The following quote is from a commentary compiled mainly from quotes selected from various previous commentators. It is the section on the vision of the river of the temple waters, Ezekiel 47:1-12. From: George Barlow, David Gilkison Watt, Thomas Henry Leale. A homiletic commentary on the Book of the prophet Ezekiel
. Richard D. Dickinson, London. 1890. pp. 484-487.
[begin quote]Vers. 1-12.
"The effect of the establishment of the mountain of the house of the Lord on the top of mountains, or of Christianity generally, is a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit signified by these waters. As they were not to be seen before the issue of the man with the measuring-line, they are to accompany the preaching of the Word by the ministers of Christ, and the operations of the Spirit shall become the more admirable and profound as they proceed in their spread over all the world, as is signified by their increasing depth. By them shall the evil influences of the world be healed and everlasting life conveyed to all that will receive them. Still, some shall harden even then under its influence, and become more rank and nauseous in sin than before, as is signified by the unhealed bays."—M'Farlan
— "Issuing as this stream does from the threshold of the Temple, from the very foot of the throne of God, it must be, like all the special manifestations of God to His Church, itself of a spiritual nature, and only in its effects productive of outward material good. It is the efflux of that infinite fulness of life and blessing which is treasured up in His spiritual Temple, and continually pours itself forth as the operations of His grace proceed among men. It is emphatically a river of life. Wherever it is experienced, the barren soil of nature fructifies, the dead live again, the soul is replenished with joy and gladness. Instead of spending itself, like the streams of nature, as it advances through the moral deserts of the world, it multiplies and grows, until corruption is changed into incorruption, mortality is swallowed up of life, and the earth, which God had cursed for man's sin, is transformed into the inheritance of the saints in light."—Fairbairn.Vers. 1-5.
"Ezekiel's Temple, with its ritual, ministers, and congregation, symbolises the presence of Jehovah in the midst of a loyal people. The waters are the blessings which flow from this source to animate and refresh all the inhabitants of the earth. The deepening of the waters in their course shows the continual deepening of spiritual life and multiplication of spiritual blessings in the growth of the Kingdom of God." —Speaker's Commentary.
— "In the Kingdom of God things proceed from little to great: in the kingdoms of the world often from great to little. Satan begins his things with lofty impetuosity, but finally they end in nothing and everything comes to disgrace."—Hafenreffer.Ver. 1, 2.
The Progress of Truth. "1. As it is Christ who makes known the things of the Temple, so He makes known some at one time, some at another. 2. The waters of the Gospel, the gifts and graces of the Spirit, flow from Zion. 3. These spiritual waters, although they flow from Zion, Christ is the fountain and original of them. 4. Sanctuary waters are not common but choice mercies; they are right-side mercies, south-side blessings."—Greenhill.
Ver. 1. The Gradualness of Divine Revelation
—1. Accommodated to our imperfect faculties. 2. Suited to our varying circumstances. 3. Educative in its process. 4. Enables us more clearly to grasp the meaning and grandeur of the truths unfolded.
Vers. 3-9. "The Atheistic Idea
. It is affirmed that Christianity is waning because of the advancement of science. The business of the scientist is with matter. There is something back of matter — a force beneath life. No painter, there is no picture: no God, there is no nature. What doctrine has science demolished? 1. Has science done away with the Incarnation? The scientist knows that the sum of the history of nature is made up by the entrances at epochs of higher types of being. Are not all these appearances prophecies of the grand entrance of the Higher Being? 2. Has science done away with the Atonement? The law everywhere manifest is the dependence of one creature on another. 3. Has science done away with sin? Sin is as much a fact, a phenomenon of human life, as the circulation of the blood. 4. Where is Christianity waning? In Germany? Compare this century with the last. A short time ago thousands of students flocked to the great universities to hear the doctrines of Fichte, Hegel, Kant, and the Rationalists of Tubingen. Now scarcely a class of twenty can be collected for that purpose. In France? Compare this century with the times when a deluge of blood followed the blasphemies of Rousseau, D'Alembert, Diderot, and Voltaire. In England? Compare the Britain of to-day with the Britain of yesterday, when Chubb, Hume, and Bolingbroke could sneer at the story of the Cross—when the clergy were immoral. In America? Compare it with the time when the students in our colleges called themselves by the names of leading French atheists. Where will you find such a college to-day? 5. What is the motive power of science? Compare the ages of faith and the ages of scepticism and see the results. How high has science lifted the shadows that rest on the human heart? It is only this blessed religion, this radiance from the throne of God, that can lighten the gloom."—Homiletic Monthly.
