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Natural Emblems Of Spiritual Life
By A. B. Simpson
"All my springs are in Thee." Psalms 87:7
I want to speak this morning of the spontaneousness of Christian life. It should be always springing, rather than constrained and mechanical. There is all the difference between these two aspects of it that there is between law and grace, or between man and God. Man's life is like a vessel, which must be filled to the brim before any refreshment can be poured out to others. God's is a great artesian well, which is ever springing and overflows from very gladness. It is beautiful to see the gladness of nature. It is overflowing all around us today because it cannot help it. Man makes a greenhouse and labors hard to get a few flowers. God scatters them plentifully everywhere.
There are millions of them in wild wastes, lonely deserts, where no man goes. They come from the springing fulness of nature. If God can so make beauty and richness spring out of this dreary earth, can't He make righteousness and praise spring forth just as freely from our barren hearts? Look forth upon the abundance of nature, and see the evidences of God's exhaustless resources everywhere, then expect Him to do for us and in us exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think.
Christian life, then, should be a springing life.
It is life, not character, that is worked up. Jesus said, "I am come that they might have life." There should be a springing fulness about it, and a constant supply, so that it will overflow all the time to others. When our Saviour was talking to the woman of Samaria He told her the same thing.
"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."
"Whosoever shall drink of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."
As though He had said: "You have a well here, from which you can get water only by a bucket with a long descending chain. It cost much labor, and sometimes the well is dry, and you can get no water; the water which I can give you will be a fountain, springing not for a little time, but into everlasting life. It is the eternity of God begun already within you."
Jeremiah's complaint about the children of Israel was that they had forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters. God is a spring of life to the soul in whom He lives. Dear friends, have you got this springing life? Have you something more than a bondage to duty - a close following of the promptings of conscience, a fear of displeasing God, a sense of obligation to Him? These things are right, but they are not enough. It is the spring of life within you, the immeasurable depths of God's great heart throbbing within your own.
There must, however, not only be springing life, but springing light in the Christian heart. "The dayspring from on high hath visited us." "To them which sat in the region and shadow of death, light is sprung up." This light does not mean cold, formal ideas of right and duty. It is the light of life. It is One who is Himself the Light dwelling within you. It is the light of the heart, and not merely the head. It is springing life, as well as apprehension and divine conviction of truth, and yet it is the other, too. If you see the sun, you know it is the sun. If you taste water, you know at once it is water. If you know Christ, there is nothing in the universe that can convince you it is not Christ.
So the enlightened heart will have constantly a sense of Divine guidance, which it knows comes directly from Christ's own heart. Do you know this, dear friends? Have you got this springing light? Do you know of always being Divinely led? If you know the voice of the Shepherd so you cannot misunderstand it. This is not something which can be elaborately worked out. It comes from constantly watching Jesus and being always guided by Him. You cannot have it without much prayer, yet it is a very simple thing and sufficient for every need. "The wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein."
The Lord wants from us, also, springing righteousness. He tells us (Isa. 61:11) that it is like a plant springing from the seed sown in the soil. It is not to be a put on righteousness. The fruits upon a Christmas tree are tied on it, but what would you think to see an apple tree with the big, luscious fruit hanging to it by a cotton string? No, our righteousness must grow from roots running down deep into our being. Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, all the graces of Christian character, God expects to see springing forth naturally from our lives. If they are not spontaneous they are not pleasing to Him. It is a terrible life to live to be always doing things because we ought to. We will constantly carry the atmosphere of labor and pressure about with us if we do. Our life should be a delight in all its departments, and so should be sweet and fragrant.
There should always be an air of ease and gladness about our service if it is to bring any pleasure to God. The tears upon the altar defile it. Our sacrifices should be bound upon it by our own glad surrender. If our righteousness has any life in it it will be springing. Holiness is not dead. It springs from on high, and is a real life within us. It ought to be an absolute pain for us to sin; and God will give to a life that is filled with obedience and purity a righteousness that springs from Himself and that will be sweet and fresh in Him always.
Our service should be springing service. If it is not it will not extend very far or be blessed with much result. Jesus said: "He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water." If there is in us this spring of waters it will cut great channels by the force of the overflow, which will spread out to the desert around us. Like the stream from the smitten rock, it will pour out and rush wherever there is a low place to run down to, for water ever descends, and if it is running water it will cleanse and sweeten these low places, however filthy they are. It goes gladly, kept alive by its constant activity. Ah! friends, there must be within us this deep consciousness of the necessity of service. Like Peter and John, our feeling must be, "We cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard." Like our Saviour, we must know. "If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out." Jeremiah once said: "I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His name. But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay."
It was the spirit of overflowing service, and, of course, it could not be restrained. Paul was once pressed by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem, and his friends tried to hold him back, but he cried out, in sorrowful entreaty, "What mean ye, to weep and break mine heart? For I am ready, not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." It was the service of the old Hebrew slave, who might have gone out free, but who said: "No! I love my master. I will not go out free." And so he became a bondslave forever by the nail driven through his ear into the doorpost. It is willing service for the sake of others, and we must have this. If there is any shallowness in our words they will tell on others' hearts. They will fall back listless and without result.
