Delivered on Sabbath Morning, October 16th, 1859, by
"And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."Revelation 22:17.
HE CRY OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION is the simple word, "Come." The Jewish law said, "Go, and take heed unto thy steps as to the path in which thou shalt walk. Go, and break the commandments, and thou shalt perish; Go, and keep them, and thou shalt live." The law was a dispensation of the whip, which drove men before it; the gospel is just of the opposite kind. It is the Shepherds dispensation. He goeth before his sheep, and he bids them follow him, saying unto them, "Come." The law repels; the gospel attracts. The law shows the distance between God and man; the gospel bridges that distance, and brings the sinner across that great fixed gulf which Moses could never bridge. The fact is, as you will all have to learn, if you know anything of gracious experience, that from the first moment of your spiritual life until you are ushered into glory, the cry of Christ to you will be, "Come, come unto me." He will always be ahead of you, bidding you follow him as the soldier follows his leader. He will always go before you to pave your way, and to prepare your path, and he will bid you come after him all through life, and in the solemn hour of death, when you shall lie panting upon your bed, his sweet word with which he shall usher you into the heavenly world shall be"Come, come unto me. Stretch thy wings and fly straight to this world of joy where I am dwelling. Come and be with me where I am."
For all that earth calls good or great."
I never knew what happiness was till I knew Christ; I thought I did. I warmed my hands before the fire of sin, but it was a painted fire. But oh, when once I tasted the Saviour's love, and had been washed in Jesus's blood, that was heaven begun below.
To see his face, to taste his love."
Oh, if ye did but know the joys of religion, if ye did but know the sweetness of love to Christ, surely ye could not stand aloof. If ye could but catch a glimpse of the believer when he is dancing for joy, you would renounce your wildest mirth, your greatest joy, to become the meanest child in the family of God. Thus then it is the living water, it is the water of life, because it satisfies our thirst, and gives us the reality of life which we can never find in anything beneath the sky.
And here let me add very briefly, he who once drinks of this water of life, drinks that which will quench his thirst for ever. You shall never thirst again, except it be that you shall long for deeper draughts of this living fountain.
In that sweet manner shalt thou thirst. It shalt not be a thirst of pain, it shall be a thirst of loving joya happy thirst, you will find it a sweet thing to be thirsting after more of Christ's love. Become a Christian, and thou shalt be satisfied for life, thou shalt then be able to say,"Return unto thy rest, O my son, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with thee." Thou shalt find an ever-living tree upon which thou shalt build thy nest, and no axe shall ever fell it, no winds shall ever shake thy quiet resting-place, but thou shalt rest for ever on the dear bosom of the Saviour where thou shalt find eternal rest, eternal joy and peace. Oh, come and take of him, and drink of the water of life freely.
And, moreover, he who drinketh of this living water shall never die. His body shall see corruption for a little while, but his soul mounting aloft, shall dwell with Jesus. Yea! and his very body when it has passed through the purifying process, shall again more glorious than when it was sown in weakness. It shall rise in glory, in honor, in power, in majesty, and united with the soul, it shall everlastingly inherit the joys which Christ has prepared for them that love him. This is the living water; I see the fountain flowing now, freely flowing, sparkling with all these excellent properties. Who would not long to come and drink thereof?
II. In the second place we observe from the text that the invitation is very wide"WHOSOEVER WILL, LET HIM TAKE THE WATER OF LIFE FREELY." How wide is this invitation! There are some ministers who are afraid to invite sinners, then why are they ministers! for they are afraid to perform the most important part of the sacred office. There was a time I must confess when I somewhat faltered when about to give a free invitation. My doctrinal sentiments did at thee time somewhat hamper me. I boldly avow that I am unchanged as to the doctrines I have preached; I preach Calvinism as high, as stern, and as sound as ever; but I do feel, and always did feel an anxiety to invite sinners to Christ. And I do feel also, that not only is such a course consistent with the soundest doctrines, but that the other course is after all the unsound one, and has no title whatever to plead Scripture on its behalf. There has grown up in many Baptist churches an idea that none are to be called to Christ but what they call sensible sinners. I sometimes rebut that by remarking, that I call stupid sinners to Christ as well as sensible sinners, and that stupid sinners make by far the greatest proportion of the ungodly. But I glory in the avowal that I preach Christ even to insensible sinnersthat I would say even to the dry bones of the valley, as Ezekiel did, "Ye dry bones live!" doing it as an act of faith; not faith in the power of those that hear to obey the command, but faith in the power of God who gives the command to give strength also to those addressed, that they may be constrained to obey it. But now listen to my text; for here, at least, there is no limitation. But sensible or insensible, all that the text saith is, "Whosoever will, let him come and take the water of life freely."
