David longed for water and said, "Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!"
I. THE DEVOTED LOVE OF CHRIST'S FAITHFUL SERVANTS TO HIMSELF.
1. They show sincere and practical regard to his every wish. They do not need explicit commands in detail, still less accompanying threatenings. Enough if they can ascertain what he desires; and their love for him and converse with him enable them to know his wishes without definite verbal revelations or laws. A large portion of the life of many modern Christians, especially in the departments of Christian zeal and benevolence, is founded on no express command, but springs from love and sympathy - from that participation of the Spirit of Christ which produces intuitive discernment of his will, and that devoted attachment which prompts to the gratification of his every wish.
2. They are ready to encounter danger in his service. The work of Christ makes at times great demands on love, zeal, and courage. It cannot be done without hazard; but his true-hearted friends are prepared to endure the toil and brave the peril. Not a few in our own day may be described as "men that have hazarded their lives for the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 15:26). This spirit of Christian heroism is not confined to the more hardy races, but among' the softer tribes of Polynesia and India, the knowledge, of Christ has produced a similar courage. Converted natives offer themselves for service in the most dangerous fields of missionary enterprise; and when some fall at the hand of savages, or through attacks of deadly diseases, others eagerly press forward to take the vacant places. The language of St. Paul is still the language of faithful Christians, "None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself," etc.; "I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die... for the Name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 20:24; Acts 21:13).
3. They are sometimes moved to extraordinary manifestations of their regard. Like the three heroes whose exploit is here recorded. Like Mary in her lavish anointing of her Lord (John 12:3). Warm love prompts to generous deeds and gifts. There is need of these in the service of Christ; and if ardent love to him were more common, they would be more frequent. Love should, however, submit to the guidance of wisdom, lest it become wasteful or injurious. Our Lord will accept mistaken offerings, but it is well that the offerings should themselves be such as he can approve. One safeguard against mistake is the remembrance that he desires no display of love which is fantastic or useless, no self-denial or daring which answers no proportionate end in the advancement of his kingdom and the promotion of the good either of our own souls or of our fellow men. There is abundant room for all possible generosity, self-denial, and bravery in the practical service of Christ and man; to expend these in fruitless ways is to expose our works to condemnation, however good and acceptable may be our motives. We are to serve God with our reason as well as our feelings.
II. THE REASONABLENESS AND RIGHTNESS OF SUCH LOVE. Because of:
1. His self-sacrificing love for them. "The love of Christ constraineth us" (2 Corinthians 5:14) is their sufficient answer to any who allege that they are "beside themselves" (2 Corinthians 5:13). His love requires and justifies the utmost consecration to him of heart and life.
2. His injunctions. He claims from all who follow him that they should love him more than their nearest relations more than their own life (Matthew 10:37; Luke 14:26), and that, in serving him, they should be fearless of death (Luke 12:4).
4. The effects of such love. In purifying and ennobling the character of those who cherish it, and promoting through them the well being of mankind. It is love for all excellence, stimulates to its pursuit and greatly aids its attainment. It is the inspiration and support of the highest and most persistent benevolence; for he who is loved is the Incarnation of Divine holiness and love, and the great Friend and Benefactor of the human race, and the return he asks for his love to us is not a barren, sentimental devotion, but practical obedience (John 14:15, 21, 23), and especially a fruitful love to our brethren (John 15:12-14; 1 John 3:16-18), whom he teaches us to regard as being himself (Matthew 25:35-45). Love to Jesus Christ has been, and still is, the strongest motive-power in the world in favour of all godliness and goodness.
5. Its rewards. Love to Christ is not mercenary, and makes no stipulation for recompense. It is its own reward. Yet in the midst of a cold and unbelieving world it needs all supports. These are to be found in the assurance of the approval and affection of Christ himself, and of the Father (John 14:21, 23; John 16:27), and the prospect of sharing the glory and joy of Christ forever (John 17:24; 2 Timothy 4:8; Matthew 19:29; James 1:12; James 2:5). On the other hand, to be destitute of love to Christ is to be lost (1 Corinthians 16:22). - G.W.
I. THE GOSPEL A WELL OF BETHLEHEM. David had known hundreds of wells of water, but he wanted to drink from that particular one; and he thought nothing could slake his thirst like that; and, unless your soul and mine can get access to the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanliness, we must die. That fountain is the well of Bethlehem. It was dug in the night. It was dug by the light of a lantern — the star that hung down over the manger. It was dug not at the gate of Caesar's palaces — not in the park of a Jerusalem bargain-maker. It was dug in a barn. The camels lifted their weary heads to listen as the work went on; the shepherds, unable to sleep because the heavens were filled with bands of music, came down to see the opening of the well. The angels of God, at the first gush of the living water, dipped their chalices of joy into it, and drank to the health of earth and heaven, as they cried: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace." Sometimes, in our modern times, the water is brought through the pipes of the city to the very nostrils of the horses or cattle; but this well in the Bethlehem barn was not so much for the beasts that perish as for our race — thirst-smited, desert-travelled, simoom-struck. Oh! my soul, weary with sill, stoop down and' drink to-day out of that Bethlehem well.
