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The Forgotten Waterpot And The New Convert's Sermon

( Originally Published 1895 )

"The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ ?"—John iv. 28, 29.

"And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, he told me all that ever I did. "—John iv. 39.

IT is interesting to study the transformation that came over this woman, which caused her to forget her waterpot. That waterpot is a very essential feature of this story, for it represents the thing that the woman had on hand at the time. She had come purposely from the city on the hill to this well, to fill her waterpot and carry it home for the daily necessities of life, and something which Christ said to her so filled her heart and mind, that she forgot all about what she came for, and left her waterpot and hastened away into the city to tell the story of what had transpired to others. I have always been thankful for that forgotten waterpot. If I were hunting after relics I would like to have that. Nothing shows the genuineness of the woman's conversion more than that. It changed the purpose and plan of the woman's life; it set up a new standard of values for her. The waterpot did not seem so important as it did an hour ago when she came and found Jesus at the well. She saw that spiritual things, those things that are unseen and eternal, were the realities and the things of most value. Every genuine conversion to Christ does that. All people do not have the same experience in many ways. The way men and women receive good news depends largely upon their temperament. Some people when they are saved from their sins are full of ecstasy and joy, and others of a different temperament, just as truly saved, nestle down as it were into the arms of the Savior in quiet peace. But every genuine conversion has this effect, that it changes the individual's standard of values. Earthly things are no more so important as spiritual things. To please God, to live in fellowship with Jesus Christ, to carry the message of salvation to other souls, these become the great questions of life.

Now let us see what it was that so stirred this woman up, and so absorbed her attention that she forgot her waterpot. It comes out very clearly in the conversation as it is recorded here in this chapter. The Savior had made the astonishing statement to her, which I considered last evening, that if she should ask of him, he would give her living water that would spring up an abundant fountain in her heart always, ever fresh and new. And the woman by way of answer said to him, " Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw." Then I can imagine Christ looking her straight in the eyes as he seemed abruptly to change the entire tide of the conversation and probe deep into her inmost heart. He said, "Go, call thy husband, and come hither." As some one has well said, she asked for living water, but she did not know that the well must first be dug. In the depth of her soul, covered over with many strata of sin as it was, there was still left the power of life; but, like the source of a spring, it was hidden. Many a hard rock of impenitence was there, and many a layer of daily transgression, and many a wicked habit, once formable as clay, now hard as granite, and many a deposit of unholy thoughts which had left nothing but their dregs behind. All this had to be dug through before she could have the living water. The command of Jesus, " Go, call thy husband," was the first stroke of the pick breaking up the surface earth and revealing the foulness of the life beneath it.

Could there be a clearer illustration anywhere to show the hatefulness of sin in the sight of Jesus? The heart of Christ went out to this poor woman. He knew her lost condition and he saw something in her that was worth saving, and he longed to do her good; but he shows by these words that there is no hope for salvation until sin is uncovered and confessed and cast out forever. John McNeill, the Scotch evangelist, tells the story of a British officer in India who had been living a lustful and impure life, and went around one evening to argue religion with the chaplain. During their talk the officer said : "Religion is all very well, but you must admit that there are difficulties—about the miracles, for instance." The chaplain knew his man and his sin, his besetting sin, as Jesus knew the besetting sin of this poor woman, and quietly looking him in the face, 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 rushed away-from the tent. But a little later he came back, no longer to raise false difficulties but to ask how a poor, wicked, British officer might be saved. How many are held back from the Savior by some root sin which they are not willing to give up ! O my brother, my sister, you must give up your sins ! Your sin may not be this sin which stood between this poor Samaritan woman and salvation, but your sin,—I do not know what it is, but God knows, and unless it is repented and forgiven, in the great judgment day at last it will be made common property, and the whole assembled world shall know all about it, and it will blight your future and cover you with remorse throughout eternity. You must give up your sin. Why should you not want to give it up? Your sin that mars you, that defiles you, and will damn you unless you can escape from it—your sin which poisons the pure blood of your life, which destroys your peace, which makes you restless and uneasy; which makes your conscience a bed of thorns to lie on; which makes the Bible a book of judgment sentences when it ought to be a book of pillows softer than down for your weary head; which makes God a stern Judge, when he ought to be the most loving Father, comforting you in every sorrow; which makes Jesus the Crucified a witness against you, when he ought to be your Redeemer. Oh, fly from your sin ! As Christ taught this woman concerning the coming day of worship, which was then beginning, when all should worship God in spirit and in truth; and standing there before her, revealed unto her that he was the Mestsiah, the Savior that should come, until her poor, scarred heart believed him, and in her heart she purposed to forsake her sins and take him to be her Savior; so I pray God that blessed hour may come to you to-night, when you shall have a new vision of the Lord Jesus Christ, when he shall appear to you indeed the one altogether lovely; when, looking into your face, he shall say, " I that speak unto thee am he ;" and, like Thomas when he looked on the pierced side and the torn hands and wounded feet and scarred brow of the Master, you may cry, " My Lord and my God !"

