I HAVE no doubt that this psalm has exercised the mind of many a studious Christian. A great deal of criticism has been expended upon it, though there seems to be but one leading idea running throughout it. It is a psalm of praise to the Lord Jesus Christ; it is a psalm of testimony to the greatness of Him on whom the whole Church hangs. There have been those who have taken a very glorious view of the psalm, as setting before us something of the great manifestation that there shall be of the Lord's kingdom, when He shall again plant His standard on Mount Zion, and when "from Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."
It appears to me, that the psalm goes through all the different periods of the history of the Church of God. It goes back to the time when God was pleased to give a glory to the literal Israel; and then it looks forward to the time when their names shall be written; for I do not think that the expression, "When He writeth up the people," refers to the names of God's elect people, written from all eternity in the book of life, though this is a truth of God's Word, but rather to the writing of the names of the children of Israel when they shall be gathered into their kingdom.
But we pass over this, for the subject which comes under our consideration this day is too large and too precious to admit of our occupying our time with criticisms. This psalm is descriptive of the glory of a Church; be it the Jewish Church, be it the Church of which the literal Israel was the type, or be it the Church in its glory hereafter, it presents to us great things in reference to that Church, and great things in reference to the God-Man, on whom all the interests of the Church have been made to hang.
I have selected one short passage for our consideration at this time--"All my springs are in Thee." There has been a great deal of research expended upon these words; many have considered them as the words of the singers, who are spoken of in the latter part of the psalm, leaving out the words in italics, and reading the passage thus:--"As well the singers as the players on instruments: all my springs are in Thee." We would desire to view them as descriptive of the experience of every individual member of the Church of God, either of the literal Israel, or the spiritual Israel, for it is the language of all God's people. "All my springs are in Thee." "All my fresh springs shall be in Thee," as it is in the Prayer-book version; and one loves that reading, too. Here is, then, a matter of Christian experience, which we shall endeavor to open out as the Lord enables us. Herein are truths in the knowledge and practical use of which consists all intelligent Christianity--"All my springs are in Thee." There are many streams which make glad the city of God, but they all have their source in Jehovah Himself.
Now, it will be evident to you from looking at the passage, that there is, in the first place, a great truth implied; and there is, in the second place, a great truth expressed.
First, as to the truth implied. If I hear the Church of God collectively, or if I hear an individual believer saying to the Lord, "All my springs are in Thee," I say there is an implied feeling and acknowledgment of entire dependence upon the Lord.
Secondly, there is a great truth expressed--"All my springs are in Thee." "All my fresh springs shall be in Thee;" read it as you will, it is all the same thing, whatever God has done, God will do for His people. There are divine supplies for the satisfying of the souls of God's people; and in our text we have an expression of confidence and assurance, that we shall receive those supplies.
Here is, in the first place, a sense and acknowledgment of entire dependence upon the Lord; there is no reservation--it is "All my springs." Is it possible for language to express more fully and completely the utter bankruptcy of the poor sinner as to spiritual things? Observe the entire renunciation that there is of all expectation of help in oneself. Now, this is not an easy lesson for a man to learn. Believe me, it is not all at once that one is brought to feel this total bankruptcy and need.
I might here present you with a little picture of the history of a child of God. I do not say of all the children of God; I do not say that there is a certain uniform process through which God brings all His people; I believe there is as great variety in Christian experience as there is in the human countenance. Therefore, if there is one error more than another against which I would warn you, it is that which we so frequently meet with in the theology of the present day--I mean the setting forward a certain uniform process of Christian experience, telling men, You must first be broken down by the law, afterwards you must pass through great excitement in the reception of the Gospel, then you must go through great doubts, and fears, and conflicts, and difficulties--in short, through great unbelief, and then, at the last, you shall become possessed of peace. Why, I could show you books which have the tendency, from beginning to end, to fill the mind with such erroneous views as these, and, brethren, I warn you against them. But I can give you a process if you will; I can tell you of the way in which the Lord has trained some of His people.