And David longed, and said, Oh, that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem.
I. THE GRAPHIC DESCRIPTION WHICH DAVID GAVE OF THE WELL.
1. The right appellation was truly stated. "The well of Bethlehem." It is the most noted, and appears to have made a deep impression on his mind, which the lapse of years had failed to erase. Is not this illustrative of "the well of Bethlehem" sunk at the birth of Christ? Before this time men had drunk of impure water, but when God was manifest in the flesh He became the well without an equal. It is the well of mercy, peace, consolation, and love.
2. The distinctive mark was clearly given. "Which is by the gate." We need in our longings to do the same, as there are many wells — science, arts, philosophy, and literature, and the well of, salvation. We must be distinct, as our lives can only be satisfied with the "well of Bethlehem," whose bubblings are ready to give heavenly refreshment. We find it by the Holy Communion table, the spiritual devotion meetings, etc.
3. The proper occupant was fully proclaimed. "The water." Some wells are useless, being filled with rubbish or polluted streams; but the well named by David was faithfully doing its mission. Many wells with us are of no service — empty or impure.
II. THE EARNEST LONGING WHICH DAVID EXPRESSED.
1. The sight rekindled the thought of his heart. We wish to recall hallowed seasons and comforts. The sight of parent, teachers, and friends rekindle our hearts afresh with comfort and joy. We sigh to taste of the old streams, to sit by the side of loving parents, to hear the faithful entreaty of our teachers, to walk with the companions whose society we prized.
2. He gave utterance to the thought of his heart. David had keen aspirations and passionate longings, so that what he felt readily passed into words. He-gave vent to his pent-up feelings. In the midst of the worry and battle of life the scenes of our past days are so vividly portrayed to the mental sight that we crave for the times and enjoyments that are gone. At such seasons we cannot contain our feelings, but give expression to them. In things spiritual it is the same; when we have gone from all the comforts and happiness of religion a time dawns when we cannot any longer keep the state of mind to, ourselves. We cry out to be satisfied with the living water from the well of Bethlehem.
3. The unconscious entreaty for brave help. David knew that Bethlehem had been taken by the enemy. There were great obstacles in the way. of obtaining a drink from the well of his ancestors. Probably he little thought that his pathetic wish was heard. We often imperil the lives and characters of others by unconsciously speaking what we feel.
4. The deep craving was of a personal character. David knew what he wanted. It was not that common, foolish wish for something fresh and new, but he sought to taste of that which he had often been refreshed with before. The reason why we have not much enjoyment in this life is because our cravings are indefinite.LESSONS: —
1. We never realise the worth of our best comforts until we are separated from them.
2. After a season of spiritual declension how anxiously we crave to drink again of the eternal spring.
II. THIS GOSPEL IS A CAPTURED WELL. David remembered the time when that good water of Bethlehem was in the possession of his ancestors; his father drank there, his mother drank there. He remembered how that water tasted when he was a boy, and came up from play. We never forget the old well we used to drink from when we were boys or girls. There was something in it which blessed the lips and refreshed the brows better than anything we have found since. As we think of that old well, the memories of the past flow into each other like crystalline drops, sun-glinted; and, all the more, we remember that the hand that used to lay hold of the rope, and the hearts that beat against the well-curb, are still now. We never get over these reminiscences. George P. Morris, the great song writer of this country, once said to me that his song, "Woodman, spare that tree," was sung in a great concert hall, and the memories of early life were so wrought upon the audience by that song, "Woodman, spare that tree," that, after the song was done, an aged mall arose in the audience, overwhelmed with emotion, and said, "Sir, will you please tell me whether the woodman really spared the tree?" We never forget the tree under which we played. We never forget the fountain at which we drank. Alas! for the man who has no early memories. David thought of that well, and he wanted a drink of it; but he remembered that the Philistines had captured it. And this is true of this Gospel well. The Philistines have at times captured it. When we come to take a full, old-fashioned drink of pardon and comfort, don't their swords of indignation and sarcasm flash? Why, the sceptics tell us we cannot come to that fountain. They say the water is not fit to drink anyhow. Depend upon it that well will come into our possession again, though it has been. captured. If there be not three anointed men in the Lord's host with enough consecration to do the work, then the swords will leap from Jehovah's bucklers, and the eternal three will descend — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost — conquering for our dying race the way back again to "the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate."
