I. THE GOSPEL A WELL OF BETHLEHEM. David had known hundreds of wells of water, but he wanted to drink from that particular one; and he thought nothing could slake his thirst like that; and, unless your soul and mine can get access to the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanliness, we must die. That fountain is the well of Bethlehem. It was dug in the night. It was dug by the light of a lantern — the star that hung down over the manger. It was dug not at the gate of Caesar’s palaces — not in the park of a Jerusalem bargain-maker. It was dug in a barn. The camels lifted their weary heads to listen as the work went on; the shepherds, unable to sleep because the heavens were filled with bands of music, came down to see the opening of the well. The angels of God, at the first gush of the living water, dipped their chalices of joy into it, and drank to the health of earth and heaven, as they cried: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace.” Sometimes, in our modern times, the water is brought through the pipes of the city to the very nostrils of the horses or cattle; but this well in the Bethlehem barn was not so much for the beasts that perish as for our race — thirst-smited, desert-travelled, simoom-struck. Oh! my soul, weary with sill, stoop down and’ drink to-day out of that Bethlehem well.
II. THIS GOSPEL IS A CAPTURED WELL. David remembered the time when that good water of Bethlehem was in the possession of his ancestors; his father drank there, his mother drank there. He remembered how that water tasted when he was a boy, and came up from play. We never forget the old well we used to drink from when we were boys or girls. There was something in it which blessed the lips and refreshed the brows better than anything we have found since. As we think of that old well, the memories of the past flow into each other like crystalline drops, sun-glinted; and, all the more, we remember that the hand that used to lay hold of the rope, and the hearts that beat against the well-curb, are still now. We never get over these reminiscences. George P. Morris, the great song writer of this country, once said to me that his song, “Woodman, spare that tree,” was sung in a great concert hall, and the memories of early life were so wrought upon the audience by that song, “Woodman, spare that tree,” that, after the song was done, an aged mall arose in the audience, overwhelmed with emotion, and said, “Sir, will you please tell me whether the woodman really spared the tree?” We never forget the tree under which we played. We never forget the fountain at which we drank. Alas! for the man who has no early memories. David thought of that well, and he wanted a drink of it; but he remembered that the Philistines had captured it. And this is true of this Gospel well. The Philistines have at times captured it. When we come to take a full, old-fashioned drink of pardon and comfort, don’t their swords of indignation and sarcasm flash? Why, the sceptics tell us we cannot come to that fountain. They say the water is not fit to drink anyhow. Depend upon it that well will come into our possession again, though it has been. captured. If there be not three anointed men in the Lord’s host with enough consecration to do the work, then the swords will leap from Jehovah’s bucklers, and the eternal three will descend — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost — conquering for our dying race the way back again to “the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate.”
III. THE GOSPEL WELL IS A WELL AT THE GATE. Do you know that that well was at the gate, so that nobody could go into Bethlehem without going right past it? And So it is with this Gospel well — it is at the gate.
1. It is at the gate of purification. We cannot wash away our sins unless with that water.
2. This well of the Gospel is at the gate of comfort. There is life in the well at the gate. “All things work together for good to those who love God.”
3. This Gospel well is at the gate of heaven. After you have been on a long journey, and you come in all bedusted and tired to your house, the first thing you want is refreshing ablution; and I am glad to know that after we get through the pilgrimage of this world — the hard dusty pilgrimage — we will find a well at the gate. In that one wash away will go our sins and sorrows.
(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)