If Any Man Thirst
Webster (c. 1659-1720) was a Scottish Covenanter who was imprisoned for his faith. After the killing times were over, he was ordained to the gospel ministry in the Church of Scotland, and served two country parishes in the Lothians before being inducted as pastor of one of the Edinburgh congregations in 1693. He initiated the prosecution of Professor John Simson, whose teaching inclined to Arianism. As well as the two published volumes of his sermons, Webster wrote a defence of Presbyterian church government, and two expositions of covenant theology. The following is a sermon preparatory for the Lord’s Supper, and is taken from Webster’s Sacramental Sermons and Discourses at the Lord’s Table, Edinburgh 1705. This is an outstanding example of Scottish Presbyterian experimental preaching.
“If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” John 7:37.
“And ye will not come to me.” John 5:40.
We have one of the sweetest offers ever Christ made, and ushered in with a great solemnity; the offer is made, not upon an ordinary day, but a feast day, and the greatest day of the feast. Not in the ordinary way of the doctors of the Jews’ teaching, who sat when they taught, Jesus Christ stands to hold forth his great readiness to distribute what he was to offer. He does not speak in his ordinary way; he cries in the last day, the great day; he stands, he cries, he makes the offer. And what is the offer? If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. And the sad answer, that we may presume many of them gave him, is in the other part we have read, Ye will not come unto me. You may preach, you may cry Lord, you may stand and cry, but we will not come, we will have none of thee. In the words, we have first the duty incumbent on the audience, Come to me. I think the very voice should charm. It sounds like that in Canticles 4, Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon, look from the top of Amana, etc. Secondly, we have the persons that are allowed to come, that are ready to come, that are some way disposed for coming, and that are called here, and invited to come. It is thirsty folk: If any man be athirst, let him come unto me. Thirdly, we have the encouragement, He shall have drink, not have gold or silver, for a thirsty man cannot be satisfied with it; Lysimachus gave his whole kingdom for one drink of water, and he thought himself much refreshed, and his life preserved by it. I will give you what you need, if ye come: If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. Fourth, We have the entertainment that Christ’s offer gets from the most of them, Ye will not come unto me.
For the first, the duty incumbent, Come unto me, by this is meant believing in Christ: He that comes unto me shall never hunger, and he that believes on me shall never thirst, John 6. They are taken for one and the same in Scripture: Come unto me you that are weary, that is, believe on me, to whom coming as unto a living stone, that is believing in Christ. There have been very many wrong notions of faith. The Church of Rome depresses its value, by making it a mere historical assent unto truth. They make it no better faith than what the reprobates and devils have. Our worthy Reformers running from that error fell into another, but not so dangerous. They make faith to be assurance and persuasion of the pardon of our sin. The Antinomians make faith the assurance of our eternal life, of God’s electing love. The Socinians confound it with new obedience. Our church makes faith to be mainly an act of the will, a work of the heart going out upon an offered Jesus Christ: Come unto me, says he.
Secondly, We have here the persons invited: Any man that is athirst. Ye shall hear presently that the call is to the whole visible church. There is no limiting of the offer here to thirsty folk. I’ll tell you who the thirsty are, folk that are scorched, and would have their desires satisfied, scorched with the wrath of God, parched with fiery temptations and afflictions, scorched with corruption. They are burnt, they are like to expire, they are gasping for a draught. These are thirsty folk, who desire satisfaction and cooling from Christ.
Thirdly, we have the encouragement, They shall have drink. There is in Christ a river that makes glad, that makes clean the city of God. Now they that come and thirst, they shall drink of that river that gusheth clear from beneath the throne of God. They shall partake of all the blessings of election, of all the purchase of redemption, of all the fruits of the Spirit. They shall drink, and drink again, a cup of the water of consolation pressed down, shaken together, heaped up and running over, and shall thirst no more. They drank the muddy stream before, and the more they drank their thirst increased and was the greater. Their thirst grew, and they cried give more, fill up again, and run the round of drinking of that cursed puddle. But says Christ, I shall give you the fountain, the never-failing source to drink of: If any many thirst, let him come to me.
Fourth, we have the entertainment Christ gets. Folk are unwilling: Ye will not come to me. Many under some exercise are sensible of their own impotence and inability, that they cannot come to Christ. But till folk be thoroughly convinced, they will never see themselves unwilling to come to Christ! O, say they, we would always have him, we would fain have him. Ye are mistaken, for the defect lies in the will. The will of man is the last fort, the last castle that holds out against Christ. The mind is conquered by illumination and conviction, and the conscience by challenges, and the affections by a warm motion and touch. But the will stands out to the last against him, Ye will not come to me.
Several textual questions I should give you here, before I come to the doctrine, but I shall run through them in a word. First, why does Christ here, and elsewhere, make faith to be the alone condition of the covenant of grace? He does not say, If any man thirst let him love me, let him repent, let him exercise new obedience, and then he shall have a drink. Indeed there is something of a congruity, even in the grace of faith itself, but it does not oblige God to make choice thereof before all the other graces to be the condition. There is a congruity in it. Faith is the hand that takes him, the mouth that receives him, and if we may speak with reverence, the stomach that concocts and digests the body of our Lord to spiritual nourishment. There is an instrumentality in faith that is not to be found in any other grace.
