Aquarius, the Water-Bearer
Pisces Australis, the Southern Fish
Pegasus, the Winged Horse
Cygnus, the Swan
THE LIVING WATERS
If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.
One of the gladdest things in our world is water. In whatever shape it presents itself, it is full of interest and beauty. Whether trickling down in pearly mist from the fragrant distilleries of Nature, or rippling in merry windings through the grassy dell or shady grove; whether jetting from the rocky precipices of the mountain, or gathered into the rolling plains of ocean; whether sparkling in the ice-gem, or pouring in the cataract; whether coming in silver drops from the bow-spanned heavens, or forcing itself out in glassy purity from the dark veins of the earth; whether in the feathery crystals of the snow-flakes, or grandly moving in the volume of the ample river, – it is everywhere and always beautiful. Next to light, it is God’s brightest element; and light itself is as much at home in it as in its own native sky. Sometimes, in some connections, it is the symbol of evil, but even there it is the expression of life and energy. Nor is it much to be wondered that in the hot Orient men were moved to deify fountains and erect votive temples over them, as though they were gracious divinities. The preciousness of bright, fresh waters to parched and needy man is beyond all compare. Where such waters come they bring gladness and rejuvenation, luxuriousness and plenty. Where they pour forth, sinking strength recovers, dying life rekindles, perishing Nature revives, a thousand delights are awakened, and everything rejoices and sings with new-begotten life.
Such an object in Nature could not fail to be seized by the sacred writers to represent the life-giving purity and regenerating power of divine grace and salvation. Accordingly, we find it one of the common and most lively images under which the Scriptures set forth the cleansing, renewing, and saving virtues that come to man in God’s redemptive administrations. Thus the Spirit in Balaam’s unwilling lips described the goodliness of Israel’s tents “as the valleys spread forth, as gardens by the river’s side, as the trees of lign-aloes which the Lord hath planted, as cedar trees beside the waters.” Thus when the inspired Moses began his song of God’s grace to Israel’s tribes, he said, “My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass.”
The good man is “like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season, whose leaf also shall not wither.” The joy of Messiah’s day is the opening of “a fountain to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.” Ezekiel beholds the blessed influences of the sanctuary as issuing waters – waters to the ankles, waters to the knees, waters to the loins, waters to swim in – a river of waters. Jesus himself discoursed to the woman of Samaria of the saving benefits of His grace as “living water” – water which slakes all thirst for ever. The people of God are likened to fishes, whose life-element is water. And so in the text the Saviour compares His redeeming virtue and grace to water, and says, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.”
In those signs, then, which the primeval patriarchs hung upon the stars as everlasting witnesses of God’s gracious purposes to be achieved through the Seed of the woman, we would certainly expect to find some great prominence given to this same significant symbol. And as we would anticipate, so do we really find, especially in the sixth sign of the Zodiac, which we now come to consider.
THE SIGN OF AQUARIUS
Here is the figure of a person with a great urn upon his/her arm, from which he/she is pouring out from the heavens a stream of water which flows with all the volume of a swollen river.
Mythology calls him Ganymedes, the bright, glorified, and happy One – the Phrygian youth so beautiful on earth that the great King and Father of gods carried him away to heaven on eagle’s wings to live in glory with immortals. Some say that he came to an untimely death in this world; and the stories in general combine in representing him as the beloved and favourite of the divine Father, exalted to glory and made the chosen cup-bearer of the Deity.
Classic art portrays him as a most beautiful young man, sometimes carried by an eagle, sometimes ministering drink to an eagle from a bowl which he bears, and again as the particular companion of the eternal Father.
Amid all these earthly varnishes which paganism has daubed over the picture we still may see the sacred image shining through.
The true Ganymedes is the beautiful Lord Jesus, “the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely.” Cut off was He in His early manhood, but divinely lifted up again, borne away to heaven on unfailing wings, seated in brightness and glory beside the everlasting Father, loved and approved as God’s only-begotten Son, made the sovereign Lord and Dispenser of grace and salvation, and by His merit procuring and pouring out the very “river of water of life.” The urn He holds is the exhaustless reservoir of all the fullness of renewing, comforting, and sanctifying power. And the turning of that holy urn for its contents to flow down into the world below is the precise picture of the fulfilment of those old prophetic promises: “I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour out my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring;” “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions” (Isa. 44:3; Joel 2:28).
The name of the principal star in this sign – Sa’ad al Melik – means Record of the outpouring. The Coptic, Greek, and Latin names of the sign itself signify The Pourer-forth of water, The exalted Waterman, as though specially to designate Him who says, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.”
