“There is a River, the Streams Whereof Make Glad the City of God.”

Taken and adapted from, “Grace Alone”
Written by, John Kershaw of Rochdale, 1792-1870.


This blessed river is the love of the triune God…

…the everlasting electing love of Jehovah. We read of it in the sacred scriptures as “a pure river of water of life… proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” It runs all through time and will flow on in an unfathomable ocean throughout a never-ending eternity. Wherever there is an elect vessel of mercy, covenant love will be sure to find him out; it will discover him by regenerating grace in the appointed time, and arrest him in his conscience. One of our hymns expresses it –“Almighty love arrest that man!”

The Lord loved Saul of Tarsus; and as the effect of that love, He arrested him in his conscience. So, in a similar way, He will arrest every one whom He has loved from eternity, and bring him to His blessed feet; He will begin in him the good work of grace, carry it on, and land him at last safe in immortal glory. Thus God’s covenant love, His everlasting electing love, is a river springing up into eternal life. It began in Jehovah’s eternal counsel and purpose; it runs on through time, and flows into eternity, making glad all the objects of His love and choice. This is the river, God’s electing love, “the streams whereof make glad the city of God.”

I.    The Prophet Ezekiel, speaking on the subject of this river in its manifestations to the children of men, describes it in its first flowings forth as only “up to the ankles.” Now, might not this represent the patriarchal dispensation? for in that dark period, very little of the glory of God, or the covenant love of Jehovah, were discoverable.

II.    Then, in the next place, he speaks of it as being “up to the knees.” Might not this represent the Mosaic dispensation, in which there was a multitude of rites and ceremonies, and all pointing to the Lord Jesus Christ?

III.    And when he goes on to speak of the river as still rising higher, and coming to “the loins” – might not that represent the prophetic age, in which holy men spoke more explicitly of the breakings forth of God’s covenant love and mercy?

IV.    At length we find the river so increased, that it is represented as “waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over.” O, God’s covenant love bursting forth in the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ, is a river so broad that there is no swimming over it! “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” And the manifestation of this blessed love by the Holy Spirit to the souls of His people – this also is a river that never, never can be crossed: yea, God’s covenant love is a boundless, bottomless sea to the inhabitants of this city.

Paul says, in writing to the Ephesians,

“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named; that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ.”

Yet, the Apostle Paul knew that neither the breadth, length, depth, nor height of the love of God could be described, for he says, it “passeth knowledge.

The Lord Jesus Christ is particularly spoken of as a river.

We cannot well separate God’s covenant love from our Lord Jesus Christ, nor our Lord Jesus Christ from God’s covenant love; for His Glorious Person is the blessed channel through which the love of Jehovah’s heart, and the love of His own heart, flow towards guilty sinners. The prophet Isaiah is directed to speak of it in this beautifully figurative language: “And a man shall be as a hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” Our Lord Jesus Christ is this “river of water in a dry place.”

Is not the church of God in herself a dry and barren land, without this blessed river? I hope and trust I am one of the citizens; but what hardness, dryness, and barrenness do I often feel in my soul! How I need this blessed river, the Lord Jesus Christ, to flow into my soul, to water it and make it fruitful in every good word and work! The same prophet, speaking of Christ, says, “But there the glorious LORD will be unto us as a place of broad rivers and streams;” so that our Lord Jesus Christ is a place of broad rivers and streams to His citizens. We have this illustration both in the type and in the antitype itself. The children of Israel travelling through the wilderness, were typical of the Lord’s family travelling through this world. They were in a desert land, and wanted water to drink; Moses smote the rock at Horeb, and there flowed from the smitten rock a river, a fountain, a stream of water; and wherever God’s Israel went in all their turnings and windings, this river flowed after them, to supply their wants and necessities.

The apostle Paul, writing to the church at Corinth, mentions this very circumstance. He says, “They all drank of that spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ.” The water flowing from that rock is typical of the stream that flows from the Redeemer, and supplies the wants and necessities of His people in this time state. And do we not need the Lord’s love, and His precious atoning blood, to follow us like a river that so we may drink of the brook by the way, and obtain joy and peace to our precious souls? What a mercy it is to be enabled to bathe in this fountain of the love and blood of a dear Redeemer! The citizens stand in need of this river. “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue fails them for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.”

The Lord Jesus Christ, then, is a glorious river to the spiritual inhabitants of this city.