The one question I have to ask this morning is, art thou willing? if so, Christ bids thee take the water of life. Art thou willing? if so, be pardoned, be sanctified be made whole. For if thou art willing Christ is willing too, and thou art freely invited to come and welcome to the fountain of life and grace.
Now mark, the question has to do with the will. "Oh," says one, "I am so foolish I cannot understand the plan of salvation, therefore I may not come and drink." But my question has nothing to do with your understanding, it has to do with your will. You may be as big a fool as you will, but if you are willing to come to Christ you are freely invited. If you could not read a single letter in the alphabet, or spell out a word in the book, yet may your lipsignorant lips though they benow drink of this water of life. It has nothing to do with your understanding; it does not say "Whosoever understandeth let him come," but "whosoever will," and I do not doubt but what there are many souls who when they first come to Christ have very little understanding of the way of salvation, and very little knowledge of the way in which he saves; but they come to Christ, the Holy Ghost makes them willing to come, and so they are saved. Oh ye who have been for many a year wearing the pauper's garb, ye who come here from the workhouse, ye that are ignorant, ye that are despised among menare you willing to be saved? Can you say from your heart, "Lord, thou knowest I would have my sins forgiven?" Then come and welcome. Jesus bids thee come. Let not thine ignorance keep thee away. He appeals, not to thine understanding, but to thy will.
"Oh," says one, "I can understand the plan of salvation, but I cannot repent as I would. Sir, my heart is so hard, I cannot bring the tear to my eye, I cannot feel my sins as I would desire.
How heavy here it lies;
Heavy and cold within my breast,
Just like a rock of ice."
Ay, but this text has nothing to do with your heart; it is with your will. Are you willing? Then be your heart hard as the nether millstone if thou art willing to be saved I am bidden to invite thee. "Whosoever will," not "whosoever feels," but "whosoever will, let him come and take the water of life freely." "Yes," says one, "I can honestly say I am willing, but my heart will not soften. I wish that grace would change me. I can say I wish that Christ would soften my heart. I do desire that he would put the living fire within my cold breast and make me repent, and make me love him, and make me believe in him. I am willing." Well, then, the text is for thee, "Whosoever will, let him come." If thou art willing thou art freely invited to Christ. "No," saith one, "but I am such a great sinner. I have been a drunkard; I have been a lascivious man; I have gone far astray from the paths of rectitude. I would not have all my sins known to my fellow creatures. How can God accept of such a wretch as I am, such a foul creature as I have been?" Mark thee, man! There is no reference made here to thy past life. It simply says, "whosoever will," Art thou willing? Art thou willing to be saved? Canst thou say, "Now, Lord, I am willing to be saved, give me a new heart; I am willing to give up my sins; I am willing to be a Christian; I am willing to believe and willing to obey, but oh for this no strength have I, Lord, I have the will; give me the power." Then thou art freely invited to come, if thou art but willing. There is no barrier between thee and Christ except thy stubborn will. If thy will is subdued, and if thou art saying "Yes, Lord, I am willing," then art thou freely invited. Oh, reject not the invitation, but, come and welcome, sinner come."
But saith one, "I cannot come, I cannot believe; I cannot do as I would." Well, but it does not say, "Whosoever can, let him come," but "whosoever will, let him come." Art thou willing? You know there is many a man that has more will than power, but God estimates us not by our power, but by our will. You see a man on horseback, he is in haste to fetch a doctor for some dying man: the horse is a miserable jade, and will not go as rapidly as the man would like, but you cannot scold him because you see him whipping and spurring, and thus proving that he would go if he could, and so the master takes the man's will for the deed. So is it with you, your poor heart will not go, it is a sorry, disabled jade, but it would go if it could. So Jesus invites you, not according to what you can, but according to what you will. "Whosoever will, let him come and take the water of life freely." All the stipulation isArt thou willingtruly willing? If so, thou art freely welcome. Thou art earnestly invited to take of the water of life, and that freely too.
