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CHAPTER - THE WATER OF LIFE EXPLAINED.
AND HE SHOWED ME A PURE RIVER OF WATER OF LIFE, CLEAR AS CRYSTAL, PROCEEDING OUT OF THE THRONE OF GOD AND OF THE LAMB. — Revelation 22:1 THESE words are part of that description that one of the seven angels, which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, gave unto John, of the New Jerusalem. Wherefore he saith, “He, the angel, showed me it.”
In the text we have these things to consider:
III. He shows him also the head, or well-spring, from whence this river of water of life proceeds; and that is, The throne of God, and of the Lamb. “He showed me a river of water of life, proceeding out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb.”
IV. We have also here the nature and quality of this water; it is pure, it is clear, it is clear as crystal. “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb.”
We will begin with the first of these, namely with the matter, the subjectmatter of the text; which is, “the water of life.” These words, “water of life,” are metaphorical, or words by which a thing most excellent is presented to, and amplified before our faces: and that thing is the Spirit of grace, the Spirit and grace of God. And the words, “water of life,” are words most apt to present it to us by; for what is more free than water, and what more beneficial, and more desirable than life? Therefore, I say, it is compared to, or called, “the water of life.” “He showed me the water of life.”
That it is the Spirit of grace, or the Spirit and grace of God, that is here intended — consider, first, The Spirit of grace is in other places compared to water. And, secondly, It is also called, The Spirit of life — just as here it is presented unto us. “He showed me the water of life.” 1. The Spirit of grace is compared to water. “Whosoever,” saith the Lord, “drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst. But the water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:14. What can here be intended by water but the Spirit of grace, that this poor harlot, the woman of Samaria, wanted, although she was ignorant of her want, as also of the excellency thereof?
Which water also is here said to be such as will spring up as a well in them that have it, into everlasting life. Again, in the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” John 7:37-39. But of what? Why, of his “rivers of living waters.” But what are they? why, he answers, “This he spake of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive.” Yea, the prophets and servants of God in the Old Testament, did take this water of life for the Spirit of grace that should in the latter days be poured out into the church.
Hence Isaiah calls this water, God’s Spirit and blessing, and Zechariah, the Spirit of Grace. “I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground. I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thy offspring.” Isaiah 44:3. And Zechariah saith, “I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and supplication, and they shall mourn,” etc. Zechariah 12:10. Behold in all these places the Spirit of grace is intended, and. for our better understanding, it is compared to water, to a well of water, to springs of water, and to floods of water. 2. It is also called the Spirit of Life. 1. More closely, 2. More openly.
Secondly, Then more openly or expressly, it is called the Spirit of Life. “And after three days and a half, the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet.” Revelation 11:11.
From hence therefore I conclude, that by these terms, Water of life, is meant the Spirit of grace, or the Spirit and grace of the gospel. And the terms are such as are most apt to set forth the Spirit and grace of the gospel by. For, first, as to the term Water — 1. By this term Water, an opposition to sin is presented to us. Sin is compared to water, to deadly water, and man is said to drink it, as one that drinketh water. “How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?” Job 15:16.
So then, that grace and the Spirit of grace is compared to water, it is to show what an antidote grace is against sin. Zechariah 13:1. It is, as I may call it, counter-poison to it. It is that only thing by the virtue of which sin can be forgiven, vanquished and overcome. 2. By this term Water, you have an opposition also to the curse that is due to sin, presented unto you. The curse is compared to water; the remedy is compared to water. “Let the curse come into the bowels of the damned, saith the Psalmist, like water.” <19A918> Psalm 109:18.
The grace of God also as you see, is compared to water. The curse is burning, water is cooling; the curse doth burn with hell-fire; cooling is by the grace of the holy gospel. But they that overstand the day of grace, shall not obtain to cool their tongues so much of this water as will hang on the tip of one’s finger. 3. Sin is of a defiling nature, and grace is of a cleansing nature; therefore grace, or the Spirit of grace is compared to water. “I will,” says God, “sprinkle clean water upon you, (my Spirit, verse 27,) and ye shall be clean; and from all your idols will I cleanse you.” Ezekiel 36:25. 4. Water is also of a spreading nature, and so is sin; wherefore sin may, for this be also compared to water. It overspreads the whole man, and infects every member; it covereth all, as doth water. Grace for this cause may be also compared to water; for it is of a spreading nature, and can, if God will, cover the face of the whole earth; as well as every member of body and soul. 5. Water, the element of water, naturally descends and abides in low places, in valleys and places which are under-most; and the grace of God, and the Spirit of grace, is of that nature also. The hills and lofty mountains, have not the rivers running over the tops of them; no, though they may run among them; but they run among the valleys. And God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble, to the lowly. Proverbs 3:34; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5. 6. The grace of God is compared to water, for that it causeth fruitfulness.
