miracles the condition of belief. No ordinary man would have thought of that answer.

3. This apparent rebuff, however, was only a trial of his constancy. “Like the rest of your nation you set aside Divine holiness, wisdom, and love and fasten on power, You forget how many works of power there are which are not God’s, and not until you have marked the adjuncts--holiness, wisdom, love--can you pronounce them Divine.” The nobleman responded, “Come down, ere my child die,” as though he had said, “I am not thirsting for evidences.” It is the voice of nature, and the God of nature hears it. The trial is ended and the victory is won.

II. NOTICE THE WONDERFUL INTERTWINING OF NATURE AND GRACE IN THE GOSPEL. The Gospel adapts itself to all that is best and beautiful in man’s heart.

1. It has been found in some hour of mortal peril that persons of no religion will invoke the mercy of that Being who, up to that moment, they had denied. Scepties, no doubt, can account for this in the survival of old prejudices. Christians naturally account for it by supposing that a belief in God is a primary principle in man’s nature.

2. As in individuals so in families.

The nobleman of Capernaum

Notice

I. THE PROMPTITUDE WITH WHICH HE APPLIED TO CHRIST AS SOON AS HE HEARD WHERE HE WAS. Would that we all were as anxious for the welfare of our own and other’s souls as this man was for the health of his son’s body. Your souls may be in like danger--at the point of death. Lose not another day.

II. THE ADVANTAGE WE HAVE IN KNOWING THAT WHEN WE DESIRE TO SEEK THE GREAT PHYSICIAN HE IS EVER AT HAND. The nobleman had to travel from Capernaum.

III. THE MANNER IN WHICH THE NOBLEMAN EVINCED HIS BELIEF IN CHRIST’S POWER, AND YET THE IMPERFECT IDEA HE HAD OF THAT POWER. He felt that Christ could heal, but only on the spot. So we are tempted to prescribe to God the place and manner of His blessing, but God is the only judge of what is wise and best. Christ’s rebuke had its due effect and in sending him away He required him to manifest the faith for the feebleness of which he had been rebuked.

IV. THE MANNER IN WHICH JESUS SHOWS MERCY TO SUCH AS CALL UPON HIM.

1. Pity in distress.

2. Firmness in demanding the proof of confidence which it becomes us to show. Christ would not decline because of weak faith, but He would not go to Capernaum.

V. WHAT IS THE DISPOSITION HE REQUIRES US TO SHOW TOWARDS HIM? Simple and implicit reliance on His word and belief in His power. “Go thy way And the man believed and went,” without a token.

1. This disposition is the grace of the Holy Spirit imparted to the heart.

2. This disposition honours Christ.

VI. THE REWARD WHICH FAITH SHALL RECEIVE.. “Thy son liveth.” A cure.

1. Instantaneous.

2. Complete. (J. Harding.)

The nobleman of Capernaum

I. EVEN THE NOBLE HAVE THEIR TROUBLE.

1. No earthly dignity lifts above the reach of trouble. In the eye of God and in the operations of His laws all are alike. We need, therefore, never to expect to reach an estate free from trial.

2. But troubles are not always calamities. To the true hearted they are instruments of good. Nobility must suffer that it may become more noble. The fruitful branch must be purged that it may become more fruitful.

II. EVEN THE BELIEVING NEED UNDECEIVING.

1. The nobleman was a believer.

2. There was strength and substance in his faith. It was not mere sentiment. Knowledge, however accurate, opinion, however orthodox, is not faith. But this man’s faith had an active quality; it moved him to Jesus and to make every effort to obtain His help. True faith can never be idle James 2:20).

3. But even with this living faith the nobleman laboured under misconceptions and infirmities. He located the Saviour’s power too much in the outward. It was bent on signs and wonders. And just here believers have their greatest troubles. They go honestly and humbly to Christ, but unless they see signs they doubt whether all is right. Some change must be felt ere they can fully rest. But the requirement is to undoubtingly embrace Christ and leave Him to make all other things right in His own time and Romans 8:24-25).

4. Here is the true consolation of faith; not that the sick child is healed, but that we have a competent Saviour, and in the meantime patience is the proper exercise of faith.

III. WHEN MAN DESPAIRS THE LORD REPAIRS.

1. The manner in which he was received distressed the nobleman. He looked for Christ to accompany him, and when no signs of compliance appeared his heart sunk within him.

2. And yet this last flicker of perishing expectation was the signal of the greatest triumph. It was not according to Christ’s method that His healing should come “with observation.” His restorative energy is in His word, which is independent of distance or signs. Even His “Go thy way” is a benediction. While we are being wrung with disappointment grace is invisibly entering our house.

IV. AS WE BELIEVE SO WE RECEIVE. A mere word had gone out. He went his way clinging to that word, and as he believed it was done unto him. He came believing Christ to be a wonder worker and he found Him one. He trusted in what the Saviour had said, and he came back to find the Saviour’s word potent. What then if society, the Church, ourselves, our whole house are sick; if our movements are Christwards, His seeming repulse is but a preparation for a sublimer triumph. No honest attempt at faith is ever a mistake. (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)

The fame of Christ

The distance of Capernaum from Cana was from twenty to twenty-five miles. The report of Christ’s return to Galilee had spread, then, over this wide area. (H. W. Watkins, D. D.)

The nobleman’s son

I. JESUS BEHOLDING THE WOES OF MEN.

1. Jesus and His countrymen (John 4:45) (Matthew 13:54; Mat_21:11; Mark 6:1; Luke 4:44; John 4:3; Joh_7:41).

2. Jesus and the sorrowing (John 4:47) (Isaiah 53:3; Mark 5:39; Luke 7:13; Luk_8:52; Luk_23:28; John 14:1).

3. Jesus and the sick (John 4:47) (Matthew 4:24; Mat_8:17; Mat_10:1; Mat_14:14; Mark 6:56; John 11:3).

II. BESTOWING THE HELP OF GOD.

1. Importunate pleading (John 4:49) (Psalms 130:1; Matthew 14:30, Luke 11:8; Luk_22:44; Hebrews 5:7).

2. Generous responding (John 4:50) (Matthew 8:2-3; Mat_8:13; Mat_9:29; Luke 7:50; Luk_18:42; John 14:13).

3. Confident believing (John 4:50) (Psalms 27:13; Psa_106:12; John 4:53; Acts 16:34; Numbers 15:13; 1 Peter 1:8).

III. RELIEVING THE WOES OF MEN.

1. Good news (John 4:51) (Genesis 45:26; Numbers 21:8; Luke 2:10; Luk_10:17; John 14:3).

2. Convincing coincidence (John 4:53) (Exodus 14:27; Joshua 3:15, Daniel 5:5; Matthew 8:13; Mat_9:22; Mat_15:28).

3. Believing household (John 4:53) (Acts 10:2; Act_16:15; Act_16:34; Act_18:8; Philippians 4:22; Hebrews 11:7). (Sunday School Times.)

