The Simplicity and Sublimity of Salvation
March 6th, 1890 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
“He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God..John 1:11-13
Everything here is simple; everything is sublime. Here is that simple gospel, by which the most ignorant may be saved. Here are profundities, in which the best-instructed may find themselves beyond their depth. Here are those everlasting hills of divine truth which man cannot climb; yet here is that plain path in which the wayfaring man, though a fool, need nor err, nor lose his way. I always feel that I have no time to spare for critical and captious persons. If they will not believe, neither shall they be established. They must take the consequences of their unbelief. But I can spare all day and all night for an anxious enquirer, for one who is blinded by the very blaze of the heavenly light that shines upon him, and who seems to lose his way by reason of the very plainness of the road that lies before him. In this most simple text are some of the deep things of God, and there are souls here that are puzzled by what are simplicities to some of us; and my one aim shall be, so to handle this text as to help and encourage and cheer some who would fain touch the hem of the Master’s garment, but cannot for the press of many difficulties and grave questions which rise before their minds.
Let us go to the text at once, and notice, first, a matter which is very simple: “As many as received him . . . even to them that believe on his name”; secondly, a matter which is very delightful: “to them gave he power to become the sons of God”; and thirdly, a matter which is very mysterious: “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
I. Here is, first, A MATTER WHICH IS VERY SIMPLE; receiving Christ, and believing on his name. Oh, that many here may be able to say, “Yes, I understand that simple matter. That is the way in which I found eternal life”!
The simple matter of which John here speaks is receiving Christ, or, in other words, believing on his name.
Receiving Christ is a distinctive act. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” The very people you would have thought would have eagerly welcomed Christ did not do so; but here and there a man stood apart from the rest, or a woman came out from her surroundings, and each of these said, “I receive Christ as the Messiah.” You will never go to heaven in a crowd. The crowd goes down the broad road to destruction; but the way which leadeth to life eternal is a narrow way; “and few there be that find it.” They that go to heaven must come out one by one, and say to him that sits at the wicket-gate, “Set my name down, sir, as a pilgrim to the celestial city.” They who would enter into life must fight as well as run, for it is an uphill fight all the way, and few there be that fight it out to the end, and win the crown of the victors. Those who received Christ were different from those who did not receive him; they were as different as white is from black, or light from darkness. They took a distinctive step, separated themselves from others, and came out and received him whom others would not receive. Have you taken such a step, dear friend? Can you say, “Yes, let others do as they will, as for me, Christ is all my salvation, and all my desire; and at all hazards I am quite content to be counted singular, and to stand alone; I have lifted my hand to heaven, and I cannot draw back. Whatever others may do, I say, ‘Christ for me'”?
As it was a distinctive act, so it was a personal one: “To as many as received him.” They had to receive Christ each one by his own act and deed. “Even to them that believe on his name.” Believing is the distinct act of a person. I cannot believe for you any more than you can believe for me; that is clearly impossible. There can be no such thing as sponsorship in receiving Christ, or in faith. If you are an unbeliever, your father and mother may be the most eminent saints, but their faith does not overlap and cover your unbelief. You must believe for yourself. I have had to even remind some that the Holy Ghost himself cannot believe for them. He works faith in you; but you have to believe. The faith must be your own distinct mental act. Faith is the gift of God; but God does not believe for us; how could he? It is for you distinctly to believe. Come, dear hearer, have you been trying to put up with a national faith? A national faith is a mere sham. Or have you tried to think that you possess the family faith? “Oh, we are all Christians, you know!” Yes, we are all hypocrites; that is what that comes to. Unless each one is a Christian for himself, he is a Christian only in name, and that is to be a hypocrite. Oh, that we might have the certainty that we have each one laid our sins on Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God! God grant that, if we have never done so before, we may do so this very moment!
