1 Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar. 2Then brought he me out of the way of the gate northward, and led me about the way without unto the utter gate by the way that looketh eastward; and, behold, there ran out waters on the right side. 3And when the man that had the line in his hand went forth eastward, he measured a thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the waters were to the ankles. 4Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through the waters; the waters were to the knees. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through; the waters were to the loins. 5Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over. 6And he said unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen this? Then he brought me, and caused me to return to the brink of the river. 7Now when I had returned, behold, at the bank of the river were very many trees on the one side and on the other. 8Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed. 9And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh. EZEKIEL xlvii
The scene which was here described was magnificent and instructive indeed. It was displayed before the spirit of the prophet, when the eyes of his soul were opened. There was a glorious temple seen before him, and out of this issued, first feebly, and then gradually increased to a mighty river, a stream of water ; to image the origin, progress, and wonderful increase, of the water of life in the world. It was a wonderful scene ; let us inquire into its import.
There was beheld, in the full view of the prophet, a representation of a temple, with its front facing the east : out of this, it the right side, that is on the south side of the altar, issued first, as a very small rill, but becoming at length a majestic expanse, the waters which formed the other grand object of the vision.
That the vision should be spiritually interpreted, not only arises from the apostolic rule, that of “comparing spiritual things^ with spiritual,” which he says ” the Holy Ghost teacheth” (1 Cor. ii. 13); but, also, from the manifest general bearing of the whole wonderful narration. The temple has a wide and grand signification. The church upon earth is a spiritual temple, in which the Lord is worshipped. All the truly good are built upon the foundations of the apostles and prophets, “Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone, in whom all all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord.”— Eph. ii. 20, 21. It is a delightful thought, that in the sight of their heavenly Father all His servants, wherever they may be, and under whatever name, form a temple in which He dwells, in which His praises ascend, and where the sacrifices He delights in are offered. His holy church throughout the world doth acknowledge Him alone.
Heaven, which is the church triumphant, is, in a still more exalted sense, a temple. They who had washed their robes, and made them white in the divine truth, which is the blood of the Lamb, are said ” to be before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple.” The same image which represents the church on earth, represents, also, the church in heaven, for heaven is the Lord’s church among the blessed; and the church below is the Lord’s heaven upon earth.
The temple, in the highest sense, is the glorified Humanity of our Lord, because in this, the invisible Divine Love and Wisdom, which are the essence of the Deity, peculiarly reside ; and from this all blessings flow to angels and men. ” Destroy this temple,” the Divine Saviour said, ” and in three days I will raise it up. He spake of the temple of His body.” — John ii. 21. Of the New Jerusalem it is written, ” The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” — Rev. xxi. 22.
Whether we view the temple, as presented to the spiritual view of the prophet, as the symbol of the church or of heaven, or of the Divine Humanity, it will amount to the same thing. And it is a sublime idea which is attained when we view these as one within or above the other, and all affording a grand channel of descent by which the Divine Truth, represented by the sacred water, flows down into the world.
First, from the inmost essence of the Lord, its Infinite Source, thence through His Divine Humanity, which the apostle calls “the new and living way” into heaven ; from heaven again into the minds of the good on earth. It is the same stream of which the apostle John had a spiritual view, and which he describes when he says, ” And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and the Lamb.” — Rev. xxii. 1. It is a view equally beautiful and correct, to conceive of the Divine Truth as a pure and pearly stream, flowing out from the Fountain of Living Waters, first being received by the heavens, and rejoicing them, and then descending into human minds, and gladdening the spirits of the good.
Its entrance into the world, its progress, and its ultimate triumphant extension over the earth, are described by this prophetic vision. We might dwell upon its grander features, and speak of its issuing among; men, from the time our Divine Lord said, ” If any man thirst let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”— John vii. 37, 38. We might tell of the joy of its early reception, of the opposition it sustained of the turbid admixtures it has suffered, of its renewed advance, and breaking onwards by ten thousand rills to fulfill its grand destination, until at its final triumph the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea; but we prefer to speak of its individual application. Truth goes on the same, in the individual as in the universal mind. Its stages are the same ; the obstacles to its progress are similar ; and the triumph it attains in the regenerate is a foretoken of the universal satisfaction and blessing which will come when truth, filled with love, is realized as the purifier, the counsellor, and the peace-giver of all.
