A Sermon by William Nixon
Revelation 22:17. And the spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
Not only is the Church of Christ, both in heaven and on earth, as one body inviting you to come, but every single member of the Church ought individually to urge this duty upon you. Nay, every one who merely hears the gospel, may be heard, or at least should be heard, re-echoing the invitation, “Let him that heareth say, Come”.To “hear” often means in Scripture to believe in and obey, as in these passages, “My sheep hear My voice, and follow Me,” “This is My beloved Son, hear Him,” “He that is of God heareth God’s words”. Therefore in the clause, “Let him that heareth say, Come,” we may understand it pointed out as the duty of each believer to bring to the Saviour all whom he can influence by his prayers and example and instructions. The believer should say to all around him, “O taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man that trusteth in Him” (Ps 34:8). The believer can tell you from his own experience that he never knew what it was to possess and enjoy real good until he was reconciled to God and filled with love to His service. He can tell you from his own experience that you will never have any peace, spiritual life or strength until you come to Jesus and receive His grace. He can tell you from his own experience that, if you come to Him, you will find an efficacy in the fountain of His blood to cleanse you from all sin, that you will find in Jesus a fulness of all good, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and grace, and that your souls shall be cleansed and refreshed by the communications of His Spirit. The believer can further tell you that all things are freely given to you of God.
Supposing the believer should attempt to throw obstacles in the way of your coming to the Redeemer, and were for sending you back to the world, you would surely be ready to say to Him, as Ruth to Naomi: “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God”. When you consider what the true Christian can tell you of his privileges and blessedness and prospects, and especially of his hope of eternal life, as forming the anchor of his soul, sure and steadfast, entering into that within the veil, you should, as it were, take hold of his skirt, saying, We will go with you, for we have heard and perceived that God is with you. You should come speedily to pray before Jehovah of Hosts and seek Him with all your heart (see Zec 8).
Even the man who has merely heard the gospel, but never believed it himself, is bound to point out the pillar of fire for your direction, although it should prove the pillar of darkness to himself. There is not upon the earth an impenitent sinner, however prosperous and seemingly happy, but if you could compel him to tell the truth honestly, would tell you such a story of his own remorse and alarm for sin, and of his bitter experience of the insufficiency to his soul of all earthly good. He would so acknowledge the presence of all conceivable reasons for embracing the truth, and the absence of all just objections and obstacles to the reception of it, that his confessions would furnish the most urgent motives to you to approach what he is forsaking, the fountain of living waters.
Still further, everyone who now hears the glad tidings of mercy should, in obedience to the exhortation, “Let Him that heareth say, Come,” address – or be considered by you as addressing – all around him, in some such language as the following: “Come, let us join ourselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant, never to be broken. Let us come and weep for our sins before the Lord and with steadfast hearts seek Him as the Lord Almighty and our strength. Let us ask of Him the way to Zion with our faces thitherward. Let us ascend the mountain of His ordinances and urge our way into the secret of His presence, to be divinely taught His ways and guided in the path of His commandments.”
But I have yet to mention that the Lord Jesus Himself invites you. It is He that says in the conclusion of the verse, “Whosoever will, let him come”. Every view which the Scriptures give of His wonderful person and character, and of the divine and human excellencies that meet in Him, every word He uttered, every work which He performed or is still performing, furnish endlessly numerous and most persuasive motives for coming to Him at His call. I shall just mention a few of the considerations that should render the invitation of the Saviour effectual in drawing you to Himself; to obtain a personal interest in His great salvation.
The blessed Redeemer has always been giving to sinners such manifestations of His grace as are fitted to subdue the most intractable to His love and service. Even before mankind were brought into existence at all, Jesus rejoiced in the habitable parts of the earth and had His delights with the sons of men, in the prospect of what He was appointed to accomplish for them. He came to our first parents in paradise and, while they were agitated by the fears of conscious guilt and expected punishment, He addressed them, not only in words of just indignation, but also of divine compassion, holding forth before them the prospect of pardon and salvation.
Throughout the Patriarchal and Jewish dispensations, the Son of God continually revealed Himself in various ways as the only Saviour, and called on self-destroyed sinners to come and find their help in Him and, while yet prisoners of hope, to turn to Him as their stronghold, assuring them that in looking to Him they would be saved and that, in turning to Him, He would pour out His Spirit upon them.