PROMISE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
When Christ was about to leave the world He said to His followers, “It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you….He will guide you into all truth….He will show you things to come….He shall glorify me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you” (John 16). That promise included all the divine life-power issuing from the mediation of Christ for the illumination, regeneration, and salvation of men – all the renewing, cleansing, comforting, and energizing grace for the bringing of believers to eternal life and glory. The Holy Ghost was in the world from the beginning, but here was the promise of a new and enlarged grant and endowment, to lift, nourish, and distinguish Christian believers. The same was gloriously fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, when “suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and filled all the house where they were sitting; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” And when the Jews mocked and derided, the sacred explanation was that Jesus, being raised up again from the dead and exalted to the right hand of God, and having so received of the Father, was now the Giver and Shedder-forth of this marvellous power.
He is thus presented to our contemplation as the glorified Pourer-forth from heaven of the blessed waters of life and salvation; in other words, the true Aquarius, of whom the picture in the sign was the prophecy and foreshowing.
Wherever the Scriptures represent the Spirit and grace of God under the imagery of waters, the idea of unfailing supply and plenteous abundance is also invariably connected with it. Sometimes it is a plentiful rain; sometime it is a voluminous fountain; sometimes it is a great river flowing with fullness that supplies a thousand life-freighted rivulets. Inspiration tells us that the rock smitten by Moses was the type of the smiting of Christ and the blessings proceeding from Him; but in that case the waters “gushed; they ran in dry places like a river.” Isaiah sings: “The glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams.” Ezekiel’s river was deep and broad, healing even the Dead Sea with the abundance of its flow.
Zechariah says these heavenly waters flow out to both seas, and continue without cessation summer and winter alike. God’s promise is, “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;” which, as John Brentius says, “denotes the great plenteousness of the Word and eternal blessedness flowing from Christ the Fountain.”
And the same is characteristic of the picture in this sign. From the urn of Aquarius flows a vast, constant, and voluminous river. It flows in a bending stream both to eastward and westward, and enlarges as it flows. The imagery of the Scriptures and the imagery of this sign are exactly of a piece, and the true reason of the coincidence is, that both were meant to record and set forth the same glorious evangelic truths.
THE SOUTHERN FISH
That this sign was really framed to be a picture of the risen and glorified Redeemer pouring out from heaven the saving influences and gifts of the Holy Ghost, is further evidenced by the first Decan of Aquarius. Those who truly profit by the gifts and powers procured and poured out by our glorious Intercessor are the people who believe in Christ, the regenerate, the saved Church. These, as we saw in our last, are the mystic fishes.
And here, as the first Decan of Aquarius, we have the picture of a fish – Piscis Australis – drinking in the stream which pours from the urn of the beautiful One in heaven. It is the picture of the believing acceptance of the invitation of the text. Jesus stood and cried, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink;” and here is a coming from below – a glad coming to the stream which issues from on high, a drinking in of the heavenly waters, and a vigorous life sustained and expanded by means of that drinking.
The mythic legends do not help us much with regard to the interpretation of this constellation, but they still furnish a few significant hints. Some say this fish represents Astarte, called Aphrodite by the Greeks and Venus by the Romans, and that she here appears in the form into which she metamorphosed herself to escape the advances and power of the horrible Typhon. Astarte was the moon-goddess, the great mother, the embodiment of the dependant but ever-productive feminine principle. In the symbology of the Scriptures the moon sometimes denotes the mother of the family, as in Joseph’s dream (Gen. 37), and both the woman and the moon are representatives of the Church. As the woman was made out of the side of Adam while he slept, so the Church was made out of Christ by means of that deep sleep of death which came upon Him, and to which He submitted for the purpose. The whole mystery of marriage is the symbol of the union between Christ and His Church (Eph. 5: 23 – 32).
Everywhere the congregation of believers is pictured as the spouse of Christ, the spiritual woman, the mother of us all. And if this fish represents the Astarte of the pagan religion, we have only to strip off the heathen impurities, and understand the reference in the sense and application of the Scripture symbols, in order to find here a picture of the regenerate people of God, the Church, the bride of Christ, the mother of saints.
So understood, the metamorphosis into a fish is also applicable and significant, as in no other interpretation. All true members of the church are transformed persons, made over again by the power of a new spiritual creation, and living a new life superadded to Nature. It is by this spiritual metamorphosis that we make our escape from the power and dominion of the Devil. And it is by means of this transformation that we have our status and relations in the heavenly economy and kingdom. The light comes feebly through the dark and murky atmosphere of the pagan world; but wherever we get sight of a distinct ray, it easily resolves back into the figures of the primeval constellations, and thence into the sacred story of redemption through the promised Seed of the woman.
And in perfect consistence with, and as further illustration of, what I have given as the meaning of this sign, is the second Decan.