Lend me, therefore, your attention, while I endeavour to examine, for our improvement, this divine and magnificent lesson, and may our Lord open the eyes and the hearts of us all.
The prophet describes himself as being in the way of the gate northward, and being led out of this to an utter gate by the way that looketh eastward. The leader of the prophet represents the Divine Providence acting through the ministry of guardian angels. He has given His angels charge over us, to keep us in all our ways. And from the cradle to the grave we are constantly the objects of angelic care, and are led, so far as we are willing to be led, by these kind messengers of love. The prophet says, therefore, “He brought me out of the way of the gate northward. The quarters. East, West, South, and North, indicate earthly positions, and how we stand in relation to the Sun. But the soul has its states answering to these, for there is a Sun for the soul as well as for the body. They who are nearest to the Son of heaven, by the purest love to Him, are in the spiritual east, to such the “Sun of Righteousness arises with healing in His wings.” — Mal. iv. 2. In the west, are they who are in little, or no love to Him. The south, where the Sun is at mid-day when he gives his greatest light, represents the state of such as are fully enlightened in spiritual intelligence ; while the north, the region of cold and fog, represents the conditions of the ignorant. The prophet was in the way of the gate northward, to represent the ignorant state from which we all commence our heavenward journey. We are all, by nature, in the way of the gate northward, when our regeneration begins. We have exceedingly obscure views of God, of duty, of heaven,and of ourselves. We know, however, that if we continue in evil we cannot enter heaven. We have already experienced much sorrow, and we perceive that sin is its cause, and therefore we desire to repent. Divine Mercy sees us while yet very ”far off,” sends a messenger of love and faithfulness to assist and strengthen us, who brings us out of the way of the gate northward, and leads us about the way without unto the utter gate, by the way that looketh eastward.
Gates represent introductory truths. By these we are admitted to the higher things of the church, as by means of gates we enter a city. Of the spiritual city, the church, it is said, “They shall call thy walls salvation, and thy gates praise.” — Isa. lx. 18. The Lord Himself says, ” I am the door, by me if any man shall enter in he shall be saved.” — John x. 9. The utter gate by the river, which looketh eastward, means the most general knowledge which leads us towards the Lord, the rising Sun of the soul. This is the knowledge of the Lord as the Saviour. To be assured that the Lord Jesus is able and willing to save; that none who come to Him will be cast out : that He came to seek and save those who are lost : that He is kind and loving, and smiles upon our humblest effort to cast away our sins, and walk in the way which leadeth to life. These simple but all-important truths, form the utter gate, by the way which looketh eastward. By this gate we can enter and press on to find the Lord, who is in the spiritual east.
It is said, “He led me about, the way without, unto; the utter gate.” And these simple words conduct us to most interesting and important considerations. The circumstances of our outward life constitute “the way without.” These are all the objects of divine care, and are made subservient to our spiritual good. “Not a hair of our heads falls to the ground but our Heavenly Father knoweth it.” How often do we find human prudence baffled in its best laid plans! Unforeseen circumstances arise and obtrude themselves, disturbing our calculations, and leading to results very different from those we anticipated. “Man proposes, but God disposes.” Our business pursuits require us often to change, from town to town, from kingdom it may be to kingdom. Our friends and associates are thus changed. We come into contact with new scenes, new books, new trains of thought. Our position in life is sometimes changed. We suffer afflictions in the loss of property, or in separations from those dear to us. We are led to be serious by the death of a friend. Sometimes the stroke comes sudden, as it did to Luther, who is said to have been induced to become religious by seeing a young friend struck dead by lightning at his feet. Sometimes a season of protracted illness is the instrumentality by which we are weaned from temporal things. Sometimes the permission of complete success in our proposed schemes, gives us to see that the highly coloured fancies that imagination had pictured for us, are not realized in possession ; that earth’s joys, in themselves, are empty : —
“The smiles of Joy, the tears of woe,
Deceitful shine, deceitful flow.
