Substance of a sermon preached – September 29th, 1811 – By William Huntington.
“When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.”
Without any introduction, I shall come to my text. A poor man, first is one that is, as we say, over head and ears in debt, and hath not a mite to pay his creditors; therefore is exposed to a prison, there to remain, unless he is forgiven by his creditor, or a surety steps in to release him by paying the debt. So all sinners are debtors to God, owing a debt of perfect obedience to the holy law of God, and have not the wherewithal to pay, and our debts run very high. We are disobedient, miserable offenders, poor debtors; and unless the Surety steps in, the Days-man between the offender and offended Majesty, Justice binds the sinner over to punishment.And when the Holy Ghost, as the light of life, shines into the sinner’s understanding, that he may behold the dread commands which he is unable to answer, and God’s holy law which he has broken, the danger he is exposed to and punishment due to him, he is pricked in his reins; which makes him tremble, and his heart is wounded within him (Acts 2:87; Psa. 109:22; Isa. 66:2-5). But no hardened sinner trembles, though devils believe and tremble, they do not confess their sin to God, nor cry for mercy; but when the arrows of the almighty stick fast in a sinner’s conscience, he quickly feels the poison drink up his spirits; because life is given, and the light shines in to discover his deplorable state of soul-poverty. So, we see life and light are the cause of trembling. Those tremblers, sore broken and wounded in spirit, are the very persons to whom the promises are made in Christ Jesus. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart. O God, Thou wilt not despise.” “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of broken heart, and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” Those promises often encourage the poor to beg for mercy: “Forgive us our debts;” “Forgive all my sins.” The Jews were the fifty-pence debtors, and we poor Gentiles the five hundred. “And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both.”
Secondly. A man that is hungry, and hath not bread to eat, must be a poor man; and the prodigal was one, “I perish with hunger.” But he could not rest or remain there, for he was hunger-bitten, real necessity drove him forth: “I will arise and go to my father.” Although he was a great way off, yet he confessed his unworthiness; and we see that he not only received bread and unexpected bounty at his father’s table, but was also clothed, shod, and ornamented. And that person whom God hath quickened by the gift of eternal life hath an appetite for heavenly food for his soul, and cannot live satisfied without Christ in his heart by faith. This is “the true bread,” of which if a man eat he shall live forever; nor is there any motion of life in a quickened soul without it. We know corporeal bread among us is called the staff of life; and for this the poor must beg; and the blessing is already upon them that hunger and thirst after righteousness: “Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” “Behold my servants shall eat.” (Isa. 65:13).
Thirdly. A poor man is one compelled to beg or starve, therefore, obliged to ask, seek, and knock, importuning much. And thus it is with every spiritually-poor soul; it cannot cease begging. It is true, some do relax until necessity pinches them again, and fearing they shall die by the worm, the guilty conscience gnawing them under the influence of the Spirit of life, will keep them begging, until God gives them Christ Jesus, the Bread of heaven, believing they must starve and perish in hell to all eternity without it. But Christ stands forth, saying, “I am the true bread”, and He commands the hungry: “Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
Fourthly. He is a poor man that hath no clothes to cover himself. And so is every unconverted soul under heaven, through the Fall. His soul is naked before God (Gen 3:7). It is plain the bodies of Adam and Eve were naked before; but there was no sin to make them ashamed. And all men are naked and bare, God knows, and He will make us to know it too; and as our first parents sewed fig leaves together, so we will weave spiders’ webs, but they shall not become garments. Therefore, this useless labor of sewing, patching, and weaving has to be laid aside, while God’s counsel stands; but if not, you will he found naked at last, and your shame appear at the judgment. The righteous, in their own eyes, are disobedient; and remain naked in the sight of God, whether they know it or not. And the wise in their own conceit are ignorant before God, and submit not to Him: “For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God.”