The nobleman’s son

A spiritual miracle is greater than a physical one. This was of both kinds--the healing of the boy’s body, the conversion of the father’s soul. The nobleman is a representative man.

I. HE IS DRIVEN TO CHRIST BY AN OUTSIDE NEED. He takes his case to Christ as a last resort. In his selfish thought, the Saviour of souls is overshadowed by the Healer of bodies. But such is the love of Christ, that those seeking a lesser good are sent away with a spiritual gift.

II. HIS FAITH RUNS PARALLEL WITH HIS MOTIVE. It began as a belief that Christ could work a physical miracle by contact; it was consummated in a faith which trusted Christ for both physical and spiritual blessing at a distance. The father’s faith secured the health of his child; the personal faith of the man secured his own salvation.

III. THE DIVINE METHODS FOR CULTIVATING FAITH IN MEN.

1. Directness and conscious superiority characterize Christ’s meeting with the nobleman. Christ rebukes his carnal mindedness and his low thought that Christ’s mission was merely to play the doctor--a rebuke which caused him to look up into the Master’s face and feel the subtle power of His spiritual presence.

2. Having thus made a spiritual roadway into his heart, Christ grants his request.

3. The answer carries a test of humility and faith with it. Christ not going with him touched his pride; but it strengthened his faith by exercising it.

IV. THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH AND ITS REWARD. This faith is shown by his leisurely procedure. The twenty miles’ walk could not have been accomplished that night. The reward was bestowed not only on the sick child, but on the whole household. Learn

1. A lesson of hope.

2. That all the roads of human experience lead to Christ--our needs, sorrows, joys.

3. Once in Christ’s presence, all is well. (Sermons by the Monday Club.)

The nobleman’s faith

1. Trouble led this courtly personage to Jesus. Had he lived without trial, he might have been forgetful of his God and Saviour; but sorrow came as an angel in disguise.

2. The particular trial was the sickness of his child. No doubt ha had tried all remedies, and now he turns to Jesus in desperate hope. How often does it happen that children are employed to do what angels cannot!

I. THE SPARK OF FAITH.

1. The faith of the nobleman rested at first entirely on the report of others. Evangelical faith often begins with the testimony of others that Christ receiveth sinners.

2. This faith only concerned the healing of the sick child. The father did not know that he wanted healing for his own heart, nor of Christ’s spiritual power. Can you believe that Christ can help you in your present trial? Then use the faith you have; if not of heavenly things, then earthly.

3. He limited the power of Jesus to His local presence. Limitation of the Holy One of Israel in children of God is sinful; but weakness of faith in seekers will be excused. Better to have a weak faith than none at all.

4. This faith, although it was but a spark, influenced the nobleman. It led him to take a considerable journey to Christ. This is the more remarkable that he was a man of position, and did not send his servants. If you have faith enough to drive you personally to Christ, it is of an acceptable order.

5. This man’s faith taught him to pray in the right style. Notice his argument--the misery of his case. Not that the boy was of noble birth, or lovely. When you pray aright, you will urge those facts which reveal your danger and distress. This is the key which opens the door of mercy.

II. THE FIRE OF FAITH struggling to maintain itself.

1. It was true, as far as it went. He stood before the Saviour, resolved not to go away. He does not get the answer at first, but he stays. So it was a real persuasion of the power of Jesus to heal.

2. It was hindered by a desire for signs and wonders, and was therefore gently chided. So some of you want to be converted in the extraordinary way recorded in some religious biographies, and expect, like Naaman,

Christ to do some great thing. Do net lay down a programme and demand that the free Spirit should pay attention to it. Let Him save you as He wills.

3. It could endure a rebuff. He answered our Lord with still greater importunity.

4. How passionately this man pleaded, “Lord, do not question me just now about faith; heal my child, or he will be dead.” If his faith failed in breadth, it excelled in force.

III. THE FLAME OF FAITH.

1. He believed the word of Jesus over the head of his former prejudices. He had thought that Christ could only heal by personal contact; now he believes that Jesus can heal with a word. Will you believe Jesus on His bare word?

2. He at once obeyed Christ. If he had not believed, he would have remained looking for favourable signs. When told to believe in Christ, do not say, “We will continue in prayer, read the Bible, attend the means of grace.” Believe and go your way.

3. Still, it fell somewhat short of what it might have been. He expected a gradual restoration. How little we know of Christ or believe in Him.

4. He travelled with the leisure of confidence. Anxious minds, even when they believe, are in a hurry to see; but the nobleman’s servants met him the next day. “He that believeth shall not make haste.”

IV. THE CONFLAGRATION OF FAITH.

1. His faith was confirmed by the answer to his prayers.

2. After inquiry, his faith was confirmed by each detail.

3. Strengthened by faith and experience, he believes in Jesus in the fullest sense.

4. What follows is natural; his family also believe. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The nobleman’s faith

I. WITH REGARD TO THIS FAITH, we must observe

1. That it was real, or he would never have sought Christ. This realness was not inconsistent with ignorance of Christ’s nature and spiritual power.

2. Though real, imperfect and weak. He knew nothing of Jesus as the Healer of the soul. There was shortcoming in both the quantity and quality of his faith. In this he presents a strong contrast to the centurian.

3. Apply the case to ourselves. What is our faith? Is it only a name, a theory, a confession, we have been taught to utter? If we have acknowledged Him as Saviour in one specific point, that is real faith as far as it goes; but it must go farther. “He will not break the bruised reed.”

II. HIS TREATMENT BY CHRIST.

1. His unbelief was rebuked, and that of others standing around.

2. No doubt many regarded this as ill-timed. But Christ saw that spiritual admonition was the thing that was most needed.

3. We need not be surprised if the first answer to our petitions is some revelation of secret sin.

4. But delay is not denial. In bestowing one blessing he does not refuse another.

5. There is often as much love in Christ’s method of bestowal as in His gift. The petition is granted in the spirit, if not in the letter. Jesus did not go down, but sent His blessing down.

III. THE ULTIMATE RESULT OF THE INTERVIEW.

1. The request was granted

2. His faith was increased. He who could not brook a moment’s delay, goes away satisfied with a simple word, leisurely proceeds home, and becomes a full believer.

3. He and his family were converted. (P. B. Power, M. A.)

A lesson for tittle faith

I. THE PARTICULARS OF THE MIRACLE. Note

1. The rapid reversals of feeling which all efforts in doing good demand. His former visit to Cana was to a festival; He came now to a scene of anxiety and affliction.. Human experience is very fitful and uncertain. Now the circumstances are joyous, now gloomy; and he who wants to do good must be prepared for both.