There’s nothing true but heaven.”
All these changing scenes and circumstances, sometimes chequered with deep and lengthened suffering, are overruled by a merciful Providence to our highest good. Whatever the Lord permits, or whatever He ordains, is from the counsels of His love ; and when the end proposed has been effected, we may look back, and see that all has been for the best.
The Israelites were often sorely tried on their journey. Hungry and thirsty their souls fainted in them. Then they cried unto the Lord, and He heard them, and delivered them out of their distresses. ” And He led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation.” — Ps. cvii. 5—7.
It is so still. We hear the principles of religion, it may be, for years. We have listened and indolently admitted their truth, but they remain without effect. We are too much interested in the pleasures of life, or the accumulation of money ; too much filled with high hopes of earthly success. But, perhaps, a severe sickness lays us low, and gives a lasting opportunity to consider the respective claims of time and of eternity. Perhaps some dear one of our family, our hopes of whom were high, is prostrated; we have watched, and prayed, and feared, then hoped and feared again. We have seen the disease silently and slowly, but surely, making way. We have watched each sigh, each breath, each turn of the feeble sufferer, to gather comfort. We have struggled with all the aid that earthly skill, and sternest perseverance, could give to avert the blow, but all in vain. The disease has triumphed ; the beloved one has gone. Our wishes have been denied and our prospects blighted, but we have learned in the struggle that the value of life here has its relation to life eternal. The world is but a school, a nursery, an inn. Its sole object in relation to immortal man is, to afford him opportunity to train himself for the everlasting home, for which Infinite Love has destined him. The truths which were before only in the memory, become now lessons on which we ponder, and which give a colour to our lives. Henceforward our lives have a deeper aim, a holier aspect. We have been led about, by the way without, and have come to the utter gate, by the way that looketh eastward. “And, behold, there ran out waters on the right side.” The right side, or the south side, for the south side would be the right when the front of the temple looked to the east, represents truth flowing from love. The right side is the strongest side, and truth from earnest heartfelt love is always stronger than truth from a mind chiefly actuated by faith. The Psalmist says, ” Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” — Ps. cxxxix. 10. The truth of faith may lead, but the truth of love alone can hold us up. Our blessed Lord directed His disciples, when they had been fishing all night in vain, to “cast the net at the right side of the ship, and they would find.” Spiritual fishermen sometimes neglect that divine injunction, and seek to win men to the Saviour by cold argumentation, or by dry and listless exposition, or by mere routine religion, and they catch nothing. Would they speak the truth in love, would they speak as men who know the value of immortal souls, and filled with the deepest charity, which seeks their rescue from sin and sorrow, they would often find their net filled with great fishes.
All the truths of heaven flow from love in the Lord. They are waters that come out on the right side. And, when the human soul is awakened to its highest interest and their true-saving character, it sees as the prophet saw, ” Behold there ran out waters on the right side.”
The next stage in the progress marked in our text is, “That when the man that had the line in his hand went forth eastward, he measured a thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters ; the waters were to the ankles.”
Our guardian angels have the power of measuring our spiritual progress. They perceive our states most correctly. They have trodden the ground before us, and their own states enable them correctly to appreciate ours. They are therefore said to have the measuring line in their hands. A thousand, signifies a complete state. It is ten cubed, or the third power of ten; that is, the number of the commandments, and as these can be taught to the simplest mind, the number ten represents the knowledge which can be stored up in the mind, with which to commence the work of regeneration. ” The kingdom of heaven is likened by the Lord to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom. (Matt. xxv. 1.). Again, “To a woman having ten pieces of silver.” (Luke xv. 8.). When a person has not only learned and reflected upon the Divine Commandments, but loved them and reduced them to practice, he has advanced a thousand. He has performed an act of spiritual multiplication to the third power ; and he will find the waters of divine truth “up to the ankles.”