Fifthly. We call a man poor, having nothing of his own; not a stick, as we say, hath he belonging to him; or as Job (1:21), he has lost all. And every sinner, convinced of sin by the Spirit of God, will be taught, sooner or later, that he is insolvent. He lost all in Adam; he hath no bed to rest upon, though he is weary; all his supposed goods are become dung, dross and death. Hear Paul speak in faith: “I count all things but dung and dross, that I may win Christ,” the chief good, for that which I thought was unto life, I found unto death. There is much soul-travail, labour, crying, and praying attends it; and being weary and heavy-laden in soul, we want rest, but having lost all the goods, we have no bed of our own to rest upon, so all the poor in spirit run to Christ Jesus, in whom all goods are treasured up. The graces of the Spirit,—these are the best goods I ever saw or had possession of; such as light, life, filial fear; faith, hope, love, gratitude, humility, meekness, patience, knowledge, temperance; brotherly-kindness, peace, rest, joy and praise. And my blessed Saviour, Jesus Christ, is the substance of the whole. In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and fullness of grace. He is the resting-place, our bed, our rest. He gives Himself, and we find rest in Him. “Come unto Me, all ye that are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls; for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” “For we which have believed do enter into rest.” Do rest, believing in Christ. And the Lord Himself chooses Zion for His rest: “Arise, 0 Lord, into thy rest; for the Lord hath chosen Zion; He hath desired it for His habitation. This is My rest forever; here will I dwell, for I have desired it.” (Psalm 132). Here are provisions and all necessary goods laid up at our gates.
Sixthly. We call him a poor man who hath no house, or home, or dwelling-place; he wanders about, destitute and afflicted. So do we in a spiritually-poor condition: “They wandered in a wilderness, in a so1itary way; they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses. And He led them forth by a right way, that they might go to a city of habitation.” And this is where they shall find a sure dwelling, doing His commandments: “And he that keepeth His commandments dwelleth in Him, and He in him: and hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He hath given us”. “He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him.” “The Most High thy habitation, neither shall any plague come near thy dwelling.” Thus we see a little of the habitation or dwelling for the souls of believers; and there is a dwelling place or home for their bodies until the morning of the resurrection. The grave is to be a bed, or resting-place: “For I know that Thou wilt bring me to death, and to the house appointed for all living” (Job 30:23). “Man goeth to his long home” (Ecc. 12:5). “There the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest” (Job 3:17). And we have a comfortable hope of the glory of God: “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens”. Christ is the sure house, the dwelling-place: “Now he that hath wrought for us the self-same thing is God, Who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit”.
Thus we have seen a little of the poor, and the riches treasured up in Christ for them, in time and to eternity. But there are many poor, yet they do not feel their need. And this may be seen in the Revelation 3:17: “Thou sayest, I am rich”, etc. Here we see the Laodiceans boasted of their works and goods, although they were destitute of every real good. But he that hath his eyes anointed to see himself, and is quickened to feel his need, acts like a poor honest tradesman who examines his book and finds himself in debt, and he cannot see any prospect of being capable of paying them; therefore he frets, and cannot rest, day or night. So the spiritually-poor and needy soul cannot rest satisfied, day or night. He hath no rest in his bones, because of his sins, or debts, they are as a sore that runneth and ceaseth not. He cries out, “I am poor and needy; forgive all my sins.” Such as those feel their need; and to such the promises are made: “The needy shall not always be forgotten; the expectation of the poor shall not perish forever”. See also Psalm 12:5, 35:10, 72:12-14, 103:7. This encourages the soul to go on praying, “Defend the poor and fatherless; deliver the poor and needy”. “He raiseth the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill.”We have seen the poor and needy man who seeks water, and there is none, and his tongue faileth for thirst. But what is the cause of this thirst; how does the tongue fail? And-what is the water?
