By T.M. Anderson
"Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." John 7:38.
To identify the persons in the symbolism of the rivers is not difficult; they are the Holy Spirit and the human soul. Each has an important place in forming the promised rivers. The Saviour is the First Source, and the united Spirit and soul form the streams. The promised rivers are the results produced when the Spirit takes His abode in the heart of the believer. Now this truth is in figure, fact and formula. We shall find that the measure, movement, and means of the Rivers are witnessed in Scripture; and that both the Saviour, and the Scripture, unite in agreed witnesses of the truth of the promised rivers. What the Son said of the promised rivers; the Scripture will show in proved results.
The promised rivers are revealed in their nature, their number, and their necessity. It is found that the nature and number unite to meet the necessity. This is in full agreement with the formula of the measure and movement that unite to minister the means. This agrees with the facts of Pentecost which show that the fullness, and freedom unite to produce the fruitfulness. Hence all the witnesses do agree.
The nature of the rivers. Whatever is true of one, is true of all. The river is formed by the water uniting with the channel that contains it. The Spirit is the "Living water;" and the soul is the living way. Both the water and the way become one. These two are different persons, yet in the unity, each becomes a necessary part of the other. The water alone is not the river; it must have the channel to contain it in the capacity of a stream. Through this channel the river proceeds on its course from its rise to its rest. Now a channel without the water is not a stream; it can only be an empty ravine. In nature the river runs; if it does not run it is a reservoir. But stored water is not a stream. A reservoir is bounded on all sides and forms a basin; but a river is bounded only on two sides; and by nature forms a flowing stream. The believers were in the upper room at Pentecostal level; and from that lifted point in spiritual fullness the flow started to the level of the need that was presented in a prostrate world below them. They received a Gift; and rushed out to give. Pentecost was a gift, a going, and a giving. This the flowing fruiting, fullness of the streams of the Spirit. Here we see the measure and movement united to meet the necessity with the means of life.
A river has dimension, direction, and duty. In dimension it has length, width, and depth. Its direction is from its rise to its rest. Its duty is its service and supply that save life.
Do these facts conform to the truth of heart experience? In every way they do precisely fit the facts. The Spirit and soul do unite in one; and each possesses the other as the water possesses the channel, and the channel possesses the water. Neither can function without the other in the sense of a river. The Spirit must have the human channel through which to minister the merits of the Saviour to the Church; and to the world. Every believer must have the Holy Ghost in the flowing fullness; else he is an empty ditch, a ravine without resources.
All the weakness evidenced in the church is due to the lack of this fullness of the Spirit. The most efficient ministry can never make up for this want of the Streams of the Spirit. Program cannot hide poverty; vested choirs cannot substitute for victorious currents of the Holy Ghost. Air conditioned buildings cannot beget sons of God. There must be the Rivers if we have the results. God has provided the measure, the movement, and the means; we must furnish Him the human container to hold this measure; and through which He can move in power to minister the living means to lost men. A people without the Spirit may own a building; but only the Spirit can give them babies in Christ. God forbid that a man should deny the Saviour this human channel to be a way for the water of life. Such a soul will be only a ditch in the dirt; and emptiness in the earth; a grave without God.
Not all rivers have the same dimensions, but all have the same direction, and duties. Yet there is a true sense in which all have the same measure of content. Some streams are not as long, or as wide and as deep as others; yet all have the same water in kind. Not all persons that are filled with the Spirit are as large as others who are likewise filled. Yet each has the full measure of the capacity. This is seen when applied to life in Christian experience. Little Sammy Morris was not long in this world; yet we still feel the measure that he contributed to the whole system of God's far flung work. David Livingstone watered Africa with the plenitude of the fullness of his Life. Every stream, regardless of its dimensions, makes its full contribution to the whole work of God. Each is a part of the great system of the Streams of the Spirit that flow through the world, and through the work of the Church. There is a true sense in which we can enlarge in depth and width of spiritual development. We can be as wide as our wills; and as deep as our devotions; and as long as our lives. The measure of a stream in its length is the measure of its course. It may flow in many winding curves and bends. It may not be as many miles in a straight line; but it may flow many miles in its ministering course. We can live full and long, even if our days are few in number.