Vers. 3-5. The Temple-River emblematic of Religion in the different stages of Human Life.
. "The waters were to the ankles" (ver. 3). Religion may be shallow and yet genuine. 2. Youth.
"The waters were to the knees" (ver. 4). Still exposed to much of the world and its attractions, yet standing in the truth. 3. Manhood.
"The waters were to the loins" (ver. 4). In the midway of life's struggle, but deepening in piety. 4. Old age.
"Waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over" (ver. 5). A more prolonged and profound study of the truth revealing its unfathomable vastness and prompting the strongest veteran-swimmer to exclaim, "Oh, the depth of the riches!" (Rom. xi. 33).
— "Holy Scripture and its revelations also resemble these sacred waters, in that whosoever searches into them will find some parts intelligible to all who sincerely desire to know them. Other parts require a deeper investigation; others a deeper still; and others are beyond our depth, and in respect to these, we can only adore the infinitude of God's unsearchable wisdom, and humbly wait for His own time of revealing their now hidden meaning. The growth of grace in the individual soul, similarly, is a progressive work, beginning with but a small stream from the fountain-head, but sure to go on increasing until it is expanded into the boundless and unfathomable river of heavenly pleasures (Ps. xxxvi. 8)."—Fausset
— "This vision may be applied—1. To the gradual discoveries of the plan of salvation.
(1.) In the patriarchal ages. (2.) In the giving of the Law. (3.) In the ministry of John the Baptist. (4.) In the full manifestation of Christ by the Holy Ghost. 2. To the growth of a believer in the grace and knowledge of God.
(1.) The seed of the Kingdom. (2.) The blade from that seed. (3.) The ear out of that blade. (4.) The full corn in that ear. 3. To the discoveries a penitent believer receives of the mercy of God in his salvation.
(1.) A little child, born of God, he begins to taste and feed on the heavenly food. (2.) He grows up and increases in stature and strength, and becomes a young man. (3.) He becomes matured in the Divine lite, and has his spiritual senses exercised so as to become a father in Christ. 4. To the progress of Christianity.
(1.) A few poor fishermen. (2.) Afterwards many Jews. (3.) Then the Gentiles of Asia Minor and Greece. (4.) The continent and isles of Europe. (5.) Now spreading through Africa, Asia, and America, at present these waters are no longer a river, but an immense sea; and the Gospel-fishers are daily bringing multitudes of souls to God."—A. Clarke.
— The Spread of the Gospel.
"1. Christ is the architect and measurer of all things belonging to His Church. 2. The motion of Sanctuary waters is not accidental, but according to Divine appointment. 3. The doctrine of the Gospel is never rightly understood unless taught by Christ. 4. The doctrine of the Gospel, the conversion of sinners, and the graces of the Spirit proceed gradually. 5. The Gospel has depths and mysteries no human understanding can comprehend. 6. Sanctuary waters afford comfort to the saints in their deepest distresses."—Greenhill.Ver. 5.
"There was no such natural course of waters in the place, nor is it imaginable that in three miles or thereabouts the waters should so rise; but it is emblematical, hath a deep mysterious meaning, and includes spiritual things and their wonderful growth from small beginnings, and these from the Temple."—Pool.
— "This marks the rich and overflowing grace which God designs to shed down on the earth in the Gospel age and in the glory of the latter us"; and it apprises believers that they should not remain in a loitering state, trampling the shallow waters of grace, but go on to a deeper baptism of the Spirit till they can swim in the abounding streams."—Sutcliffe.
— "Representing the fathomless depth of the Scriptures, which is such that we may well do by it as the Romans did by a lake, the depth whereof they could not sound, and dedicated it to Victory: also the abundance of spiritual graces in the Church, the love of Christ which passeth all knowledge, and the over-abounding goodness of God. Speaking of the subject, Chrysostom said: 'I am like a man digging in a deep spring; I stand here, and the water rises upon me; I stand there, and still the water rise upon me. It is indeed a sea that has neither bank nor bottom.'"—Trapp
Ver. 6. "Hast thou seen this?" A Suggestive Question
—1. As asked to the well-informed. He knows more than I do, or why the question? 2. As addressed to the anxious inquirer. This may meet my case. 3. As addressed to the thoughtless and indifferent. There is a world of knowledge hitherto closed to him. 4. Indicates there is much we miss for want of a keener insight into truth.