2. Pain and trouble are common to all ranks. Capernaum’s great dignitary is harrowed by anxiety; his money, influence, friends, cannot save his boy, “Grief is a black camel that kneels at every man’s door,”

3. The value of Christianity. Sceptics say Christianity is a religion for the sorrowful only. We reply, There is surely room for one such religion in a world like this.

4. In His first reply Christ

5. The nobleman’s response teaches us directness in prayer. How much time is wasted in the formalities of devotion.

6. Such petitions as this the Lord always hears and answers. The last word of God’s Son affords ground for implicit trust. The nobleman knew that nothing more was needed.

7. How much men owe to the unseen Providences of God.

II. THE PARABLE OF FAITH.

1. There was intelligence. The nobleman

2. Next came assent. Sometimes this element of saving faith is called submission, sometimes surrender.

3. There came trust. Without a word he rested on the promise. He believed

The faith of a nobleman

I. ITS IMPERFECT CHARACTER.

1. Not settled on the best foundation. Excited by a report of Christ’s miracles which Christ recognized as right (John 5:36; Joh_10:37-38; Joh_14:11), but not faith’s highest form.

2. Not free from ignorance and superstition, Christ’s presence was regarded as essential.

II. ITS GRACIOUS EDUCATION.

1. Its radical defect was pointed out (John 4:48). The modern counterpart is the belief that is born of excitement and rests on feeling.

2. Its inward sincerity was tried (John 4:48). In a similar way Christ dealt with the Syro-Phoenician woman.

3. Its formal request was denied. Had Christ gone it might have confirmed the belief that His presence was indispensable, and that His power was of no avail beyond death. So He sometimes denies His peoples’ entreaties, because they know not what they ask, or because the answer would be injurious.

4. Its essential petition was granted (John 4:50). Not in the way expected, but in one larger and better (Ephesians 3:29).

III. ITS COMPLETE DEVELOPMENT. The nobleman believed

1. Without a miracle. At first he only had Christ’s word; then his servants’ testimony; lastly, the assurance of sight.

2. Without delay--“Go thy way.” Prompt obedience one of the most reliable marks of faith--Noah (Genesis 6:9; Gen_6:22; Hebrews 11:7), Abraham (Genesis 12:1; Hebrews 11:8), Peter (Luke 5:5); Paul Acts 26:19).

3. Without after regrets. None will have occasion to repent who enter on a life of faith. Nor did he act as many do after having been delivered from affliction.

4. Without being left to stand alone. Faith became contagious.

Learn

1. The ability and willingness of Christ to save diseased and dying souls.

2. The eagerness Christian parents should display in bringing the cases of their children to Christ.

3. The nature of faith which is taking Christ at His word.

4. The value and efficacy of prayer.

5. The increasing evidence faith obtains the longer it continues.

6. The beauty and advantage of household religion. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

The courtier’s son

I. THE PROGRESS OF FAITH. Faith, at first slender and tentative, becomes firm and influential. The process is worthy of notice. At first it rested on external testimony, but was backed by such anxiety to attain the object that the man came so far to seek it. Then its tenacity is proved and strengthened by a seeming rebuff. Another and great step is taken when Christ’s word for the cure is accepted instead of His personal coming down. Next, it is crowned and perfected by the incontestable proof of the miracle. What most of us need in our Christianity is not more evidence--the lamp can be choked with oil, if the oil is not used--it is to follow with entire cordiality the light that has shone so fully on us already.

II. CHRIST’S EVIDENTIAL METHOD. How He connects sign and spirit, miracle and faith. He deprecates the purely external connection--the believing only what is seen. Such demands for seen evidence ends usually in downright unbelief. His method is to lead His disciples to such inward, spiritual acquaintance with and confidence in Himself that they trust His word, and so by and by behold His work. When His trusting ones believe, then in due time they also see (John 11:40). Jesus accepts the loving earnestness and tenacity of a faith otherwise slender. He will lead this man into His kingdom by the heart-strings, for He avails Himself of every access to the souls of men. This courtier would have Jesus go down and heal his son. Jesus healed his son and did not go down. Thus He suited His method to the ease--was the helper of the father’s faith as well as the healer of his son’s malady. (J. Laidlaw, D. D.)

I. THE MIRACLE.

Restoration of nobleman’s dying son

1. The petitioner. A person of distinction; perhaps Chuza, Herod’s steward. Now in affliction. Seeks Jesus, the Divine Physician.

2. The application. Shows affection for child, and respect to our Lord; also great earnestness, A sense of need inspires utterance.

3. The reply. The first part of it evidently conveyed rebuke. Jesus said unto him, “Except ye”--not only you individually, but all who resemble you--“Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.” You are one of those who will not admit who and what I am, unless you see Me work a miracle.

II. ITS EFFECTS.

1. See them, in the first place, on the nobleman: He “believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way,” convinced that his application had not been made in vain, and that his son would live.

2. The narrative relates the effect of the miracle, not only on the nobleman himself, but also on his household, “his whole house believed.” Their hearts were gained to the Lord Christ as well as his.

Application:

1. What are we doing for our children? Many are the anxieties and pains which parents endure on account of their children. Can it be said of us, as of King Asa, that in our affliction we seek not to the Lord but to the physicians. Alas I we are prone to look to second causes, and to neglect the first Great Cause of life and health and everything!

2. What are we doing in our affliction? It should make us serious. It should lead us to Christ. It should subdue prejudice. It should show us the value of Christ’s power and grace.

3. How have we requited the Lord’s mercies? We have influence. Have we exerted it to bring others to believe in Christ, and to worship and serve Him? (M. Gibbs.)

The second miracle in Cana--the purifying and training of faith

The evangelist evidently intends us to connect together the two miracles in Cana. His object may, possibly, mainly be chronological, and to mark the epochs in our Lord’s ministry. But we cannot fail to see how remarkably these two miracles are contrasted. The one takes place at a wedding, a homely scene of rural festivity and gladness. But life has deeper things in it than gladness, and a Saviour who preferred the house of feasting to the house of mourning would be no Saviour for us. The second miracle, then, turns to the darker side of human experience. It was fitting that the first miracle should deal with gladness, for that is God’s purpose for His creatures, and that the second should deal with sicknesses and sorrows, which are additions to that purpose made needful by sin. Again, the first miracle was wrought without intercession, as the outcome of Christ’s own determination that His hour for working it was come. The second miracle was drawn from Him by the imperfect faith and the agonising pleading of the father. But the great peculiarity of this second miracle in Cana is that it is moulded throughout so as to develop and perfect a weak faith. Notice how there are three words in the narrative, each of which indicates a stage in the history. “Except ye see signs and wonders ye will not believe.”… “The man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way.”… “Himself believed and his whole house.” We have here, then, Christ manifested as the Discerner, the Rebuker, the Answerer, and therefore the strengthener of a very insufficient and ignorant faith.