"It needs overflow of heart
To give the lips full speech."
We must have this overflow of heart in our work, which, like the circles from a pebble thrown into the water, will ever widen its boundary of joyful service. The first thought in Paul's heart when our Lord appeared to him was, "What wilt thou have me to do?" Zaccheus, when he hastened to receive the Saviour, greeted him with, "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor." It was the deep gratitude of the heart springing up in response to the word of Jesus. One touch of love had melted the heart and sent forth streams of love to all around. The sinful woman who came to the feet of Christ in the Pharisee's house did not get a word from Jesus, but she could not keep back the love that was welling up in her heart for Him who had saved, and the little act of service she did was a joy to her. So let our service for Him be service we love to give. Don't call it sacrifice. It should not seem a sacrifice. We should feel insulted to have it called a sacrifice. It should be the essence of joy to us.
God wants from His people a springing love. What is love worth if it does not spring up unconsciously and without dissimulation? God wants this love from us, "because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us." The sun comes in the morning, bringing with it all the effulgence of the dawn. It spreads glory to the high and to the low, and sends its bright, warm rays into the palace of the wealthy and the humble dwelling of the poor. The love of God is a great sunrise in the heart, and it should give back sunshine everywhere from the heart. The love of Jesus is not measured, but it is poured out like a mother's kisses and tears, often on worthless creatures. It is love that not only bears, but bears with joyfulness. Paul's picture of love is one of all patience and long-suffering, with joyfulness.
You step on a geranium leaf and go on without thinking of asking forgiveness, but how it covers you with a sweet bath of perfume! Oh, to be able to give back sweetness for injury! Oh, to be able, like some great ship, to throw off the waves of trial that come, and ride serenely above them all. We cannot do it unless we have this deep spring of love within our hearts. If the ship once gets water-logged it is not good for much. We must have confidence and faith and love to enable us to spring through every difficulty and ride above it. We must triumph over every opposition and be able to laugh at it. We shall not lose anything by this spirit of love, but we shall gain immeasurably. It is the only way to gain a victory over our enemies.
Then, too, we must have springing fruit. When our work is done, there must be something apparent from it. God has promised that this shall be, and Isaiah gives a beautiful picture of it Isaiah 44: 3-5.
"I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed and my blessing upon thy offspring;"
"And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses."
"One shall say I am the Lord's; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel."
This gives a glorious view of the abundant harvest that may be expected from work. It is indeed springing fruit among the grass and by the water courses. It is a combined picture of Christian life and fruit. Saying "I am the Lord's," is confessing Christ; calling one's self by the name of Jacob, is joining the people of God. Then comes higher ground. The surname of Israel means the victorious life of faith what is sometimes spoken of as the higher Christian life. Or they are three pictures of Christian fruit. The first is the work of saving souls; the second is building up the Church; and the last is the work of adding to the number of God's consecrated ones. Dear friends, it is possible to have all this variety of fruit springing up naturally and easily in our lives, but there must be an impetus and impulse for it that only God can give. Ask for this springing power, and God will surely give it.
God would have us also have springing health. We cannot get this by drinking of any earthly spring. It is possible for us to have within us tides of buoyant, exhilarant life, which will be more than sufficient for life's toughest, hardest pressure, like that which kept Paul pressing in the midst of all difficulties. It is the life of Christ made manifest in our mortal flesh. It is divine health, not something mechanical, that is wrought into you from without. It is breathed in from within. Christ has this health for you. He is constantly full of springing health, and He is so willing to give it to you. Have you got all these springs, dear friends? The Lord has them for you. Oh, breathe in this spring of life today, and know what it is to work and not get tired, but find rest and pleasure in it all.
God has for us, also, springs of praise. Isaiah says (64: 5), "Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness." He classes the two together. God wants our springing thankfulness. He wants us to be natural in this, not perhaps always mechanically saying, "Praise the Lord?" yet ready always to say it from a full heart. Only so can we be one with Him in the work of faith. We must be certain every envelope that comes from Him has a jewel inside of it. Every message from our King is one of mercy. Are there clouds in your sky, and does the rain sometimes fall? Ah, dear friends, it is your privilege to know that every cloud has a silver lining as well as a dark centre. Ask Him for this springing praise. Ask for such an attitude of heart before Him that you will not be able to understand a blow.
Nestle closely on His bosom, and do not take anything else but love. A loving, trusting child meets with no repulse, but compels its father to meet it with the same confidence it gives. A praiseful, trusting heart compels God to meet it with the same joy. So learn to take life's trials, and turn them into cups of blessing, and thus the whole life may be full of that sweet spirit of praise which alone can glorify our dear Lord.
There is one other spring spoken of in the Bible, which I think includes, indeed, all the others. When Joshua's daughter Achsah was married., she claimed from her father, beside the pleasant land he had given her, springs of water, and he gave her the upper and the nether springs, so that she had the fountain down in the valley and the spring away up among the hills. So our springs are not only to be away up high, but down low also, where we don't expect to find them. God wants us to have both. It is easy for us, perhaps, to understand what it is to be high up in spiritual elevations, but we need quite as much the springs that are down on the common level for the daily tasks of life. We ought to be able to go through the plodding steps of ten weary hours with fresh springing gladness, for it is our privilege down in the low places to have the springs too.