The foot, the lowest part of the body, corresponds to the natural or lowest degree of the mind. That portion of our spiritual constitution which has to do with the things of outward life, is meant by the foot of the soul. The correspondence of the foot to that part of the mind which is engaged in our outward life, is very frequent in the Word. Thus the psalmist says, “But as for me, my feet were almost gone ; my steps had well nigh slipped, for I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” — Ps. lxxiii. 3. The feet slip when we give way to evil. Again, “Thou hast delivered my soul from death, wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living.” — Ps. lvi. 13. The man who is inwardly saved is always anxious to keep his feet right. He knows he must walk in the light. He says, ” My feet shall stand within thy gates, Jerusalem.” — Ps. cxxii. 2. He knows the aroma of inward piety will only be preserved if contained in the casket of a consistent virtuous life. It is reported of the renowned Philip Neri, that he said he was saved by the right use of his eyes; in looking above, to God, before, to heaven, and below, to the few feet of earth he should one day occupy, he kept his mind ever directed to things eternal. But the right use of the feet, is quite as important as that of the eyes, however steadily a person may look to the golden city in the distance, he will never get there unless he also walks.
The feet of religion have been too much neglected by men, especially since the doctrine of salvation by faith alone has been largely introduced ; but it is not so by the Lord. He says, “If thy foot offend thee cut it off, and cast it from thee.” Not of course that we are to amputate the natural member of the body so called, but any principle leading to hurtful practice. If we have any habit or occupation in outward life that is offensive to a heavenly spirit and to heavenly wisdom, let that be rejected. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all things will be added unto you.”
The prophet spake, or rather Jehovah by the prophet, with a similar regard to the correspondence of foot, when he said, ” If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words; then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord, and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it” (Isa. lviii. 13, 14). To turn away the foot from the Sabbath is to repress all earthly cares and anxieties on that day ; to engage the mind in heavenly feelings and pursuits alone, and, as the blessed recompense, to be able to enjoy more richly the blessings of external life. He only truly enjoys earth who is truly at peace with heaven. ” He rides upon the high places of the earth.”
When, then, the prophet had completed the first stage, his thousand cubits, and was led across the waters, he found them up to his ankles, to intimate that now he could fully understand the letter of the Word, all that related to moral outward life. The waters covered his feet. He saw its application to his whole outward life, not only to a part. Many people imagine that divine truth has relation only to the duties of piety, but that their worldly duties must be regulated by worldly maxims alone. This is a position utterly false. It makes a Sunday religion, and an unjust and selfish world. To make real progress, the waters must cover the feet, be right up to the ankles. The religion which does not cover every act every day of the week, is no real religion at all. Sunday is not the day of work, but the day of preparation to work. They who sing, and pray, and meditate, but do not practise, neglect that which alone gives stability to their religious lives. Their imagination is religious, but the imagination is not the essential man : the willing and working part is the real man. We are what we do. “Show me thy faith without thy works,” said the apostle James, “and I will show thee my faith by my works.” When true progress has been made it is with us, as it was with the prophet, ” the waters are up to the ancles;” obedience to the divine law in the letter is complete.