Water causeth fruitfulness; want of water is the cause of barrenness. And this is the reason why the whole world is so empty of fruit to God-ward, even because so few of the children of men have the Spirit of grace in their hearts. But, Secondly , As there is a special signification in this term Water, so there is also in this term, Life; — Water of Life. “He showed me the water of life.”
It is aqua vitae, water of life, or water that hath a health and life in it. And this term shows us, 1. That the world of graceless men are dead; ( John 5:21,25; Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13;) dead in trespasses and sins. Dead, that is, without life and motion God-ward, in the way of the testament of his Son. 2. It also shows us, that there is not any thing in the world, or in the doctrine of the world, the law, that can make them live. Life is only in this water. Death is in all other things. The law, I say, which is that that would (if any thing in the whole world could,) give life unto the world, yet killeth, condemneth; and was added that the offense might abound. Wherefore there is no life, either in the world, or in the doctrine of the world: ‘tis Only in this water, in this grace of God, which is here called the water of life, or God’s aqua vitae. 3. It is also called the water of life, to show, that by the grace of God men may live, how dead soever their sins have made them. When God will say to a sinner, Live! though he be dead in his sins, he shall live. “When thou wast in thy blood, I said unto thee, Live; yea, when thou wast in thy blood, I said, Live.” Ezekiel 16:8,9. And again, “The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear, shall live.” John 5:25. That is, when he speaks words of grace, and mixeth those words with the Spirit and grace of the gospel, then men shall live: for such words, so attended, and such words only, are Spirit and life. “The words that I speak unto you,’ saith Christ, “they are Spirit, and they are life.” John 6:63. 4. In that this grace of God is here presented unto us under the terms of “water of life,” it is to show, that some are sick of that disease, that nothing can cure but that. There are many diseases in the world, and there are also remedies for those diseases. But there is a disease that nothing will, can, or shall cure, but a draft of this aqua vitae, this water of life. This is intimated by the invitation; “let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation 21:6. Revelation 22:17. And again, “I will give to him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.” This is spoken to the sick, to them that are sick of that disease that only Christ, as a physician, with his water of life, can cure. Mark 2:17. But few are sick of this disease, but few know what it is to be made sick of this disease.
CHAPTER -ABUNDANCE OF THE WATER OF LIFE.
WE come now to discourse of the second thing with which we are presented by the text: and that is, the quantity that there is, of this water of life. It is a river. “He showed me a river of water of life.” Waters that are cordial, and that have in them a faculty to give life to them that want it, and to maintain life where it is, are rare, and scarce, and to be found only in close places, and little quantities; but here you see there is abundance, a great deal, a river, a river of water of life! In my handling of this point, I will show you, first, What a river of water of life this is, and secondly, draw some inferences therefrom.
I. What a river this is: this river of water of life. 1. It is a deep river. It is a river that is not shallow, but deep, with an, ‘O the depth!’ “I will make their waters deep,” saith God. And again, “They have drunk of the deep, waters.” Ezekiel 32:14, Ezekiel 34:18. A river of water of life, is much; but a deep river, is more. Why, soul-sick sinner, sin-sick sinner, thou that art sick of that disease that nothing can cure but a portion of this river of the water of life; here is a river for thee, a deep river for thee! Those that at first are coming to God by Christ for life are of nothing so inquisitive, as of, Whether there is grace enough in him to save them. But for their comfort, here is abundance, abundance of grace: a river, a deep river of the water of life for them to drink of. 2. “As this river is deep, so it is wide and broad.” Ephesians 3:18; Job 11:9. Wherefore as thou art to know the depth, that is, that it is deep; so thou art to know its breadth, that is, that it is broad. It is broader than the sea: “A river that cannot be passed over.” Ezekiel 47:5. Never did man yet go from one side of this river to the other, when the waters indeed were risen. And now they are risen, even now they proceed out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb too. Hence this grace is called “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Ephesians 3:8. Sinner! sick-sinner! what sayst thou to this? Wouldst thou wade, wouldst thou swim? Here thou mayst wade, here thou mayst swim! ‘Tis deep, yet fordable at first entrance. And when thou thinkest that thou hast gone through and through it, yet turn again and try once more, and thou shalt find it deeper than hell, and a river that cannot be passed over. If thou canst swim, here thou mayst roll up and down, as the fishes do in the sea. Nor needst thou fear drowning in this river. It will bear thee up, and carry thee over the highest hills, as Noah’s waters did carry the ark. But, 3. As this river of water of life, is deep and large; so ‘tis a river that is full of waters. A river may be deep, and not full. A river may be broad and not deep. Psalm 65:9. Ay, but here is a river deep, and broad, and full too! “Thou waterest it; thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God which is full of water.” “Full of grace and truth.” “Fill the water-pots,” saith Christ, (up to the brim.) “The waters of a full cup” the wicked shall have; and a river full of the water of life, is provided for those who indeed have a desire thereto. 4. As this river is deep, broad and full, so it still aboundeth with water. Ezekiel 47:5; <19E718> Psalm 147:18. “The waters,” says the prophet, “were risen.” Hence the Holy Ghost saith, God “causeth the waters to flow.” And again, “And it shall come to pass in that day (the day of the gospel) that the mountains shall drop with new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah flow with waters: and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim.” Joel 3:18.