Here is the figure of a great horse pushing forward with full speed, with great wings springing from his shoulders. The elements of his name, as in Isaiah 64:5 (4), signify the swift divine messenger bringing joy to those whom he meets, otherwise the horse of the opening; or as the Greeks put it, without obliteration of the old Noetic nomenclature, the horse of the gushing fountain – a celestial horse, ever associated with glad song, the favourite of the Muses, under whose hoofs the Pierian springs started upon Mount Helicon, and on whose back rode Bellerophon as he went forth to slay the monster Chimæra.
The fables say that this wonderful horse sprang into being from the slaying of Medusa by Perseus; that he was called Pegasus, Horse of the Fountain, because he first appeared near the springs of the ocean; that he lived in the palace of the King and Father of gods, and thundered and lightened for Jupiter; and that Bellerophon obtained possession of him through sacrifice to the goddess of justice, followed by a deep sleep, during which he was divinely given the golden bridle which the wild horse obeyed, and thus he was borne forth to victory, though not without receiving a painful sting in his foot.
In the first chapter of Zechariah the appearance of such horses are the symbols of those whom “God hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth,” not simply to see and report the condition of affairs, but to shake and disturb nations, so as to restore liberty, peace, and blessing to God’s people. Pegasus is not precisely one of those horses, or all of them combined in one, but still a somewhat corresponding ambassador of God. Pegasus is winged; he moves with heavenly speed. The first part of his or his rider’s name, Pega, Peka, or Pacha, in the Noetic dialects means the chief; and the latter part, sus, means, not only a horse, but swiftly coming or returning, with the idea of joy-bringing; hence the chief, coming forth again in great victory, and with good tidings and blessing to those to whom he comes. The ancient names of the stars which make up this constellation are – Markab, the returning; Scheat, he who goeth and returneth; Enif, the Branch; Al Genib, who carries; Homan, the waters; Matar, who causeth the plenteous overflow. The names show to what the picture applies.
Gathering up these remarkable items, and combining them, as they all readily combine, in one consistent narrative, we have in astonishing fullness one of the sublimest evangelic presentations; nay, the very going forth of Christ in His living Gospel, as from the scenes of that supper-hall which witnessed the coming of the Paraclete the joyous waters of cleansing and redemption, through His successful mediation, poured their glad flood into our weary world. Then the word was, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel [Good Tidings] to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Thenceforward, Parthians and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judæa, and Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, in Egypt, in Lybia, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, and people to the farthest ends of the earth, were made to hear, in their tongues, the wonderful works and achievements of God for the renewal and saving of men. Thenceforward the Glad Tidings went, winged with the Spirit of God, waking poetic springs of joy upon the mountains and in the valleys, slaying the powers of darkness and superstition, overwhelming the dominion of the Devil, and bringing song and salvation to every thirsty and perishing soul which hears and obeys the call of the Lord of life to come unto Him and drink. The true Pegasus is the herald and bringer of Christ’s mediatorial success and salvation to a famishing world, which the saintly patriarchs looked for from the beginning, and which they thus figured in the constellations in advance as an imperishable witness of what was to come through and by that Coming One in whom all their hopes were centred.
The final side-piece which accompanies the Zodiacal Aquarius accords precisely with this presentation. It is one of the most interesting and beautiful of the constellations, both in its natural peculiarities and in its evangelic references. It consists of eighty-one stars – one of the first or second magnitude, six of the third, and twelve of the fourth. It embraces at least five double stars and one quadruple. The binary star (61 Cygni) is the most remarkable known in the heavens. It is one of the nearest to our system of the fixed stars. It consists of two connected stars, which, besides their revolution about each other, have a common progressive and uniform motion toward some determinate region, and moving thousands of times faster than the swiftest body known to our system. This constellation has a number of distinct systems in itself, and shows planetary nebulæ which have led astronomers to regard it as the intermediate link between the planetary worlds and the nebulous stars.
It has in it specimens of both, and lies in the midst of the great Galactic Stream of nebulous stars. It is therefore remarkably suited to represent that peculiar and complex economy – partly celestial and partly terrestrial, partly acting by itself and partly dependent on the heavenly powers – by which grace and salvation are carried and ministered to the children of men.
The figure in this constellation is the figure of a swan, the lordly bird-king of the waters, in all ages and in all refined countries considered the emblem of poetic dignity, purity, and grace. By the Greeks and Romans it was held sacred to the god of beauty and the Muses, and special sweetness was connected with its death. Æschylus sung,
Expiring, dies in melody.”
As the white dove is the emblem of the Holy Ghost, so the elegant, pure, and graceful swan is a fitting emblem of Him who, dying, sends forth the glad river of living waters, and presides in His majesty over the administration of them to the thirsty children of men. And this is here the underlying idea.