I. First, we have here, our Lord LAMENTING OVER AN IGNORANT AND SENSUOUS FAITH. At first sight His words in response to the hurried eager appeal of the father, seem to be strangely unfeeling, far away from the matter in hand. “Except ye see signs and wonders ye will not believe.” “What has that to do with me and my dying boy, and my impatient agony of petition?” “It has everything to do with you.” It is the revelation, first of all, of Christ’s singular calmness and majestic leisure, which befitted Him who needed not to hurry because He was conscious of absolute power. It is also an indication of what He thought of most importance in His dealing with man. It was worthy of His care to heal the boy; it was far more needful that He should train and lead the father to faith. The one can wait much better than the other. And there is in the words, too, something like a sigh of profound sorrow. Christ is not so much rebuking as lamenting. Why? Because to their own impoverishing, the nobleman and his fellows were blind to all the beauty of His character. The graciousness of His nature was nothing to them. They had no eyes for His tenderness, and no ears for His wisdom; but if some vulgar sign had been wrought before them, then they would have run after Him with their worthless faith. And that struck a painful chord in Christ’s heart when He thought of how all the lavishing of His love, all the grace and truth which shone radiant and lambent in His life, fell upon blind eyes, incapable of beholding His beauty; and of how the manifest revelation of a Godlike character had no power to do what would be done by a mere outward wonder. Are there not plenty of us to whom sense is the only certitude? We think that the only knowledge is the knowledge that comes to us from that which we can see and touch and handle, and the inferences that we draw from these; and to whom all that world of thought and beauty, all that Divine manifestation of tenderness and grace is but mist and cloudland, Intellectually, though in a somewhat modified sense, this generation has to take the rebuke: “Except ye see, ye will not believe.” And practically, do not the great mass of men regard the material world as all-important, and work done, or progress achieved there as alone deserving the name of “work” or “progress,” while all the glories of a loving Christ are dim and unreal to their sense-bound eyes? And on the other side, is it not sadly true about those of us who have the purest and the loftiest faith that we feel often as if it was very hard, almost impossible, to keep firm our grasp of One who never is manifested to our sense? Do we not often feel, “Oh I that I could for once, for once only, hear a voice that would speak to my outward ear, or see some movement of a Divine hand.” The loftiest faith still leans towards, and has an hankering after, some external and visible manifestation, and we nee I to subject ourselves to the illuminating rebuke of the Master, Who says: “Except ye see signs and wonders ye will not believe.”

II. And so we have here, as the next stage of the narrative, our Lord TESTING, AND THUS STRENGTHENING, A GROWING FAITH. The nobleman’s answer to our Lord’s strange words sounds, at first sight, as if these had passed over him, producing no effect at all. “Sir, come down ere my child die.” Almost as if he had said: “Do not talk to me about these things at present. Come and heal my boy. That is what I want; and we will talk about the rest some other time.” But it is not exactly that. Clearly enough, at all events, he did not read in Christ’s words a reluctance to yield to his request, still less a refusal of it. Clearly, he did not misunderstand the sad rebuke which they conveyed, else he would not have ventured to reiterate his petition. He does not pretend to anything more than he has, he does not seek to disclaim the condemnation that Christ brings against him, nor to assume that he has a loftier degree, or a purer kind, of faith than he possesses. He holds fast by so much of Christ’s character as he can apprehend; and that is the beginning of all progress. What he knows he knows. He has sore need; that is something. He has come to the Master; that is more. Ah! any true man who has ever truly gone to Christ with a sense even of some outward and temporal need, and has ever really prayed at all, has often to pass through this experience, that the first result of his agonising cry shall be only the revelation to him of the unworthiness and imperfection of his own faith, and that there shall seem to be strange delay in the coming of the blessing so longed for. And the true attitude for a man to take when there is unveiled before him, in his consciousness, in answer to his cry for help the startling revelation of his own unworthiness and imperfection, the true answer to such dealing is simply reiterate your cry. And then the Master bends to his petition and because he sees that the second prayer has in it less of sensuousness than the first; and that some little germ of a higher faith is beginning to open, He yields, and yet He does not yield. “Sir, come down ere my child die.” Jesus saith unto him, “Go thy way, thy son liveth.” Why did He not go with the man? Why, in the act of granting, does He refuse? For the man’s sake. The whole force and beauty of the story comes out yet more vividly if we take the contrast between it and the other narrative, which presents some points of similarity with it--that of the healing of the centurion’s servant at Capernaum. There the centurion prays that Christ would but speak, and Christ says, “I will come.” There the centurion does not feel that His presence is necessary, but that His word is enough. Here the man says, “Come!” because it has never entered his mind that Christ can do anything unless He stands like a doctor by the boy’s bed. And he says, too, “Come, ere my child die.” Because it has never entered his mind that Christ can do anything if his boy once has passed the dark threshold. And because his faith is thus feeble, Christ refuses its request, because He knows that so to refuse is to strengthen. Asked but to “speak” by a strong faith, He rewards it by more than it prays, and offers to “come.” Asked to “come” by a weak faith, He rewards it by less, which yet is more than it had requested; and refuses to come, that He may heal at a distance; and thus manifests still more wondrously His power and His grace. “Go thy way; thy son liveth.” What a test! Suppose the man had not gone his way; would his son have lived? No! The son’s life and the father’s reception from Christ of what he asked, were all suspended upon that one moment. Will he trust Him, or will he not? Will he linger or will he depart? He departs, and in the act of trusting he gets the blessing, and his boy is saved. And look how the narrative hints to us of the perfect confidence of the father now. Cane was only a few miles from Capernaum. The road from the little city upon the hill down to where the waters of the lake flashed in the sunshine by the quays of Capernaum, was a matter of only a few hours; but it was the next day, and well on into the next day, before he met the servants that came to him with the news of his boy’s recovery. So sure was he that his petition was answered that he did not hurry to return home, but leisurely and quietly went on the next day to his child. Think of the difference between the breathless rush up to Cana, and the quiet return from it. “He that believeth shall not make haste.”

