THE FREENESS OF THE GOSPEL.
Rev. xxii. 17. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst, Come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
The obvious sentiment of this beautiful passage of Scripture is, that the offers of salvation are made freely to all men, and that the invitation is to be pressed on the attention by all the means which can be employed. To this sentiment, I propose at this time to invite your attention. •
The figure of "the water of life" which John employs in the text, is one that often occurs in the Scriptures to represent the mercy of God towards mankind. Thus Isaiah (xxxv. 6) in speaking of the times of the Messiah says, "Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water." And again (xli. 18), "I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the vallies: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water." And again (Iv. 1), "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price." The idea in all these passages is, that the blessings of the gospel would resemble fountains and running streams; as if in the solitary, sandy desert, streams of water, pure, refreshing, and ample, should suddenly break forth, and should fill the desolate plains with verdure, and should gladden the heart of the fainting traveller,—streams of which each coming caravan might partake without money and without charge. In a world which in regard to its real comforts is not unaptly compared to a waste of pathless sands, the blessings of the gospel would burst forth like cooling, perennial fountains; and man like a weary and thirsty pilgrim might partake and be happy,—as the traveller sits down by such a fountain and slakes his thirst in the desert.
In the text, however, the particular idea is, that men are freely invited to partake of the blessings of salvation. They are invited by the Holy Spirit, and by the bride— the church—to come. So free is salvation that even he who hears of it may go and say to kindred and friend, 'come.' They who thirst may come:—they who are pressed down by the consciousness of the want of something like this to make them happy, who are satisfied that happiness can nowhere else be found, who thirst for salvation under the consciousness of sin, and the feeling that the "world can never give the bliss for which they sigh," are invited to come; and all who choose may come and partake freely of the waters of life.—John saw in vision (ch. xxii. 1) "a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and the Lamb." To that pure and clear river of salvation, men are invited to come freely. There they may slake their thirst. There the desires of the immortal mind, where all earthly things fail, may be satisfied.
It is not my purpose in this discourse—though my text might seem to invite to it—to dwell on the fact that the gospel is offered to all men; that the Redeemer died for all; that the Eternal Father is willing to save all; or that ample provision is made for all who will come. On these points, it is sufficient for my present purpose to say, that my text declares that, "whosoever will may take the water of life freely;" that God has elsewhere said, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters ;" that the Redeemer has said, "come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." It is enough that God has solemnly sworn, "as I live I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live;" that it is solemnly declared that Christ "by the grace of God tasted death for every man;" that he is " the propitiation for the sins of the whole world," and that the Saviour has given the assurance that, "every one that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." It would be sufficient to prove this, if there were nothing else, that the Lord Jesus when about to ascend to heaven, said to his disciples, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature—he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." I ask no higher proof that the plan of salvation is adapted to all,- and that it contains ample blessings for all. I desire no other argument to show that the doors of heaven are opened wide, and that the Father of mercies waits to save men. I ask no other warrant for making the offer of salvation to as many of the lost children of men as I may ever be enabled to do, or of giving the assurance to man, wherever I may meet him, that God is willing to save him from eternal death.
Taking our high stand, therefore, on these incontrovertible positions, and with these full and free offers of life clearly in view, my desire is, to press the invitation in the text on your attention. I wish to state some of the appeals which the gospel makes to you as individuals. I wish to come to you and reason with you, and show you why you should embrace it; and I shall be satisfied if I can so vary the form of the invitation that my beautiful text may find its way, as it ought to be allowed to, to the heart.