And first a word as to the doctrine. You understand what I mean by the doctrine; I mean the believing of the Gospel. You who are in the habit of attending in this place know, I trust, what is meant by believing the Gospel; believing, in other words, that God is true when God speaks glad tidings to the sinner. The Gospel is a message to bankrupt, ruined, helpless, hell-deserving sinners. It is a message of present, full, free, glorious, everlasting salvation to the sinner who is dead in trespasses and sins. It is not a message to the righteous, nor to the half-righteous, nor to the people who want to be righteous, but it is a message to the sinner who is dead in trespasses and sins; or else it would not be good news to me. Receiving the Gospel is taking God at His word. When God tells me that He gives to the sinner--for He does not mention my name in this book (the Bible)--that He gives to the sinner eternal life for the sake of what the Lord Jesus Christ has done, and because of His precious blood-shedding on the cross.
Now, it is not an easy thing for men to lay hold on the doctrine; it is the Holy Ghost alone who can make us do it. There are great and strong holds which the Holy Ghost pulls down. There are men who when they hear the Gospel preached as we have been endeavoring to set it before you, as a message to guilty, ruined, bankrupt sinners, are startled at such a declaration, and many a man, standing on his little eminence, and looking down on his poor publican brother, says, in the language of that pharisee of whom we read in the parable, "God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are; I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess." How many a man in this congregation may have felt this! It is one of the strongholds which the Holy Ghost will pull down. There is such a feeling in the human breast as self-righteousness, there is such a thing as a man saying, "God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are." One sometimes wonders how such a character can enter at all into the services of our Church, in which there is such a continual acknowledgment of utter unworthiness, in which we confess that we are "miserable sinners," not meaning by miserable that there is no hope for us, but miserable as we are in ourselves, as vile and wretched as human nature can be.
But there is another stronghold which the Holy Ghost pulls down. The truth is put before a man, the Holy Ghost probes the heart, brings home conviction to the mind, but the man wishes to justify himself; you remember the story to which I allude--it is recorded in the 10th of Luke. A lawyer came to our blessed Lord and asked Him, "Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Our Lord answered him by saying, "What is written in the law? How readest thou?" For, brethren, there is but one answer to give to the man who wants to betake himself to his doings in order that he may be saved. When our Lord gave him that answer, and when He told him that he must love the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his strength, and with all his mind, and that he must love his neighbor as himself; the man "willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?" You observe there was a great desire to get away from the subject, "he willing to justify himself." Our Lord then speaks to him the parable of the good Samaritan, and says to him, "Go, and do thou likewise." This is just what we have constantly to do when we meet with men who will not receive the Gospel; we tell them that they must keep the whole law or they cannot be saved. Immediately there is a seeking to justify themselves.
These are some of the strongholds which the Holy Ghost pulls down. But there is another. This is a large subject. We might tell you of a great many of these strongholds. Brethren, there is a pride which dwells in the human heart naturally. Is the Gospel such a simple message as you proclaim? Surely that is too simple, too easy a matter. You remember one of the old who thought so. There is a remarkable instance of this mode of reasoning on record in the 5th chapter of 2nd Kings; when that great warrior, the first man in the state, commander-in-chief of the royal army--when that leper, Naaman the Syrian, was told by the prophet of the Lord to go wash in Jordan seven times and his flesh should come again to him and he should be clean, every feeling of pride rose within his breast; "I thought he will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the rivers of Israel? May I not wash in them and be clean?" This is what men sometimes say to us of the Gospel. Do you mean to tell me that I am not to be saved by my own works? Do you mean to tell me that the Gospel proclaims eternal life to the sinner who has never done anything good? We answer, Such is the Gospel; it is a message of good news to the sinner who has nothing in himself but sin and misery.