If there is a long day before us, we want more spring for it. It there are hard tasks to be performed, we want to get through them with a real spring. If we are surrounded by forbidding circumstances, or are in the midst of uncongenial people, lubricate the whole and keep the face shining. Ask God for the little trials, as well as for the long pulls, for the great average of life is made up of them. You need His help for your sewing and your knitting, and your darning and your ironing, and your washing and your scrubbing, and your sweeping; for seeing that things don't get spoiled, for keeping yourself sweet when harassed by others, or when you have done faithful work and then been blamed for it. We want the nether springs for all this. Children need these springs for their hard lessons, for the grammar that won't get learned, for the figures that get so twisted together, for the writing and drawing that seem so hard.
We all need great fulness of joy for the every-dayness of life. There are the valley springs, but they come from the upper ones, and we need them both. We cannot have one apart from the other. We need the upper to sweeten and fill the nether. They are Martha and Mary together, and they make life glad. We cannot have the upper springs if we do not have the lower. If there is not victory in the low places there will be no great spiritual power. And we can tumble over a broomstick as well as over Goliath of Gath. We can fall and break our necks over some little stone in our way, as well as over some great adversary. The reason why we do not have more sweet communion with God is because the devil is watching for some trifling issue to come between us and Him, and we let it come. Then when he has us down, he tries to keep us there.
The upper springs help the lower and the lower the upper. We have the promise that we shall mount up with wings as eagles, we shall run and not be weary, we shall walk and not faint. We must have wings to our feet for all this. Don't try to live in this way. That is not springing. Take Jesus this morning for everything that is to be met in the next twenty-four hours and tomorrow do the same, and so on, and you will find that every moment will be overflowing, and you will be full of springing life in both the upper and the lower springs. While I am sure we have felt this morning how important it is that we have all these springs, there are a few things about them I want we should remember.
1. A spring must be full to have power. To drive machinery, the water must be above the brim. If it is nearly full, it is not a spring. It must not only be quite full, but running over. We must have a bigger Christ than we have capacity or space to hold. If this is not so, go to your knees about it. If you are in shallow water, go to Him. He wants the springs to be full.
2. The spring must be on high ground, for water rises as high as its source, and a spring up in the mountains will supply a city with water.
3. The spring must be compressed. It must be shut in to have power. If water is out in a great, broad open space, with no banks, you must put up an enclosure. If you shut in the spring, you give it an impulse. The barriers in our lives, the things we think hinder us, make the water go stronger. Trust God even when He seems to make it hard to trust. If trials come, be brave in His strength, and welcome them. If a discouragements sweep over you, press through them in victory. If some suggestion of evil or temptation from the Evil One attacks you, perhaps through a friend, you will be glad for not yielding, and stronger because of the assault. Don't quarrel with God's way of making springs. Let Him manage as He chooses.
4. A spring must be managed rightly to be turned to good account. God values spontaneousness of spirit and life, but we must have also systematic, practical, wise, trained habits and principles of duty. The springs of Saratoga ran wild before they were utilized. The outlet of Lake Superior, Sault Ste Marie, is developing into one of the most wonderful parts of our country because they are utilizing the immense water-power there. Another Minneapolis has sprung up in that region in a short time. They are shutting in the water and making it run in channels of utility. It is necessary for us to have habits of system and order. Some people run over constantly with good impulses.
They need to fence in a little to be all right. It is grand to have an enthusiastic nature, but it needs to be kept on the right track, or, like a steam-engine, it will tear everything to pieces. There must be right principles and also right habits, and these must work together in rank. Dr. Gordon describes three kinds of preachers he once heard, and the story illustrates my meaning clearly. The first was an intellectual man, but he came away from his church, feeling he had been treated to a view of Alpine glaciers. They were beautiful, but they were cold and chill as death. The second man was all gush and fervor.
He had fire enough to burn a world or set a church in flames. There was a great explosion of power, but there was want of aim. It was like gunpowder set off in the yard, which hit nothing. There was any quantity of unction and feeling, but there were no points. The third man had all the intellect of the first and the fire of the second, both the upper and nether springs. There was a good deal of truth, and fire enough to kindle the truth, and the congregation were fed in mind and soul. Our life must be turned to account. The power in us must be used to the utmost for God. He hath given us the spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind.
There is a tower on the Rhine which has had a clock in it for centuries, a perfect clock, yet it lacks one thing. The janitor winds it regularly, but there are no hands on the dial. It goes, and goes, and goes, but it don't tell anything. The people have a superstition about it, and don't want it changed, and so its power is wasted. How is it with you, dear friends? Do you testify with your lips as much as God wants you to? Are you using your pen as much as pleases Him? Are you using to the utmost all the resources He has put into your life? Are you working for others as much as you can? Are there hands on your dial, and are they pointing in the right direction?
May God quicken all these springs within us, and consecrate them to His service, for His name's sake.