There are three grand stages in our religious life. In the first, we are governed by obedience, and inquire little further about any religious duty, than has the Lord said it must be done? In the second, we begin to see the beauty of truth as glorious thing in itself, and worthy of all acceptation: it is to us a pearl of great price. Faith, and the things of faith, are objects of supreme importance, and we follow truth for truth’s sake. We do the Lord’s commandments in this opening of a second degree of the mind, but we do them not so much from command as from a rational admiration of their rectitude. We see that they are the essential laws of happiness, and should be done because they are right. The third stage of Christian progression is that which we enter upon by being introduced into such a state of supreme love to the Lord, that everything which comes from Him is our delight. We love His law, we love His truth, we love Himself. Perfect love casteth out fear. He is thenceforward our Father, and we feel the happiness of His children. No duty is a burden now, but in itself a great reward. We have a high interior perception of celestial things. We can say yea, yea, and nay, nay, readily to what comes before us, for our own heaven within gives us to perceive and to feel what is in harmony with the heaven of angels. Those who die in the first, second, or third of these stages of progress, enter the first, second, or third of the heavens of our Lord, for in the heavens, there is good, better, and best These last become so pure, so wise, and so happy in the other life, that their states are ineffable, and their wisdom such as mortal words cannot tell. So testifies Paul, when describing himself as having been caught up in spirit into the third heaven some fourteen years before (2 Cor. Xii. 2-4).
We have already described the state of obedience which is arrived at when the waters cover the feet. But he with the measuring-line went on, measured a thousand, and brought the prophet forward, and then led him across, and the waters were up to the knees. It is a most important advance which is indicated by the rise of waters to the knees. To obey from command is good, but to open the mind to see the propriety and beauty of the command is much better. The intellect is a most important portion of the mind, and no subject is so worthy of its exercise as the Word of God. The letter of the Word is a beautiful casket, but the spirit within is far richer. The first is as the body of the Divine Law, but the second is as its soul. For a time it is a struggle to the young disciple to maintain his ground against his evil tendencies, and to stand firmly on the path of truth. Old habits are difficult to be overcome. He needs to pray that his feet slip not. In due time, however, new-habits are formed by interior strength from the Lord. The yoke of his Saviour, which was always easy in itself, becomes easy to him. Then its mind, relieved from its struggle to keep externally virtuous, is ready for a new advance. The affection for truth becomes awakened, and we are delighted with its unfolding beauties. The Christian now becomes a merchantman seeking pearls. Each text when opened, gives him a new delight. For it should ever be remembered, that it is not knowing of the Word alone which gives light, but the understanding of it. ” The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding to the simple” (Ps. cxix. 130), it is said in our translation, but it ought to be rendered, the opening of Thy words giveth light. A large portion of the the Word seems dark indeed until it is opened, and its divine interior wisdom seen. To the awakened mind, however, now interested in the beauty of truth, the law becomes a source of constant elevation; ” the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” The histories of the Word become grand allegories over which he delights to ponder.
The Israelitish journey is especially full of interest, for he traces in it his own history, portraying his escape from the bondage of sin, to the glorious liberty he now feels. The waters made sweet are emblems of truths once stern and hard, now exquisitely delightful. The manna from heaven he has felt in the descent of hidden gladness with which each new advance he makes is blessed. The pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud, are the symbols of the Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom guiding him onwards. Each battle of Israel has an importance in his eyes it never had before, for it is a delineation by the All-wise of his soul-struggles, of the attacks he may expect, and the aids he will receive to overcome them. The Gospel will have for him a deeper meaning than before ; in fact, every part of the Word will be to him as a ” wheel in the middle of a wheel.” With joy will he draw water from the wells of salvation. Nor will it be the statements of the Word alone which will delight him. The doctrines of religion will appear in a new aspect He will see a harmony in them unknown to him before. The Lord will appear before him as the embodiment of Infinite Love, Wisdom, and Power in Divine Human Form ; Who is, Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty. He will contemplate the All-good Being forming the universe in the image of Himself, and especially man, the conscious likeness of his Maker. He will see truth teaching man how to live, that he may be happy in the enjoyment of his Creator’s love and wisdom. He will contemplate the Divine plan of endowing each man with a capacity from being a little universe in himself, of appreciating and enjoying all things in the universe, and of contributing by the use of the talents, of which he has an especial share, to the universal good. He will see man, by the perversion of his freedom, coming into the experience of evil in life, following this out to the very dregs of perversity, involving himself in bondage and in misery, such as only his Creator could redeem him from. This same Redeemer becoming like one of themselves, freeing His creatures from their spiritual enemies, living Himself the life which they should live, glorifying the form of a servant, which He had assumed, and taking it with Him high above all the heavens, as the grand link between His unutterable excellencies and His finite creatures. From this redeeming God he can see the Holy Spirit streaming down as light, love and power, to save His erring creatures. As man’s paradise and all his blessings are lost by sin, he will see them regained by obedience and holiness, heaven rebuilt in the soul, and heaven prepared for after death by the same salvation. The universe originated in the Love and Wisdom of God, and all things reflect and image what these become when they are manifested in goodness and truth. Man’s will and intellect were formed to be the grand receptacles of Divine Love and Wisdom, but they became cold, vicious, and dark, when they rejected or perverted these. Infinite mercy followed man into his own fallen nature, assumed it, perfected it, glorified it, and constituted this redeemed Humanity the head and spring of blessing to a regenerated race, ever increasing and increasing, multiplying in heaven, and multiplying on earth, until
“O’er our ransomed nature,
The Lamb for sinners slain;
Redeemer, King, Creator.