When a river overflows, it has more water than its banks can bound: it has abundant water. “Beheld, he smote the rock that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed.” Psalm 78:20. This river of water of life, which is also signified by these waters, is a river that abounds, and that overflows its banks in an infinite and unspeakable manner.
II. Now I shall come to draw some inferences from it, that is from this term, a river — “A river of water of life.” 1. A river is water that is common, common in the streams, though otherwise in the head. This river proceeds out of the throne, and so, as to its rise, it is special; it is also called the water of life; and as it is such, it is special; but as it is a river, it is common, and of common use, and for common good. Hence the grace of God is called, “the common salvation;” ( Jude 1:3;) for by the word there is no restraint, no denial to, or forbidding of any that will, from receiving thereof. “And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation 22:17. What can more fully declare the commonness of a thing? Yea, this river is called at the very head of it, an Open Fountain, “a fountain open to the house of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem.” Zechariah 13:1. And by Judah and Jerusalem is comprehended every soul that would drink of the water of life, or living water. And hence it is that this river is said to “go down to the desert and to the sea, where all kind of fishes are.” Ezekiel 47:8. By the sea is meant the world, and by fish the people, and thither shall run this river of water of life. But, 2. Though a river, in the streams of it, is common, yet a river, as it passes through a country or province, will choose its own way. It will run in the valleys, in the plains, not over steeples and hills. It will also fetch its compasses and circuits; it will go about and reach hither and thither; and according to its courses, it will miss, by its turnings, what places and people it lists; yet it is common, for that it lies open; yea, it is common for all the beasts of the field. There is therefore a difference to be put betwixt the commonness of a thing and its presence. A thing may be common, yet far enough off of thee. Epsom, Tunbridge waters, and the Bath, may be common, but yet a great way off of some that have need thereof. The same may be said of this river. It is common in the streams, but it runs its own circuit, and keeps its own water courses. “He sendeth the springs into valleys, which run among the hills.” <19A410> Psalm 104:10.
Indeed he openeth his river in high places, in his throne, and the throne of the Lamb, but still it runs in the midst of the valleys to water the humble and the lowly. Wherefore, they that thirst, and would drink, are bid to come down to the waters. “He, every one that thirsteth! come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy,” etc. Isaiah 55:1.
The waters are common, but you must come to them, to them where they are, or you will be nothing the better for them. Come ye to the waters! 3. This water of life is called a river, to intimate to you, by what store of the same, it is supplied. All rivers have the sea for their original. “All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full: unto the place from whence the rivers came, thither they return again.” Ecclesiastes 1:7.
And so this river of water of life is said to proceed out of the throne, as out of a place where it breaketh out; but the original is the sea, the ocean of grace, which is in an Infinite Deity. “Thou wilt cast all our sins into the depths of the sea:” ( Micah 7:19,) into the depth of the sea of thy grace. Rivers, when they are broken up, do with their gliding streams carry away a great deal of the filth, which from all parts of the countries through which they run, is conveyed into them; and they carry it away into the sea, where it is everlastingly swallowed up.
And Oh the filth that is cast into this river of God! And Oh how many dirty sinners are washed white therein! For by their continual gliding away, they carry that filth into the midst of the sea. A river will take away the very stink of a dead dog, nor doth all the soil and draft that is cast into rivers, cause that those that can should be afraid to make use thereof. And all that have need betake themselves to these rivers notwithstanding. But how much more virtue is there in this sweet river of grace, that is designed, yea, opened on purpose to wash away sin and uncleanness in, to carry away all our filth, and to remain as virtuous still? 4. It is called a river, to show that it yields a continual supply, as I may call it, of new and fresh grace. Rivers yield continually fresh and new water.
For though the channel or water-course in which the water runs, is the same, yet the waters themselves are always new. That water that but one minute since, stood in this place or that of the river, is now gone, and new and fresh is come in its place. And thus it is with the river of God, which is full of water; it yieldeth continually fresh supplies, fresh and new supplies of grace to those that have business in these waters. And this is the reason that when sin is pardoned, it seems as if it were carried away. These waters have with their continual streams, carried away the filth of the sinner from before his face. It is not so with ponds, pools and cisterns; they will be foul and stink, if they be not often emptied, and filled again with fresh water.