Vers. 7-10. Fishers in Gospel Waters.
"1. The waters of the Gospel have their own course. 2. That people without the Gospel are like the Dead Sea (ver. 8). 3. The waters of the Sanctuary have curing and quickening virtue (vers. 8, 9). 4. The preacher of the Gospel are fishers (ver. 10). 5. These Gospel-fishers catch fish of all sorts (ver. 10)."—Greenhill.
Vers. 8, 11. The Power of the Gospel
—1 Seen in its penetrating the most unlikely places. "The desert—the Dead Sea" (ver. 8). 2. Efficacious in giving life and healing to all who accept it. "The waters shall be healed" (ver. 8). 3. Inefficacious where it is resisted and rejected. "The miry places and marshes shall be given to salt" (ver. 11).Ver. 8.
"God's Sanctuary a wellspring of life for the Dead Sea of the world (Ps. lxxxvii. 7). God's thoughts of peace over the abysses of the world's wretchedness. In other cases a clear and wholesome stream which flows into a muddy and putrid lake becomes corrupt: it is otherwise with the Gospel, which brings recovery and health to the earthly-minded heart. It is a power of God, but man will not let the power work."—Lange.Ver. 11.
"Those whom the Gospel waters of life do not reach, through their own indolence and carnality, shall be given over to everlasting barrenness; nor can any more awful punishment be imagined than that the sinner should be given up to the unrestricted and everlasting workings of his own sin, bitterness, and filthiness."—Fausset.
— The Hebrew language often expresses irremediable barrenness and unprofitableness by being given up to salt, salt being equivalent to barrenness in that language. When Abimelech destroyed Shechem he sowed the ground whereon it stood with salt, to denote that it should never be cultivated or inhabited again (Judges ix. 45).
— "Unsound, rotten parts, neither sea nor yet sound ground, an emblem of hypocrites. Low land, sopped with the overflowings of unhealthful waters, neither fit to breed fish as the sea, nor bear trees as the land."—Pool.
Vers. 9-12. Spiritual Influence
—1. Vitalises all it touches (ver. 9). 2. The active principle of fertility and plenty (vers. 9, 10, 12). 3. Cannot be resisted without disaster (ver. 11). 4. Is ever flowing from the Divine Temple. "Because they issued out of the sanctuary" (ver. 12). 5. Is both the food and medicine of the soul. "The fruit shall be for meat, and the leaf for medicine" (ver. 12).Ver. 10.
"The ministers of the Church are compared to fishers because of the contempt with which they are regarded by the rich and powerful of this world; because of their labour by day and night, in heat and cold; because of the fruitlessness of their labour at times—'We have caught nothing;' because of the dangers they incur in stormy weather; because of their confidence, which, as in the case of the husbandman, must rest on God; because of the various kinds of implements they use. They rescue souls from the abyss."—Starck.
Vers. 11, 12. Moral Barrenness and Fruitfulness
. "1. Those places and persons to which the waters of the Sanctuary come, or coming do not heal, are designed to barrenness and destruction (ver. 11). 2. True Christians are fruitful (ver. 12). 3. The cause of fruitfulness is the doctrine and grace of the Gospel (ver. 12). 4. The holy examples of true saints are medicinal (ver. 12)."—Greenhill
Ver. 12. Never-ending Spring
. "The text a promise and picture of a neverfading spring. Goodness and spiritual beauty are eternal. 1. The everlasting youthfulness of a Christly soul. 2. The everlasting fruitfulness of a Christly soul. 3. The explanation of the glorious phenomenon is in this— 'Because their waters issued out of the sanctuary.' A sacred place, a pure sanctuary, a holy fountain where the soul may cleanse itself from the dust and stains of the world. Fruit for meat and leaves for medicine. A healthy inner life ensures a fruitful outer life. A Christly soul is always young and beautiful."—Homilelic Monthly
— "The blessed growth close by the river of life. Evergreen leaves, yet not leaves merely, but also fruit! Thus it is with life from God's Sanctuary."—Lange.