The Fountain Of Living Water
( Originally Published 1895 )
"The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. "—John iv. 14.
THIS story of Christ at the wayside well, with its figures of the well and the living water running through the conversation, is of great interest to any man or woman here who was born in the country, and who has a memory of the wells near the old farm-houses over all the country-side. My own mind is full of such pictures. They come up before • me now, the different wells that I knew in my boyhood. One had a square well-curb, which surrounded the well, with a little roof over the top to keep the rain from beating in or the sun from shining down into its depths. And inside, under the roof, fastened to the long rope, which in turn was fastened to the wind-lass, was an old, oaken bucket, like unto that about which Samuel Woodworth sings. May God make the oldest of our hearts mellow again as we recall it.
"How dear to this heart are the scenes of my childhood,
For often, at noon, when return'd from the field,
"How sweet from the green, mossy brim to receive it,
What an emblem the old well of living water is of the generosity and fulness of the upspringing peace which the Savior plants in every trusting heart! The water' from the old well did not need any ice to get it ready for use. t was a nectar fit for the king on the hottest day of summer, and it never needed a plumber to keep it going in winter.
The story we are studying to-night had its setting in a country of wells—a dry country, not well watered, where the possession of a well of water was a matter of great importance. This well of Sychar where Jesus had this immortal conversation with the woman of Samaria was then fifteen centuries old; and now, after the lapse of more than eighteen hundred years, still exists.
Let us learn the great lesson of our theme tonight, that no one is fitted for a safe journey through this dry and thirsty world who does not carry within his own heart a living fountain of spiritual life, the source of whose confidence and hope is not ever green in his own soul. Every wayside well will at one time or another be dried up by the drought and in the time of our greatest emergency fail to give us comfort. Every earthly source of satisfaction is of this character. What is more common for men to put their trust in than their health, their strength of body, the physical consciousness which they feel, of being able to bear burdens, endure toil and exposure? Other men belong to the sick and dying world, but they belong to the strong, and the healthy, and the well. I shall not soon forget a conversation which I had with a friend, a physician whose pastor I had been for several years, immediately before coming to this church. I went to bid him good-by, and just before I parted from him he said, "What can I say to you that will be of help to you about your health?" And then he went on to give me some good advice, told me I was getting to be stoop-shouldered, ought to throw my shoulders back, and learn how to walk. And he went on to tell me of some experiments he had been making with himself, some exercises which he had been going through, how easy it was now for him to walk up-stairs, compared with some years before, and declared that he never felt so strong and well, that he believed this new system of exercise would add twenty years to his life. That was less than nine months ago, and last Saturday night he came home, sank into his chair and said, " Wife, the end is at hand," and in a few moments was dead. The well of physical strength had dried up.
Another common source of earthly confidence, a well to which men turn with profound satisfaction, is a good name, a splendid reputation; and they have a scriptural right for that. Solomon says a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, but, alas, both of them are only wayside wells that are likely to be dried up. For our good name depends not only upon what we do, but upon what other people think we do; and many a man who has rejoiced for years in a well-earned fame has lived to see it torn to tatters and every vestige of it swept away through no fault of his own.
Money is another source from whence men and women constantly expect to get comfort and sup-port. They have a confidence, an assurance, that so much money coming in every week, every month, every year, will make their mountain to stand sure, and be a perennial source of enjoyment and peace. And there is much reason to expect that money will accomplish many things. It is many times social and political power while it lasts; but, after all, it is never moral power, and is never able to give any real peace. Not only so, but it is likely to vanish away at any time. Thou-sands of people every year, who a little while ago thought they were certain of a sure income, large enough to supply all their wants and even luxuries as long as they should live, and leave an abundant reserve for their children, have suddenly awakened to the fact that their riches have taken wings and flown away. And the most conservative, wise financiers of the world are powerless to foresee or ward off many of the dangers to fortune. But even if they keep it through life, it is a well that dries up entirely at death. We brought nothing with us into this world, and we can take nothing away; it must all be given up at the grave; none of it will pass in the exchange of the spiritual world beyond.