Secondly, he makes faith the condition of the covenant, and nothing else, because faith gives God all the glory. It erects a high throne for Christ. Faith makes all the graces, like the twenty-four elders, throw down their crowns before the Lamb’s throne, and say, Worthy, worthy, worthy is he. It says, and it makes all its companions say, Not to us, not to my gifts, not to my knowledge, not to my diligence, not to my free will, but to free, free grace, be all the praise, and therefore it is fit and very convenient, he make it the alone condition. They pervert the gospel who make works the condition of the covenant of grace, and confound the two covenants, and defeat God’s great design of taking the creature wholly from off itself, and settling it upon a daysman: Let him come to me. Another textual question is, why says our Lord, If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink? Why does he not say, If any man thirst, let him go to the river and drink, let him go to the waters? Folk must go first to Christ’s person, before they can get good of his offices. Folk must make a direct address to the person of the mediator, before they reap his purchase. Pardon is sweet, adoption sweet, grace sweet, heaven sweet, but Christ is sweeter; and though they do not divide Christ and his benefits, they distinguish them, and it is a whorish heart which loves the ring better than the bridegroom, the gold watch better than the husband that gave it. We must come to the person of the mediator first, and make a direct address to him. And having him, ye have with him all things: Let him come unto me and drink.
Thirdly, there is this question, for further illustration, are there none invited to come but thirsty folk? It is a great mistake in many; when the gospel offer makes a condescension upon a qualification in the person, they make that a limitation of the offer, like that in Matt. 11:28: Come unto me, all ye who are weary and heavy loaden! O, say they, here only the folk invited are the weary and heavy loaden. It is a very great mistake. All the visible church are invited. The folk in Matthew 22 that had no appetite at all for the marriage feast, for the marriage drink, that were afterwards destroyed for not coming, were invited, as well as others. And if none but thirsty folk were invited, then they that are not thirsty not being invited, in their neglecting of Christ would not sin; their exceptions, their unbelief, might be excused, they might well say, No man has called us, no man has hired us, no man has obliged us. If folk be not called to come to Christ, they are not obliged to come, and if only thirsty folk were called, then all others would not be called, and so would not be obliged to accept of Christ. But some will say, Why then so often is the call made to such, and to no other? Why is there a condescension? I answer, though there be no limitation, yet a condescension is made for these reasons. First, if the call had been in general to come to him, the thirsty person would have said, Surely I am excepted out of the call, surely I am none that can come or can be welcome, such a burnt stick as I. Such a firebrand, and half consumed, and scorched with God’s wrath, and a hell within me, can do nothing, surely he does not bid me come. Yea, says he, even the thirsty may come, the lamenter, the weary person, the longing body, so that it is a consolation, and to prevent the objection of poor lost things. Secondly, there is a condescension on the thirsty and others that they may come, because indeed no other will come. Though all should, no other will come: They that be whole need not the physician. If I should invite all (as I resolve to invite all, and every one of you, if there were witches, wizards, atheists among you, I am resolved to invite you all to come to Christ), yet none but thirsty persons will obey.
The observation I intend to prosecute is this: Though it be the duty of all in the visible church to come to and believe in Christ, yet many are unwilling; however, all who are thirsty shall certainly drink. All this we have in the texts read. First, it is the duty of all to come to Christ. Shortly take these proofs. First, consider what you are, and what Christ is, and ye will see it is a duty incumbent upon you. What am I, say ye? I’ll tell you what you are, you are prisoners of Satan, ye are children of hell, ye are heirs of wrath, ye are under the dominion and tyranny of the worst enemy in the world, and Christ is a strong redeemer. Ye are a fardle of folly and filthiness, a mixture of madness and wickedness, a composition of sin and sorrow. Ye are superlatively miserable, ye are next unto devils, the worst piece of God’s creation, and ye are lost, lost by nature, lost by the sentence of the law, under the most insupportable vengeance of an angry God, and Christ is a strong Savior, able to save, ready to save. And is it not your duty then, to come to him?
Secondly, it cannot but be a duty to come to him, for it is but a return ye give for his coming to you. Hath he not come to you in a preached gospel? Hath he not come to you in providences? Every dispensation is a wagon wherein he comes to you. Has he not come to you in the sacrament? Has he not come in the flesh, when he flew from that warm bosom of God, where he had lien an entire eternity, to the womb of a woman, and from that unto a world of trouble, and thence to a cross, from the cross back to the throne again by a retrograde motion? Has he come to you, and will ye not give him a return and go to him?