When at length the Son of God took our nature, and appeared a man upon the earth, instead of surrounding Himself with such tokens of greatness, power and righteous vengeance, as would have driven sinners away from Him, He came in the most simple character imaginable. True indeed, angels made the heavens to resound with the promises of His birth, and wise men came from afar to do Him homage, but His first appearance in the world was anything but calculated to frighten sinners from His presence. In fact, the circumstances of His birth and infancy, as of His whole life, were so mean that, speaking in the language of this world, haughty carnal men are still apt to turn away from Jesus with contempt because they have not eyes to see the glory which He veiled beneath His outward circumstances.
The first to attach themselves to Him were a few illiterate fishermen of Galilee and, so far from disdaining their society and friendship, He received them graciously, taught them with unwearied patience, put up with all their ignorance, prejudices, stupidity and perverseness. After He had opened their understandings to know the truth, and inclined their hearts to love it, He left them behind Him on the earth as His Apostles, and by their instrumentality established Christianity in the world.
The condescension and love which He thus manifested to these humble individuals were exemplified in His whole deportment toward others. With what kindness He explained to Nicodemus the only way of participating in the blessings of grace here and the blessings of glory hereafter! With what gracious words He addressed the depraved inhabitants of Nazareth! With what unparalleled self-denying benevolence did He go forth among the most distressing scenes of human wretchedness and heal all manner of sickness and of disease among the people! What proofs He continually gave that He was the friend of sinners, who had come to call them to repentance, and to seek and save the lost. Even while, because they repented not, He upbraided the cities wherein most of His mighty works were done, while He proclaimed the woe coming upon them, and vindicated the divine sovereignty in dooming them to destruction, He still lingered around the accursed cities to pluck as brands from the burning any souls in whom His announcements might awaken repentance. And even while He uttered His solemn reproofs and threatened the most awful judgments against the hardened multitude, He was, almost with the same breath, heard uttering these inviting words, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are 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” (Matt 11:28ff).
The truth is that many waters could not quench His love to men. He saw them perishing in their sins and, notwithstanding all their pride, unbelief, presumption and hardness of heart, He still pressed Himself upon them as the bread of life to their famishing souls, and continued to assure them: “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). He embraced with eagerness every opportunity for renewing the offers of His grace to men and for endeavouring to excite within them desires for spiritual blessings, so that He might rejoice in satisfying these desires. As for instance, at the Feast of Tabernacles, when great numbers of Jews assembled in Jerusalem, Jesus openly in the temple avowed Himself the Messiah, and vindicated His character and claims against all their objections. Although the Jews were so enraged at Him that they sought to cut Him off, He made no other return for their enmity than to warn them faithfully and compassionately of their sin and danger and press upon them still the offers of His grace.
Taking advantage of a ceremony practised on the last day of the Feast, when the priests poured out water in the temple as an expression of the general desire of the predicted Messiah’s appearance, and His pouring forth of the Spirit, Jesus proclaimed with a loud voice: “If any man thirst”, if any man ardently desire true happiness, and long for the blessings promised under the administration of the Messiah, “let him come unto Me” by faith “and drink” his fill; for I am most ready freely to communicate every needful blessing, and particularly those supplies of the Spirit which you profess so earnestly to desire. For “he that” truly “believeth in Me as the Scripture hath” in many places “said” and promised, shall receive those supplies in so great an abundance, that he shall not only be refreshed himself; but from within him “shall flow” vital streams and, as it were, “rivers of living water” for the refreshment and comfort of others. This He specially “spake of the Spirit, which they who believe in Him should receive,” and be the means of communicating to others (see John 7:37-39).
But it were endless to particularise all the gracious efforts of the Saviour, when on earth, to draw sinners to Himself. Not only in such a mild yet powerful sermon as that delivered on the Mount, but in all His public teaching, His doctrine dropped as the rain and His speech distilled as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass. It came with noiseless yet effectual power upon its candid hearers, insinuating itself into their hearts and affections, and proving pleasant and profitable like rain to the thirsty earth. The manner, as well as the matter of His teaching, was to the last degree tender and alluring. He did not strive nor cry nor cause His voice to be heard in the streets. The bruised reed He did not break, and the smoking flax He never quenched. Even when He laboured in vain and spent His strength for nought and in vain, when sinners refused to be gathered to Him for redemption and He had to leave them to perish, He wept over them the tears of God-like sorrow, because of the ruin which they were thus bringing on themselves.