But this swan is on the wing, in the act of rapid flight, “circling and returning,” as its name in Greek and Latin signifies. It seems to be flying down the Milky Way, in the same general direction with the river which pours from the heavenly urn. The principal stars which mark its wings and length of body form a large and beautiful cross, the most regular of all the crosses formed by the constellations. It is thus the bird of matchless beauty, purity, dignity, and grace, bearing aloft the cross, and circling with it over the blessed waters of life; whilst in the naming of its stars, the brightest is Deneb, the Lord or Judge to come; Azel, who goes and returns; Fafage, glorious, shining forth; Sadr, who returns as in a circle; Adige, flying swiftly; Arided, He shall come down; and other words of like import, we find strong identifications of this lordly bird-king of the waters with Him who, through the preaching of His cross hither and thither over all this nether world, cries and says, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.”
Greek and Roman mythology is greatly at a loss to account for the presence of this bird in the sky; but the stories on the subject are not destitute of thought and suggestion corresponding with the evangelic truth. The Greeks enumerated a collection of characters of different parentages and histories, each reputed to have been the original of this swan in the heavens. One was the son of Apollo, a handsome hunter, who in some strange fit leaped into Lake Canope, and was metamorphosed into this swan. Another was the son of Poseidon, an ally of the Trojans, who could not be hurt by arms of iron, but was strangled by Achilles – whose body, when the victor meant to rifle it, suddenly took its departure to heaven in the form of a swan. A third was the son of Ares, killed by Herakles in a duel, who at his death was changed by his father into a swan. A fourth was the son of Sthenelus and a dear friend and relative of Phaeton, who so lamented the fate of him whom Jupiter destroyed for his bad driving of the chariot of the sun that Apollo metamorphosed him into a swan and placed him among the stars.
Some dim embodiments of the true prophetic delineations of this swan, and of that history of the Redeemer through which He came to the position and relations in which this picture received fulfilment, appear in the several myths. Christ was of divine birth and nature. He was in himself invincible. He did submit to death in heroic conflict with the powers of darkness and the just penalties due the sins of the world. It was His great love for those to whom He became a Brother that brought Him down to the dark river. His body did take life again after death, and disappear into a new form of brightness and glory to assume position in the heavens. In these several particulars the myths touching this constellation are in remarkable accord with the Gospel history, and help to reflect how minute and clear and vivid were the believing anticipations of the makers of these signs already in the very first ages of our race.
A BEAUTIFUL PICTURE
Thus, then, in the Zodiacal Aquarius we have the picture in the stars of the heavenly waters of life and salvation; of their source in the beautiful Seed of the woman, slain indeed, but risen again and lifted up in everlasting glory; of the voluminous plenteousness in which they flow down into all our dry and thirsty world; of the new creation and joyous life they bring to those who drink them; of the swift heralding and bearing of the glad provision to all people; and of the graceful holding forth of the cross to the nations over which, on outspread wings, the Lord of these waters circles, in His meek loveliness ever calling, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.”
Beautiful picture of most precious Gospel truths! – a picture which I can interpret no otherwise than as intended by men fully informed beforehand of these glorious facts.
And if, perchance, these constellations were not meant in token, testimony, and prophecy of what was foreknown, believed, and expected by the primeval patriarchs who arranged them, the picture is still true to what has since come to pass, and which we accept and rejoice in as the great mercy of God to a fallen world. Christ Jesus is the beautiful Saviour of mankind, Son of God, and Son of man. He did come in the flesh and live a human life in which humanity came to its loveliest and highest bloom. He did suffer and die a violent death from offended justice on account of sin which He assumed, but in no degree chargeable to Him. He did rise again from death by the power of the eternal Spirit, changed, transfigured, and glorified, and soar away beyond all reach of enemies, even to the calm heavens, where no revolutions of time can any more obscure His brightness or eclipse the outshining of His glory. He is there as the Lord of life and grace, obtaining by His meritorious intercession an exhaustless fulness of spiritual treasures, like very rivers of renewing and sanctifying mercies, which He has poured, and is ever pouring, down into our world for the comfort, cheer, and salvation of those who believe in Him. He has arranged, and himself conducts and energizes, a great system of means for carrying and proclaiming the same all over the world amid songs of halleluia and rejoicing which can never die. Deep in it all He has embedded the great doctrine of His Cross and Passion as the central thought and brightest substance of the sublime and wonderful economy. And in and amid it all faith beholds Him in His lordly beauty stationed by the true Pierian spring, ever crying and ever calling, “IF ANY MAN THIRST, LET HIM COME UNTO ME, AND DRINK.”
“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price;” “And the Spirit and the Bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Blessed tidings! Blessed provision! Blessed opportunity! O man! Awake to the glory and drink; drink deep, drink earnestly, drink with all the capacity of thy soul; for thy Lord and Redeemer saith, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
“The Fountain flows! It pours in fullest measure
Of grace and power – a great and plenteous flood!
Drink – drink, O man! Drink in the crystal treasure,
Nor thirst, nor die, but live the life of God.”