Thirdly, it cannot but be our duty to believe in him, to come to him, for this is the counterpart of all that God and Christ hath been doing about us from all eternity! Our coming to Christ answers the covenant of redemption; it is a copy of that great transaction, it is a transcript of that blessed device, it answers his design of coming to a world. It is the counterpart of all, and the hearty acquiescing of the soul in all. Fourth, all things are designed and destined to bring you to Christ: These things are written that ye may believe on him. Why hear you preaching? It is to make you come. Why are there commands, why are there promises, why are there threatenings, why are there revelations? All is to drive you unto a Christ, to drive you from yourself unto the bosom of the high priest. And without you come, all means are to little purpose, they are to no purpose, they are to bad purpose. The communion itself will be your death, if ye come not to Christ. If ye come to a communion table, and come not to himself, ye may come to drink poison and get your death with it. All is in vain, all is lost, the pen of the scribe is in vain, praying, preaching, all is in vain.
Now as to the second, that though it be a duty incumbent upon all to come to Christ, yet many are unwilling: Ye will not come to me, says he. Strange, that such madness should ever be recorded. I have often compared this madness of the world, this unwillingness to come to Christ, to the mad rage of a desperate villain of an inveterate traitor against the government, that designed the ruin of all. He is brought to the scaffold, he is upon the ladder, the rope is about his neck, the napkin on his face, and then the king’s eldest son is sent with a remission from his father. Hold thy hand, executioner. Let not the panel go over. Here my father’s indemnity. Aye, but the man hates so much the king and his son, that he cries, Throw me over, I will have none of his indemnities. Ye will not come to me that ye may have life. The world is ruined, the world is destroyed; I offer my remission, I send my own son with it; we will have none of it, we will rather die than have it that way.
Now for the proof of this unwillingness to come, consider first, the black picture the Scripture draws of sinners in their natural state. What is their picture? First, the father of all sinners is represented as an abstract vanity: Every man in his best state is altogether vanity. The word in the original will read, All Adam is all vanity. The whole tribe of Adam, and every branch of him, every bit of him, he lost his strength, he forfeited his power, and a weak man begets a weak world. The Scripture represents us as without strength; we could do nothing for ourselves. Had God said to the tribe of Adam, I will give you heaven for one good thought, we would have fallen short of that, for we could not command this: We were without strength. That is one line and stroke of the picture. Yea, but there are blacker lines behind; we are not only without strength, but we have a rooted, fixed and habitual hatred of Christ. This is a superlative degree of malignity and wickedness; the citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us. Let the devil reign over us, let lusts reign over us, let the world reign over us, let tyrants reign over us, anything but Christ: We will not have this man to reign over us. That is another black line of the picture, an utter hatred of and aversion from the Lord Jesus. But then to complete that black character, it goes to such a stoutness of hatred and rebellion against him that do what he will, if he only withhold effectual grace, they still resist, they despise his offers, they resist his Spirit, they defend their sin, they glory in it. They deforce his motions, and when he has done all, except giving them effectual grace, he is just where he was, they will not come to him. Christ preaches three years and a half, he confirms his doctrine with miracles, he seals it with his blood, yet he converts very few. I believe Peter converted more at one sermon than we can have a warrant to think from the Bible, our Lord converted all the time of his humiliation. But that Peter had any pre-eminence, excellency or talent above his master, it were blasphemy to think that. Peter without our Lord’s concurrence could not convert one person. But the grace of Christ was not put forth in efficacy till his ascension; there was not any plentiful effusion of the Spirit accompanying the word till our Lord was glorified. Therefore he takes up a lamentation after he had preached all his time and was now to die, concerning the success of his ministry: I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength in vain. The prophet Isaiah brings him in, complaining of the want of success. Yet says he, My reward is with my God. Though they have not believed, I will get a great and glorious heaven. The unwillingness, you see, is manifest.
Secondly, that folk are unwilling to come to Christ is clear from this, God the Father takes all the glory to himself of making folk willing. Seven times in a breath he takes the glory of it to himself. Ezek. 36:25, seven times he says, I will do it: I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart, and will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you. He will convert the will of man, and overpower it, and subdue it unto himself, and nothing but he can do it. All the cherubs in heaven, all the seraphs in glory, let them unite all their counsels, all their force together, they could not bend one of your wills to make you come to Christ. It is a creating power: They shall be willing in the day of thy power. It is a power that made a world that must make you willing.
