"In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness." (Zechariah 13:1)
What a cheering thing is the real gospel when accompanied with the unction and power of the Holy Spirit; and how soothing is its truthful preaching to every poor, every distressed, every harassed, every broken-hearted sinner! We know the reality of Paul's experience--"We that are in this tabernacle do groan being burdened." (2 Cor. 5:4) And also--"O! wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death." (Rom. 7:24) But unless a "new heart" is given, unless there is a real, and inward, and a feeling sense of sin, an experience of what sin is, there can be no appreciation of the gospel, nor of the love and mercy that has everlastingly saved the whole "election of grace."
The text, (to take it as a whole,) gives me this gladdening message to declare to you and to myself--to all assembled here--that there is an entire remedy, a complete blotting out of all the sins, all the uncleanness, all the filthiness, and all the every thing else that springs out of sin; that there is a full, an entire, a complete doing away with all the curse of sin by the precious blood and perfect righteousness of Jesus. Now the text, in its primary and literal signification prefigures and declares that great, that blessed, that thrilling event which we have just celebrated on Good Friday, when we commemorated the great and glorious atonement for all the sins of all the elect through the offering up of that glorious Redeemer who "died the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God." (1 Pet. 3:18) Prophecy declared, (and so the text state) that there was a day decreed when the great and vicarious atonement should be offered up, when Jesus Christ by His "one offering should perfect for ever them that are sanctified" (Heb. 10:14)--even the people of His Father's love and choice. But I want rather to preach it in the experience of it. Not so much in its doctrine as in its experimental reality. I want, if God shall so bless me tonight, as an ambassador, in this pulpit--I want to be the means of leading your waiting minds--you, I mean, that really feel the burden of your sins--you, who have had the great depths, the very plague-spot of your own evil hearts opened up--you, who know what it is to "reel to and fro, and stagger" under a sense of personal guilt and iniquity--I want to be the honored instrument of leading you to contemplate through faith, by grace, the blessed truth which my text declares, and that you may realize in the full experience of it, that there is "a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness."
Now the text speaks particularly. It does not say that there is a fountain opened for all the world, neither does any other passage in the Bible, neither do the Articles of the Church of England; but the great truth enunciated in the text is this, that there is a fountain opened for a portion of men, a portion taken out of the world, and spoken of in the particular words of the Scripture before us, as "the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem." I wonder whether there are any, (I dare say there are!) I wonder whether there are any carnal hearers here--any haters of sound truth and doctrine, and specially of that one doctrine which I would affectionately preach to you--that one doctrine which I hold to be the very testing truth of the Bible--I mean the doctrine of Particular Redemption as distinguished from the popular, the universal scheme, that abominable Arminian heresy which is so rampant all over England--but with the Word of God before me, and standing and preaching as I am, in a pulpit of the Church of England, I insist upon it that the salvation of God is thus set forth in the Bible--"All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me, and him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out." (John 6:37) And, just as in the great type of the one all-atoning sacrifice for sin, as recorded in the book of Exodus, at the institution of the Passover, the Paschal Lamb was only for the people of Israel, the Egyptians were not allowed to partake of it; so the great Antitype, the Christ that I desire to preach to you, even Christ in all His free grace fullness--so Christ was not offered up at a peradventure, or at random; but He died specifically and individually for that one Church of which Jeremiah speaks, of each and every individual member of it, when he says--"I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." (Jer. 31:3) Now I think my conscience may be quite clear when presently I go down the stairs of the pulpit, (for I know well that the blood of souls stains deep,) that "I have not shunned to declare unto you ALL the counsel of God"--that I have faithfully warned you all of the Arminian error, that universal scheme which is the pest of this day of profession, and having done so, I want to preach to you, (and I see several here whom I love in the truth,) that glorious Christ, and to point your very hearts to Him as the "Fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness," and that you and I may know this in the full experience of its blessedness.