Well, when this is got over--now remember we are only describing a character--when this is got over, afterwards there comes another aspect of the same teaching, that one whom God has brought to Himself goes through. After this very often there come different phases of unbelief; doubts, fears, strivings, laborious workings; and all this after a man has professed to believe that Jesus Christ is what He is--JESUS THE SAVIOUR. The question, then, is not, Am I such a righteous man that God will accept me because of my righteousness? But are my feelings what they ought to be? I do not know whether I love God as fervently as I ought? I do not know whether I have as strong conviction of sin as I ought to experience? In short, I do not know whether I have in myself the qualifications which would entitle me to receive this mercy from God? This is often God's great time to being the sinner down, and to teach him his entire dependence of Divine supplies. We have frequently told you, brethren, that the hardest text in the Bible to learn is that little one in the 15th of John, "Without me ye can do nothing."
But after this, there often comes great disappointment. God trains His people in His own way; we think we see the Apostle Paul with that thorn in the flesh; we do not know what it was, but we are told that it was "the messenger of Satan to buffet him." He seemed to be utterly helpless. He went to the Lord in prayer, and thrice besought Him that it might depart from him, and it was at that time that the Lord taught him that lesson in the 15th of John, "Without me ye can do nothing," or in other words, "My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness." It was the best lesson that Paul ever learned, after he had learned that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Now, God has His own method of training His people, but all His training is to bring us to this one point, that all our springs are in Him.
We often experience great disappointment in our Christian progress. I do not mean the young Christian; but the old Christian, who has had such large expectations of what his own progress was to be, is very often sadly disappointed. Dear brethren, there are great delusions practiced on men by the devil, and not unfrenquently through the medium of religious books. There is the memoir of an eminent servant of God--very useful in the Church; on reading that book, perhaps, it is suggested to the mind, I am not like that man, then all is wrong. I believe there has been more injury done to the Church of God by the biography of religious people than by any other instrumentality. Disappointment is felt because we are not like this great man, or the other great man. Dear brethren, there is but one man to whom we are to look, the Man Christ Jesus; and there my soul finds all it wants; and as I study that perfect character, it is my comfort to be able to say, It is mine, I am complete in Him. When I read the history of Abraham I see that he was a poor, weak, unbelieving man. I do not want to be like Abraham. I read of Moses, who was "very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth;" and yet I am told that "he spake unadvisedly with his lips." I do not want to be like Moses. I read the history of David, and I do not want to be like David. And so as I read of Paul, of Barnabas, of Peter, of James, of John, I do not want to be like them; what I desire is to be like Christ. So I say, Down with all human standards. It is all well if you are reading the biography in a right spirit. We do not trample upon these things, we do not undervalue them, but we desire to see them put in their proper place. You are reading the biography under the teaching of the Holy Ghost, when as you take up the book you say, I read this memoir as a record of the sovereign grace of God bestowed on that sinner; but the moment you begin to exalt the man you go wrong.
How continually do we hear it said in religious conversation, What an eminent, devoted, pious man was such or such an individual! O, if you could have followed that one, whoever he was, into his closet; if you could have followed the Apostle Paul there; and if you could have heard the tales which he had to tell to God in secret, you would have been astonished at the catalogue of sinfulness, and vileness, and wretchedness which he had to recount before the Lord.
We have said that disappointment often comes to the souls of God's people in this way, and not only so, but there is often by this means an exalting of human authority. We are told by men that we ought to be this, and we ought to be the other. God has told us what we ought to be. We ought to be complete in Christ, we ought to be perfect in Christ Jesus. That is what we ought to be.
It would be interesting to follow out this subject, and to speak of the way in which God breaks down these strongholds; but I believe a great many whom I address know something in their own breasts of the secrets of which we have been speaking.
Depend upon it, whatever the process may be, God's people are all being brought to feel their own bankruptcy and helplessness, and to know that all their springs are in the Lord. And this is the second part of our subject.