Thirdly, the unwillingness of sinners to come to Christ appears in this, that in the most advantageous and favorable and auspicious circumstances possible there is no prevailing with them. Nothing can be done, God entreats you, we entreat you in Christ’s stead to be reconciled. No, no, entreaty will do nothing with us. He falls on importuning with them, I stand at the door, I knock. Ye shall stand long ere we open to you. Lord, thou mayest knock by thy ministers, and knock by sacraments, but we shall keep a locked door betwixt thee and us. He expostulates with them: O Jerusalem, when wilt thou be made clean, when will it once be? Never, never, Lord, do we desire or resolve on it; we were born unclean and we live so, and we will die so! O Jerusalem how often would I have gathered thee, but ye would not. A sad saying, would not, there the unwillingness, and after all. He complains it will not do, Who hath believed our report? The unwillingness is so manifest, that though Christ himself came out of heaven to preach, yet it did not overcome their unwillingness. If a saint or angel would come from heaven with all his bright shining robes, etc., and tell us of the glory that is there, the unconverted would not give him credit. Though a devil should come out of hell with all his rattling chains of darkness about him and acquaint us what the damned sons of Adam and apostate spirits are suffering, they would not believe in Christ. Nothing will bend the will of the unconverted, no means, no circumstances can do it; Christ smiles and pipes, but it will not do. He shines, yet that will not soften them. He frowns and threatens, but all is in vain to no purpose. Whatever circumstances they are in, the unwillingness remains. If the man be in outward prosperity, then with Jeshurun he kicks and grows more unwilling. When he is under affliction, he is like Ahaz; this is that Ahaz that in his affliction trespassed against the Lord. Does his conscience, the bosom deputy of God, speak to him and tell him, O wretch, thou art undone and ruined, then he smothers it and commands silence: Peace, no more of that talk. And so the unwillingness still remains.
I come to the third thing, which is that though many are unwilling, yet such as thirst may come and drink, they are allowed to drink, and they shall drink. Here I will do these three things. First let you see what this thirst is. Secondly, what the drink is they will get. Thirdly, that they are allowed to drink.
First then, what is this thirst? First, this thirst is a strong pain of soul with want of something, and feeling something! O, I want much, says the soul; there is a pain of sense, through want of somewhat. Strong pain, there are not many sensations more painful than that of thirst; when Samson had overcome his enemies, he fell a-crying, Now what avails it me, that I have overcome mine enemies, when I must die with thirst. Christ himself reckons it one part of his sufferings; it was among his last words, I thirst. There is also a feeling of some thing, Job 6:4: For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit, the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me. An arrow shot by a man or angel may carry death along with it. One angel with his arrows slew in one night one hundred eighty-five thousand Assyrians, but this is nothing compared with the arrows of the Almighty, arrows framed, made and sharpened by infinite wisdom, and dipped in poison by provoked justice and the fiery indignation of heaven, and thrown and sent from the bow drawn by an omnipotent arm, by that arm that can move the globe of heaven and earth with greater ease than we can blow away a little, small dust. These arrows drink blood, not only of the heart and animal life, but of the immortal soul and spirit. They can prey upon their very vitals. But this, says Job, make but the half of my sad and miserable condition, for beside his arrows, his terrors do set themselves in array against me. Job was a magor-missabib, a terror to himself; terrors compassed and surrounded and encircled him; did he go to his closet or to the church, to bed or table, terrors bear him always company. Job 16:13: His archers compassed me round about; Hebrew: have besieged me, and they will quickly take me by storm.
Secondly, there are strong desires for a supply of these wants, and satiating their strong appetite: How long, how long, how long wilt thou forget me? I think every moment a year, an hour an age, till God come. I wait for the Lord, as they that wait for the morning, yea more than they that wait for the morning. It has a sweet allusion to the Arabian merchant, traveling through that waste, howling desert, where there was great want of springs, and here the robbers were encircling the man every night, which made him long for the break of day for his safety. Or it is an allusion to the poor mariner, under great danger and in darkness of the night? Paul says, We flung out our anchor, and wished for day, we looked wistfully out for the new-born light of an approaching day. Or it may look at the custom of the priests under the law, who were obliged to attend the tabernacle all night, and keep their candles burning till the sun rose; they waited for the day. Or it is in allusion unto the sentinel in a dangerous post, looking for day. Now, says David, I long more for God than any of these, I wait for God as they that wait for the morning. A sick man on a death bed never tossed more and desired more the new-born light than my soul does God; it is a strong desire.
Thirdly, it is a constant desire. Thirst will help your memory; there is no forgetting of it, nor of the thing we thirst for, drink. Drink is the language of the soul; bring all the gold of Ophir to a thirsty man, alas it will not do, and bring him all the honors in the world, they will not satisfy. There is a constant insatiable desire for drink: With my soul have I desired thee, in the night seasons, and with my spirit within me, will I seek thee early. Nigh and day I will desire, till God fill my desire.