Will o’er our spirits reign.”
To behold all the doctrines of religion fully harmonious, and all beginning and ending with Divine Love, this brings the mind onwards in its heavenly journey, the waters are up to the knees (Ezek. xlvii. 3).
When the mind is opened thus in its second degree by the presence of an interior love of truth, its deeper perceptions are a constant source of delightful and consolatory views when reading the Word. The pages of the Divine book become to him a garden of ever-varying richness and beauty. Here are beds of varied hues of flowers, there are trees of silver leaves and golden fruits. He comes to the Word as to the Paradise of his Heavenly Father below, and he finds he can meander in its sacred walks, or sit in its blessed bowers, with ever-increasing delight. Nay, when he penetrates still more deeply, he finds it a palace of the King of kings, in which are chambers within chambers, corridors, and glorious apartments, in which he would wish ever to live. The sacred light of the golden candlestick of the sanctuary throws its beautiful gleams with richest lustre over the soul, and he feels it is good to be here. The waters have greatly risen while he has progressed in this second thousand paces; the waters are up to the knees (ver. 4.)
Sir Isaac Newton compared himself, as a man of science, to a child picking up pebbles on the margin of the ocean of truth. And this was both a mark of the humility of the great philosopher, and of his reverence and value for the truth he found in science. But the true spiritual child of his Heavenly Father has the privilege not only of finding pebbles on the margin of the holy waters, but of going through and enjoying the still-deepening stream of the river, which makes glad the city of God ; the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High. But we are told, “Again he measured a thousand, and the waters were up to the loins.” — (Ver. 4).
The loins are the portion of the body where the previously-separated limbs are joined. They correspond spiritually to love united with faith. And, when the mind has been so advanced in the regenerate life, that every truth we come to comprehend is seen also to be full of love, “the water is up to the loins. Our Lord said, “Let your loins be girded, and your lights burning.” The apostle, also, used a similar expression : ” Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth.” — Eph. vi. 14.
All truth really comes from the Lord, united to and filled with love. But we receive truth at first in a separated state; we first know, then understand, then love : at least, such is the appearance. In reality, however, love is always the secret mover of all. To realize this, we must come into a state of love. In light we see light, in love we see love.
Three persons reading the Word, each one will find in it the depth which his state will enable him to comprehend. One would look at the commands of the Word only as a guide as to what he should do or shun. He would aim at keeping them, and in his daily life, avoiding the sins which they forbid. He would frequently toil and labour, and lament at the difficulty he experienced; but he would be faithful, and at length the difficulty would disappear. “The waters would be up to his ancles.” The second would reflect upon the commandments as a beautiful code of divine laws, by which evils are repressed, society is preserved. He sees them as regulations of ineffable wisdom, and delights in beholding how completely a society regulated by these pure and sacred precepts, must in a spiritual world be heaven. ” The waters are up to his knees.” But the man who dwells in love, beholds the same divine commandments as the expressions of the Divine mercy and tenderness to His creatures. To him the laws of Sinai, all divine laws, are laws of love.. ” The natural man,” says the apostle, “receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things.” — 1 Cor. ii. 14, 15. To him who has united love to faith fully in himself, the waters, wherever he goes through the river, is up to the loins.