Now a "Fountain." What is a "Fountain?" We know what it is--we have seen one often. But the Fountain in the text is the Blessed and Glorious Saviour, and the expression that follows the word "Fountain" in the text--"There shall be a fountain opened," is another declaration, another term for "Christ crucified," and so Paul declared to the church at Corinth--"I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified." (1 Cor. 2:2) Nothing, nothing else! Mark it is emphatically stated, "and Him crucified!" I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified! Emphatically so, "Him crucified." To know Jesus Christ among you as One that died, One that suffered, One that was agonized for you. "Bearer of our guilt and shame." This is the Fountain emphatically spoken of, my fellow-sinners. You who feel your sins, you who know what it is at times to sink beneath the burden of your own individual guilt and depravity, could there have been a sweeter word to such as you, than this which the text contains? This gladdening, cheering soul-reviving intelligence? This gospel of glad tidings to every poor broken-hearted, sin-sick, suffering sinner here--that "There is a Fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness? But, my brother, your heart must be opened to know the reality of your own sin, there must be an inward conviction of sin, and this is (mark me!) the special peculiar work of the Holy Ghost; but it seems now as formerly, that men "have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost." Hence I would preach to you as I do to my own home flock, the work of the Holy Ghost, and the doctrine of the Trinity. This is the Foundation doctrine of all truth. A man must be sound Trinitarian, or he can know nothing. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; three Persons, one Eternal God. Jehovah electing His people before all worlds; the Son, the God-Man, missioned to come down and bleed and die for a guilty church; and the Holy Ghost at the set and appointed time, teaching each redeemed sinner the reality of iniquity, convincing each of sin, causing contrition for it, showing them the holiness and purity of the law, revealing to them their undone lost state by nature, that none can think even a good thought, that there is not, and never can be, perfection in the flesh, destroying in them that awful heresy in which we were all born, Arminianism! and having schooled us under the law, leading us to the blessedness and realities of the full, free, and finished salvation that is in Christ Jesus, and revealing to us that in Him "there is therefore now no condemnation." (Rom. 8:1) And thus to the vilest and most guilty sinner that ever trod this crowded city, if elect in Christ, if redeemed by Christ, if new born by the Holy Ghost, I have tonight a message of mercy and of love, and declare to you that there is "a Fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and uncleanness." It is here that every poor broken-hearted Magdalene may come, and standing at the foot of the cross may, and shall, when drawn by the power of the Spirit--"Look on Him whom they have pierced and mourn." (Zech. 12:10)
There is a sweet passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews, it cheered my soul the other day while reading an account in the newspaper of a sermon that had been preached by the chaplain of the jail in a distant county, and where in that congregation, on the Sunday previous to his execution, was a wretched criminal condemned to be hung for murder: the text which the chaplain took was "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Heb. 9:14) Now picture to yourselves that scene! True it is that I am here addressing a congregation of hell-deserving sinners, each of you guilty, every one of you depraved and vile, but in that place to which I have referred the persons there assembled consisted of criminals and thieves, and in their midst was one wretched felon under sentence of death, condemned in a few days to die. O! what a scripture to be heard at such an awful moment. It was this--"How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God." O! that precious blood! The blood as applied to the guilty soul by the irresistible power of God the Holy Spirit. But none can prize that blood but the man who feels his own depravity, who knows the deceitfulness of his own heart. In that blood, and through that blood, is full, free, complete pardon for every poor lost sinner that was given by the Father to Christ before all worlds, for whom He bled, and died, and suffered on the cross. The text emphatically declares, and observe this! that it is "for sin and for uncleanness." Hence the poor sinner, the suffering sinner, those who know the burden of sin, and the conflict between flesh and Spirit may come, and must come, and shall come to the blood of Christ, to the "fountain opened." The word is emphatic--"All that the Father giveth Me, shall come to Me"--not one shall be absent when Christ comes to make up "His jewels." All shall come, but the way in which He leads His people is narrow and trying--a path of exercise and trouble.
"The law revealed my desperate case,
And down my Babel fell."
The Word of God is distinct on the subject. "By grace are ye saved through faith." By nothing else. It is "by grace," it is "not of works." There is no middle way, no two roads to heaven. "For by grace are ye saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (Eph. 2:8-10) Is it not a gladdening declaration that there is "a fountain opened?" But mark me, a fountain does not always play...And, my hearers, in Christian experience it is only, and it can be only, when the Holy Ghost applies a precious Christ to the soul that we can feel the blessedness of His sin-atoning blood. The playing of the fountain is a sweet simile, and suits the experimental sinner's case! Mark then in the text--"In that day"--here is the experience--the very time when the fountain is opened into our poor harassed souls; when pardon, and mercy, and love, and comfort is poured into our hearts; when the Holy Ghost takes of the things of Jesus Christ, and cherishes, comforts, soothes, warms, heals us in the inner man. "In that day," the moment when the Holy Ghost works in us with unction and power, and when the blood from the opened fountain flows into and is applied to our souls, then is the time when we know what mercy means; then it is that we have a little access in prayer; then it is that we "come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb. 4:16) But listen to me, sin must be felt, and our depravity known, or we can never value the blood of Jesus. There is but one Teacher, and only one Church. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in you all." (Eph. 4:4-6) There is but one church, as a Christian brother says--"the church is Christ's unit." The unit He Himself takes care of; the unit for which He died, the unit for which He suffered; the unit for which He now stands as the "fountain opened," and for which He intercedes in glory. Hear His own words, "I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine. (John 17:9) Can anything be more distinct than that? I pray for them, I pray not for the world. And when a man feels his sinfulness, when he confesses, as Paul did, "I know that in me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing" (Rom. 7:18)--when he can really and honestly say "We have erred and strayed from Thy ways like lost sheep;" and feel with David--"I have gone astray like a lost sheep, seek Thy servant; for I do not forget Thy commandments." (Ps. 119:176) Then it is that we look up to God for mercy, and cry from peace and pardon, and long to know ourselves "perfect through His comeliness;" (Ezek. 16:14) for "the king's daughter is all glorious within; her clothing is of wrought gold." (Ps. 45:13
London is now all excitement, in consequence of the visit of the Emperor and Empress of the French to our Queen. Thousands are longing to see them when they come into this city tomorrow, and the people of London will be crowding to the sight--but I would say to you, my hearers, "Behold the Man!" O! do you really desire to see Him? Do you behold Him now by faith? and covered, and robed in His own pure righteousness; are you prepared to stand before Him when He appeareth? O! how He suffered all for His people. He was afflicted, tortured, agonized! "Behold! The Man." It is written--"Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all. He keepeth all His bones: not one of them is broken." (Ps. 34:19) In reference to Christ, O! how many were His afflictions. Here then was our suffering Fountain. Our afflictions may be great and trying, but nothing when compared with His. And now, under all our sorrow, afflictions, and trials, He watches over and graciously preserves us. We may sink very low, and at times be in despair, but He will not leave us, He will deliver us in His own way and at His own time, He knows all you want, and how and when to succor you. "For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted." (Heb. 2:18) And again--"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." (1 Cor. 10:13) O! yes--"He keepeth all His bones," that is, His Church. He keeps them one and all; not one of them is broken. It is said in John's gospel, that when the soldiers at the crucifixion had broken the legs of the two thieves, they then came to Christ, and seeing He "was dead already; they brake not His legs" "But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water!" (John 19:34) Mark here the Fountain! the Fountain pouring out its precious blood and water! But not a bone of Him should be broken; no, not one, and so it was at the Passover, and the typical Paschal Lamb--"neither shall ye break a bone thereof." (Exodus 12:46) "He keepeth all His bones." O! sweet thought. How secure His people are, for we are kept by Him. Not one shall ever be lost; and though we often go as it were with broken bones because of sin and guilt, yet "He keepeth all His bones; not one of them is broken." And when at times we do go with broken bones, under a sense of sin, yet listen to David's cry, when he was cast down under his own guilt and sin--"the bones Thou hast broken may rejoice!" O! yes, when the fountain and its precious blood is applied then it heals, soothes, and causes to rejoice!
"Though your sins be red like scarlet
White as snow I'll make them be,
Though thou oft has played the harlot,
Fond of others more than Me,
Yet I love thee,
Thou art still My undefiled."
When (as in Ezekiel's chamber of imagery.) We have seen through "a hole in the wall," then, what a mercy to feel and know that there is "a fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness." Opened for all sin! for every slip, every stumble, for all sin, for all uncleanness. To describe in all the length, and breadth, and depth, and height of experimental meaning, the full signification of "sin and uncleanness" would be impossible. Hence the mercy of having "the fountain opened" for it all--"Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captivity captive: Thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them." (Ps. 68:18) Now, the experimental sinner knows that he is "rebellious." You know, my brother, what your pathway is; how crooked, how perverse, how sinful you are; hence the necessity for this "fountain," and not only for the "Fountain," but for the "fountain opened," in order to cleanse your guilt and sin. We need fresh blood for fresh guilt and iniquity. What words they are of Paul's! "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin." (Rom. 7:24,25) But then, in the very midst of the conflict exclaims, as he realizes the cleansing of the "fountain"--"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." (Rom. 8:1,2) Those two laws! Do you know them experimentally? "The law of sin and death!" Have you been there? Under that law! and has it, in your case, been canceled by the other law "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus?" Then shout out in adoration, wonder, and praise--"Unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood!" (Rev. 1:5) The Apostle Paul says, "Ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." (1 Cor. 6:20) To do so is the desire of the new man, even to glorify God in conduct, in conversation, in word, in thought, and in deed; but through the infirmity of our evil nature, through the power of indwelling sin; how inconsistent Christians are, one day this color, another day that color! At one time having and enjoying sweet communion with God, and melted under a sense of His lovingkindness! at another time, slipping, stumbling, falling!
"What though he feels himself depraved,
Yet he's in Christ a sinner saved,
And 'tis a sign of life within,
To groan beneath the power of sin."
Now, my hearers, if a man sick with fever sent for a physician, what would you think of him if he prescribed exactly contrary to what a case of fever required; and what, as a physician of souls, would you say to me, unless I pointed you to that blood, to that precious Christ, that "fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness!" Hence I can only preach to you the blood and righteousness of Christ; that blood of which Cowper speaks so blessedly--
"There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel's veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.