But for the second thing in this third part, what is this drink that Christ promiseth you? If any thirst, let him come unto me and drink. First, God the Father is here included and understood. He is compared, and he compares himself, to a fountain of living waters, and he bids heaven and earth be astonished at the impious choice, and mad preferment of the muddy cistern, unto him the fountain: Be astonished O ye heavens, be ye horribly confounded! Let all heaven, all the fixed stars, let the very angels be astonished. What is the business, Lord, that the whole creation is summoned to wonder? It is at the distraction of men: They have done two great evils, they have dug to themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water, and they have neglected me, the fountain of living water. God is the fountain himself, that we may drink of, Jesus Christ is the fountain: In that day, there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David. When his side was pierced, when the eternal Rock of Ages Christ was smitten with the sword of justice, where the wound was made, out come the water that should refresh the sons of men. Says the poor man, I breathe, I pant, I languish, I gasp, I die, till I lay my mouth to the wound of the Rock, and drink of that fountain he hath opened. Where the Rock was smitten, there the eternal spring gushed out. The Holy Ghost also is compared unto water in the same chapter, verse two, after my text: He that drinks of me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living waters. This spoke he of the Holy Ghost that should be given them, so that you get all the blessings of a Trinity; what the Father has given you, what the Son has bought for you, and what the Spirit will apply to you, that is for drink, and ye may take a good draught. God grant that ye may go all home drunk this night with the Spirit of God, filled with the Spirit! O it would be a blessed communion! It is called the water of life, water because of its necessity. The Father made water the original of all creatures in the world. Ye see it is necessary for the generation of vegetables, without water nothing could grow. What made Egypt to be fruitful? the inundation of the Nile. What makes a soul as a watered garden, and a field the Lord has blest? a draught of this water I am speaking of, and it is water of life. Many a man has gotten death in the cup, he has drunk his own poison; yea, but here is wine, that maketh the lips of them that are asleep to speak.
But I come to the third thing in this third part of the doctrine, that they that are thirsty, they are allowed to drink, they will get a drink. First, it is certain they will. Why, this thirst is raised in them by the Spirit of God. Now will ever the Spirit create this passionate, ardent, vehement desire in them, only to starve them, only to torment them? No, He that has given the mouth, and stomach, will give meat too. Has he given you thirst, he will not let you perish, do not think it. Will the Spirit of God raise desires in you, and they never be satisfied? No, no, Blessed are they that hunger and thirst, for they shall be filled. It were a very hard thing, yea, it were to form unworthy conceptions of God, to think he will torment his people with a plentiful desire, and never satisfy them. Thou satisfiest the longing soul, and fillest the hungry with good things; they hungered, they thirsted, their hearts fainted within them, then they cried to the Lord, and he heard them.
Secondly, the thirsty folk shall have a drink. O communicants, came ye with thirst today, is it begun? I tell you in my master’s name ye shall have a drink, either here or elsewhere, either now or at another time. Consider the relation that is between poor, thirsty folk and Christ. He is their Father, and they are his children: If your children ask bread, will ye give them a stone? If they ask fish, will ye give them a serpent; or an egg, will ye give them a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give to you. Will any of you, the worst of you, be so unnatural, be so inhumane, so barbarously cruel, that if your dear child, and sick child, said, Oh I am pained!, would ye torment them more? If your child came home crying, O I am dying with hunger, will ye give him a piece of earth, or a stone, and say, Chew your fill upon it, eat well, my child? Will any man mock his own child so? Even the worst of you will not do it; far less should ye think so of God your heavenly Father. Man, hast thou a thirst, a tormenting thirst after him (indeed, it is a kind of heavenly torment), God is thy Father, he will not give thee a stone, he will not give thee poison instead of meat and drink.
I thought to have given you another reason, but I come to the application. First, it serves for lamentation. First, we may mourn over that unwillingness that is in us all. Many a man is willing to come to hear a sermon, that is not willing to come to Christ. Many a man comes and gets a token, and goes to the communion table, that will no come to Christ and drink. There is unwillingness, peremptory unwillingness. I would, but ye would not; there is an universal unwillingness. There is nothing in Jesus Christ, but what they have an aversion unto! O that is a humbling thought, that Christ who is represented as all desires (Canticles 4: He is altogether lovely; in the original: All he desires and all delights) is wholly abhorred. There is an universal unwillingness to come to him, to come to his person, to own his government; they will not let him reign. There is an aversion to his yoke, it is insupportably heavy to many. I verily believe, the unconverted man had rather undergo the greatest drudgery of a Turkish slave, than take on the yoke of Christ, to go about the performance of holy duties, or the cross of Christ! O what aversion to it, this unwillingness is to be lamented, willing to come to a communion table, and yet not come to Christ. Alas, alas, we need not inquire into the causes of it, he have often heard them, I shall but name them. A profound ignorance of Christ abounding is the cause of unwillingness. What says our Lord to the woman of Samaria, If thou hadst known me and the gift of God, you would have asked of me living water, and I should have given it? What made her so unwilling to own Christ, what made her so averse to come to Christ, to get a draught of this water? She knew him not: If thou hadst known me, thou would have asked of me living water. Secondly, the presumption of men. What talk ye unto me of coming? it is long since I came, and yet they never yet came. What talk ye of coming? it is soon enough to come to him when he comes to me by death, and by judgment and eternity; I will have time enough to come to him, when he sounds the trumpet in mine ears: Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye out and meet him. Thus presumption either looks backward or forward. Thirdly, discouragement keeps folk from Christ, makes them unwilling. There is a sinking of spirit, a despondency they cannot overcome, there is a mountain in the way, a lion in the street, till the power of God conquer. Says the man and woman, I believe though I would come I would not be welcome, I cannot think I would be welcome, and this keeps some folk from Christ.