When this blessed state is reached, fear and doubt are left far away. “Perfect love casteth out fear.” That secret union of goodness and truth in the inner man has been attained, which realizes in each soul the divine words, ” Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken ; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate : but thou shalt be called Hephzi-bah, my delight is in her, and thy land Beulah (married) : for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.” — Isa. lxii. 4. Thrice happy is he who has attained this heaven within the soul, in which righteousness and peace have kissed each other!
Along with this entire union of love and faith within, another discovery is made. The Word is seen to be Infinite Wisdom, and therefore progression in its hallowed truths to be everlasting. Hence, the prophet continues : ” Afterward he measured a thousand ; and it was a river that I could not pass over : for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over.” — Ezek. xlvii. 5.
It has been a supposition of some Christians who have not thought deeply upon the subject, that when we enter the eternal world, we shall come into the knowledge of all truth at once, and there will be then no farther progress. But this involves a very inadequate idea of what divine truth is. What are all the discoveries which have been made by human beings since the creation of our race, but the unveilings of truth in the world of nature, and does any one find discovery exhausted? Is it not evident the disclosures of intelligence are going on at a grander pace than ever ? But spirit is far more able in grasping truth than it is in uttering it. For one thought uttered, a thousand cross the mind. Divine Truth is a fountain of Infinite Fullness. Divine truth is ” that true light, which enlighteneth every man that Cometh into the world.”—-John i. 9. It is the source of all ideas to angelic and to human minds. Nay, all things that exist are the outbirths and the shadows of the infinite fullness of Divine Truth and Love. ”By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.” — Ps. xxxiii. 6.
” Truth is in each flower,
As well as in the solemnest things of God;
Truth is the voice of nature and of time;
Truth is the startling monitor within us;
Nought is without it, it comes from the stars,
The golden sun, and every breeze that blows,
Truth, it is God! and God la everywhere.”
Light images it in all its innumerable varieties: the atmosphere in the innumerable harmonies it discloses to the ear; the countless fragrancies which offer themselves to the smell, all are faint emblems of the inexhaustible infinity of Eternal Wisdom. It is a river to swim in, but which no man can pass over.
The delight which the blessed have in the fresh and ever-brighter unfoldings of Divine Truth, is meant by the blessed promise, ” The Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall teed them, and shall lead them onto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” — Rev. vii. 17. Fountains! what an idea of its inexhaustible abundance is conveyed by the term. Living water, how the term conveys the idea of a sparkling, glittering, sunny, pearly, living brilliancy; it can never be exhausted, never be passed over. The soul may swim in it for ever, but can never get beyond. And what a glorious thought is that to the lover of heavenly wisdom! Its grandeurs will be for ever disclosing themselves to him in increasing beauty. He will never come to pause in his upward career ; never get as it were to a wall in heaven, and come to a dead stop. From glory to glory, from brightness to brightness, from blessing to blessing ; such is the career of the just made perfect. They find the wisdom which they appreciated in some slight degree here, and the truths which they found deepening with their advancing states, have become with the larger powers of their exalted condition, ” waters which have risen, a river which no man can pass over.”