As Jesus approached the end of His life on earth, His love to men seemed to grow stronger and stronger, and to shine brighter and brighter amidst all the wicked, malignant and murderous treatment which He suffered at their hands. He knew that the Jews and Gentiles in Jerusalem were combining to put Him to a cruel and shameful death as the vilest of malefactors, and that the disciples who had hitherto clung to Him were about to forsake, deny or betray Him, and He saw the terrible agonies through which He was about to pass under the avenging wrath of God. Yet at this time He collected His disciples around Him, and loaded them with the pledges of His deathless love, and tried to direct and support them in a discourse full of unparalleled grace and consolation. Then, for them and for all who should afterwards believe in Him, He poured forth an intercessory prayer which breathes throughout a love entirely divine. And when He surrendered Himself to the agonies of the garden and of the cross, His great desire was that, by being lifted up upon the cross and in consequence exalted to heaven, He might draw all men unto Him. Still to the last minute He offered Himself to sinners as their Saviour, and He spent His last breath inviting sinners to come to Him by praying so earnestly, even on the cross, for their forgiveness.
I have mentioned all these things to fill you with suitable views of the invitation which the Saviour here addresses to you: “Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely”. Has enough not been said to render His invitation effectual? Must Jesus yet complain of you that you will not come to Him for life? Can you doubt His claim on your complying with His offer? Can you question your need of the blessings which He presents? Can you disbelieve His power to confer them?
Perhaps some of you are ready to say that, although Jesus so invited sinners while He lived upon the earth, yet now that He is exalted to glory and honour in His Father’s kingdom, He has forgotten, amid the raptures of His present exaltation, to think of you and to invite you any more. If you speak thus, you heed not what you say. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and for ever. He is therefore as willing now as ever to “feed His flock like a shepherd, gather the lambs with His arms and . . . carry them in His bosom”. He is as willing now as ever to restore your souls and to lead you in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake, to fill you with spiritual nourishment and strength while you live, and to bring you to dwell in His house for ever. You should remember that the invitation in the text was given by Jesus after His ascension into heaven and from the glories that surround Him there. This shows that He has now the same compassion for sinners on earth that He manifested when dwelling in the midst of them. Hence the language of the Apostle, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:14ff).
I entreat you then to consider how Jesus here invites you from heaven. Do not resist the invitation because of the imagined distance between Him and you, or because of any conviction of unworthiness. He is never far from any one of you, and He comes to save the chief of sinners. “Behold,” says He (and this language He uttered after His ascension), “I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and He with Me” (Rev 3:20). You are therefore invited to come to Him, whatever your character has been during the past. You may have been long an enemy to God and to godliness – a despiser of Christ, a neglecter of the great salvation, a grievous backslider from the ways of piety, righteousness and purity – but the feast provided is for the halt, the maimed and the blind, and we are to compel such to come in that the house may be filled. Jesus is able and willing to save you now, henceforth and for ever, even to the uttermost. If you be ignorant, He will teach you; if weak, He will strengthen you; if wavering, He will confirm you; if corrupt, He will sanctify you; if alarmed, He will give you peace; if tempted, harassed and persecuted, He will succour you; if beset with temporal difficulties or bowed down by affliction, He will deliver you out of all your troubles; if agitated by the prospect of death or eternity, He will enable you to smile even at death and to triumph in the hope of eternal life.
And now, my brethren, you may perceive how this invitation to come and take of the water of life freely is pressed upon you from every quarter to which you can turn. The Father in heaven, the Almighty One, the God of love, most graciously invites you. The Eternal Spirit, the author of every spiritual desire and holy thought in the soul, is now interceding with you, and I trust making intercession in you, to bring you to the Savour. The Church on earth and in heaven, and even the holy angels, earnestly invite you. Every member of the Church, and every hearer of the gospel, in one way or another invites you. The sound of this invitation, proceeding forth from the throne of God, is heard throughout all the courts of heaven and is reverberated from this lower world.