III. And so, lastly, we have here the absent Christ CROWNING AND REWARDING THE FAITH WHICH HAD BEEN TESTED. We have the picture of the man’s return. The servants meet him. Their message, which they deliver before he has time to speak, is singularly a verbal repetition of the promise of the Master, “Thy son liveth.” His faith, though it be strong, has not yet reached to the whole height of the blessing, for he inquires “at what hour he began to amend,” expecting some slow and gradual recovery; and he is told “that at the seventh hour,” the hour when the master spoke, “the fever left him.” And all at once and completely was he cured. So, more than his faith had expected is given to him; and Christ, when He lays His hand upon a man, does His work thoroughly, though not always at once. Why was the miracle wrought in that strange fashion? Why did our Lord fling out His power as from a distance rather than go and stand at the boy’s bedside? We have already seen the reason in the peculiar condition of the man’s mind; but now notice what it was that he had learned by such a method of healing, not only the fact of Christ’s healing power, but also the fact that the bare utterance of His will, whether He were present or absent, had power. And so a loftier conception of Christ would begin to dawn on him. A partial faith brings experience which confirms and enlarges faith; and they who dimly apprehend Him, and yet humbly love Him, and imperfectly trust Him, will receive into their bosoms such large gifts of His love and gracious Spirit that their faith will be strengthened, and they will grow into the full stature of peaceful confidence. The way to increase faith is to exercise faith. And the true parent of perfect faith is the experience of the blessings that come from the crudest, rudest, narrowest, blindest, feeblest faith that a man can exercise. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The testing of faith which the nobleman stands

I. HOW HE IS TESTED.

1. In his humility by a stem word which might wound the pride of a nobleman.

2. In his faith by being required to trust a word.

II. HOW HE STANDS THE TEST.

1. In his persistent prayer be the test of the humility of his faith.

2. In his confident departure at the word of Jesus he proves the power of His faith. (J. P. Lange, D. D.)

Domestic affliction

I. THE RICH HAVE AFFLICTIONS AS WELL AS THE POOR There is no more mischievous error than to suppose that the rich have no cares. The dwellers in palaces often sleep more uneasily than dwellers in cottages. Gold may shut out debt and rags, but not disease and death. Let the servant of God beware of desiring riches. They are certain cares and uncertain comforts.

II. SICKNESS AND DEATH COME TO THE YOUNG AS WELL AS TO THE OLD. In spite of the testimony of grave stones we are apt to speak and act as if young people never died when young. The first grave was that of a young man. He is wise that will never confidently reckon on a long life. The only true wisdom is to be always prepared to meet God. So living it matters little whether we die young or old.

III. WHAT BENEFITS AFFLICTION CAN CONFER ON THE SOUL. Anxiety about a son led this nobleman to Christ, and eventually his whole house. By affliction God often teaches lessons that can be learned in no other way. By it He often draws souls away from sin who would otherwise have perished Psalms 119:71). Let us beware of murmuring (Hebrews 12:11).

IV. CHRIST’S WORD IS AS GOOD AS CHRIST’S PRESENCE. This fact gives enormous value to the promises. (Bp. Ryle.)

Domestic affliction a messenger of God

No one is spared this. Not even the nobility.

I. HEAR (John 4:47). Up to this time the courtier had not heard; very likely did not care to hear. But now his child lies at death’s door he hears that Jesus was come. Thy domestic affliction calls out to thee that thou hast a Saviour who has come for thee.

II. Go (John 4:47). The noble had gone no doubt to this and to that one, but there was no help. Now he goes to One who can help. Go thou in a right way at once to Jesus, who always says “Come.”

III. BESEECH (John 4:47). The man of rank becomes unwontedly humble. Nothing offends him, not even the seemingly negative answer of John 4:48.

IV. BELIEVE (John 4:50-54). He believes (John 4:50) and finds everything fulfilled (John 4:51-53), and his whole household believe (John 4:54). Believe Him, thou and thy family, and ye shall be blessed. (G. Hermann.)

He went to Him and besought Him

The uses o/ trouble

I. IT HUMBLES PRIDE--“He (the nobleman) went.”

II. IT GIVES FAITH. “He went.”

III. IT TEACHES PRAYER--“Besought.”

IV. IT STIMULATES FAITH--“That he would heal,” etc.

Physicians in the East

No one is more sought after in the East than the hakeem or physician. Let it be known that one of a travelling party of Europeans is a doctor, and all the sick persons in the neighbourhood make their way to his tent for free treatment. A European doctor in the East may have to complain of lack of fees, but he certainly will not have to complain of lack of patients. The invalids, or those who have persuaded themselves that they are invalids, will troop to his tent in the early morning, and squat there until evening, or until they are treated; and well persons will pretend that they are sick for the purpose of getting possession of the magicial powders which they value so highly. The European doctor who knows what is before him generally supplies himself, ere he starts for the East, with a plentiful supply of bread-pills, ingeniously coloured with tincture of iodine or similar chemicals, so that he may be able to keep his real remedies for real diseases. The lack of adequate medical facilities in the East is noted by every traveller; and it would hardly be possible to overestimate the amount of suffering caused by this lack. That is the reason why the Frankish hakeem can go safely where no other Frank dare go; and it may be said reverently that it is also one of the reasons why our Lord took upon Himself the character of a hakeem or healer. Those whom no other appeal would bring flocked to Him because they believed Him to be a powerful hakeem. It is also one of the reasons for the success of medical missions. The men and women who would curse the ordinary missionary as “a dog and the son of a female dog,” will come humbly to the medical mission for healing, and will listen to the message which they would not listen to under any other circumstances. (H. C. Trumbull, D. D.)

Except ye see signs and wonders ye will not believe

Signs and wonders

I. OUR LORD DID NOT PUT FORWARD THE MERE POWER OF HIS MIRACLES AS THE CHIEF SIGN OF HIS DIVINE SONSHIP. He declared His Almighty power chiefly by showing mercy and pity. He used His miraculous power

1. Sparingly, almost entirely in curing the diseases of poor people.

2. Secretly, for it was almost entirely in remote places. For even Jerusalem was remote compared with the great cities of the Roman Empire. Had He intended to convert the world by miracles He would have gone to Rome, the centre of the world. But as He wished for the obedience not of men’s lips but of their hearts, that they might love Him and be loyal to Him for His goodness; and not fear and tremble because of His power.

II. BECAUSE CHRIST WAS LORD OF HEAVEN AND EARTH HE INTERFERED AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE WITH THE LAWS OF NATURE. He did not offer, as the magicians did, to change the courses of the elements, to bring down tempests and thunderbolts. Why should He? All the physical forces were fulfilling His will already, and He had no need to disturb them. Rather He loved to tell men to look at them, and see how they went well because His Father cared for them.

III. BUT MEN WOULD NOT BELIEVE. They craved after signs and wonders. They saw God’s hand, not in the common sights of this beautiful world, but only in strange portents, absurd and lying miracles, and so built up a literature of unreason which remains till this day a doleful monument of human folly and superstition.

1. This is true of some now. They regard whatever is strange and inexplicable as coming immediately from God; but whatever they are accustomed to as coming in the course of nature. If a man drops down dead he died “by the visitation of God”; as if any created thing could die or live either save by the will and presence of God. If an earthquake were to swallow up half London it would be a Divine visitation, yet they will not see the true visitation in every drop of rain.

2. Contrast this with the sentiments of the men who wrote Psalms 139:1-24; Psa_19:1-14; Psa_104:1-35. Let us all pray for the spirit which inspired these men.

