J. Hudson Taylor
"JESUS answered and said unto her, If thou
knewest the gift of GOD, and who it is that saith
to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have
asked of Him, and He would have given thee
"Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall
give him shall never thirst; but the water that I
shall give him shall become in him a well of
water springing up unto eternal life."
John 4:10, 14, RV.
9,000 in print
THE best evidence of Christianity is a Christ-like life, and the best evidence of the inspiration of the Word of GOD is found in the Word itself; when studied, loved, obeyed, and trusted, it never disappoints, never misleads, never fails. Why is so much time worse than wasted over criticism of its different books? What is needed is the humble, reverent, prayerful meditation of those who are determined to do the will of GOD; to such the guidance of the Spirit is promised, and the divine perfections of the Word are revealed. Is there anything of human manufacture that is not easily proved to be man's work when tested by the microscope? It reveals imperfections in the finest workmanship; while under similar treatment the minutest object of GOD'S creation is only shown to be more marvellously perfect. There is the same difference between man's word and GOD'S Word; the latter tried by appropriate tests is proved to be Divine.
Like many other parts of Holy Scripture the narrative of the fourth chapter of John may be profitably studied as an item of ancient history. It shows how the Son of GOD in the days of His flesh, doing the will of His Father, must needs go through Samaria, and avoid the route to the east of the Jordan by which the Jews were wont to escape contact with the Samaritans. It is most instructive to notice how the exhausted SAVIOUR forgot his weariness in the presence of a soul needing salvation; and how with divine wisdom He drew out the sympathy, surprise and attention of the sinful, ignorant woman, and called forth her own confession, "I have no husband". How in a sentence He revealed to her His knowledge of her whole life, and fulfilled her own ideal of what the CHRIST would do. Then, giving her that which she so ignorantly asked—the Living Water—He plainly stated to her that He was indeed the CHRIST of GOD, and allowed her in the impulse of a new life to do that which even the disciples had not attempted to do—to bear such witness concerning Him as to bring the multitudes to His feet. It is indeed an interesting and profitable item of ancient history, and as such is worthy of much more minute examination.
But is there not another standpoint from which it behoves us to consider this narrative? Why has it been recorded, but for our instruction? Is not the living CHRIST speaking now through this story to us, who as much need the Living Water as did the Samaritan woman? With this thought in mind let us notice particularly the words used by our Saviour of this Living Water.
JESUS said (v. 10) "If thou knewest the gift of GOD, and who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink; thou wouldst have asked of Him, and He would have given thee Living Water." How simple the conditions! If thou knewest thou wouldst have asked, and He would have given; she had not asked because she had not known; but surely we who know, and happily, believe the words of the LORD recorded in the preceding chapter, "GOD so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son . . ." do know the gift of GOD—the Living Saviour who is as present with us now, according to His own promise—"Lo, I am with you alway"—as He was then with the woman of Samaria. Realizing His presence, and knowing Him as GOD'S gift, is it not our privilege at once to ask and His joy at once to give us this precious gift—Living Water? Assuredly it is for this very purpose that the words have been put on record. We may not know, we cannot tell all that is involved in the gift, but if we know Him, that is sufficient. "As for GOD His way is perfect" we have only to fulfil our part, to ask of Him the Living Water, and leave to Him all the results.
But let us see what further He has to say to us: in verse 13 He says, "Every one that drinketh of this water [that of Jacob's well] shall thirst again"; the woman who heard these words knew by experience that this was true; and we also have proved that it is true of all earthly water, all earthly gifts. We should indeed thank GOD for our temporal blessings, comforts, and joys: they are not mere superfluities; they meet real needs, and are tokens of our Heavenly Father's love; but while they help and gratify, they do not permanently satisfy, they leave us to thirst again, and, oh! how deep is the thirst oft-times! But our Saviour continues (verse 14), "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him SHALL NEVER THIRST". Wonderful words! Let our glad souls take in their fulness. "Shall," not may, certainly shall; "never", by no means for ever more (lit.); "thirst", be left longing, left unsatisfied, faint, but unrefreshed. Blessed assurance of never-ending refreshment and strength!