Surely as this goes round the hall, there will be many found who did answer to it, and who will say, from all their hearts, "I am willing: I am willing." Come let the question go personally round. Let me not talk to you in the mass, but let the arrow reach the individual. Grey head, give thy reply, and let you fair-haired boy answer also. Are you willing now to be savedare you willing to forsake sinwilling to take Christ to be your master from this day forth and for ever? Are you willing to be washed in his blood? Willing to be clothed in his righteousness? Are you willing to be made happywilling to escape from hell, and willing to enter? Strange that it should be necessary to ask such questions, but still it is. Are you willing? Then remember that whatever may be against youwhatever may have defiled youhowever black, however filthy, however worthless you may be, you are invited this day to take of the fountain of the water of life freely, for you are willing, and it is said, "Whosoever will, let him come."
"Ah!" saith one, "God knows I am willing, but still I do not think I am worthy." No, I know you are not, but what is that to do with it? It is not "whosoever is worthy," but "whosoever will, let him come." "Well," says one, "I believe that whosoever will may come, but not me, for I am the vilest sinner out of hell." But mark thee, sinner, it says, "whosoever." What a big word that is! Whosoever! There is no standard height here. It is of any height and any size. Little sinners, big sinners, black sinners, fair sinners, sinners double dyed, old sinners, aggravated sinners, sinners who have committed every crime in the whole catalogue,whosoever. Doth this exempt one? Who can be excluded from this whosoever? It mattereth not who thou mayest be, nor what thou mayest have been, if thou art willing to be saved; free as the air thou breathest is the love and grace of God. "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
Thus have I tried to show you how broad the invitation is.
III. And now I am about to show you, in the third place, how clear the path is. "WHOSOEVER WILL, LET HIM TAKE THE WATER OF LIFE FREELY." That word "let" is a very curious word, because it signifies two opposite things. "Let" is au old-fashioned word which sometimes signifies "hinder." "He that letteth shall be taken away,"that is, "He that hindereth." But here, in our text, it means the removing of all hindrance. "Let him come:"Methinks I hear Jehovah speaking this. Here is the fountain of love and mercy. But you are too unworthy, you are too vile. Hear Jehovah! He cries, "Let him come, he is willing. Stand back! doubts and fears, away with you, let him come; make a straight road; let him come if he be but willing." Then the devil himself comes forward and striding across the way, he says to the poor trembling soul, "I will spill thy blood; thou shalt never have mercy. I defy thee; though shalt never believe in Christ, and never be saved." But Christ says, "Let him come;" and Satan, strong though he be, quails beneath Jehovah's voice, and Jesus drives him away, and the path stands clear this morning, nor can sin, nor death, nor hell, block up the way, when Jehovah Jesus says, "Let him come."
Methinks I see several ministers standing in the way. They are of such high doctrine that they dare not invite a sinner, and they therefore clog the gospel with so many conditions. They will have it that the sinner must feel a certain quantity of experience before he is invited to come, and so they put their sermons up and say, "You are not invited, you are a dead sinner, you must not come; you are not invited; you are a hardened rebel." "Stand back," says Christ, "every one of you, though ye be my servants. Let him come, he is willingstand not in his way." It is a sad thing that Christ's ministers should become the devil's aiders and abettors, and yet sometimes they are, for when they are telling a sinner how much he must feel, and how much he must know before he comes to Christ, they are virtually rolling big stones in the path, and saying to the willing sinner, "Thou mayest not come." In the name of Almighty God, stand back everything this morning that keeps the willing sinner from Christ. Away with you, away with you! Christ sprinkles his blood upon the way, and crises to you, "Vanish, begone! leave the road clear; let him come; stand not in his path; make straight before him his way, level the mountains and fill up the valleys; make straight through the wilderness a highway for him to come, to drink of this water of life freely. 'Let him come.'" Oh, is not that a precious word of command! for it has all the might of Omnipotence in it. God said, "Let there be light and there was light," and he says, "Let him come" and come he will and must, that is but willing to come. "Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely." And now, sinner, remember God says, "come." Is there anything in thy way? Remember, he adds, "Let him come." He bids everything stand out of thy way. Standing one day in the court-house, some witness was required, I forget his name, it may have been Brown, for instance, in one moment the name was announced, "Brown, Samuel Brown," by-and-bye twenty others take up the cry, "Samuel Brown, Samuel Brown." There was seen a man pushing his way through, "Make room," said he, "make room, his honor calls me," and though there were many in his path, they gave way, because his being called was a sufficient command to them, not to hinder him, but to let him come. And now, soul, if thou be a willing sinner, though thy name it not mentionedif thou be a willing sinner, thou art as truly called as though thou wert called by name, and therefore, push through thy fears. Make elbow room, and come; they that would stop thee are craven cowards. He has said "Let him come," and they cannot keep you beck; Jehovah has said, "Let him come," and it is yours now to say, "I will come. "There is nothing that shall hinder me, I will push through every thing, and
Whose scepter mercy gives,'
I will go to the fountain and take of the water of life freely."
