“JESUS answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of
GOD, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou
wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living

“Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall
never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in
him a well of water springing up unto eternal life.”

John 4:10, 14, RV.


Unfailing Springs

“Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev.

THE best evidence of Christianity is a Christ-like life, and the
best evidence of the inspiration of the Word of GOD is found in
the Word itself; when studied, loved, obeyed, and trusted, it
never disappoints, never misleads, never fails. Why is so much
time worse than wasted over criticism of its different books?
What is needed is the humble, reverent, prayerful meditation of
those who are determined to do the will of GOD; to such the
guidance of the Spirit is promised, and the divine perfections of
the Word are revealed. Is there anything of human manufacture
that is not easily proved to be man’s work when tested by the
microscope? It reveals imperfections in the finest workmanship;
while under similar treatment the minutest object of GOD’S
creation is only shown to be more marvellously perfect. There is
the same difference between man’s word and GOD’S Word; the latter
tried by appropriate tests is proved to be Divine.

Like many other parts of Holy Scripture the narrative of the
fourth chapter of John may be profitably studied as an item of
ancient history. It shows how the Son of GOD in the days of His
flesh, doing the will of His Father, must needs go through
Samaria, and avoid the route to the east of the Jordan by which
the Jews were wont to escape contact with the Samaritans. It is
most instructive to notice how the exhausted SAVIOUR forgot his
weariness in the presence of a soul needing salvation; and how
with divine wisdom He drew out the sympathy, surprise and
attention of the sinful, ignorant woman, and called forth her own
confession, “I have no husband”. How in a sentence He revealed to
her His knowledge of her whole life, and fulfilled her own ideal
of what the CHRIST would do. Then, giving her that which she so
ignorantly asked–the Living Water–He plainly stated to her that
He was indeed the CHRIST of GOD, and allowed her in the impulse
of a new life to do that which even the disciples had not
attempted to do–to bear such witness concerning Him as to bring
the multitudes to His feet. It is indeed an interesting and
profitable item of ancient history, and as such is worthy of much
more minute examination.

But is there not another standpoint from which it behoves us to
consider this narrative? Why has it been recorded, but for our
instruction? Is not the living CHRIST speaking now through this
story to us, who as much need the Living Water as did the
Samaritan woman? With this thought in mind let us notice
particularly the words used by our Saviour of this Living Water.

JESUS said (v. 10) “If thou knewest the gift of GOD, and who it
is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink; thou wouldst have asked
of Him, and He would have given thee Living Water.” How simple
the conditions! If thou knewest thou wouldst have asked, and He
would have given; she had not asked because she had not known;
but surely we who know, and happily, believe the words of the
LORD recorded in the preceding chapter, “GOD so loved the world
that He gave His only begotten Son . . .” do know the gift of
GOD–the Living Saviour who is as present with us now, according
to His own promise–“Lo, I am with you alway”–as He was then
with the woman of Samaria. Realizing His presence, and knowing
Him as GOD’S gift, is it not our privilege at once to ask and His
joy at once to give us this precious gift–Living Water?
Assuredly it is for this very purpose that the words have been
put on record. We may not know, we cannot tell all that is
involved in the gift, but if we know Him, that is sufficient. “As
for GOD His way is perfect” we have only to fulfil our part, to
ask of Him the Living Water, and leave to Him all the results.

But let us see what further He has to say to us: in verse 13 He
says, “Every one that drinketh of this water [that of Jacob’s
well] shall thirst again”; the woman who heard these words knew
by experience that this was true; and we also have proved that it
is true of all earthly water, all earthly gifts. We should indeed
thank GOD for our temporal blessings, comforts, and joys: they
are not mere superfluities; they meet real needs, and are tokens
of our Heavenly Father’s love; but while they help and gratify,
they do not permanently satisfy, they leave us to thirst again,
and, oh! how deep is the thirst oft-times! But our Saviour
continues (verse 14), “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I
shall give him SHALL NEVER THIRST”. Wonderful words! Let our glad
souls take in their fulness. “Shall,” not may, certainly shall;
“never”, by no means for ever more (lit.); “thirst”, be left
longing, left unsatisfied, faint, but unrefreshed. Blessed
assurance of never-ending refreshment and strength!