IV. WHEN ALL THINGS GO ON IN A COMMONPLACE WAY WITH US, HOW APT WE ARE TO FORGET GOD but when sorrow comes how changed we are all of a sudden! How we cry to God and feel the need of prayer! If He will do this thing for us we will believe. And if He treated us in adversity as we have treated Him in prosperity, what could we say? But He will not, because He is pitiful. So we can have hope. (C. Kingsley, M. A.)

The universal passion for miracles

I. Desire for special EXTRAORDINARY FORTUNE to befall us, while we do not exert ourselves to obtain that which satisfies.

II. Waiting for EXTRAORDINARY HELP in exigency, when we will not earnestly use the right means.

III. Yearning for EXTRAORDINARY FRUITS OF OUR LABOUR, when we will not sow, hoping in faith.

IV. Desire of EXTRAORDINARY VIOLENT ASSISTANCE when we wish to get rid of faults, while we ourselves do not lift a hand.

V. Expectation of HONOUR, etc., while yet we have done or sacrificed nothing for the glory of God. (Heubner.)

Characteristics of faith

I. FAITH IN THREE OF ITS STAGES.

1. When faith begins in a soul it is but as a grain of mustard seed. God’s people are babes at first. The first stage of faith is a seeking faith. This faith

2. In the second stage faith takes Christ at His word, and the believer realizes the happiness of believing. He is saved.

3. Faith blossoms in assurance and usefulness.

II. Diseases to which faith is subject.

1. With regard to seeking faith. We are very likely when we are seeking to begin to suspend prayerfulness.

2. Those who are trusting implicitly are in danger of wanting to see signs and wonders. Do not place reliance on anything you have dreamed, or seen, or heard, but on Christ. So many Christians want the signs of a revival in noisy demonstrations and not in God’s way.

3. The disease which lies in the way of our attaining full assurance is want of observation. The nobleman made careful inquiries. He that looks for providences will never lack a providence to look at.

III. THREE QUESTIONS ABOUT FAITH.

1. Thou sayest “I have faith.” Be it so. Many a man says he has gold, but has it not. Does thy faith make thee pray?

2. Does that faith make thee obedient?

3. Has it led thee to bless thy household? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe

Let us dismiss the idea that these words had any special reference to the courtier, and let us regard them as an exclamation wrung from Jesus by a deep feeling in His own mind, in which He apostrophized the whole multitude of His countrymen. The courtier’s urgent request was not the cause, but the occasion, of the exclamation

I. No doubt OUR LORD MEANT TO COMPLAIN OF SOMETHING WHICH SADDENED AND VEXED HIM and that something was the necessity of doing miracles in order to attract the children of men, and to keep them when attracted. If we ask why He disliked the necessity of doing signs and wonders, the answer is twofold.

1. Because the character which He gained by such means was in great measure hateful to Him. He was looked upon by very many as a very successful magician or conjurer. Was it not odious to have everybody talking about Him, running after Him, asking Him to do a miracle to gratify their curiosity, saying that He did miracles by the power of Satan?

2. Signs and wonders are in themselves useless, if not objectionable. All interferences with the course of nature are undesirable in themselves. God has made the outward order of things to suit the general character and needs given. The sorrows of life are just as needful for us as its joys; its poverty is as whole- some as its wealth; death is quite as good a friend as life. Nothing could be more disastrous than that the common balance of joy and grief, of life and death, should be seriously disarranged. Christ did not come to do “miracles”; He did not come to thwart and undo the work of suffering, disease, and death; He came to bless and sanctify their work; not to change the ordinary conditions of human life, but to help us to live better, holier, happier, under those conditions. It was a mistake then, but not His mistake. It was the mistake of the people. They would come to Him, and beg Him to do this or that outward thing for them, and pray Him so earnestly, so humbly, so trustfully, that He could not help Himself--having the power, He had not the heart to refuse.

II. I can only see one valid objection to this position, viz., THAT GOD WOULD NOT HAVE GIVEN HIS SERVANT THESE GIFTS HAD THEY BEEN SO LITTLE GOOD IN THEMSELVES. But God has ever, in the whole process of revelation, accommodated Himself to the moral and spiritual condition of His people at the time being. That Christ should do signs and wonders in the age and in the land in which He appeared was inevitable because it was necessary to place Him in strict harmony with His spiritual surroundings. Miracles have practically ceased long ago, not because the Lord’s arm is shortened, but because the faith and piety of Christians have outgrown the craving for miracles, while a larger knowledge has led men to doubt their usefulness. Did not our Lord possess that larger knowledge? Did He not desire to find that higher faith and piety? (R. Winterbotham, M. A.)

Signs and wonders

These words ( τέρας σημε͂ιον ούναμις ἔνδοξον παράδοξον θαυμάσιον) have this in common, that they are all used to characterize the supernatural works wrought by Christ in the days of His flesh: thus σημε͂ιον (John 2:11; Acts 2:19), τέρας (Acts 2:22; John 4:48), δύναμις (Mark 6:2; Acts 2:22), ἔνδοξον Luke 13:17), παράδοξον (Luke 5:26), θυαμάσιον (Mark 21:15); while the first three, which are far the most usual, are in like manner employed of the same supernatural works wrought in the power of Christ by His apostles (2 Corinthians 12:12). They will be found, on examination, not so much to represent different kinds of miracles, as miracles contemplated under different aspects and from different points of view. τέρας and σημε͂ιον are often linked together in the New Testament John 4:48; Acts 2:22; Act_4:30; 2 Corinthians 12:12), and times out of number in the Septuagint. The same miracle is upon one side a τέρας, on another a σήμε͂ιον, and the words must often refer, not to different classes of miracles, but to different qualities in the same miracles. Origen long ago called attention to the fact that the name τέρατα is never in the New Testament applied to these works of wonder except in association with some other name. They are often called σημε͂ια, often δυναμε͂ις, often τέρατα καὶ σημε͂ια, more than once τέρατα σημε͂ια και δυναμε͂ις, but never τέρατα alone. The observation was well worth making; for the fact which we are thus bidden to note is indeed eminently characteristic of the miracles of the New Testament, viz., that a title by which more than any Other these might seem to hold on to the prodigies and portents of the heathen world, and to have something akin to them, should thus never be permitted to appear except in company of some other necessarily suggesting higher thoughts about them. But miracles are also σημέια, which name brings out their ethical end with the greatest, as τερας with the least distinctness. It is declared in the very word that the prime object and end of the miracle is to lead to something out of and beyond itself: that, so to speak, it is a kind of finger-post of God; valuable not so much for what it is as for what it indicates of the grace and power of the doer, or of the connection with a higher world in which he stands Mark 16:20; Acts 14:3; Hebrews 2:4; Exodus 7:9-10; 1 Kings 3:3). It is to be regretted that σημὲιον is not always rendered “sign” in our version; that in St. John it too often gives place to the vaguer “miracle”; and sometimes not without serious loss; thus see John 3:2; Joh_7:31; Joh_10:41; and above all, John 6:26. (Abp. Trench.)