IV. And now this brings me to the last head, the condition which is the death of all conditionsLET US TAKE IT FREELY. Methinks I see one here who is saying "I would be saved and I will do what I can to be worthy of it." The fountain is free, and he comes with his halfpenny in his hand, and that a bad one, and he says, "Here, sir, give me a cup of this living water to drink; I am well worthy of it for see the price is in my band." Why, man, if thou could'st bring the wealth of Potosi, or all the diamonds of Galconda, and all the pearls of Ormuz, you could not buy this most costly thing. Put up your money, you could not have it for gold or silver. The man brings his merit, but heaven is not to be sold to meritmongers. Or perhaps you say "I will go to church regularly, I will give to the poor, I will attend my meeting-house, I will take a sitting, I will be baptized, I will do this and the other, and then no doubt I shall have the water of life." Back, miserable herd, bring not your rags and rubbish to God, he wants them not. Stand back, you insult the Almighty when you tender anything as payment. Back with ye; he invites not such as you to come. He says come freely. He wants nothing to recommend you. He needs no recommendation. You want no good works. Do not bring any. But you have no good feelings. Nevertheless you are willing, therefore come. He wants no good feelings of you. You have no belief and no repentance, yet nevertheless you are willing.
Every grace that brings us nigh,
Come to Jesus Christ and buy."
Do not try to get them yourselfcome to him, and he will give them to you. Come just as you are; it is "freely," "without money and without price." The drinking fountains at the corners of our streets are valuable institutions; but I cannot imagine anyone being so foolish, as when he comes to the drinking. fountains fumbling for his purse, and saying, "I cannot drink because I have not five pounds in my pocket." Why, however poor the man is, there is the fountain, and poor as he is he may drink of it. It is put there for the public. Thirsty souls as they go by, whether they are dressed in fustian or in broad cloth, don't look for any warrant for drinking; they come and drink of it freely. Here it is; the liberality of some good friend has put it there, and they take it and ask no questions whatever. Perhaps the only persons that ever need to go thirsty through the street where there is a drinking fountain, are the fine ladies and gentlemen who are in their carriages. They are very thirsty, and cannot think of being so vulgar as to get out to drink. It would bemean them, they think, to drink at a common drinking fountain, so they go with parched lips. Oh, how many there are that are rich, rich in their own good works, that cannot come to Christ. "I will not he saved," they say, "in the same way as a harlot or a swearer. What I go to heaven the same way as a chimney sweep! Is there no pathway to glory, but the path which a Magdalene may take? I will not be saved that way." Then you fine gentry may remain without. You are not bidden to come, for you are not willing. But remember,
But those who do themselves exclude;
Welcome the learned and polite,
The ignorant and rude."