The channel of the stream is its deepest point; but its course is governed by its banks. The banks of its course never move; only the water moves; yet the banks are every place on the stream. This is what Jesus meant when He said, "Where I am, there will my servant be also." In this way
He is with us always; and we are with Him all the time.
We must flow toward all points of the compass; yet always to the Creator. Our lives in the Streams of the Spirit flow from our Rise in the Son, to our rest in the Saviour. A stream flows from its Mountains to its Mouth; from its Lift to its Level. It moves, meanders and ministers through its wending way. It will bend but not break; it can be harnessed but not held; it can be enjoyed, but not exhausted.
A River is regulated in its current by the kind of country through which it flows. Where the mountains cramp it, the flow is rushing; and its power augmented; where it is not pressed by the heights, but is passing through the plains, and wide expanses, it may flow as gentle as breath. If lashed by a storm its surface is tossing, but its depth is calm. Life is like that in the grace of the Spirit. Adversity may make life hurried; and storms make it turbulent and tossing; yet it flows on in its ministering means to bless other with its "Living water." This spake He of the Spirit.
The number of the rivers. Since our Lord speaks of the rivers in plural number we are convinced that there is a given number that can be found. Before we take up the given number, let us fix in mind a Scriptural fact about a number, whether speaking of streams, or saints. Regarding the saints, it is revealed, that there is a given number of Apostles; and a given number of Patriarchs. There is a given number of wise and foolish virgins; and many other numbers of things and persons we might mention. Also we know that there is a great number of saints that "No man can count." Abraham's seed were as countless as the stars. Yet Abraham had only one son; and the son had only two sons; and Jacob had twelve sons. This is only saying that there is a Given number; and yet there is a greater number which includes the given number. The "Father of Waters" is only one great river, yet has in it the combined number of all its tributaries. If this fact is kept before the mind then we can the more fully appreciate the given number of the Streams of the Spirit.
The number of the rivers is three. Like the number of the Trinity in unity; so are the rivers a trinity in unity. The given number takes in the greater like the Godhead takes in all the saints. Even the name of each is given. The rivers are life, love, and labor; three in number, and three in name.
We find this in the figure and fact of Scripture. We find it in the Saviour, because He was life, love, and labor. He is the pattern and perfection of these things. He is the Source of the "Living water," which is life; He is the Son of the loving Father; and He is the Son in labors for all mankind. As the Divine Workman, He has created us in the Image of God; a likeness of His life, love, and labors. Through these rivers He poured Himself out while in this world. He is now giving Himself to all through these streams of the Spirit.
It has been shown that there are only three kinds of fruit: the fruit of righteousness, which is life; the fruit of relationship, which is love; and the fruit of reaping, which is labor. In these three, we have the given number, also the great number. This three-in-one-fruits of the Spirit perfectly agree; with the three-in-one-streams of the Spirit.
Returning to the figure and fact of the nature of the river, let us put this measure, movement, and means of the "Living water" in to the channel of life. This stream is formed by the Spirit in unity with the soul. It becomes the river of life, flowing and fruiting in the world, and in the Work, which is the church. This Stream must touch the field and the family. To the field it is the means of life; and to the family it is the medium of life. How ever the stream is both a medium and means to the field and to the family. This distinction will be seen later as we look at the necessity of the streams of the Spirit.
Considering that life is a stream of the Spirit; it is well to give this truth prayerful thought. "What is your life?" James asked this. "For me to live is Christ." Paul said this. Jesus said, "Because I live, ye shall live also." No man can define life; but the Master has disclosed life, The fact is before us whether we ever see the formula.
Like the savage who first saw the stream; we can partake of its means, though we may be ignorant of its meaning, and measure. Rut in revealed truth we know more than the savage; we know the Saviour, Who is life. "And because He lives, we live also."