No place but hell is silent on this subject. Nay, hell itself, though unwillingly and in a distressing manner, does yet emphatically press upon you the importance of now accepting this invitation. The very groans of the damned do solemnly urge you to the Saviour now, that you may not go into the same place of torment at last, that you may never come nearer to the bottomless pit of ruin than at most to take a glimpse of it from your safe and happy dwelling, far distant in the regions of the blessed.
And Jesus, the Living One, the possessor and giver of all life – who was dead, who gave His body to be broken and who poured out His soul in agony upon the cross as a sacrifice for sin, who is now alive for evermore and who has the keys of the grave and of the invisible and eternal worlds- invites you to come and refresh yourselves at the fountain of His grace. This blessed Redeemer, looking down from amidst the glories of heaven with an eye of compassion, invites you to come and take the water of life freely.
I can bring forward nothing more. There are, as you may perceive, reasons weighty and powerful, motives both solemn and impressive, inducements and encouragements quite overwhelming, to urge you to the Saviour. If the spectacle of the whole universe calling upon you with one voice and labouring, if I may so speak, to hem you in to the reception of Christ Jesus and of His grace, does not avail, there is no remedy. If you can stand out in thoughtless indifference, in unconquerable hardness, in sullen contempt, in groundless fear, or in sinful unbelief, against the offers of grace that are thus pressed upon you by God Himself, by His blessed Son, by His blessed Spirit and by His whole family in heaven and on earth, I do not know what farther to say.
If your heart is yet hard as adamant, may God Himself with His own hand smite the rock within you, and bring out of it the waters of repentance! If you are still ready to cleave for happiness to this world, which when supremely loved is the death of an immortal soul, may God Himself awaken, alarm and undeceive you, and make you alive to your condition before it be too late, and so cause you to leave these broken and empty cisterns of earthly pursuits and enjoyments, and come to the fountain of living waters. If your souls be yet like the dry bones in the valley of vision, may the wind of the Spirit come and breathe upon you and make you live! If you are still like a barren and scorched field, over which the heavens are as brass, on which God has hitherto forbidden the clouds to rain, may He now, for His own name’s sake, pour down His grace upon you! May He visit you with a time of refreshing! May He rend the heavens and come down, and pour out His Spirit upon you, until there is no room to receive it! If you are still set against Him, may this be the day of His power, in which He will make you willing to serve Him in the beauties of holiness!
To you who are willing, I once more repeat the invitation to come. The gates of righteousness and grace are open, that you may enter through them to bless the Lord. All the blessings of pardon, acceptance, adoption, holiness, peace and eternal life are fully and freely offered to you through the Saviour, and you are required merely to accept them that they may be yours.
As there is nothing in the universe to keep you from God in Christ, and everything in the universe urges you to Him, I trust there are not a few whose hearts are moving towards the Lord, saying, “Come, let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant. We give Thee back, O Lord, Thine own property, ourselves; Thou hast the best right to us. We acknowledge Thee alone as our proprietor, that Thou mayest put us to an honourable use. Make us vessels of mercy, and do not leave us vessels of wrath. We take Thee for our heavenly Father; for, though blinded in understanding, and easily led astray when we trust to our own judgements, yet Thou wilt guide us in a sure path, illuminate us with a light that shall penetrate throughout our whole heart and carry us captive to Thy will, when we wait on Thee in prayer and in meditation on Thy Word. We place ourselves under Thy gracious government that Thou mayest write Thy law upon our hearts and regulate all our conduct, giving us the blessed disposition of making Thy will our will, and Thine honour our end in all things. We choose Thee as our portion, as the overflowing, satisfying fountain of all enjoyment, desiring henceforth to taste no stream of happiness which does not have its spring in Thee.”
1. Reprinted, with abridgement, from The Free Church Pulpit, vol 1. Nixon was a minister in Montrose from 1833. He was a prominent leader of the party which opposed the declension in the Free Church of his time. In the first part of the sermon, printed last month, Nixon gave out four heads: (1.) The nature of the blessings offered here. (2.) The circumstances in which the invitation is given. (3.) Those to whom the invitation is sent. (4.) Those by whom the invitation is given. He spoke briefly on the first three heads and went on to refer to God the Father and the Holy Spirit, and the Church on earth and in heaven as giving the invitation. He continues from that point in this concluding section.