First. We know, literally, that hard labour, much travelling in a dry land, and heat therewith, cause thirst. And so it is spiritually: Hard labour of mind, and sore labour of soul under God’s fiery law, and the heat of our corruptions, set on fire of hell, and God’s wrath revealed in the law,—this drinks up the spirit. God’s word appears against us. This consumes our spirits. “Is not My word like a fire?” Yes, and causes heat, a thirsting or earnest desire for the water of life, “but there is none”. Here we see a little of what causes thirst in some that never did enjoy the water of life, and others that have enjoyed it, yet again they thirst after the same; in fiery trials their tongues cleaving to the roof of their mouth (Lam. 4:4). And for the tongue to fail for thirst is when there is no moisture; so that a person cannot articulate, or speak clearly: “My tongue cleaveth to my jaws.” 0, my blessed Saviour! What is my thirst compared with Thine? Though I am so often troubled that I cannot speak, “my soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.” Hungry and thirsty, their souls fainted in them.” Samson, even after he slew a thousand men, was afraid he should die with thirst (Judg. 15). And so it is, spiritually, with Gods thirsty seekers, but God satiated Samson, and so he will satiate all thirsty souls that seek water from Him. He hath Smitten the rock, and the water will flow out in His time. “I the Lord will hear them crying and sighing, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.” This encourages hope to look out, to watch, and wait. There is an appointed time to favour Zion.
But what is this water? We may take it in six views. For, literally, man cannot live without water; no more can the quickened soul live without this water of life.
1. The Lord is a fountain of living waters. See Jer. 2:1, Joel 3:16, Psalm 36:9, Rev. 22:1. This water is to cool, to satiate, cleanse and revive all such as feel their need.
2. Christ is the well of salvation. All fullness is in Him, and faith is the bucket and rope. “Therefore, with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.”
3. Life is in this water, yea, the water of life: “Let him take the water of life freely.” This water runs among the valleys, among the little ones, to satiate their sorrowful souls, replenish the weary, and revive the drooping. This is the Water.
4. Peace we are to find in it: “For thus saith the Lord, behold, I will extend peace to her like a river; and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream.” “He hath ordained peace for us.” “Peace be unto you.”
5. By this water we are to understand the consolations of the Spirit, coming to us through Jesus Christ; “He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive.” The true church: “I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment. Lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day (Isaiah 27:3).” Also see Isa. 58, 35:6, 55:1. Here is water to wash the feet, strengthen the ankles, confirm the feeble knees, strengthen the loins, and at last, to swim over Jordan, to the fullness of God’s pleasure in Jesus Christ reserved for us. Blessed be our God for the waters of the sanctuary here by the way, —the waters of life (Ezek 47).
We have seen a little of the text, how the tongue faileth for thirst, and the waters reserved until the appointed time to be enjoyed, both in time and to all eternity. But while we are in this tabernacle there will be groaning, sighing, thirsting and panting after this same water; but thirst no more after any other, for they have proved bitter. “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so my soul panteth after thee, 0 God.” And when the thirsty soul finds his tongue fail, then his words are swallowed up of much grief, and sometimes he falls down before God in his trouble, and weeps it out, desiring to show before God his trouble by word, but is not able: “I am so troubled I cannot speak.” And if we cannot write it out, nevertheless he that searcheth it out knoweth the mind of the Spirit, and hears the desires of the heart: “Wherfore criest thou unto Me? Bid the children of Israel to go forward”. And we, having a sip of the brook by the way, are strengthened to go forward through all troubles, through Christ’s groanings and pantings for our salvation; and it will be a glorious sight for us when He comes in all His glory. There will be an end of our thirsting when we pass over the river Jordan, and arrive in heaven our home, to rest on our bed in our Father’s house, our dwelling, yea, our house, in an everlasting kingdom. So at last: “the poor heareth not rebuke”.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” We have grace here, and a comfortable hope of glory, and, as it is written, “Then shall I be satisfied, when I awake up in Thy likeness.” “For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Hallelujah! Salvation, and glory, and power unto the Lord our God.