"SHALL NEVER THIRST." What a promise! How often we have thirsted! How many weary and unsatisfied hearts there are; and yet this full supply was not intended to be the special portion of some exceptionally favoured soul, for note the SAVIOUR'S word, "Whosoever drinketh", it is free to all. May the Holy Spirit enable us to take our place as included in the "whosoever", and give their full and blessed meaning to those marvellous words, "shall never thirst". To know that "shall" means shall, that "never" means never, that "thirst" means any unsatisfied need, may be one of the greatest revelations GOD has ever made to our souls.
Let us not, however, change the SAVIOUR'S words. Note carefully He does not say, Whosoever has drunk, but "drinketh": He speaks, not of one isolated draught, but of the continuous habit of the soul. In this, as in many other passages, it is important to mark the force of continuous habit expressed by the present tense of the Greek verbs. There is full and deep satisfaction at the first draught of the Living Water, which, however, is a perennial supply for constant use. This the LORD brings out more fully when He says, "But the water that I shall give him shall be [or better 'become', RV] in him a well of water springing up unto eternal life". These words explain why the partaking of the Living Water is not followed by renewed thirst. The Living Water becomes a well, a fountain, always available, springing up in the believer, not only leaving no room for thirst, but overflowing for the supply of the need of others unceasingly.
Nor is this wonderful promise unique and without parallel. It always was, and is still, the SAVIOUR'S purpose to satisfy. On the occasion of the feeding of the five thousand (John 6), Philip's highest thought was to procure sufficient that everyone should have a little; but the LORD took the little they already had and multiplied it in the giving, so that each one had as much as he would, and twelve baskets were filled with that which remained after all were satisfied. The next day our LORD raised their thoughts to the true Bread from heaven, saying, "I am the Bread of Life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst". Or more fully and literally, "He who is [habitually] coming to Me, shall by no means hunger, and he who is believing on Me shall by no means thirst at any time". The Greek word is the same as that used in the passage, "No man has seen God at any time". The habit of coming in faith to Him is incompatible with unmet hunger and thirst. Again, in John 7 CHRIST says, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that is believing on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of him shall flow rivers of living water; this spake He of the Spirit, which those who are believing on Him should receive."
There is something very delightful in the truth thus taught: instead of conscious need and unsatisfied longing, abundant supply and overflowing satisfaction; instead of poverty and weakness, wealth and strength wherewith to help other needy ones. What a Divine Saviour! What a full and perfect salvation! GOD'S overflow more than supplies the lack of individual capacity. We cannot all be great, or wealthy or strong, wise or experienced; but CHRIST is made unto us wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption: He wills to be our all in all for life and service.
Wandering among GOD'S beautiful mountains on a delightful summer's day, how soon one becomes weary with climbing, and parched with thirst. Guided by the sound of running water, we seek the shade of an overhanging rock, and a draught from the crystal stream falling from above. It may be we have but a small vessel from which to drink, but we can fill it again and again, for the supply is inexhaustible. If the cup be small, it will soon be full and overflow: had we a bucket it would take longer filling, but, once full, it would equally overflow: and if a huge barrel were placed under the stream, it, too, in time would overflow. And the overflow in each case would be the same, for it depends not on the size of the vessel but on the unfailing supply of the stream.
Thus the saved Samaritan woman, without any preparation or any other fitness, could at once draw to her newly-found Saviour a multitude of needy souls, while many an eloquent preacher can leave the multitudes to go home unsaved and unsatisfied. Understanding this, it ceases to be a question of what we are, or what we can do, and the important thing is, have we brought our vessel to Him to be filled to overflow, that being more than satisfied ourselves, we may have to give to any and every thirsty one without stint and without fear? For the promise of John 7 is of rivers of living water, and of John 4 of an unfailing spring going on and on unto everlasting life.
Let us not leave the subject without asking ourselves, beloved friends, where we are with reference to this matter. Are we amongst the thirsty ones, or amongst those who have come to the one great Source, and are drinking, believing, and therefore receiving, for their own need and the blessing of others?
In conclusion, I should like to give a few words of personal testimony. It was in a time of deep spiritual need that the thoughts I have above expressed were given me when alone in inland China. I was painfully conscious that I was not living all that I was trying to teach the Chinese. Struggling for victory, too often I found myself defeated, until I asked myself whether I ought not to cease to preach, and to retire from missionary work. Fasting, prayer, meditation on the Word, all I could think of seemed powerless to help me, when one afternoon, in the course of my usual