Why then should you embrace the offer of salvation in the gospel? In what way is this invitation pressed on your attention? I answer, it is done,
I. In the first place, by your own conviction of the truth and the obligations of religion. I mean that the convictions of the understanding are on the side of religion, and that Christianity makes its appeals to you with the presumption that its claims are seen and known to be .right. We come to you, when we preach the gospel, with the assurance that we carry with us the decisions of the understanding, though we may fail in subduing the will or in winning the heart. We come to you as to those who have no disposition to cavil with the argument for the truth of religion; who are willing to be numbered among the supporters and the defenders of the gospel; and who are cherishing the purpose more or less distinctly formed, at some time to be Christians. I refer to facts such as the following. I (L.) You believe that Christianity is true. You admit this as a truth which you are not disposed to controvert, and which you are willing should be understood by your children and friends to be one of the settled truths on which your mind has no doubt. You would be unwilling that a wife, a sister, a child, or a parent, should think otherwise of you than that this is the deliberate conviction of your minds, a conviction in which you purpose to live, and to die. You wish to be understood as having no sympathy with an atheist, an infidel, a scoffer. With them you have not been ranked; with them you purpose not to be found. When I say this, I mean that it is the conviction of the most of those to whom the gospel is preached. This conviction may be the result of education; or, it may have arisen from the habit of long and patient reflection; or, it may have been formed from the observation of the effects of religion on the minds and lives of others; or, it may be possibly a conviction whose origin you cannot well define; or, it may have been the result of an extended and patient examination of the evidences of the Christian religion. It is not material to my argument now, what is the origin of it, or by what arguments you would be disposed to maintain it. The fact is all that is of importance now; and that fact is, that the divine origin of Christianity is one of those truths which you do not presume to call in question, and which you do not wish to be understood as doubting. You feel that a part of your reputation is involved in holding the opinion that Christianity is true.
I assume, therefore, that those whom I address at this time are disposed to admit that Christianity is true, and that it has a claim on their hearts, and lives. It is not to be presumed of any man, without proof, that he is an atheist or an infidel, any more than it is, that he is a liar or a murderer. It is not true that the mass of men in any community are infidels or atheists; nor is it to be presumed of any one that he is an infidel unless he gives us proof of it that shall be irrefragable in his profession or his life,—proof that would satisfy a court and jury on the point. There is something about Christianity which commends it wherever it comes, and wherever its effects are seen, as true, and pure, and good, and adapted to the condition of mankind; and wherever it is long proclaimed it secures the popular voice in its favor, and constrains the intellect, if not the heart of man, to bow before it. As a matter of fact, infidelity is usually the work of time and of sin. Men who have been trained under the influence of religion, do not speculatively cast off the authority of God until they have formed a purpose to live in a manner which he forbids. Youth usually adheres to its belief of the truth of religion until it is enticed by the love of sin, or by the seductive arts of aged infidelity. The young are full of sincerity, and openness, and confidence, and they admit the claims of the principles of virtue and religion. We are therefore to look for infidels and atheists, not among the young, and the ingenuous, but among the profligate, the abandoned, the profane and the sensual. These all are infidels as a matter of course. The speculative belief of Christianity and the sanctuary were forsaken together, and infidelity and vice became at the same moment bosom companions.
Now it is to this belief of the truth of Christianity that I make my appeal. The gospel addresses you as if you knew and admitted it to be true, and asks you to "come." It is not the claim of a new and unknown religion. It is not the voice of a stranger that invites you. It is that in which you have been trained; a religion whose effects you have witnessed from childhood; which has the sanction of a father and mother, and of the best friends which you now have, or have had on earth. It is that whose effects you see in the community around you; whose consolations and sustaining power you may have often witnessed in trial; nay, whose hopes and joys you may have seen exemplified on the death-bed of your most beloved friend. It simply asks you, in a barren world, to embrace consolation which you know to have an existence; to take the waters of life which you believe flow freely for all; to come to a Saviour who you believe poured out his precious blood that you might live forever.
I know it may be said that this is the work of education, and that I am appealing to a mere prejudice. But I reply, that it is not with all a mere prejudice, nor does the argument which I urge preclude the supposition of the most close and patient examination. I argue from the admitted truth of Christianity on whatever ground that may be conceded. But suppose that it is the result of education, I would observe that there are opinions and principles that have been inculcated by education that constitute a just ground of appeal. To what in most instances will you trace the felt and conceded obligation of truth, of chastity, of honesty, of patriotism, of modesty, but to the influences of education? Are they valueless because they have been instilled with parental care from the cradle? Shall they be rejected and despised because they thus depend on lessons that have been inculcated with anxious solicitude from very childhood? Or is it, and should it not be presumptive proof of their value, that they are the lessons which a venerated father has taught; that they are the sentiments of a much loved mother; that they are virtues which give ornament and grace to a sister, and that they command the assent of the community at large? He walks safely who walks in the ways of virtue; he cannot greatly err who desires to please his Maker and to live for heaven.