The dying thief"
(There were three crosses, one on each side of Jesus, two convicted felons, two thieves!)
"The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day,
And there have I, as vile as he,
Washed all my sins away.
Dear dying Lamb! Thy precious blood,
Shall never lose its power,
Till all the ransomed church of God
Be saved to sin no more."
Now, are we? are you? am I? touched with the reality of what is stated in my text of the opened fountain? Do we sensibly feel what must have been the sufferings and agony of our once crucified and dying Lamb? Our hearts can grieve and do sorrow at the accounts we hear from time to time of events that are passing on the battle field in the Crimea...When I heard of one particular account, my own mind reverted to the scenes of Calvary, and that tremendous cross, and that, though the agonies of the soldier might have been great, yet when compared with that "agony and blood sweat, that cross and passion," that intensity which Jesus Christ endured, and in fearful anticipation of which He exclaimed, "O My Father if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt" (Mark 14:36)--they were as nothing. O! it was in order to save His own elect people, and to pluck them as brands from the burning that He was content to become what Isaiah had prophesied He should be--"A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;" "To be wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities." (Isa. 53:3,5) And hence, as the Apostle says, "By Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." (Acts 13:39) But how are we to know this? How can we arrive at this secret for ourselves? How can we come to this fountain? Is there here one man dead in sin? You have no power, no will, no desire to come. "No man can come unto Me except the Father which hath sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:44) "I am sought of them that asked not for Me; I am found of them that sought Me not; I said, Behold Me, behold Me, unto a nation that was not called by My name." (Isa. 65:1) So Toplady says:
"No sinner can be beforehand with Thee,
Thy grace is preventing, almighty and free."
My hearers, never lose sight of this truth. God begins the work. There is all the difference possible between God beginning with the sinner and the sinner beginning with God. The same as there is in the case of the sinner working from life, and working for life. And here in this we have the work of the Holy Ghost! In this is the very test and touchstone of a faithful ministry. Here, in this, is the unction, the savor, the marrow of the gospel! "Thy name is as ointment poured forth." (Songs 1:3) O that tonight I may be allowed so to preach that the ointment may be poured out, the savor of it felt and known. Listen to Zech. 12:10: "And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one that mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn." When the Holy Ghost has really poured into our hearts the reality of the matter, then we shall look to Jesus Christ and mourn, mourn under a sense of sin, mourn over Him whom we have pierced, and looking on Him, see in Him all our salvation, and all our desire.
And now, in finishing this great subject, and in concluding preaching about the Fountain, may my feeble instrumentality be blest to each one of you, may you look to Christ and be comforted. Behold Him as the God-Man Who has "finished the transgression and made an end of sins." (Dan. 9:24) Under your daily trials, and hourly slippings, as erring, wandering, straying sinners, may your eyes and your heart be on Him, "mighty to save!" And if in this congregation there is one worldling, one careless and dear in sin, any carnal persons, may this ministry be the means of rousing you to ask yourselves, Am I one of the house of David, one of the inhabitants of Jerusalem? Am I one for whom the Fountain is opened? One for whom Christ died? And you, my hearers, who do know and love the Lord Jesus Christ, listen to Hart's words--
"Conduct, blest Guide, Thy sinner-train
To Calvary, where the Lamb was slain,
And with us there abide;
Let us our lov'd Redeemer meet,
Weep o'er His pierced hands and feet,
And view His wounded side.
From which pure Fountain if thou draw
Water to quench the fiery law,
And blood to purge our sin:
We'll tell the Father in that day,
And Thou shalt witness what we say
We're clean, just God, we're clean."
But Hart has another hymn very sweet on the subject and applicable to my text:--
There is no purity but by blood; no perfection in the flesh!
"And gives soon as felt infallible cure,
But if guilt removed return and remain,
Its power may be proved again and again."
Is not that just what you want my brother?
"But if guilt removed return and remain,
Its power may be proved again and again."
"This Fountain, unsealed stands open for all,"
(Not for all the world, but for all that long to be healed. I like to feed Christ's little ones in preaching--the nibblers, the tender grass eaters.)
"That Long to be healed, the great and the small." Doubts you have. Fears you have; but you long to be healed.--
"Here's strength for the weakly that hither are led;
Here's health for the sickly; Here's life for the dead."
The poorer you are, the weaker you are, the more welcome you are to the Fountain." I wonder whether this Fountain has been "playing" tonight in this house of prayer. I wonder whether as I have been standing here in weakness among you--I wonder whether my feeble instrumentality in the ministry has been blest to one soul. There is no labor like the labor of the pulpit. "In all labour there is profit." "The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits." (2 Tim. 2:6) There must be a partaking of the fruits, or no enjoyment, no profit, no benefit from the labour. May God bless this ministry. Amen.