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Eternal Life was in that Christ who spoke to them; that he gave it freely to whomsoever he would ;—bitter their wrath when they heard his disciples declare that God had given to men Eternal Life; that the Spirit and the Bride said, Come.
They had, indeed, a graceful ceremony, handed down to them from better times, as a sign that those words of the old psalmists and prophets had once meant something. At the Feast of Tabernacles—the harvest feast at which God was especially to be thanked as the giver of fertility and Life, their priests drew water with great pomp from the pool of Siloam; connecting it with the words of the prophet: ‘With joy
shall ye draw water out of the wells of salva* tion.' But the ceremony had lost its meaning. It had become mechanical and empty. They had forgotten that God was a giver. They would have confessed, of course, that he was the Lord of Life : but they expected him to prove that, not by giving Life, but by taking it away: not by saving the many, but by destroying all except a favoured few. But bitter
and deadly was their wrath when they were told that their ceremony had still a living meaning, and a meaning not only for them, but for all men ; for that mob of common people whom they looked on as accursed, because they knew not the law. Bitter and deadly was their selfish wrath, when they heard one who ate and drank with publicans and sinners stand up in the very midst of that grand ceremony, and cry : ‘If any man thirst, ' let him come to me and drink. He that 'believeth on me, as the scripture hath said,
Out of him shall flow rivers of living water.' A God who said to all · Come,' was not the God they desired to rule over them. And thus the very words which prove the text to be divine and inspired, were marked out as such by those bigots of the old world, who in them saw and hated both Christ and his Father.
The Spirit and the Bride say, Come. Come, and drink freely.
Those words prove the text, and other texts like it in Holy Scripture, to be an utterly new
Gospel and good news.; an utterly new revelation and unveiling of God, and of the relations of God to man.
For the old legends and dreams, in whatsoever they differed, agreed at least in this, that the Water of Life was far away; infinitely difficult to reach ; the prize only of some extraordinary favourite of fortune, or of some being of superhuman energy and endurance. The gods grudged life to mortals, as they grudged them joy and all good things. That God should say Come; that the Water of Life could be a gift, a grace, a boon of free generosity and perfect condescension, never entered into their minds. That the gods should keep their immortality to themselves seemed reasonable enough. That they should bestow it on a few heroes; and, far away above the stars, give them to eat of their ambrosia, and drink of their nectar, and so live for ever; that seemed reasonable enough likewise,
But that the God of gods, the Maker of the universe should say, 'Come, and drink freely ;' that he should stoop from heaven to bring life and immortality to light,—to tell men what the Water of Life was, and where it was, and how to attain it; much more, that that God should stoop to become incarnate, and suffer, and die on cross, that he might purchase the Water of Life, not for a favoured few, but for all mankind ; that he should offer it to all, without condition, stint, or drawback:
—this, this, never entered into their wildest dreams.
And yet, when the strange news was told, 'it looked so probable, although so strange, to thousands who had seemed mere profligates or outcasts ; it agreed so fully with the deepest voices of their own hearts,—with their thirst for a nobler, purer, more enduring Life,—with their highest idea of what a perfect God should be, if he meant to show his perfect goodness; it seemed at once so human and humane, and yet so superhuman and divine ;—that they accepted it unhesitatingly, as a voice from God himself, a revelation of the Eternal Author of the universe; as, God grant, you may accept it this day.
And what is Life ? And what is the Water of Life ?
What are they indeed, my friends ? You will find many answers to that question, in this, as in all ages : but the one which Scripture gives is this. Life is none other, according to the Scripture, than God himself, Jesus Christ our Lord, who bestows on man his own Spirit, to form in him his own character, which is the character of God.
He is The one Eternal Life; and it has been manifested in human form, that human beings might copy it; and behold, it was full of grace and truth.
The Life of grace and truth; that is the Life of Christ, and, therefore, the Life of God.
The Life of grace—of graciousness, love, pity, generosity, usefulness, self-sacrifice; the Life of truth-of faithfulness, fairness, justice, the desire to impart knowledge, and to guide men into all truth. The Life, in one word, of charity, which is both grace and truth, both love and justice, in one Eternal essence. That