“SHALL NEVER THIRST.” What a promise! How often we have thirsted!
How many weary and unsatisfied hearts there are; and yet this
full supply was not intended to be the special portion of some
exceptionally favoured soul, for note the SAVIOUR’S word,
“Whosoever drinketh”, it is free to all. May the Holy Spirit
enable us to take our place as included in the “whosoever”, and
give their full and blessed meaning to those marvellous words,
“shall never thirst”. To know that “shall” means shall, that
“never” means never, that “thirst” means any unsatisfied need,
may be one of the greatest revelations GOD has ever made to our

Let us not, however, change the SAVIOUR’S words. Note carefully
He does not say, Whosoever has drunk, but “drinketh”: He speaks,
not of one isolated draught, but of the continuous habit of the
soul. In this, as in many other passages, it is important to mark
the force of continuous habit expressed by the present tense of
the Greek verbs. There is full and deep satisfaction at the first
draught of the Living Water, which, however, is a perennial
supply for constant use. This the LORD brings out more fully when
He says, “But the water that I shall give him shall be [or better
‘become’, RV] in him a well of water springing up unto eternal
life”. These words explain why the partaking of the Living Water
is not followed by renewed thirst. The Living Water becomes a
well, a fountain, always available, springing up in the believer,
not only leaving no room for thirst, but overflowing for the
supply of the need of others unceasingly.

Nor is this wonderful promise unique and without parallel. It
always was, and is still, the SAVIOUR’S purpose to satisfy. On
the occasion of the feeding of the five thousand (John 6),
Philip’s highest thought was to procure sufficient that everyone
should have a little; but the LORD took the little they already
had and multiplied it in the giving, so that each one had as much
as he would, and twelve baskets were filled with that which
remained after all were satisfied. The next day our LORD raised
their thoughts to the true Bread from heaven, saying, “I am the
Bread of Life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he
that believeth on Me shall never thirst”. Or more fully and
literally, “He who is [habitually] coming to Me, shall by no
means hunger, and he who is believing on Me shall by no means
thirst at any time”. The Greek word is the same as that used in
the passage, “No man has seen God at any time”. The habit of
coming in faith to Him is incompatible with unmet hunger and
thirst. Again, in John 7 CHRIST says, “If any man thirst, let him
come unto Me, and drink. He that is believing on Me, as the
Scripture hath said, out of him shall flow rivers of living
water; this spake He of the Spirit, which those who are believing
on Him should receive.”

There is something very delightful in the truth thus taught:
instead of conscious need and unsatisfied longing, abundant
supply and overflowing satisfaction; instead of poverty and
weakness, wealth and strength wherewith to help other needy ones.
What a Divine Saviour! What a full and perfect salvation! GOD’S
overflow more than supplies the lack of individual capacity. We
cannot all be great, or wealthy or strong, wise or experienced;
but CHRIST is made unto us wisdom and righteousness,
sanctification and redemption: He wills to be our all in all for
life and service.

Wandering among GOD’S beautiful mountains on a delightful
summer’s day, how soon one becomes weary with climbing, and
parched with thirst. Guided by the sound of running water, we
seek the shade of an overhanging rock, and a draught from the
crystal stream falling from above. It may be we have but a small
vessel from which to drink, but we can fill it again and again,
for the supply is inexhaustible. If the cup be small, it will
soon be full and overflow: had we a bucket it would take longer
filling, but, once full, it would equally overflow: and if a huge
barrel were placed under the stream, it, too, in time would
overflow. And the overflow in each case would be the same, for it
depends not on the size of the vessel but on the unfailing supply
of the stream.