(2.) Again. Religion appeals to you not only by its admitted truth, but by your own reason. This is what I mean. Your reason is always on the side of God and of his claims. It always approves the service of God, no matter how soon that service is begun, and no matter with what self-denial and fidelity it is performed. It always condemns the opposite, no matter how plausibly the neglect of God may be urged, and no matter what may be the apparent and temporary pleasure found in the ways of sin. Reason never lends its voice in favor of atheism, or scepticism, or the neglect of religion, or sensuality, or crime. It is too faithful to the God who has formed the human understanding, and who has made it capable of pronouncing on truth and duty. There is not one of the subjects which reason investigates that does not utter a loud and distinct voice in favor of virtue, of religion, and of God. There is not a star, however faint or obscure; not a comet, however remotely it may travel; not a petal of a flower or an insect's wing; not a fibre of a muscle or a nerve, that does not rebuke all the feelings of the atheist and the scoffer. There is not a ray of fight or a dew drop; not a living thing or a grain of sand that can be made tributary to the argument of the atheist. And there is not one solitary consideration which reason can suggest that will justify the neglect of God, and the concerns of the soul for a single moment. I am sure that, whatever may be the feelings of my hearers, I always have their understanding with me when I urge on them the claims of God. I never speak to men in the name of my Master without the utmost assurance that their reason approves of all that I urge from the Bible, and that it would approve their course should they one and all at once become decided Christians. If you doubt this, show me one man who in his sober reflections ever regretted his having become a Christian. Point me to one even in the flames of martyrdom, or on a bed of death, or in a career of prosperity, who regretted that he had so soon or so entiroly given himself to the service of God. Tell me of one whose reason, when the sober moment of death approached, condemned him for having sought to live to the honor of God; or tell me of one—yes, even one, who has left the most gay and splendid circles of life; who has gone from the scenes of brilliant but hollow pleasure to the cross; who has given up the world for Christian duties and self-denials however arduous, who ever yet regretted it. No, that Christian remains yet to be found who has left a gay and a wicked world, -and has chosen the service of God, who has for one moment regretted the choice, and whose whole soul has not approved the most self-denying service in the cause of the Redeemer. And I am certain, my hearers, that I now have your reason in favor of the appeal which I make that you would come and take the water of life. I am eertain, and so are you, that should you one and all hear this appeal, there can be no period in all your future being when your reason would not approve the deed. No, come honor or dishonor; good report or evil report; poverty or wealth; sickness or health; storms and tempests, or calms and sunshine; come life or death; come calamity when and where it may, you would bless God that you had resolved to drink of the water of the river of life.
(3.) Equally clear is it that the conscience is on the side of religion and the claims of God. I am always sure that it is in my favor when I urge the law and the claims of my Maker. I am sure that it is never at peace until peace is found in the gospel. The Christian has always a calm and an approving conscience in view of the fact that he has become a Christian. He has no misgivings. He has no feeling at any time that he has done wrong in doing it. He cannot have; he never will have. But the sinner never has an approving conscience in view of the fact that he lives in the neglect of religion. He may be callous and insensible, but that is not to have an approving conscience. Nor will his conscience ever approve the neglect of religion, or give him peace for having refused to come and drink of the proffered water of life.
Here then is the first reason which I urge, or the first ground of my appeal to-day. It is an appeal drawn from your admission of the truth of Christianity; from your understanding, and from the monitions of your own conscience. By these, Christianity urges you to return to God. By these, it presses its claims on your attention. It is no stranger that pleads, no foreigner, no religion of doubtful nature or doubtful claims. You admit its truth; you admit its claims ; your conscience responds to its demands. Yielding, you would follow the dictates of your own understanding; embracing it, you would do that which you know your own conscience would forever approve.
II. In the second place, it is urged upon your attention and acceptance, by your wants and necessities. You need such a religion. It is adapted to the immortal mind thirsting for happiness, and you are conscious that some such system as that of the gospel alone can meet those immortal desires. My position is, that such are the obvious wants of men that they are conscious that they need some such salvation as the gospel furnishes and offers to them.