"Whosoever wills let him come." Let him bring nothing to recommend him. Let him not imagine he can give any payment to God or any ransom for his soul; for the one condition that excludes all conditions is, "Let him come and take the water of life freely." There is a man of God here, who has drank of the river of the water of life many times; but he says, "I want to know more of Christ, I want to have nearer fellowship with him; I want to enter more closely into the mystery of his sacrifice; I want to understand more and more of the fellowship of his sufferings, and to be made conformable unto his death." Well, believer, drink freely. You have filled your bowl of faith once, and you drank the draught off, fill it again, drink again, and keep on drinking. Put your mouth to the fountain if you will, drink right on. As good Rutherford says in one of his letters, "I have been sinking my bucket down into the well full often, but now my thirst after Christ has become so insatiable, that I long to put the well itself to my lips, and drain it all, and drink right on." Well take it freely as much as ever you can. You have come now into the field of Boaz, you may pick up every ear that you can find, nay more than that, you may carry away the sheaves if you like, and more than that, you may claim the whole field to be yours if you will. The eating and drinking at Christ's table is like that of Ahasuerus, only in an opposite way. It is said of that table, none did compel; it is said of this, none doth withhold: none can restrain. If there be a big vessel full of this holy water, drink it all up, and if there be one that holdeth twelve firkins, drink it, yea, drink it all, and thou shalt find that even then there is as much as ever. In Christ there is enough for all, enough for each enough for evermore; and none shall ever have need to say that there was not enough in Christ for him. Drink freely. So you see that there are two meaningsdrink without price, and drink without stint.
Then, again, we have an old proverb that there are certain guests who come to our houses who are more free than they are welcome. They make free themselves, and go further than we can bid them welcome. But with regard to those who come to the fountain of living waters, you may make as free as you will and you are welcome; make as free as you can, take this water as you will, Christ will not grudge you. He that stands by the fountain will never mourn because you drink too much; he will never be dissatisfied because such a black fellow as you has dared to wash himself in the living stream. No, but the blacker you are the more will he rejoice that you have been washed; the more thirsty you are the more will his soul be gladdened to have you drink even to the full and be satisfied. He is not enriched by withholding; rather he is enriched in joy by giving. It is as much a pleasure to Christ to save you as it will be to you to be saved. He is just as glad to see the poor, the lame, the halt, and the blind sit at his table as ever they can be to sit there. He is just as pleased to carry men to heaven as they themselves can be when they drink of the river of joy at the fountain-head of eternity, "Whosoever will let him take the water of life freely."
And now I do not know what to say further. My text is such a precious one that I cannot enter into the fullness of its freeness and sweetness. Remember, my dear friends, if you are willing to be saved, God requires nothing of you except that you will yield yourselves up to Christ. If you are willing to be saved none can prevent; there is no obstacle. You are not going like the daughters of Hobab to a well from which you will be driven by the coarseness and rudeness of shepherds. You are come where Jesus standsstands with open arms, stands with open mouth, crying to you this day, "If any man thirst let him come unto me and drink, and whosoever will let him take the water of life freely."
And now will you refuse the invitation? See that you refuse not him that speaketh! Will you go this day and abuse the free mercy of God? Shall this very mercy lead you into more sin? Will you be wicked enough to say, that because grace is free, therefore you will continue in sin year after year?
Oh do not so; grieve not the Spirit of God; to-day is the accepted time; to-day is the day of salvation. If ye turn not he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready. You have been warned, your conscience has often pricked you, now this day you are sweetly invited. But the time of warnings and invitations will not last for ever: they will soon be over, and when your funeral knell is tolling, you shall be in that lake of fire, that land of misery and pain, where not a drop of water shall ever cool your burning tongue. As you would escape from the flames of hell, as you would be delivered from the eternal torments which God will certainly hurl upon you like hailstones, I beseech thee now consider thy ways, and if now thou art willing thou art invited and none can keep thee back from his mercy. "Whosoever will let him take the water of life freely." Shall I preach in vain? Will you all go away and not take the water of life? Come, soulis there not one at least that God shall give me this day for my hirenot one? May I not take one of you by the hand, some poor sinning erring brother? Come, brother let us go together and drink. O may the Holy Ghost incline you. Take it my brother. See on that bloody tree Jesus hangs; behold he pays his life a ransom for your sins and mine. Believe on him, trust him, commit your soul to him and be saved. Will you not say in your soul
But that thy blood was shed for me
And that thou bid'st me come to thee,
O lamb of God I come, I come?"
And as my Master is true and faithful, he cannot cast away one soul that cometh, for "him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out." O Spirit, now draw reluctant hearts, and now give timid souls courage to believe for Jesus' sake. Amen.