The river of life is abundant in its measure. "That they might have it more abundantly," said Jesus when speaking of life. The deepest desire in humanity is the desire to live. The grave is not the goal; God is our goal. Our journey in the stream of life is not from a cradle to a casket; it is from our entrance in regeneration to our eternal rest in the Redeemer. A tomb could not hold the Prince of Life; neither can a tomb hold the people of the Lord. "I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you." These words spake He of the Spirit. This promise of His coming was in the promise of the Comforter. He has not left us bereft as orphans. No such words ever were heard before by man. The only thing we ever knew about death was its bereavement. It left a vacancy that could never be filled. It turned a thing of beauty into a thing to be buried. But here is life unconquered by the death that has destroyed us; from bereavement we come to a bestowment. Life is to be more abundant. It is not to consist of the things which we possess on the ground; it is to consist of the abundance of the things we possess in God. If all one has is an abundance of grain in a barn; then all one will find is an abiding in a grave for the body. Life is not in a barn; it is through the blood. He has come that we might have life more abundantly. Look at its abundance. It is stored in every seed, it is seen in every sky, and it surges in every stream.
Life is beheld on every bough, it beats in every breast, and is bestowed in endless bounty. Life is a gift, it is a going, and it is a giving. In its meekness it has a lift; in its message it has light; and in its motive it has love. Abundant life has no ebb in its sea, no evil in its seeking, nor esteem in its self. Life is humble, holy, and helpful.
Life stoops to serve, it stands to suffer, and it stays to sacrifice; it never wearies, it never wavers, and it never weakens. Life is radiant, life is regnant, life is revealing. The stream of life cannot be bound with fetters, nor burned with fire, neither banished by fear. Doors cannot bar it, death cannot bind it, nor devils break it. This stream of the Spirit flows through the family and the field. Its two banks extend to the full length of the stream; and these shape the course of the current. On the field side where it touches the world, we see men and machines, cities, and citizens, all depending on the river for life. These do not live in it, but they live by it, and because of it. It attracted them by its abundance. So should our Spirit-filled lives have such a ministry to the field where lost mankind lives.
This "Living water" must pour into their homes. It must afford life to family, friend, and foe alike. Some may complain of the channel, but not one will complain of the contents. The living water is the thing of importance. What if the vessel is a source of complaint; let the treasure in the vessel be plentiful in measure to the meanest man. We must exist on a level where lost men can reach the living water. When Jesus had chosen His disciples, Luke said, "He came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of disciples,... and a great multitude of people came to hear Him." Here is where life ran through the plains so the multitude could reach it. This is the pattern of His Person. What a moving force life is. Small seeds have rent rocks. A mustard seed of living faith can move a mountain. Through humble saints God has shaken empires, and shattered walled cities. His ministers have molded the thinking of the sages. Messages moved by the Spirit of life have turned impending defeat into immortal design.
The river of love. Behold it flowing, full, and fruiting. But only because human love has united with the Holy Spirit to form the stream of the Spirit. The given Lord unites with our given love. In this wedlock of the will; in this harmony of hearts, is formed the measure of moving, means the river of love. It pours through the countries that touch its shores. Love comes down and stands in the plain where men need its measureless ministries to brighten the blackness.
It knows no dividing line in race or color of men. It gives abundantly to all, always. Love warms them with its comforts; warns them with its counsels, and wins them to its Creator. Its measure must abound; its movement must achieve, and its means must abide. The stream of love is Christian in its character; consistent in its conduct; and constant in its course. It is the grace wherein we stand; it is the gentleness wherewith we serve; and the godliness with which we stream. This river makes glad the city of God. It sings in its praise; it sobs in its petitions; and it supplies with its plenty. Love never fails, it never frets, it never fears. Its vision is clear; its vigilance is constant; and its visitation consoling. It has healing in its touch; helpfulness for the task; and hope for its triumph. Christ conceived the church in love; He cleansed it by love, and He clothes it with love. The Apostles were streams of love. They witnessed to love; they wrote to love, and they wrought by love. They beheld its manner; they believed on its merits; and they became its ministers. Love moves men by its force; it measures them by its fullness and it melts them by its fervency. Love covers the faults, it comforts the faithful, and it crowns the fruitful. The dust of the ages has covered the works of mighty men; and the glory of the ancients has died. But love abides in royal splendor. It is unconquered, unclouded, and uncomplaining. This is the stream in the desert; the flood upon the dry ground; the garden of delight. These were watered, and washed by the "Living water" of Love in the stream of the "More excellent way."
The river of Labor. "I must be about My Father's business." "I must work the works of Him that sent me." "Work while it is day, for the night cometh when no man can work." "In labors abundant." "Knowing therefore the terrors of the Lord we persuade men." These are a few pails of "Living water" from the stream of labor. A river formed by the union of the soul of a man with the Spirit of the Master Builder.