The last thing in this use of lamentation is to consider the evil of this unwillingness to come! O what might be said here! I shall only give you two, three thoughts. First, it is the perfection of folly. Thou art thirsty, there the water, and yet thou wilt not come to it. Thou art poor, there the unsearchable riches of Christ, and yet thou wilt not take one penny when ye may have all. Ye are sick, and there the physician, crying, for my Father’s sake, for my own sake, for your soul’s sake, take my plaster that ye may not die; and yet ye will rather die in your wounds! O what folly! O what madness! Ye are blind, and ye are walking upon precipices; we are waylaid by a thousand enemies, and Christ says, Man, take my eye salve that will discover your danger. No, if I should fall into a pit, if I should fall into the bosom of the devil, I will not do it. The man will have none of him.
Secondly, it is a most provoking thing. I know not a higher sin in the world. I might, as divines do, compare the sin of unwillingness to come to Christ, with any sin that ever was committed, except the unpardonable sin, and could let you see that this unwillingness is greater than any of them. When Adam murdered a world, when Sodom brought a hell out of heaven upon themselves, when an old world died in a dropsy, when the Jews murdered the Lord of Glory, when the witches make a compact with the devil, they are not guilty of a greater sin than this, of a direct unwillingness to come to Christ. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and there is no rebellion like that against God’s greatest command: This is his commandment, that ye believe on his Son. Christ tells plainly, Sodom and Gomorah are innocents compared with Chorazin and Bethsaida, that were unwilling to come to Christ. Sodom and Gomorah, on whom God and Christ (the Lord rained from the Lord) sent hell out of heaven and roasted them alive, and sent them from one fire to a worse, for their unnatural uncleanness shall have a softer hell than Chorazin and Bethsaida, that would not come to Christ: It shall be more tolerable for Sodom in the day of judgment. There are many folk that hear sermons that one day will say, Would to God I had been a son of a Mohammedan, would I had been a daughter of a pagan, that never heard of Christ! Would I had never heard a preaching, cursed be the day when I went to a communion! Unwillingness is the greatest sin you can be guilty of, except that against the Holy Ghost.
I come to the last use, an use of exhortation, to invite you to come to him. I call every one of you to come to Christ: If any man be athirst, let him come unto me and drink. The call I give you to come to him is real, it is not imaginary. The call ye have to come to Christ is as real (though infinitely short of the way of delivery) as if Christ himself were standing in my place, and calling you to come: We in his stead beseech you to be reconciled to God. I tell you, sirs, the Master is come, and calleth for you. It is a distinct call, he calls from darkness to light, to come from sin to happiness, from Satan to the living God, from hell to heaven, from your own to his most perfect righteousness. He calls you to come from a fullness of ignorance to a fullness of illumination, from a fullness of corruption to a fullness of sanctification, from a fullness of sorrow and grief to a fullness of joy. A distinct call I tell you it is. And it is a particular call; I call you as particularly, as if I would name and surname every one of you: If any man thirst, if any woman thirst, let them come and drink. If ye were not called, ye would not come, ye could not come, ye were not obliged to come; but he calls you, and I in the name of God, I call all the thirsty, all pained with desires and cannot them satisfied. If any man be athirst, let him come unto my master, and they shall get a draught they never got the like thereof before! O it will taste well, sirs, it is the very prologue of a draught of the water of life above. It is the same water that the patriarchs are drinking, that the apostles are drinking, that the prophets are drinking, that the primitive martyrs and our worthy ancestors are drinking of, it is the same water of life, though ye get not such a large draught. I invite the thirsty, in God’s name come, and lay to your mouth to the pierced heart of Christ, and take a full draught of bliss.
I invite all the withered souls. Perhaps ye will say, I am not thirsty. I am sure ye are withered, many a withered head that cannot have right thoughts of God, many a withered heart that can have no love to God, many a withered hand that cannot do or act for God, many a withered foot that cannot go in the ways of the Lord, are here. What a blessed promise is that, I will pour water on the thirsty! Alas, but says the man, I am not thirsty; yea, but says the Spirit of God in the same breath, I will pour floods of waters upon the dry ground. I am sure ye are dry ground. Man and woman, come in his name and welcome; I invite you to come to Christ, all that are laboring, toiling with the law. The law is a good directory, but a bad husband, an uncomfortable husband. You run the round of duties, ye go the tower of performances, and never come at satisfaction, to no quiet of conscience, but are still upon the rack. I invite you in God’s great name to come to Christ, and ye shall have a drink and ye shall never thirst so again. I invite here all the backsliders, you that have made many a foul step from God, apostatized from your frame, from your principles, from your profession, from your practice. Return, O backsliding children, for God is married unto you; return, return, return, return, and he will heal your backslidings, he will so heal you that ye shall never get leave to depart again. Hast thou fallen from thy first love, from thy first zeal, from thy delight in him? Hast thou done it, backsliding soul, though thou has played the harlot with many lovers, return, return unto my Lord. I invite all the heart-broken folk to come to Christ; says some folk, I believe that all the angels in heaven cannot give consolation, I have such a flood of sorrow. Grief hath taken such a seat, so deep root in my heart, that I believe all the angels could comfort me no more than the white of a wall could make a bright noon day. But I tell thee, man, If thou wilt come to my master in God’s name, I promise you consolation. Believing, that is, coming, we have joy unspeakable and full of glory. An universal monarch has not the thousandth of the joy that thou shall find springing up in thy soul upon thy coming to Christ, joy unspeakable. What are thou, what hast thou done, man and woman? If thou were like a devil in flesh, if ye come yet to Christ, ye shall get a drink. Whosoever will, let him come. I will give you some motives, and a direction, and conclude.