The human tendency to make a difficulty of believing

Charles Wesley had been for years groping in spiritual darkness,

“Without one cheering beam of hope,

Or spark of glimmering day.”

On a bright morning in May, 1738, he awoke, wearied and sick at heart, but in high expectation of the coming blessing. He lay on his bed “full of tossings to and fro,” crying out, “O Jesus, Thou hast said, ‘I will come unto you’; Thou hast said, ‘I will send the Comforter unto you’; Thou hast said, ‘My Father and I will come unto you, and make Our abode with you.’ Thou art God who cannot lie. I wholly rely upon Thy promise. Accomplish it in Thy time and manner.” A poor woman, Mrs. Turner, heard his groaning, and, constrained by an impulse never felt before, put her head into his room and gently said, “In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, arise and believe, and thou shalt be healed of all thine infirmities.” He listened, and then exclaimed, “Oh that Christ would but thus speak to me!” He inquired who it was that had whispered in his ear these life-giving words. A great struggle agitated his whole man, and in another moment he exclaimed, “I believe! I believe!” He then found redemption in the blood of the Lamb, experiencing the forgiveness of sins, and could look up and

“Behold, without a cloud between,

The Godhead reconciled.”

The hymn he wrote to commemorate the anniversary of his spiritual birth shows the mighty change that had taken place, and is best expressed in his own language

“Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing!”

(New Cyclopaedia of Anecdote.)

Sir, come down ere my child die

The Christian calls his Saviour to his sick

I. HE CALLS HIM.

II. IN DUE TIME.

III. IN THE RIGHT SPIRIT.

IV. WITH THE MOST BLESSED RESULT. (Bachmann.)

Prayer

I. ITS OBJECT. Christ as

1. Human--sympathizing.

2. Divine--helpful.

II. ITS MODE OF ADDRESS.

1. Respectful. “Sir.” All true prayer should begin with adoration. The urgency of our case sometimes leads us to forget this.

2. Entreating as inspired by consciousness of real need.

3. Importunate as evidencing earnestness.

III. Its subject matter. “My child.” The first object of a parent’s desire is his child’s

1. Life.

2. Support.

3. Salvation.

IV. ITS MOTIVE.

1. Unselfish. It seeks the good of others.

2. And yet selfish, for the father’s happiness was wrapped up in his child. So the well-being of others will re-act upon us. To give is unselfish, but it re-acts on self because it is more blessed than to receive.

V. ITS NECESSITY. See this in family trials. Directness in prayer:--A Scotchman’s wife besought him to pray that the life of their dying baby might be spared. True to his old instincts, the good man kneeled down devoutly, and went out on the well-worn track, as he was wont to do in the prayer-meetings at the kirk. Through and through the routine petitions he wandered along helplessly, until he reached at last the honoured quotation: “Lord, remember Thine ancient people, and turn again the captivity of Zion!” A mother’s heart could hold its patience no longer. “Eh, man!” the woman broke forth impetuously; “you are aye drawn out for the Jews, but it’s our bairn that’s a-deein’.” Then, clasping her hands, she cried: “Oh! help us, Lord, and give our darling back to us if it be Thy holy will; but if he is to be taken away from us, make us know Thou wilt have him to Thyself!” That wife knew what it was to pray a real prayer; and to the throne of grace she went, asking directly what she wanted.most. (James Hamilton, D. D.)

Prayers of a father

Philip James Spener had a son of eminent talents, but perverse and extremely vicious. All means of love and persuasion were without success. The father could only pray, which he continued to do, that the Lord might yet be pleased to save his son at any time and in any way. The son fell sick; and while lying on his bed in great distress of mind, nearly past the power of speech or motion, he suddenly started up, clasped his hands, and exclaimed: “My father’s prayers, like mountains, surround me!” Soon after his anxiety ceased a sweet peace spread over his face, his malady came to a crisis, and the son was saved in body and soul. He became another man. Spener lived to see his son a respectable man, in public office, and happily married. Such was the change of his life after his conversion. (N. E. Puritan.)

Jesus the Saviour of the children

General H-- used to take his little son into his arms and talk with him about Jesus. The little boy never grew tired of that “sweet story.” It was always new to him. One day, while sitting in his father’s lap, his papa said to him, “Would my little son like to go to heaven?” “Yes, papa,” he answered. “But,” said the father, “how can you go to heaven? Your little heart is full of sin. How can you expect to go where God is?” “But all are sinners, papa,” the little fellow answered. “That is true,” replied the father; “and yet God has said that only the pure in heart shall see Him. How, then, can my little boy expect to go there?” The dear little fellow’s face grew very sad. His heart seemed full, and, bursting into tears, he laid his head on his father’s bosom and sobbed out, “Papa, Jesus can save me.” (New Cyclopaedia.)

The man believed the word that Jesus spake

From faith to faith

I. Faith PROMPTED HIM TO COME TO CHRIST. He felt his need and knew Jesus could help. A lesser form of faith--elementary.

II. Faith PROMPTED HIS PRAYER TO CHRIST.

III. Faith IMPLICITLY ACCEPTED THE WORD OF CHRIST.

IV. Faith was CONSUMMATED BY THE FULFILMENT OF THE WORD OF CHRIST. (Family Churchman.)

Taking God at His Word

This appears to be the easiest of rules. But practically none is harder; certainly none is so little kept.

I. Between man and man THE SOCIAL LAW OF FAITH IS SO STRICT THAT IF YOU DO NOT BELIEVE WHAT A MAN SAYS YOU ARE HELD TO COMMIT THE GREATEST WRONG YOU CAN INFLICT UPON HIM. And God has the same sense of jealousy for His own truthfulness, and the same indignant feeling of wrong and outrage when His Word is questioned. Unbelief is giving God the lie. It is no light thing to treat any word of God as an unreality; it is an insult thrown in His face.

II. WHO DOES TAKE GOD AT HIS WORD? The timid man? the unhappy man? the loiterer? the man who has no peace? the man who doubts his interest? the man who puts away the promises? Can any one of these escape the condemnation?

III. ARE WE TAKING GOD AT HIS WORD?

1. God says, “All have sinned.” Do you realize yourself a helpless sinner?

2. Jesus said, “It is finished.” “Have you accepted your salvation as a finished thing, or are you thinking “I must do something to secure my salvation?”