We do not merit salvation by our works; but we do minister salvation by our works. It is God that worketh in us to will and to do of His good pleasure. We are to let work out what He has worked within.
The river of labor has a measure, movement, and is a means. It is in the earth, but the earth it not in it. It was emptied of earth and filled with eternity in the baptism of the Holy Ghost. All the barriers of earth were removed in the baptism of energy. God created the river of labor that it might labor for its Creator, and for His creatures.
This is the blood stream in the body of the bride; it is the circulating current of life in the believers. This current carries health to every part of the body that is bruised in conflict. This feeds the flock with its flow.
There is a day of labor. Work while it is day, for the night cometh when no man can work. There is a time, a task, and a toil. . But the task and the toil must fill in the time. How much time have we? Where are the hands pointing now? No man knoweth the hour when the Master of the house will rise up and shut the door. We do know that the night cometh, and that will end the day. When the day closes the dark comes; and no man can work; and the door will be shut. God had not revealed the length of the day so that we may know the hour and moment that the end comes. He has revealed the task; and this is the toiling time. If humanity is ever saved, we must labor to get them to the narrow gate while it is yet light. Time is too valuable to waste in wrangling about things of no importance. We are not to mend nets, we are to catch men. Time and money are often wasted on great building programs; and in formulating great plans of attack. The company at the place of filling had nothing but hearts and minds to engage in the task. They started with God, and kept God, and gave God. They made men feel that Jesus lived, and loved, and labored among them in the sins and sorrows of a lost world. Think of the towering cathedrals where many come and get nothing, and go and give nothing. If we come to worship, then let us go to work and witness. If you came to sing, then go and serve. If the sinners do not come; then let the saints go to the sinners. But let the saints go broken and bleeding with the likeness of the Lord. Let us be miracles of grace performing a ministry of goodness. If you have furniture and no food, that is not sufficient; go to Him that hath. Ask and ye shall receive; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you. He will arise and give thee as many loaves as you need. Never should you say, "I have nothing to set before him." That parable of Jesus shows the poverty of the soul without the plenty of the Spirit. (See Lk. 11:1-13.)
Programs and plans are often the fig leaves that hide the shameful nakedness of soul. We must be clothed in white working garments; and the shame of our nakedness must never appear. No Christian puts on the wedding garment until he puts on the working garment. Those who shall walk with Him in white are those who have worked with Him in white. If we do not have enough oil for the last hours of light; neither will we have oil at the late hour of the Lord.
We are to go in and out and find pasture. We feed and find in our freedom. We live by the sweat of serving; we earn our bread by the efforts bestowed. If we do not labor, neither shall we live. The barren branch is only brush for the burning.
There is toil in the labors for the Master. Toil is not easy; but pleasing Him, makes it a pleasure to us. We are to do all things without murmuring and disputings. We are to give without grumbling; we must serve without a stinting; and sacrifice without saving. If we save we lose, but if we give, we gather.
Prayer is a labor of pleading and pouring. "Pour out your hearts before Him." Perseverance is a labor, and patience is a labor. Doing, denying, and devotion, require labors more abundant. We have a vocation, a victory, and visitation in labors. This is the River, the streams whereof make glad the city of God.
The stream of labor ends at the day of His appearing. Life, love and likeness go on forever. But labor yields to likeness at His appearing. "When He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." I John 3:1-3. The saints rest from their labors; and their works follow them.
To this fact of labor giving place to likeness we should give heed.
A river can only lose itself in its sea. But when the waters of all its tributaries have joined it in its journey to the rest of the sea; then the stream is lost in the likeness of the Source from whence it was taken. The streams of the Spirit started at Pentecostal level. This was the abiding level, which ends at the day of the Lord. Then likeness begins there and abides forever. At that point the working garment is exchanged for the wedding garment. The Saviour left His seamless robe on earth. The robe of the Prophet was left when he went up in the fiery chariot. Some great truth stands before us in these things. We are like Him in this world as we live, love and labor. We shall be like Him in that world where the weary are at rest; and the wicked have ceased from troubling. It doth not appear what we shall be; but we know that we shall be like Him; that will be satisfaction to us all.