First, to persuade you to come to Christ, to persuade you to accept of my master, consider the necessity of coming. It is necessary first unto thy union with him. This is the uniting grace: To whom coming as unto a living stone, ye are built up. Faith makes a superstructure of lively stones, cemented with and joined to a living stone, the foundation stone. Now ye are united to your lusts, and I believe there are some folk here that had rather have their soul and body severed than their soul and lusts. Say some, I cannot live without my lusts, they are my riches, they are my happiness, they are my all. Yea, but when thou comest to Christ, thou will be disjoined from them, and what was your God before, ye will look upon it as your hell then; I tell you, without coming to Christ there is no union. Secondly, coming is necessary unto communion. Ye cannot partake of one saving blessing without it: We are justified by faith, Rom. 5:1; we are adopted by faith, John 1:12; we are sanctified by faith, Acts 26; we are reconciled by faith, Romans 5; and by faith we are stand, Romans 11. And by faith we are saved. Faith, that is, coming, is the mother of many children, and the teeming womb of all thy blessings. It is necessary unto thy communion with him. Ye may have communion with visible saints, but ye shall never have communion with God, without coming to him. Ye may go to the communion here, but ye shall never go to the eternal banquet above.
Thirdly, it is necessary to thy acceptance: Without faith it is impossible to please God. O, says the man, will not my preaching please him? No. Will not my hearing please him? No. Will not my mourning? No. Will not my sitting up half a night crying for mercy do it? No. Will not going to a communion table do it? No. Will not my giving all to the poor, and my body to be burnt for him? Will not that do it? No, no, nothing will please him, without coming to Christ. Without faith it is impossible to please God; ye lose not only your soul, but all your labor to the bargain. Fourth, your coming to Christ is necessary to access. There is this difference, I conceive, between coming and access. The coming looks more to what is our work, the access looks to the privilege he grants us, when he casts open the door and invites you to come forward. Who shall ascend the hill of God? Would ye have access tomorrow, would ye have access this night? Come to Christ, let all your heart receive him: that is coming. To have recumbency on him, that is coming. To close with him in all his offices, that is coming. Let every act of faith go out, look to him, hearken to his voice, taste his sweetness, handle the word of life, come to him and partake of all that he has to give.
I should have given you a motive from the person who invites you to come. What are the excellencies of the Lord Jesus? I should have told you his absolute excellency, his relative excellency, his comparative excellency. I shall only tell you this is a word as a motive. All the fullness of a Godhead is in him, the fullness of the Spirit is in him, the Father himself is in him, the mercy and truth of God is in Christ. What would ye have but what is in him? O my heart is broken to think upon my own and the world’s atheism, that with Herod and his men of war, set this Christ at naught! For Christ’s sake come and take a heaven.
Thirdly, consider that if ye come, ye shall get a drink. This is the very motive in the text. I might enlarge upon this, but I shall give it in so many words. The water ye shall get is medicinal; have ye any diseases, men and women? God knows, says the man, I am like Lazarus, I am overrun with sores, unsound from head to foot. I can scarce get one of them cured by many communions. I tell you, if ye will take a draught of this water, if ye will come to Christ and drink, ye shall be healed. But I am black like hell, I am like a devil, as black as the devil can make me. I tell thee, if thou take a drink of this water it shall cleanse thee. I am discouraged, I have loads, I have pressures upon my spirit, I cannot get them thrown off; I come to the communion pressed, I go away pressed, I come from home pressed, I go home again pressed. Come to him, ye shall get a refreshful drink that shall make thee forget thy sorrow.
I give you a direction or two. Would ye come to Christ? First, in his name I desire that ye may be sensible of your impotence: No man can come unto me, till the Father draw him. It is a sweet word, though it be a sad expression of our weakness: No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him. The Father hath a double work, he sends Christ to the man, and says, There is the best gift I have, I have not another Son, there is not another Messiah, thy misery is great, but here is a sufficient Savior. There is a remedy for every case that ever hell could put thee in, will ye take my Son? And that same God the Father brings the sinner to Christ, and brings Christ to the sinner: No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him. Now be sensible of this, that all the means in the world cannot bring thee one step to Christ. Wert thou dipped in hell seven years and come out again, you would not make one step of advance towards Christ; if they would take thee up to heaven to see the glory that is there, and hear the accented songs there, ye would not come.