Now, take the Prayer-book version if you will, "All my fresh springs shall be in Thee." It matters very little whether we say these things are so, or shall be so. All the springs of the believing heart are in Jehovah. All the springs--not only those which cheer and refresh us as we pass through the wilderness, but I believe it to be one of the most joyful anticipations into which the believing soul can enter, that, throughout eternity, He who has been gladdening the hearts of the members of His Church here, feeding, sustaining, guiding them all the way--that, throughout eternity, He will teach them what a God He is, who can satisfy His intelligent creatures with His own goodness.
But the first thing we notice is the word of confidence that there is here. We do love those expressions of confidence that we meet with in the Word of God. Man would teach otherwise; he would wrap up these things in what he calls humility; I call it unbelief. We say such is the confidence which God's people ought to have. Now, do not let me make sad the heart of any child of God here present who would say, I wish I had this assurance, but I have it not. This I would say to such an one, and I would say it with all faithfulness, but at the same time with much tenderness and affection, Dear brother, or dear sister, insomuch as you have not this confidence, you do not believe that God is true. If I find these words in the book of God, "All my springs are in Thee," I ought to believe them. I think I have showed you that those supplies are ours, not because of our goodness, and they are secured to us simply because they are in Christ, simply because of that everlasting covenant made between the Persons of Jehovah, Father, Son, and Spirit. Read Israel's history if you want to see what man would do with a covenant. God made a national covenant with that people; they did not keep it, and therefore God said that He would make another covenant with them, that He would put His laws in their hearts, and write them in their minds, and their sins and iniquities He would remember no more. The covenant, then, is between the Persons of Jehovah, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for the salvation of a people who were "chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world." (Eph. 1:4) This is their security, and the ground of their confidence. And mark, if this be so, this confidence ought to be possessed by one child of God as much as by another; so that the man who came into this church ignorant of the Gospel, and who this day for the first time intelligently receives it, I say he has as solid a ground of assurance that all his springs are in Jehovah as the man who has been walking for fifty years in the ways of the Lord. The ground of confidence is always the same, God's truth and God's everlasting covenant.
But now as to the supplies. "All my springs are in Thee." Mark, in Jehovah. So that if I want to enter into so great a subject as this, the first thing that strikes me is, that they are divine supplies; and then as they are divine, they must be infinite; and they are also everlasting--they shall never be dried up. Let us look a little into each of these subjects.
First, they are divine supplies. If I understand the Gospel, I find that the whole work is of God. The redemption of the Lord's people is of God; He has said, speaking of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, "In whom we have redemption through His blood." (Eph. 1:7) This is the Gospel; and who believes it? What a happy people we should be, if all this congregation, on leaving this place this day, could rise up as one man and say, We bless God that we believe the Gospel. O, that God would touch your hearts, and lead you to believe it!
We say the redemption is divine, and the righteousness is also. We must all have a righteousness in which to appear before God. A man cannot appear before God clothed in his own sincerity, or his own uprightness. What is that righteousness called in which he must stand? It is, "The righteousness of God." Ask a man upon his dying bed to look back to any doings of his own. Why, if he know anything of his own heart, he will find enough to harrow up every feeling, and to make him cry, "Unclean! unclean!" But tell him of the righteousness of God, tell him of what the Apostle Paul desired--"to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which if of God by faith;" (Phil. 3:9) tell him of this, and you bring before him that which can alone support and comfort him.
Again, the salvation is spoken of as the salvation of God; as is also the peace. "My peace," says Christ, "I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you." The strength--"My strength is made perfect in weakness." The joy--"That My joy might remain in you." So that tracing to their source all those streams that gladden the hearts of God's people, I say they are all divine.
But I said that as these resources are in God, they must be infinite. So that, in short, whenever any of us who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ think that there is a single thing which our souls want, which God cannot give, or will not give, we dishonor the Lord Jesus Christ. You remember the word in the 2nd chapter of 1st Corinthians, where the Apostle says, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him." And then, lest the people to whom he wrote should think that this has reference to a state of future glory, he adds, "But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." So that any poor sinner amongst us who has been brought to believe the Gospel, ought to expect the deep things of God to be brought home to his heart by the Holy Ghost. It is in this way that prayer and faith go together, for prayer is nothing but the servant of faith. Prayer is faith speaking. What a word you heard read today from the 18th of Matthew--"If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven!" Is not this promise true, and ought we not to expect its fulfillment? I know what men will say directly; Surely it does not mean that we are to take it exactly as it stands. Brethren, we have a dread of handling Scripture in this way. If God has given me a promise, and if my soul wants it, why should I not take it?