The necessity of the rivers. To discuss the necessity of the Streams of the Spirit we must see the water as a means of life, and as a medium of life. Since it has been shown as a means of life to all that are in the field of the world, and in the family of believers; we shall see it as a medium of life to all.
The measure and movement of the streams unite to meet the necessity. This necessity is seen in the "Living water" as a medium of life. We know that some creatures live in the water, and cannot live out of it. These living creatures complete their life cycle in the water as a medium. Fish are born and bred in water. These creatures begin and end their entire cycle of life in this medium. Now the Spirit is that living water in which sons of God are born. We are born of this water and of Jesus' blood as the merit, and the Spirit as the means and medium.
Deluded men have put a human ordinance of water baptism as being the means of becoming children of God. This is too stupid to discuss.
The medium of the Spirit is where we are born; it is where we produce spiritual children, and in it we live and move, and have our being. If we leave it we die. Those who return to the world shall perish on the earth. This fact is obviously true. And since we came in by choice; we can go out by choice. The only eternal security we have is to remain in the Spirit. Jesus shows us how important this abiding is when He said, "If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." John 15:6. The error of the doctrine of so-called "eternal security" could never stand the light of truth in this passage. It is only the fallacy of blind leaders of the blind, and all fall into the ditch of their empty doctrines.
Returning now to the truth of the Medium, let us see another gracious fact of the river of the Spirit. A stream is a converter, a cleanser, and a carrier. As a converter it turns the desert into a fruitful field. This stream can produce life where death reigned supreme. The flowing force of its current can bring truth to bear upon a human will. It will not force the will to yield, but it will exert a great power to enable the willing soul to break with sin and Satan. The Spirit does enable lost men to find the Saviour. He does convict them of sin against their will, but He does not compel them to be saved. A hard and stony heart can divert the stream that flows about it.
This stream of the Spirit brings the merits of the blood to pardon and purify the souls of men. The children of God live clean in this stream. In this they are kept unspotted from the world while they minister to life, love, and labor to the world. Saints do not sin; the blood cleanseth from all sin. The people who sin are sinners, not sons. God's sons live in the medium of the stream, and are clean in conduct and in character. He that sinneth hath not seen Him, neither does he know Him. Show me a Christian that lives in sin, and is yet a child of God; and I will show you a fish that lives out of water, yet never dies; and I will show you a branch cut off from the vine; yet never withers. There is no sinner that can live in the medium of the Spirit; and no saint can live out of it. This is the word of God, and of the gospel. We are all tempted to sin; but we do not need to take Satan's offers. Be wise and live in the stream of the Spirit.
The stream is a carrier. This is a fact we all should treasure to our hearts. On this stream we float our freight to all places on earth, and to heaven. Only the Stream of the Spirit can transport our loads to their destination. We cannot take them there on the dry banks of our own self. The Spirit is the means to take our prayer, our preaching, and our practices to the place designed and desired. How else can our words reach the hearer's heart except the Spirit bear them?
The man who preaches of himself, and for himself, only grounds his discourse on the banks and bars of his own being. He will never get beyond himself so long as he banks on himself.
This does not relieve us of responsibility. We are the shores along the whole course; we must keep the cargo on the current. What of the long nights of struggle we have all experienced? All our tears and toils are but our task to get the load on the stream. We are pulling it off the bank onto the bosom of the river. We have happy recollections of times when we put the freight on the flow. We rest, the load rides, and the river runs. We learned to let go, and let God.
Prayer reaches heaven on the Streams of the Spirit. We know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. The Spirit likewise helpeth our infirmities. This is the Word of truth.
We can float our offerings on this Stream, and God will place a church in a foreign land to bless the lost. Some have put their labors of life and love on this stream; and never lived to see them land; but others have seen them land; and rejoiced at the hour of receiving.
When we have finished our cycle of days in the medium of the streams of the Spirit; when the Father calls us from the field of the human to the family in heaven; we shall rest ourselves on the bosom of the Streams of the Spirit and be borne to rest in the City of God. Perhaps this is what the Prophet meant when he said, "The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." These "return," and they "obtain." They have completed the cycle of life. Their singing meets the songs of the saints in light; their joy unites in the joys of the Lord; they find likeness in eternal union with the Saviour in the city prepared where it is high noon forever. Their mourning has ended in the eternal refrain of redemption.