Thus the saved Samaritan woman, without any preparation or any
other fitness, could at once draw to her newly-found Saviour a
multitude of needy souls, while many an eloquent preacher can
leave the multitudes to go home unsaved and unsatisfied.
Understanding this, it ceases to be a question of what we are, or
what we can do, and the important thing is, have we brought our
vessel to Him to be filled to overflow, that being more than
satisfied ourselves, we may have to give to any and every thirsty
one without stint and without fear? For the promise of John 7 is
of rivers of living water, and of John 4 of an unfailing spring
going on and on unto everlasting life.

Let us not leave the subject without asking ourselves, beloved
friends, where we are with reference to this matter. Are we
amongst the thirsty ones, or amongst those who have come to the
one great Source, and are drinking, believing, and therefore
receiving, for their own need and the blessing of others?

In conclusion, I should like to give a few words of personal
testimony. It was in a time of deep spiritual need that the
thoughts I have above expressed were given me when alone in
inland China. I was painfully conscious that I was not living all
that I was trying to teach the Chinese. Struggling for victory,
too often I found myself defeated, until I asked myself whether I
ought not to cease to preach, and to retire from missionary work.
Fasting, prayer, meditation on the Word, all I could think of
seemed powerless to help me, when one afternoon, in the course of
my usual reading, I came to John 4. It had always been ancient
history to me, and as such loved and appreciated, but that
afternoon for the first time it became a present message to my
soul. No one could have been more thirsty, and I there and then
accepted the gracious invitation, and asked and received the
Living Water, believing from His own Word that my thirsty days
were all passed, not from any present feeling, but because of His
promise. That same evening I took, without reluctance, my usual
Bible-reading with the Chinese, and spoke freely, but without
being specially conscious of power. At breakfast the following
morning, however, I learned that one of my hearers had been
brought into such deep conviction of sin as to pass the night
sleeplessly; and from that time my ministry was owned of GOD as
it had not been for some time before.

Some months later I passed through a time of great trial and
sorrow; the death of a beloved child, the sending home of three
others, and the most trying time in China through which our
beloved Mission has ever passed, bringing innumerable
difficulties and perplexities; but it was also a time of deepened
spiritual joy and rest, and of experience that my SAVIOUR was
sufficient for every emergency. In Tientsin the Sisters of Mercy,
the French Priests, and Consul had been massacred, and in all our
inland stations there was excitement and peril. Almost daily I
had letters from some group of workers asking for guidance, and
wondering whether to stay or leave the station, as work for the
time being was impossible. I knew not what to advise, but in each
case, like Hezekiah, I spread the letters before the LORD, and
trusted Him to teach me how to reply to them. There was no
conscious revelation, but in every instance I was guided to reply
in the way that led to the best results, and I sent each letter
off in the joyful peace of knowing that I had asked and He had
granted the wisdom that is profitable to direct. Just at this
crisis my dear first wife had an attack of cholera, from which
she rallied with difficulty; a little one was born and only lived
a fortnight, a wet nurse not being procurable in that time of
excitement. But again the Living Water proved sufficient for her
and for me. The very evening after the funeral of the babe, my
precious wife had an attack of syncope, from which she did not
fully recover, and early the next morning she too was taken. Then
I understood why the LORD had made this passage so real to me. An
illness of some weeks followed, and oh I how lonesome at times
were the weary hours when confined to my bed; how I missed my
dear wife, and the little pattering footsteps of the children far
away in England. Perhaps twenty times in a day, as I felt the
heart-thirst coming back again, I cried to the LORD, “You
promised me that I should never thirst”, and at once the LORD
came and more than satisfied my sorrowing heart, so that I often
wondered whether it were possible that my loved one who had been
taken could be enjoying a fuller revelation of His presence than
I in the loneliness of my chamber. He had literally fulfilled the

“LORD JESUS, make Thyself to me
A living, bright reality;
More present to faith’s vision keen
Than any earthly object seen;
More dear, more intimately nigh
Than e’en the sweetest human tie.”

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