RIVERS OF LIVING WATER.
It is very rarely that we find a saying of Jesus Christ, the great teacher, with an apostolic note subjoined. This unique combination is one of the priceless jewels in John's Gospel (vii. 37-39). Christ was at the feast of tabernacles. "At every day of the feast, at the time of the morning sacrifice, a priest brought into the forecourt, in a golden vessel, water from the spring of Siloah, which rises within the mount on which the temple stood, and poured it mingled with sacrificial wine into two bowls which stood upon the altar and in which there was an opening by which it made its escape." Meanwhile the priests sounded trumpets and clashed cymbals, and the words of Isa. xii. 3 were chanted, "With joy shall we draw water out of the wells of salvation." Just when the people were exhibiting great joy at the sight of this symbol Jesus stood forth and with a loud voice cried out to the vast multitude: "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." Upon this John thus comments: "But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe in him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified." This explains why Jesus used the future tense, "rivers of living water." Upon this John thus comments: "But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe in him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified." This explains why Jesus used the future tense, "rivers of living waters shall flow." The ceaseless Pentecostal fountain was yet to be opened for earth's thirsty minions.
It Is commonly thought that when Jesus uttered the words, "Come unto me, and drink," He meant but one act — believe on me; that is, to come is to believe, and to drink is to believe. But there is a beautiful shade of difference. Christ used no tautology. To come to a fountain does not quench thirst. This represents the direct act of saving faith, not satisfying, but painful from strenuous effort. But drinking is a fit emblem of the reflex spontaneity of assuring faith grounded in the Spirit's inward cry, "Abba, Father." This is not a single effort, as saving faith is, but a continuous and joyful appropriation. We come to the fountain once; we drink always and without conscious volition. The first act is saving faith, the second act, or series of acts, is the faith of assurance. In fact, the water will once for all be received into the inner nature, will be immanent in the believer, and will attend him in every stage of his being, even to eternity - "a well of water springing up unto eternal life." Says Tholuck, "This eternally upspringing water expresses that death not only does not interrupt this life, this communion with God, but that it rather brings it to perfection."
In John iv. 14 Jesus declared His gift of water would be a self-dependent spring within the heart; but at the feast of tabernacles He went far beyond that in saying that the inner fountain should pour forth, not brooks, but rivers, Amazons, abundantly quenching our thirst and refreshing others. This interpretation avoids the error that one Christian can impart the Holy Spirit to another. He may by his testimony and conduct awaken thirst in his neighbor and lead him to the spring where he may himself drink. One may be a channel for the water of life to flow to another.
The conditions on which the living water, the Holy Comforter, is given are clearly set forth in John xiv. 14-16, the last address of Christ before his crucifixion. It has been very appropriately called "the heart of Jesus." The conditions are love to Christ evinced by obedience to His commandments and asking in His name. The Paraclete is the greatest mediatorial gift. The words "in my name," as the condition of prevailing prayer, distinctly reveal the mediatonal office of the Son of God in the establishment of His Father's kingdom. No man can wilfully ignore the Mediator and then prevail in his prayer to God for the gift of the Comforter. Hence many fail to receive the well of water, the Pentecostal gift; some because their theology is so meagre that it affords in the unity of the divine nature no place for the Mediator, and others because He is rather a name, an orthodox formula, than a living person in whom they trust with a faith equal to that exercised toward the heavenly Father. Such equal reliance the Son claims when He says, "Believe in God, and believe in me." Before He finished the discourse which opens with these words He completed the prayer taught to His disciples at the beginfling of His ministry by adding "in my name." It is this completed prayer, offered in faith by a soul filled with ardent desire, which opens wide the portals for the incoming of the Comforter, and unseals the fountain henceforth eternally springing up in the hidden depths of the believing soul.
Many excellent Christians fail to receive the fulness of the Spirit because, like the woman at Jacob's well, they do not know the gift, or rather, as Campbell translates it, "the bounty, the liberality of God," that disposition of mind from which the best gifts flow. "If thou knewest, thou wouldest have asked." Our asking is limited by our knowledge. Ignorance of God's large-heartedness asks only small favors. Hence a better knowledge of God is requisite for spiritual enlargement. There must be a more thorough acquaintance with his character as revealed in His word and in the testimony of those who are dwelling in the higher altitudes of grace. Knowledge excites desire. The merchant who artistically arranges his goods in his window acts upon this principle. To awaken a spiritual appetite God sets forth in revelation His showcase of exceedingly great and precious promises. In this display of priceless jewels is the Kohinoor diamond of the Holy Scriptures, "the promise of the Father," towering above all the other promises as indeed "a mountain of light," an ornament for the crown of every "king and priest unto God," who claims his full heritage in Christ.
Jesus said to the woman, "If thou hadst asked, I would have given," showing as invariable an order of sequences in the spiritual realm as in the material world. He answers all true prayer that reaches His ear, and is waiting for more. To bestow the Comforter is His highest delight. He is more willing to give the Holy Spirit "to them that ask him" than earthly parents are to give good gifts unto their children.*
*See Appendix Note L.