Secondly, seek the Father’s drawing. The believer cannot advance or move to Christ, even though he be in Christ, without drawing, much less can the unbeliever. What, says the spouse? Draw me, we will run after thee, the king must bring me to his chamber to the banqueting house. Even the believer that is already come can go no further without new pulls, without a new draught of omnipotence, far less canst thou. Seek drawing, then; when ye hear his call, say, Lord, draw with the cords of a man. Thou that was lifted up from the earth, to draw all men after thee, draw me, draw me.
Thirdly, to increase your desires after this drawing, consider thy misery. Before thou comest, thy misery is great. Mark 16:16: He that believes not shall be damned. It is a sad expression. He does not say he shall be miserable, he shall die, he shall be a beggar, he shall be grieved, but he shall be damned. It is the complement of the misery; consider thy misery is irremediable, if thou wilt not come to Christ. There is not an angel in heaven that can save you. Who can deliver thee, if love itself be thy enemy, if mercy itself be incensed, if the advocate Christ plead against thee, if the throne of grace be turned into a flaming throne of justice? They case is desperate, there is not another covenant of grace to save you, there is not a new plank after shipwreck, there is not another Christ to save you, so that your misery is irremediable; all the angels in heaven will not keep you out of hell. Again consider how ye come, for coming must be qualified. First, this coming must be cordial; with the heart man believes. In a philosophical sense, the mind believes by giving assent unto a proposition; but in divinity, it is the heart that believes, the will closes with an incomplex object, some good, a great good, a superlative good: With the heart men believe to righteousness. Ye have given the devil all your hearts many a day. Ye have given lusts, ye have given the world, ye have given wife and children your heart many a day, and will ye give Christ any less than you gave them? With my whole heart have I sought thee.
Secondly, this coming must be chaste. Ye must not come to him for the loaves, ye must not come to him merely for pardon. Yea, ye must not come merely to him for grace and for heaven. Ye must come to him for his own sake. Ye must come to him for his own personal worth and excellency, not only for what he is to you, but for what he is in himself. Ye must take the cross as well as the crown; ye must take him going to Golgotha, as well as when riding to Jerusalem in triumph, when the mob cries, Crucify him, as when they cry, Hosanna to the Son of David. It must be a chaste coming. Welcome Christ, and welcome his law, welcome the conviction, welcome his people, welcome his government, and welcome his cross and suffering. Ye must take all Christ and divide none of him. Thirdly, it must be a confident coming. Ye must come with a holy boldness, that God will give you acceptance and reception. Do not come doubting, do not come trembling. I remember what the emperor Augustus, that great universal monarch, said when a poor man came to him trembling with his petition, Take you me for an elephant that will devour you? Come with confidence to me. Christ will have poor sinners, thirsty sinners, come with a holy boldness unto the throne of grace. For as God hath a throne in heaven, encircled with all awful majesty, challenging our highest and most profound reverence, so he hath a throne of grace below inviting us to approach. Then again, your coming must be solemn: Behold, we come unto thee, thou art the Lord our God. What is that? We would have all the angels taking instruments, we are coming unto thee; behold it cherub, behold it seraph, let the stars look on, let the spires of grass look on, let every thing be witness, that we are come to him. Come solemnly, the distincter the better; your assurance will be the greater, and your peace likewise in a dying hour.
Thirdly, ye must come under some relations. First, ye must come as a servant comes back to his master, from whom he has run away. Ye know what churlish Nabal says to David, there are many servants run away from their masters. All the tribe of Adam have thrown God’s laws behind their backs, saying, We will serve him no more. When a servant comes back again, he cries out, O my dear master, O my good master, nail my ear, my hand, my heart, my foot to thy post, that I may serve thee forever! Come back as a servant to his master, and take up his yoke, and wreath it about your neck. Secondly, ye must come to him as a son to a father. The prodigal child thinking of coming back again saith to himself, How mad have I been! I thought I could not run far enough away from my father’s house. I run and I run till I went to a far country where my father might not so much as hear of me, where I might debauch myself with wine and women, where I might take the full swing and inclination of all my lusts. But he begins to mind his father, and thinks of coming back again. Ye must come back to your father again. God knows in how far a country some of you have been, since ye came out of your mother’s womb. Some have been in the country of uncleanness, some in the country of drunkenness, some in the country of Sabbath breaking, some in the country of neglecting of family worship and secret worship. Ye have been in a far country. Come back like children to a father.
Lastly, ye must come back as a whorish wife comes back to her husband, after she has played the adulteress: Thou hast played the harlot with many lovers, yet return unto me, saith the Lord. Come back, come back; God has not torn the contract, he has not taken away his subscription, though ye have yours. O come back and say, now other lords, other husbands, other lovers, have had my heart, but through the grace of an eternal God they shall have it no more: Return unto me, I am married unto you, saith the Lord.