Do you wonder after all that the woman forgot her waterpot, and hurried away into the city, telling everywhere about the Savior she had found? In order to do it she had to confess her own sin, for she cried out to every one she met, " Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did : is not this the Christ?" And the people who had known her, and had known her sinful life, were the first to believe her. They saw that this glorious transformation was too great to be accomplished by any mere human agency. And many of them believed on the Lord because of the saying of this woman.

How characteristic it was of the Savior to re-veal his Messiahship to this poor, wicked woman. t is just like our Savior to do that. Christ was always giving his best to the poorest, the weakest and the worst—to those who needed it most. Don't let anybody stay away from Christ because of their weakness, or because of the exceeding sinfulness of their sin; for it is the very nature of our great Redeemer to give the very best to those who have the greatest need.

I would like tonight to appeal to the highest and noblest motive that is in any human heart. That is the glorious thing about our Christianity that it appeals to the best that is in us. I want to beg of you that you become a Christian tonight, that you come out openly and frankly on the Lord's side, not because of your own need only, but be-cause your coming shall be a gracious and blessed influence upon others. Many of the Samaritans believed upon the Lord Jesus because of this woman's testimony. And no doubt many will be influenced by you. If you will turn to the Lord with a sincere heart, others will follow your ex-ample. Thank God, though the poor sinner may have to carry some scar of his sin even after the sin has been washed out by the blood of Jesus Christ, yet he may keep many another from entering the snare by which his own feet were en-trapped.

The story is told of a convict in Joliet prison in Illinois, who picked up one day in the prison corridor a scrap of paper, on which were these lines :

I walked through the woodland meadows,
Where sweet the thrushes sing;
And I found on a bed of mosses
A bird with a broken wing.
I healed its wound, and each morning
It sang its old sweet strain ;
But the bird with a broken pinion
Never soared as high again.

I found a young life broken
By sin's seductive art ;
And touched with a Christlike pity,
I took him to my heart.
He lived with a noble purpose,
And struggled not in vain ;
But the life that sin had stricken
Never soared as high again.

But the bird with a broken pinion
Kept another from the snare ;
And the life that sin had stricken
Raised another from despair.
Each loss has its compensation,
There is healing for every pain ;
But the bird with a broken pinion
Never soars as high again.

The man who found these verses had been converted to Christ in the early part of his imprisonment, and the words came to him with great force. He copied the stanzas and kept them carefully. He thought of his sin and realized how hard it would be henceforward to make his way in the world. When he came out of prison he resolved to do Christian work among other prisoners. Many looked upon him with suspicion, but God gave him friends, and he gained the confidence of the people wherever he went.

In telling his experience he often recited " The Bird with a Broken Wing." Who the author was he did not know. At length, however, it was learned that the poem was written by Hezekiah Butterworth, who went one day to hear Dr. George C. Lorimer, during his first pastorate in Tremont Temple, Boston, many years ago. The sermon was on "Samson Grinding at the Mill," and during the sermon the preacher said, speaking of Samson, " The bird with a broken pinion never soars as high again." To Mr. Butterworth the words came as a lightning-flash of truth, and he went home and wrote the poem.

Dr. Lorimer afterward went to Chicago and was pastor of the Emmanuel Church, and there one Sunday evening, speaking of the insidiousness of sin, he raised his finger, saying : "It may be, to-night, there is a defaulter here." He happened to point directly at a defaulter. It was God's arrow convicting the guilty one of sin. The man resolved at once to make restitution, desiring to hide his crime until able to restore all he had taken. But his crime was discovered. He pleaded guilty, and received a two years' sentence to Joliet. This was the man who found in the prison cortridor "The Bird with a Broken Wing." It was a true picture of himself, and a remarkable illustration of God's providence that the man who under God had uncovered his sin and caused him to repent was the same man who, years before, had inspired by his own words the poem which was afterward to bring him hope and confidence.

God made that poor man a blessing to many others. It became true of him as is expressed in the song :

But the bird with a broken pinion
Kept another from the snare ;
And the life that sin had stricken
Raised another from despair.

So I plead with you tonight to forsake your sin and find salvation not only for your own sake, but for the sake of every tempted soul whom you may thus influence for good.

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