We must then put a difference between the grace that dwelleth in us, and this river of water of life. We are but as ponds, pools, and cisterns, that can hold but little; and shall also soon stink notwithstanding the grace of God is in us, if we be not often emptied from vessel to vessel, and filled with fresh grace from this river. Jeremiah 48:11. But the river is always sweet, nor can all the filth that it washes out of the world, make it stink or infect it. Its water runs with a continual gliding stream, and so carries away all annoyance, as was said, into the depth of the sea. 5. The grace of God is called a river, to show, that it is only suited to those who are capable of living therein. Water, though it is that which every creature desireth, yet it is not an element in which every creature can live.
But who is it that can live by grace? Even none but those whose temper and constitution are suited to grace. Hence, as the grace of God is compared to a river; so those that live by grace are compared to fish; for, as water is that element in which the fish liveth, so grace is that which is the life of the saint. “And there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither; for they shall be healed, and every thing shall live whither the river cometh.” Ezekiel 47:9.
Art thou a fish, man, art thou a fish? Canst thou live in the water? Canst thou live always (and no where else but) in the water? Is grace thy proper element? The fish dieth if she be taken out of the water, unless she be timely put in again; the saint dieth if he be not in this river. Take him from his river, and nothing can make him live: let him have water, water of life enough, and nothing can make him die.
The frog can live in the water, but not in the water only; the otter can live in the water, but not in the water only. Give some men grace and the world, grace and sin; admit them to make use of their lusts for pleasure, and of grace to remove their guilt, and they will make a pretty good shift, as we say. They will finely scrabble on in a profession. But hold to them grace only, confine their life to grace, put them into the river, and let them have nothing but river, and they die. The word, and way, and nature of grace is to them as light bread, and their soul can do no other but loathe it; for they are not suited and tempered for that element. They are fish, not frogs, that can live in the river, as in their only proper element. Wherefore the grace of God, or Spirit of grace is compared to a river, to show, that none but those can live thereby, whose souls and spirits are suited and fitted thereto. 6. The grace of God, or Spirit of grace, is called or compared to a river, to answer those unsatiable desires, and to wash away those mountainous doubts, that attend those that indeed do thirst for drink. The man that thirsteth with spiritual thirst, fears nothing more than that there is not enough to quench his thirst. All the promises and sayings of God’s ministers to such a man, seem but as thimbles instead of bowls. I mean so long as his thirst and doubts walk hand in hand together. ‘There is not enough in this promise; I find not enough in that promise to quench the drought of my thirsting soul.’ He that thirsteth aright, nothing but God can quench his thirst. “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God!” Psalm 42:2; Psalm 63:1; <19E306> Psalm 143:6. Well, what shall be done for this man? Will his God humor him, and answer his desires? Mark what follows, “When the poor and needy seek water and there is none, (and they can find none, when all the promises seem to be dry, and like clouds that return after the rain,) and their tongue fails for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.” Ay, but, Lord, what wilt thou do to quench their thirst? “I will open rivers,” saith he, “in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.” Behold! here are rivers and fountains, a pool, and springs, and all to quench the thirst of them that thirst for God.
Wherefore, as I said, such provisions for the thirsty, intimates their fears of want, and the craving appetite of their souls after God. Right spiritual thirst is not to be satisfied without abundance of grace. “And they shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house, and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.” Psalm 36:8. 7. The grace of God is compared to a river, to show the greatness of the family of God. He has a family, a great family, and therefore it is not a little that must be provided for them. When Israel went out of Egypt, and thirsted by the way, God provided for them a river: he made it gush out of the rock. Psalm 78:20. For, alas! what less than a river could quench the thirst of more than six hundred thousand men, besides women and children? I say what less than a river could do it? When the people lusted for flesh, Moses said, “Shall the flocks and herds be slain for them to suffice them, or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them to suffice them?” Even so could not less than a river sustain and suffice that great people. Now his people in gospel days are not to be diminished but increased. And if then they had need of a river, surely now of a sea; but the river is deep and broad, full, and abounds, or rises with water, so it will suffice. 8. The grace of God is compared to a river, perhaps to show of what a low esteem it is with the rich a and the full. The destitute indeed embrace the rock instead of a shelter; and the poor and needy, they seek water. But they that drink wine in bowls, that can solace themselves with, as they think, better things; they come not to this river to drink; they never say they shall die if they drink not of this water. It is therefore for the poor and needy. God will lead them to his living fountains of waters, and will wipe away all tears from their eyes. Revelation 7:17.