(I.) I mean that when a man honestly looks at his own heart and life he is conscious of depravity, and feels his need of the pardoning mercy of God, and that this sense of the need of pardon should lead him to embrace this plan which proposes forgiveness. That the heart is depraved and polluted is, I presume, at some period of life, the conviction of every man. Never do I urge a doctrine of the Bible that I am more sure commends itself to every one of my hearers, than when I preach the doctrine of depravity, and when I appeal to themselves for the consciousness of its truth. There are moments when the most hardened, and gay, and thoughtless have some misgivings that all is not right, and that their lives are such as to expose them to the displeasure of God. There are moments when there is pensiveness, sadness, melancholy; when somehow the remembrance of guilt troubles the soul; when sins long since forgotten seem to come in groups and clusters as if conjured up by some magic wand; when the whole sky seems overcast with a gathering tempest; and when there is a fearful apprehension that all that the Bible has said about sin, and woe, and a judgment to come, is true. At one time it may be a momentary conviction coming over the complacencies of the heart, and the joyous scenes of life, like a dark cloud flying suddenly over the disk of the sun, and that soon passes away. At another it is like the gentle and quiet shades of an evening settling on the mind, on which the sun does not rise for weeks and months, leaving the soul in long and distressing sadness. At another it is like a tempest that rolls, and flashes, and thunders along the sky. At another it is like a dense and dark night—a night without moon or stars, and where the soul is involved in impenetrable gloom.
Now the gospel appeals to men by this conscious need of pardon. Man wants peace. He wants light. He wants forgiveness. And the gospel comes and professes its readiness to extend forgiveness, and to furnish relief for a mind thus darkened and sad. Man is conscious that he is a sinner; and when he feels that, I ask no other proof that the gospel is a scheme fitted to him than to be permitted to go to him in that state, and to tell him that through that plan, those sins though like scarlet may be white as snow; though red like crimson, that they may be as wool. The gospel then meets man as running streams and .fountains that break forth in the desert, do the caravan; and is as much fitted to that dark and benighted soul as such fountains are to the fainting traveller there.
(2.) I mean further, that when men look at the trials of life, they feel the need of some system like that of the gospel that shall be fitted to give consolation. It is in vain for men to attempt to avoid trial. No strength however great; no plan however wise; no talent however brilliant; no wealth however unbounded; no schemes of pleasure or amusement however skilfully planned, will drive disappointment, and care, and sickness, and pain from our world. Life is after all a weary pilgrimage, and is burdened with many woes. Man's heart is filled with anxiety, and his steps are weary as he walks onward to the grave. Now I mean that man feels the necessity of some balm of life; some alleviation of cares; something that shall perform the friendly office of dividing the cares of this world, and that shall put an upholding hand beneath our suffering and exhausted nature. Men seek universally some such comforter and alleviator of care and sorrow, and if they do not find it, life is a weary and wretched journey. One retreats to the academic grove, and seeks consolation in philosophy.—in calm contemplation, far away from the bustle and tumult of life. Another goes up the sides of Parnassus, and drinks from the Castalian fount—seeking it in the pursuits of elegant literature, and in the company of the Muses. Another flies to the temple of Mammon and seeks it in the pursuit and possession of gold. Another aims to find it in the brilliant and fascinating world of song and the dance; another in the pursuits of professional life; another in orgies of the god of wine, and the cup that, is supposed to drown every care. In all these there is a sense of the need of something that shall give comfort; something that shall wipe away falling tears; something that shall bind up broken, and pour consolation into heavy hearts. Amidst these things proffering consolation, the gospel also comes, and offers to the weary, the heavy-laden, and the sad, its consolations. That also offers support; proposes a plan of wiping away tears; of comforting the hearts of the sad, and points the sufferer to the river of life, and asks him to come and take freely—and never fails.
(3.) I mean further, that when men look at the shortness of life, and at the certainty of death, there is a consciousness that some such system as that of the gospel is needed, and that hy this deep consciousness the gospel appeals to men. "We all do fade as a leaf," and we cannot hut be conscious that however blooming and vigorous we may now be, the time is not far remote when we shall be cut down as the flower, and wither like the green herb. Our day, even in its highest meridian glory, hastens, as Wolsey said he did, to its setting; and in spite of all the aid of philosophy, and all the amusements of life, men will feel sad at the prospect of death. A death-bed is a melancholy place. The parting with friends forever is a sad and mournful scene. The closing up of all the plans of life, and the starting off on a journey to a dark and unknown world from which "no traveller returns," is an important and a deeply-affecting event. The dying chill; the clammy sweat; the fading eye; the enfeebled delirious mind, are all sad and gloomy things. The coffin is a gloomy abode; and the grave, for him who has reposed on a bed of down, is a cold and cheerless resting-place. The thought of corruption and decay until the frame, once so beautiful and active, is all gone back to its native dust, is a gloomy thought, and one that should make a deep impression on the human mind.