Another most beautiful source of comfort and joy, and one which is very dear and precious to many of us, is the pure and noble joy which we draw from our happy homes. Many people who do not care much for money, except as it ministers to their home life, and many who are not fascinated by the glittering baubles of fashion and fame, revel in the sweet luxury of their loving and sympathetic homes. But pure and noble as this is, and satisfying as are the pleasures of a pure home, it is, alas ! after all, only a wayside well at best, that is likely at any time to be blown upon by a cold breath, and destroyed.
I doubt not there are some here tonight who remember only a little time ago when they looked forward to long years of such comfort and rest, but now the home is broken and never can be gathered together again upon earth. There are some of you who can never hear the word home spoken without grief.
And so there is no wayside well that shall not dry up and leave us without comfort. But blessed be God for the gift of the Lord Jesus Christ, who comes to plant in our hearts a well of living water—not a stagnant pool, but an upspringing fountain that shall be ever fresh and new. What a blessing it would be for all these young men and women if in their youth this fountain of immortal youth could be started flowing in all their hearts ! I have been reading this week an article by Dr. Barrows in the Christian Register, entitled " The Hoary Heart," in which he shows with great clearness how easy it is in this rushing time of ours to waste all the glorious strength and privileges of youth, so that the best possibilities of life are wrecked, and its best hopes impossible almost before man-hood or womanhood is reached. Youth, he declares, is only the velvet on the flower of life. While we say it, it is passing; it is gone; before we have time to note them, the first gray hairs have appeared, the first wrinkles about the eyes. But sadder far than these physical tokens are the signs that the power of enjoyment and self-renewal have been wasted. While the youthful glow still lingers on the cheek, the heart has begun to grow old. Oh, a man does not need to go to the Bible to find proof of God and immortality. He may find it in the power to punish which God has put in one's own body. A man may suck poison if he will, but it will torture him in return.
The soul avenging itself for its own sins and abuses shows it has a power lying beyond the sphere of its will. The stories they sometimes tell us of a rattlesnake when crazed with anger driving its fangs into its own body until it dies of its own poison, are a fair illustration of the way a depraved soul often stings itself to ruin. Its weapons are disgust, satiety, that lead to suicide or insanity, or to what is far more common, a miserable, useless deathin-life.
The faculty of relish, Dr. Barrows aptly says, is the most delicate and vibratory and responsive of all the qualities of the soul. God has written his sternest judgment over against the abuse of the good gift of enjoyment. The power to punish lies bidden in every emotion, every impulse, every desire. What is so terrible as to see men or women, created with a more delicate organism than any musical instrument that ever was made, but who have so abused the delicate creation placed in their hands that it is all benumbed and helpless, and in place of the old gladness and exuberant joy, there is the deadly oncoming of indifference; the blasé, worn-out temper; fires burned down to the ashes; a black ring of dead things; a smoky pit; a burned-out crater where there was once a rose garden; only loathing at what once caused the heart glad joy and de-light; can there be anything more terrible than that? Beauty, love, faith, hope, all fallen to rottenness; cynicism and cursing in place of prayer and song. These are what comes to those who live as though they were mere creatures of the earth, as though there were no God and no immortality.
Dear friend, is this picture a portrait of your own career? Have you thus made a wreckage of life's first glorious possibilities? There may have been no actual debauchery; you may have had sufficient strength to keep the respectable appearance and to win what is called success in the world, while the gold of your holiest feelings was scattered to the winds. If so, I bring you to-night the message of the Lord Jesus Christ, who was able to take this poor, wasted heart, that throbbed in the bosom of the woman of Samaria, and despite its waste and sin, to plant within it the fountain of living water. And not only to you do I appeal, but with especial emphasis and with especial yearning in my soul do I come to the young, to those before whom the fascinations of sin are as yet largely only a temptation. I beg of you that you cherish your innocency, that you cherish all the generous impulses and noble inspirations of your youth, and now while life is fresh and strong, you invite that full and perfect fellowship with Jesus Christ, which shall cause to spring up in your heart an ever-living fountain that shall make all your life, like Damascus, "a garden of the Lord."