And Isaac departed there, and pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar, and dwelled there.…
In Oriental lands a well of water is a fortune. If a king dug one, he became as famous as though he had built a pyramid or conquered a province. Great battles were fought for the conquest or defence of wells of water; castles and towers were erected to secure permanent possession of them. The traveller to-day finds the well of Jacob dug one hundred feet through a solid rock of limestone. These ancient wells of water were surrounded by walls of rock. This wall of rock was covered up with a great slab. In the centre of the slab there was a hole, through which the leathern bottle or earthen jar was let down. This opening was covered by a stone. It was considered one of the greatest calamities that could happen to a nation when these wells of water were stopped. Isaac, you see, in the text, found out that the wells of water that had been dug out by his father Abraham, at great expense and care, had been filled up by the spiteful Philistines. Immediately Isaac orders them all opened again. He was very careful to call all the wells by the same names which his father had called them by; and if this well was called "The Well in the Valley," or "The Well by the Rock," or "The Well of Bubbles," Isaac baptized it with the same nomenclature. You have noticed, friends, that many of the old Gospel wells that our fathers dug have been dug up by the modern Philistine. They have thrown in their scepticisms and their philosophies, until the well is almost filled up, and it is nigh impossible to get one drop of the clear water. You will not think it strange, then, if the Isaac who speaks to you this morning tries to dig open some of the old wells made by Abraham, his father, nor will you be surprised if he call them by the same old names.
1. Bring your shovel and pickaxe, and crowbar, and the first well we will open is the glorious well of the Atonement. It is nearly filled up with the chips and debris of old philosophies that were worn out in the time of Confucius and Zeno, but which smart men in our day unwrap from their mummy-bandages, and try to make us believe are original with themselves. I plunge the shovel to the very bottom of the well, and I find the clear water starting. Glorious well of the Atonement. Perhaps there are people here who do not know what "atonement" means, it is so long since you have heard the definition. The word itself, if you give it a peculiar pronunciation, will show the meaning — at-one-ment. Man is a sinner and deserves to die. Jesus comes in and bears His punishments and weeps His griefs. I was lost once, but now I am found. Cowper, overborne with his sin, threw himself into a chair by the window, picked up a New Testament, and his eye lighted upon this: "Whom God hath set forth as a propitiation through faith in His blood"; and instantly he was free. Unless Christ pays our debts, we go to eternal jail. Unless our Joseph opens the King's corn-crib, we die of famine. One sacrifice for all. A heathen got worried about his sins, and came to a priest and asked how he might be cured. The priest said: "If you will drive spikes into your shoes and walk five hundred miles, you will get over it." So he drove spikes in his shoes and began the pilgrimage, trembling, tottering, agonizing on the way, until he came about twenty miles, and sat down under a tree, exhausted. Near by, a missionary was preaching Christ, the Saviour of all men. When the heathen heard it, he pulled off his sandals, threw them as far as he could, and cried: "That's what I want: give me Jesus! give me Jesus!" O ye who have been convicted and worn of sin, trudging on all your days to reap eternal woe, will you not, this morning, at the announcement of a full and glorious Atonement, throw your torturing transgressions to the winds? "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin"; that was the very passage that came to the tent of Hedley Vicars, the brave English soldier, and changed him into a hero for the Lord.
2. Now, bring your shovels and your pickaxes, and we will try to open another well. I call it the well of Christian comfort. You have noticed that there are a good many new ways of comforting. Your father dies. Your neighbour comes in and he says: "It is only a natural law that your father should die. The machinery is merely worn out"; and before he leaves you, he makes some other excellent remarks about the coagulation of blood, and the difference between respiratory and nitrogenized food. Your child dies, and your philosophic neighbour comes, and for your soothing tells you that it was impossible the child should live with such a state of mucous membrane! Out with your chemistry and physiology when I have trouble, and give me a plain new Testament! I would rather have an illiterate man from the back-woods, who knows Christ, talk with me when I am in trouble than the profoundest Worldling who does not know Him. The Gospel, without telling you anything about mucous membrane, or gastric juice, or hydrochloric acid, comes and says: "All things together work for good to those who love God," and that if your child is gone, it is only because Jesus has folded it in His arms, and that the judgment-day will explain things that are now inexplicable. Oh! let us dig out this Gospel well of comfort.
3. Now, bring your shovels and pickaxes, and we will dig out another well — a well opened by our father Abraham, but which the Philistines have filled up. It is the well of Gospel invitation. Do you know why more men do not come to Christ? It is because men are not invited that they do not come. You get a general invitation from your friend. "Come around some time to my house and dine with me." You do not go. But he says: "Come around to-day at four o'clock and bring your family, and we'll dine together." And you say: "I don't know that I have any engagement: I will come." "I expect you at four o'clock." And you go. The world feels it is a general invitation to come around some time ,rid sit at the Gospel feast, and men do not come because they are not specially invited. It is because you do not take hold of them and say: "My brother, come to Christ; come now, come now!"
Parallel VersesKJV: And Isaac departed thence, and pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar, and dwelt there.