Now men may blunt the force of these thoughts as much as they can.. They may fly from them to business; to their professions; to amusement; to sin—but all will not do. Nature will be true to herself, and true to the designs of God, and it cannot be but that when a man thinks of the grave, there should be a "fond desire," a "longing after immortality." Man would not die forever. He would live again. He would be recovered from that horrid, chilly sleep, from that cold grave, from that repulsive stillness and gloom. There is an inextinguishable desire to live again ; a feeling which we can never get rid of, that God did not form the wondrous powers of mind for the transient pleasures of this brief life. Man feels his need of the hope of heaven; and when the gospel comes to him and invites him to drink of the river of life, and to live forever, he cannot but fuel that it is a system adapted to his whole nature, and is just such a system as his circumstances demand. The invitation of the gospel is one that meets all the deep aspirations of his soul, and is just fitted to his condition. It is such as a dying and yet a deathless being ought to desire; it is fitted to meet the woes and sorrows of a wretched world. And all that is in man that is great, all his desire of consolation and of immortal happiness, prompts him to come and take the water of life; and the gospel designs to keep the truth of the guilt and the sorrow of the world before the mind, to induce the sufferer and the sinner to come and embrace pardon and peace.
Thus far I have not adverted to the direct invitations of the gospel. I have spoken rather of the character and circumstances of man. I turn now to one other topic, and with that I shall close.
III. I refer, therefore, in the-third place, to the special direct invitations in the Scriptures to embrace the gospel. I shall dwell mainly on those referred to in the text, but shall, in a rapid manner, glance at some others also. I observe, then—
That God the Father invites you, and presses the gospel on your attention. On this Ineed not dwell. If any one doubts that the eternal Father invites men to come to him, and is willing that the wanderer should return, let him ponder the parable of the prodigal son. In that most beautiful and touching of all compositions, how tenderly and pathetically are the feelings of God portrayed in the joy of the aged father when he sees his son afar off; when he goes forth to meet him, and when he greets that long-lost son in an affectionate embrace. With such joy does God the Father come forth to meet the returning sinner; and with such desires does he proffer pardon to the guilty, and a home to the wandering. Open your Bibles. Is there one of the human race, however guilty and wretched, to whom God does not extend the offer of mercy? Is there one who has gone off so far that he is not invited to return? Is there one who would not be welcomed should he again come back to his Father's house and arms? 0, no. There is not one. God, the eternal Father, all along your way has lifted up the voice of invitation and entreaty, and is saying every where and every day to man, "Let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to God, for he will abundantly pardon." My hearer, all along your way, from the cradle to the present hour, God the Father has uttered but one voice, the voice of mercy; he has expressed but one wish—it is that you should turn and . live. Heaven he has offered you with the fulness of its glory; and by all that is there of peace, and beauty, and bliss; by all that is valuable in his favor and attractive in his own house, he speaks to you and says, "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
So has spoken the Son of God. Need I dwell on this? To invite sinners to return, he came forth from the bosom of the Father, and dwelt among men. It was not because he was not happy that he became an exile from the skies; it was not because he did not wear a crown that was brilliant enough, or sway a sceptre over an empire that was not vast enough; it was because here was a race of lost and ruined sinners which might be restored; because they needed some such interposition to save them from eternal ruin. And he came. And what was his life$ what was his ministry; what were his sufferings and toils, but unwearied invitations to the guilty and the wretched? "Behold, I stand at the door and knock," said he, "if any man will open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." "Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." "Every one that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." Did Christ ever utter a word that expressed an unwillingness that the most guilty and vile should be saved? Did he ever spurn from his presence one broken-hearted and penitent sinner? Lives there a man in all the regions where Christian light illuminates the face of the world, who can doubt for one moment that the Redeemer desires his salvation, and invites him to come and take the water of life freely? No, sinner, even you know that if you go to him, " all covered o'er" as you may be with crime, he will welcome you, and say, 'Son, daughter, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee.'