And now, my beloved hearers, let the lesson of these sacred waters sink deeply into our minds. The temple rises grandly before us in the New Jerusalem. The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple. From the right side issues out for human souls the blessed truths which come from Love Divine. Notice, the word issued. It is from a term in the original, which implies the coming forth of a very small quantity. Drop by drop, as it were, it comes out at first. And this indicates the will of the Lord, that truth should be given early in gentlest, sweetest measure to little children. Here a little, and there a little, line upon line, precept upon precept, as their innocent hearts will bear it, but ever kindly led forth, to walk by the stream. Teach them early that truth is not a speculative, but a practical matter. Let them know that a man with a measuring-line waits to bring them forward. Angels are watching over to lend them aid, and to mark their progress. If they loiter or turn back, their angelic guides will be sad. If they go cheerfully onwards, they will heighten the joy of heaven. Let both them and us be well assured that our journey will be gradual. It is not a slight step which needs to be made ; it is the journey from ignorance to wisdom, from selfishness, to angelic, to godlike love; from hell to heaven. We shall have our stages at which we can rest ; estimate somewhat generally our progress, by finding divine truth clearer, deeper, and dearer to us than before. But we must still go on, never flag. The first thousand, must be followed by another, and that by another, until we come into the undying fulness of heavenly love, wisdom and joy; in which we can swim in the everlasting waters, and enjoy the rich fullness of their blessings for ever.
And, finally, my beloved hearers, let us for a moment contemplate our text as a divine prophecy. It reveals a future for the world, full of light and love, and grandeur. We have treated it chiefly in an individual application, as it may be realized by one person now. But it has, undoubtedly, a general application also. The waters issued forth from the right side of the temple when our blessed Lord said, on the great day of the feast, ” If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said. Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” — John vii. 37, 38. Divine truths of a living, gladdening character, flowed forth to cheer, enlighten, purify, and bless the world. The attention of men was drawn from earthly hopes and temporal grandeur, to spiritual and eternal riches; from a temporal country to an everlasting one. Heaven was brought nearer to man by redemption. The human race, which had long been going westward, journeying more deeply into low and sensual life, were taken, by the man with the measuring line, to the utter gate, but to the way which looketh eastward. They were placed on the narrow way which leadeth to life, their faces were turned towards the Sun of righteousness. The spread of Christianity went on, the waters widened and deepened, and spread holy influences over many lands, purifying them foul idolatries and horrid impurities, substituting the gentle reign of a Divine Saviour for the rude wild passions of brutal men. Still, on looking back over the church’s history, and beholding her living waters pouring themselves among the world’s impurities, we are forcibly reminded of our Divine Master’s declaration, “I have many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now.” The water went forth, but rarely got higher than the ancles. To bring the outward life into order has been the utmost which has ever been extensively aimed at in Christian communities, andhas been very imperfectly done. In the first two centuries Christians stood distinctly out from Jews and Heathen, as virtuous and enlightened, the salt of the earth. But in the third and fourth, with increased power, the love of power animated them to ungodly struggles for lordship over the church, and bitter animosities began. Some waxed cold, the light in them began to darken, and from that period they divided the Godhead, divided religion, divided the church more and more by their disputes, and at length by their persecutions, until, at length, so-called Christians far more cruelly used other Christians than ever heathens had done. A Christian heathenism set in. Darkness once more covered the earth, and gross darkness the people. Religion was believed to consist in outward superstitious lying wonders, not in a living regenerated state of heart, mind and life ; and holy bones, holy rags, holy dirt became the trust of men, instead of a kingdom of the Lord within them of heavenly affections, enlightened views, and just and orderly lives. The pure and brilliant waters of truth were neglected, for muddy streams kept in broken cisterns. This continued until a state was awakened in multitudes, in probably the great majority of minds in Christendom, of contempt for all that was called religion. Then came the end. And with that end the inquiry, What shall we do? Who will show us any good? The Lord has in answer opened the living fountains again. Again the sacred waters roll, and now they are deeper. The inner spirit of the Word is opened, its interior lessons are seen. The bearing of heavenly wisdom, not on the feet only, but on the inner, higher principles of the soul is fully manifested, ” the waters are up to the knees.” The science of correspondences opens to us a world within the world, a world of spirit, life and beauty. The knowledge of the Lord now will cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea. The Lord Jesus, the God of love. His kingdom of love. His ever-expanding brightening Word, revealing and fulfilling all that prophets have foretold, these will go on, until there shall be ” One King over all the earth.” ” In that day there shall be One Lord, and His name One.” ” There shall be a river to swim in, which no man can pass over.”
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY –From The Divine Word Opened (1887)