We said that these supplies are infinite. And if we had time, we could tell you how God provides these supplies for every circumstance of life. There is a poor tried one laid upon a sick bed; the Lord is making all his bed in his sickness. There is another under temptation--the Lord is watching over him; for He is with all His people in the hour of temptation, as much as He was with Daniel when he was in the den of lions, or with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, when they were cast into the burning, fiery furnace, heated one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. It is for want of knowing this, that we have not the comfort that we want. We read these things as if they were obsolete, instead of viewing them as realities on which our souls ought to fasten. You are told in the 1st of Hebrews, that the angels are "ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation." So that the hosts of angels that surround the throne of God, are the servants of God's people. And now turn to the 34th Psalm, and what do you read? The Angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them.
But we said that there is another idea suggested to the mind by these springs being in the Lord, and that is, that they are everlasting. The fountain being in Jehovah, the streams can never be dried up; there can never be any change in what God is towards His people. So that he who wrote the 23rd Psalm by the teaching of the Holy Ghost, when he says, "The Lord is my shepherd," he also adds, "I shall not want." And when he tells of all the wonderful things which the Lord would do for him, even when walking through the valley of the shadow of death; when he comes to the conclusion of the Psalm, he says, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." There is a stream from the fountain. Such is the everlasting provision which God has made for His people. How beautifully is it represented to us in 27th of Isaiah, where the Lord, speaking of His people of old, calls them His vineyard, and says, "I the Lord do keep it, I will water it every moment; lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day." We beg of you to read at your leisure the 8th chapter of 1st Kings, in which you have an account of that noble and comprehensive prayer which Solomon offered up to the Lord. Read what he asked--read what he expected, and then read what he received from the Lord. Look at the 3rd verse of the 9th chapter--"I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication that thou hast made before me." And mark, this word is as applicable to those who go to God like Solomon, as it was to Solomon himself. "I have hallowed this house which thou hast built"--Beautiful type of the Church of God!--"to put my name there for ever." I think it is to this that the 87th Psalm refers, for it will be brought out by-and-bye that God has never failed in one promise which He has given to His Church. "And," He says, moreover, "mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.
Now, dear brethren, take these passages and meditate upon them; and if the Holy Ghost be pleased to bless the Word, there will be a precious inflowing of joy to your souls as you drink out of this stream of the Lord's divine and infinite supplies, and of the Lord's unchangeable and sure provision, in the everlasting covenant, for the wants of all His people.
And now, if these things be true, and I think I have showed you from God's Word that they are true, here is vital Christianity. I know of nothing that is worthy of the name of Christianity but this. You tell me of your need; I say the Holy Ghost is teaching you more and more of it. All God's people shall be taught that they have nothing, and they will desire to have nothing of their own. But see how they are afterwards led from a sense of their need, to the enjoyment of the supplies which are in Christ. See, also, how this calls out the heart into close fellowship with God, who is the Given of all those things. This is the essence of prayer. It is going with our wants, and expecting to receive large supplies at His hands. This is real Christianity; and depend upon it; it is the only Christianity that can ever bring glory to God. It takes the creature out of himself, and lodges him in the bosom of the covenant Jehovah--Father, Son, and Spirit--for time and for eternity; this is the only happiness which any servant of God can have. I care not if the tears be trickling down the cheek of some afflicted child in the family of God, so long as he is supplied out of these divine, infinite, and everlasting resources. I know that each tear is but an argument with the Lord for the fulfillment of His own promises. And I know that God will teach all His people that all their springs are in Him.