So speaks the Holy Ghost. "The Spirit says, come." That sacred Spirit, the Comforter, sent by the ascended Redeemer to awaken, convict, and convert the soul, says "Come," and says so to all. He comes to teach men their need of a Saviour; to acquaint them with their guilt; to guide them to the cross; and all his work on the soul is to impress that short word in the fulness of its meaning on the heart—" Come." To impress that invitation, to lead men to see its value and its power, he visits the heart, and shows it its guilt and its corruptions. For that, he awakens the mind of the careless and the secure in their sins—the pleasure-loving, the gay, the worldly, the ambitious, and shows them the need of a better portion than this life can give. For that, he, in a mysterious manner, makes your mind pensive and sad when in the gay scenes of life, and when flowers seem to be strewed and fragrance to be breathed all around you. For that, he produces the uneasiness of mind when pleasures "pall upon the sense," and when your bosom is conscious of its need of more elevated joys than this world can give. For that, he produces the sense of sadness when you have returned from your daily toils weary with the cares and the disappointments of life; when you have sought and obtained the plaudits of the world, and find all an empty bubble; when a man has built him houses and planted vineyards, and made him gardens and orchards, and gathered silver and gold, the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces, and when vanity of vanities is seen written on them all. To press that invitation to come to the water of life, the Holy Spirit awakens in the heart the sense of sin, and shows you the need of pardons For that, he convinces you of your past guilt; recals -to your mind the lessons of childhood ; makes the mind pensive or sad when you think of death, of God, of the judgment, of eternity. Alike in the still and gentle influences of that Spirit on the mind, and in the terrors of that moment when he overwhelms the soul with the deep consciousness, of guilt, the object is to impress upon the heart the invitation "Come." I said, 'In the still and gentle influences of that Spirit on the mind.' You have seen how the pliant osier bends before the zephyr, and how the harvest field gently waves in a summer's eve. So gently, and often amidst such scenes, too, does the Spirit of God incline the mind to seek better things than this world can give—in heaven. So calm, so sweet, so pure, are those influences which incline the mind to thought, to prayer, to God. I said, 'In the terrors of that moment when he overwhelms the soul with the deep consciousness of guilt.' You have seen the clouds grow dark in the western sky. They roll inward on themselves, and throw Iheir infolding ample volumes over the heavens. The lightnings play, and the thunder rolls, and nature is in commotion, and the tornado sweeps over hill and vale, and the oak crashes on the mountain. So also, and in such scenes, too, the stout-hearted sinner trembles under the influences of the Spirit of God, and in anticipation of the future judgment. He hears the thunder of justice about to condemn him, and sees the lightnings flash ready to devour him. But it is yet a scene of mercy. It is not to condemn, it is to warn him. It is a kind messenger sent forth from God—the. Holy Ghost, the Comforter, the admonisher, whether in the stillness or the storm, saying to the sinner, "Come—take the water of life freely."
So the "brjde" says, "Come." But what is this ?" I John," said the disciple in Patmos, "saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down -from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride for her husband." Rev. xxi. 2. It is the voice of the bride, " the Lamb's wife"^-of the church triumphant, the church in heaven, that speaks and invites you to come. It is not merely that the church, by her ministry, her ordinances, and her friends; by her appeals and persuasions in the sanctuary invites—though that is true—it is that the church redeemed; the church in heaven; the church in white robes before the throne; the church now adorned in heaven as a bride, invites you to come. And what is that church that thus invites you? What claims has she on your attention? Why should her voice be heard ?—Who compose that church? The church in heaven is composed of those who on earth tried both religion and the world; and who can now speak from deep experience alike of the trials and the joys of the Christian faith. It is a triumphant church that has been exposed to fiery persecutions, and that has survived them all. A church that has known what it is to be poor and persecuted on earth, and what it is in heaven to be blessed—and that as the result of all now invites you to come and share its triumphs and its joys bought with blood. Whom does the eye of faith see in that church in heaven that invites you? A father may be there; a mother; a sister; a lovely babe. That venerated father, whose cold remains you bedewed with tears, and over whose grave you still go to weep, is there, and says, 'Come, my son, and take the water of life freely.' That tender mother, that often spoke to you in childhood of Jesus and of heaven, still says, 'Come, my daughter, and take the water of life freely.' That much-loved sister, now clothed in white, and walking beside the river of salvation, says still, 'Come, my brother, and take the water of life freely.' That sweet smiling babe stretches out its hands from the world of glory, and speaks and says, 'Come, father, mother, come and take the water of life freely.' All that church redeemed—that church made up of prophets, apostles, confessors, martyrs; that church that is now amidst the glories of heaven, still says, * Come, there yet is room. Heaven's ample mansions shall furnish other places of rest. There are harps unstrung which your hands may strike. There are eternal fountains where you may drink. There are blest spirits there that will hail your coming, and rejoice in your joy.' All heaven invites. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost—the one living and one blessed God—says, "Come." The angels, the spirits of just men made perfect, and all your departed pious kindred, all unite in the invitation, and say, 'Come, come, and take the water of life freely.'