III. THE GOSPEL WELL IS A WELL AT THE GATE. Do you know that that well was at the gate, so that nobody could go into Bethlehem without going right past it? And So it is with this Gospel well — it is at the gate.
1. It is at the gate of purification. We cannot wash away our sins unless with that water.
2. This well of the Gospel is at the gate of comfort. There is life in the well at the gate. "All things work together for good to those who love God."
3. This Gospel well is at the gate of heaven. After you have been on a long journey, and you come in all bedusted and tired to your house, the first thing you want is refreshing ablution; and I am glad to know that after we get through the pilgrimage of this world — the hard dusty pilgrimage — we will find a well at the gate. In that one wash away will go our sins and sorrows.
(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
I. THERE ARE TIMES IN EVERY LIFE WHEN WE ARE REMINDED OF THE WELL OF BETHLEHEM, and wish in vain that we could drink of that well again. A children's anniversary always brings one of these times to grown-up people. I mean times when our thoughts are carried back to early days, and we almost sigh as David did because we cannot cross over to them again, We have visions of happy wells of which we drank in the dear young days, and from which we are now separated by a barrier of years and other things. And there are other things which we should like to return to if it were in any way possible — the leisure, the golden opportunities, the school days, and the wells of knowledge, the hours which we thought so little of and for the most part wasted when we had them, the books we might have read, the things we might, have learned, the fitness for life's work we might have gained. Most of us would be glad to have those chances repeated. And we have all longings and regrets sadder than these. All of us, I say, though some have reason to feel them more than others. Certain other things have left us which the child had — a certain stock of happy innocence and purity and simple faith. There were days when we knew little of evil; when we had no thought which we wished to hide, when our feet had not been in any crooked ways; when our minds were not defiled; when no chains of habit held us bound, and no fierce passions within drove us to wrongdoing. It was our Garden of Eden, and the angel with the flaming sword stops our return. This is what we mean by the wells of Bethlehem. Or, as Tennyson expresses it —
"The tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me."
II. We are reminded by this story that THERE ARE BETTER THINGS IN LIFE THAN THE WELL OF BETHLEHEM. David here was crying for his vanished childhood, and in a moment certain things happened which proved to him that he was richer as a man than he had ever been as a child. For one thing, he had won friendships that were faithful to him even unto death. There are better things than the glory of childhood, just as the gnarled, strong, winter-worn oak is nobler than the slender sapling with its first shoots of green. God did not send us into the world to be always children, but to be strong, long-suffering, serviceable men and women; to make friends and deserve their friendship; to learn patience through sorrow and courage, by facing difficulties, and take a real soldier's part m the great battle of life. And if we are doing that in a measure there is no need to sigh for our Bethlehem days.
(J. G. Greenhough, M. A.)
1. The old simple faith. The water may be taken as typifying and standing for faith, the faith which the child always seems to drink in from any religious-minded teacher. Those were the days when faith came simply and easily to you; but you have been out into the world since then.
2. The dangers of young manhood. Is there any secret sin in your life, come temptation to impurity, some yielding to that degrading sin of intemperance, some playing with that modern vice of gambling which spoils and mare and destroys so many lifes? Is there anything which you know is fouling the purity of that religious youth that you had as s boy, which is clogging up the stream and making it, alas! very muddy indeed? Well, do you sigh and long to-day like David, for that pure stream, so fresh, so abundant, which satisfies, that deep thirst for God which you had in the days gone by, before sin and doubt had crept in? Thank God if you do, it shows your heart is. still in the right place, and that your life is not turned away so much from God as perhaps at times you may have suspected. Will you renew that faith to-day?
3. The one standard. Remember, there is only one standard put before us all, the highest of all standards — the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. "Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect."
(W. F. J. Robberds.)
2. This gift of water would always be associated in David's mind with the love that brought it. What a splendid gift it was! Only a drink of water, but it was turned, as it were, into sacramental wine by the love that brought it. Just so is it that God values our gifts. The best of earthly gifts is poor, but if it is given with a hearty spirit it will be graciously accepted. Some one has said that God cares more for adverbs than for verbs; that is, more for how a thing is done than for what is done. "Do it heartily as to the Lord," says St. Paul. The important word is not the verb "do," but the adverb "heartily."
3. David felt that he must associate this gift in a special way with God. It was one of the finest things he had ever had done to him in his life. Men's lives had been in jeopardy to get it. It was too rich an offering to make use of only for his own gratification, and he poured it out unto the Lord.
(J. S. Maver, M. A.)
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