3. He says, “He that cometh unto Me,” etc. Do you say, “I fear He will not receive me.”

4. He says “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.” But you say, “No, not quite all.”

5. He says to penitents. “You are forgiven now;” but you read it, “I shall be forgiven by and by.”

6. He says, “Take no thought--I will provide.” But you are anxious. Is all this taking God at His word?

IV. THE MEANS OF CULTIVATING THE BLESSED ART.

1. You must go back to the simplicities of childhood. If its confidence has not been abused a little child takes everybody at his word, and never suspects anybody.

2. You must take honouring views of what God’s Word is. The Spirit of God Himself is in that Word.

3. You must acquaint yourself with the Speaker. How shall we trust the Word if we do not trust the Speaker? (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The obedience of faith

It is an incident of the life of Napoleon that one day, while reviewing his troops in Paris, he let fall the bridle reins upon his horse’s neck, when the spirited animal at once dashed down the line. Before Napoleon could recover his seat and check the horse, a common soldier sprang from the ranks, caught the reins, stopped the excited horse, and placed the bridle in the hands of the emperor, who took it and said, “Much obliged to you, captain.” The soldier immediately answered, “Of what regiment, sire?” Napoleon, delighted with his quick perception and ready faith, replied, “Of my guards,” and rode away. The soldier laid down his musket, saying, “He may take it who will,” and started at once for the officers’ tent, where he was duly installed as captain of the guard. With an obedience and a faith equally prompt the Jewish nobleman went his way. (Sermons by the Monday Club.)

Benefits of a pious parentage

“Thy son liveth.” So the son was restored by his father’s faith. It is a benefit to be born of good parents. Personal goodness is profitable to posterity. (J. Trapp.)

True faith

A father was once amusing his children with an electric machine, and after one or two had received the shock they drew back from the apparatus with evident dread. The father presently held out the jar uncharged, and consequently harmless, and said, “If you touch it now, you will feel nothing. Will you try?” The children drew back with their hands behind them. “Don’t you believe me?” asked he. “Yes, sir,” and the hands were held out to prove their faith, but were quickly withdrawn before they reached the dangerous knob. One alone, a timid little girl, had that kind of confidence which really led her to trust her father. The rest believed, but had not heartfelt faith. Even the little believer’s faith was not unwavering. You could see on her face, when the little knuckle approached the harmless brass ball, a slight expression of anxiety, showing she had some doubts and fears after all; and there was an evident feeling of relief when, from actual trial, she experienced the case to be as her father represented it. The fever left him.

In Palestine, as in all other Oriental countries, fevers are very prevalent; but the fatality varies greatly according to the locality. The commonest form is a low kind of intermittent fever, malarial in character, and accompanied by a dangerous flux. This leads to a great nervous weakness and exhaustion; and the fever has a tendency to hang on for an indefinite period of time. Among the Arabs of the Sinaitic peninsula this intermittent fever is very prevalent, but a fatal termination is comparatively rare. It is specially interesting, in connection with this lesson, in which the nobleman’s son lies sick at Capernaum, to remember that the site of Capernaum is famous to this day for the number and the malignancy of its fevers. The country lies low, and the land round about is marshy; so that during the hot season the conditions are favourable for producing fevers of the worst sort. There was a natural reason, therefore, why the nobleman’s son should lie sick at Capernaum. (H. C. Trumbull, D. D.)

Here is a clear and beautiful illustration of the apostle’s words, that “God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” Ephesians 3:20). The nobleman expected an amendment, or beginning to amend. Christ bestowed at once perfect health: “The fever left him.” Numberless are the instances of God’s overflowing grace in this respect, as we have before noted (Ill. Mark 8:23; Mar_10:13; Mar_01:16; Luke 1:67; Luk_18:14; Luk_19:4; Luk_23:43)
. (J. Ford, M. A.)

Himself believed and his whole house.--The house of the Christian when God visits it with trouble. The trouble

I. UNITES THE MEMBERS IN TENDERER LOVE.

II. DIRECTS THEIR HEARTS MORE TRUSTFULLY TO THE LORD.

III. AWAKENS THEM TO IMPORTUNATE PRAYER AND INTERCESSION.

IV. PRODUCES AT LAST A JOYFUL AND THANKFUL FAITH. (Lisco.)

Family religion

In a family where religion is known and God devoutly worshipped there is a conscientious tie on every one to discharge the duties that belong to his station; a tie strengthened by eternal rewards and punishments, and laid on the very soul. The parent and master consider themselves as accountable for the principles and, in a great measure, for the salvation of their children and their servants. The children and servants consider that they are to honour their parents as the representatives of God, and not to render only an eye-service, but so to obey and serve as those who in even the most secret thought and action lie open to the eyes of God. This produces a mutual discharge of duty on both sides; and that gives peace, order, and happiness to the whole family (Psalms 101:1-8; Psa_118:15). (P. Skelton.)

The same hour.--We also sometimes meet with voices on our way which come to us as an echo of our faith. I have heard of a Colonel yon M who on account of treason to his king and country was sentenced to a long imprisonment, and who, in his solitary cell at Galatz, in Silesia, began at last to seek the living God whose image had been for so long almost obliterated within him. He was allowed to have no book except his Bible, and though at first in reading it his only feeling was inward rage and gnashing of teeth, yet by degrees he felt the soothing of God’s tender hand on his desolate and comfortless heart. During a sleepless night he suddenly feels for the first time since his childhood as if he could pray. He opens the Bible, and reads these words: “Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me” (Psalms 50:15). Wherefore he calls upon God: “Lord, reveal Thyself to me, and deliver me from the misery of my unbelief.” And it was granted to him to believe the word which God was speaking to him; the tender and unspeakably indulgent Lord who despises not the faintest movement of faith, had seen and rewarded the coming to Him of this miserable man. He rises from his knees comforted, convinced in his conscience that a contact had taken place between his soul and the living God, and that, further, he should get to be able to glorify God. In that same night, the king of this colonel lay on his bed tormented with pain. He prayed God for an hour of quiet sleep; he slept, and when he awoke again refreshed, he said to his wife: “God has looked upon me very graciously, and I would fain be thankful to Him for it. Who is the man in my dominions who has the most deeply injured me?--this day I will forgive that man.” He considered a moment, and then he exclaimed, “Colonel M-- Let him be pardoned!” When the news of his release reached the prisoner, and the doubly-pardoned man inquired the hour in which God had softened the king’s heart, it was found that the same God still lives as of old, and that He still performs through His outstretched right arm what we read in. (R. Besser, D. D.)

The second miracle

We should count our mercies

God keeps count of what He doth for us, and will call for a reckoning. Should not we keep a register? write up the noble acts of the Lord? make a catalogue of them, such an one as was that 10:11-12. According to this term, and many the like insacred Scripture, we should polish and garnish, embroider and embellish, the great works of God, or else we undervalue them, which He will not bear with. (J. Trapp.)
.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "John 4:4". The Biblical Illustrator. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/john-4.html. 1905-1909. New York.

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