Need I say that this voice of invitation is echoed back in your ears from this world? So speaks to you a pious father; a tender mother; a sister, a friend. So speak the living to you, and so addresses you the remembered voice of the dead. Go walk among the graves. Beneath your feet, in the sacred sweet slumbers of a Christian's death, lies a much-loved mother. How still! How lovely a mother's grave! How the memory delights to go back to the nursery; the fireside; the sick-bed; the anxious care of a mother! How it loves to recall the gentle look; the eye of love; the kiss at night of a mother. She sleeps now in death, but from that grave is it fancy that we still hear a voice, 'My beloved son! my much-love,d daughter! Come—come, and take the water of life freely?' No. Of all the departed pious dead; of every living Christian; of all holy beings, there is not one who does not invite you to come. There is not one who would.not rejoice in seeing you clothed in white, and with palms of victory in your hands in heaven. Yes, in their hearts, and in their eternal dwelling-places there yet is room— room—ample room for all to come.
See now what pleads. The eternal Father; the dying Saviour; the sacred Spirit; all heaven; earth; the grave; conscience; reason; all the universe invites and pleads. And what hinders? A word will tell all. The fear of shame. The love of gaiety. The fascinations- of amusement—all temporary, unsatisfactory, dying. A scheme of ambition; a plan of gain; an arrangement for pleasure—all valueless when compared with heaven. For such, things the ear is turned away, and the voice inviting to heaven is unheeded. 0, how deluded! To surfer the great interests of eternity to be neglected, and the immortal welfare of the soul to be hazarded for nameless trifles! Of the folly of this course I could say much. But why should I say any thing? Who does not see it? I will make, therefore, but one other observation, and then close. The River Of Life Will Roll On Forever. Its pure waters, clear as crystal, shall forever gladden and refresh the inhabitants of heaven. But on the banks of that river you may never recline. Far away from that pure stream—far away from all the bliss of heaven—far away from the redeemed and happy throng assembled there, shall be your eternal, abode, and never again shall you hear the invitation, "Whosoever will, let him come and take the water of life freely." To-day, all the universe invites you. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit, say, "Come." The church on earth and the church redeemed say, " Come." The friend that has gone to the skies, and the friend on earth, says, "Come." The tender father; the affectionate mother; the pastor; the brother; the sister, all say, "Come." Your own nature; your conviction of the truth; your sense of sin; your dread of death; your inextinguishable desire of immortality; your conviction that "this world can never give the bliss for which you sigh,"—all these emotions and feelings say, "Come." The whole universe joins in the invitation, and voices from distant worlds mingle in this sanctuary to-day, saying to you now; "Come, take the water of life freely." To-morrow, 0 how changed may be the scene! Death's cold fingers may have felt after the strings of life, and chilled them, and your soul may be beyond hope and heaven. Not a voice from all the universe may invite you to leave the dark abodes where the wicked dwell, and to take the waters of life. 0 that word, 'Free Salvation !'—What would you give 'to hear it borne on the breeze in the world of despair! But it will be too late. "Sealed will be the lips of the eternal Father; hushed the voice of the Redeemer; gone the influences of the Holy Spirit. The bride—the church—will have ceased to invite; and neither father /nor mother, nor brother, nor sister, nor pastor, nor friend, will Ever say to you again, "Come, take the water of life freely."