Mark, next, that, as it was a distinctive and personal act, so it related to a Person. I find that the text runs thus, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the Sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” That religion which leaves out the person of Christ, has left out the essential point. Thou art not saved by believing a doctrine, though it is well for thee to believe it if it be true. Thou art not saved by practising an ordinance, though thou should practise it if thou art one of those to whom it belongs. Thou art not saved by any belief except this, believing on Christ’s name, and receiving him. “I take in a body of divinity,” says one. Do you? There is no body of divinity that I know of but Christ, the son of God in human flesh, living, bleeding, dying, risen, ascended, soon to come; thou must lean on him; for the promise is only to as many as receive him. This reception of Christ consisted in faith in him: “As many as received him . . . even to them that believe on his name.” He was a stranger, and they took him in. He was food, and they took him in, and fed on him. He was living water, and they received him, drank him up, took him into themselves. He was light, and they received the light. He was life, and they received the life, and they lived by what they received. As the empty cup receives from the flowing fountain, so do we receive Christ into our emptiness. We, being poor, and naked, and miserable, come to him, and we receive riches, and clothing, and happiness in him. Salvation comes by receiving Christ. I know what you have been trying to do; you have been trying to give Christ something. Let me caution you against a very common expression. I hear converts continually told to give their hearts to Jesus. It is quite correct, and I hope they will do so; but your first concern must be, not what you give to Jesus, but what Jesus gives to you. You must take him from himself as a gift to you, then will you truly give your heart to him. The first act, and, indeed, the underlying act all the way along, is to receive, to imbibe, to take in Christ, and that is called believing on his name. Note that “name.” It is not believing a fanciful christ; for there are many christs nowadays, as many christs as there are books, nearly; for every writer seems to make a christ of his own; but the christ that men make up will not save you. The only Christ who can save you is the Christ of God, that Christ who, in the synagogue at Nazareth, found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”
You are to believe on the Christ as he is revealed in the Scriptures. You are to take him as you find him here; not as Renan, not as Strauss, or anybody else, pictures of him; but as you find him here. As God reveals him, you are to believe on his name: “the Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace”; Emmanuel, God with us; Jesus, saving from sin; Christ anointed of the Father. You are to believe on his name, not on the Christ of Rome, nor the Christ of Canterbury, but the Christ of Jerusalem, the Christ of the eternal glory; no christ of a dreamy prophecy, with which some are defaming the true prophetic spirit of the Word, no christ of idealism, no man-made christ; but the eternal God, incarnate in human flesh, as he is here pictured by Psalmist, Prophet, Evangelist, Apostle, very God of very God, yet truly man, in your stead suffering, bearing the sin of men in his own body on the tree. It is believing in this Christ that will effectually save your soul. To believe is to trust. Prove that you believe in Christ by risking everything upon him.
“Upon a life I did not live,
Upon a death I did not die,
I risk my whole eternity.”
On his who lived for me, and died for me, and rose again for me, and has gone into heaven for me; on him I throw the whole weight of past, present, and future, and every interest that belongs to my soul, for time and for eternity.
This is a very simple matter, and I have noticed a great many sneers at this simple faith, and a great many depreciatory remarks concerning it; but, let me tell you, there is nothing like it under heaven. Possessing this faith will prove you to be a son of God; nothing short of it ever will. “To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become sons of God;” and he has given that power to nobody else. This will prove you to be absolved, forgiven. “There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus;” but if thou hast no faith in Christ Jesus, the wrath of God abide on thee. Because thou hast not believed on the Son of God, thou art condemned already. One grain of this faith is worth more than a diamond the size of the world; yea, though thou should thread such jewels together, as many as the stars of heaven for number, they would be worth nothing compared with the smallest atom of faith in Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God.
But whence comes this wonderful power of faith? Not from the faith, but from him on whom it leans. What power Christ has! The power of his manhood suffering, the power of his Godhead bowing on the cross, the power of the God-man, the Mediator, surrendering himself as the greatest sacrifice for sin; why, he who touch this, hath touched the springs of omnipotence! He who comes, by faith, into contact with Christ, has come into contact with boundless love, and power, and mercy, and grace. I marvel not at anything that faith brings when it deals with Christ. Thou hast a little key, a little rusty key, and thou sayest, “By use of this key I can get all the gold that I want.” Yes, but where is the box to which you go for the gold? When you show me, and I see that it is a great chamber filled full of gold and silver, I can understand how your little key can enrich you when it opens the door into such a treasury. If faith be the key which unlocks the fullness of God, “for it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell,” then I can understand why faith brings such boundless blessings to him who hath it. Salvation is a very simple business. God help us to look at it simply and practically, and to receive Christ, and believe on his name!
II. Now, secondly, here is A MATTER WHICH IS VERY DELIGHTFUL: “To them gave he power to become sons of God.” If I had a week to preach from this text, I think that I should be able to get through the first head; but at this time I can only throw out just a few hints. Look at the great and delightful blessing which comes to us by our faith in Christ. We give Christ our faith, and he gives us power to become sons of God, the authority, liberty, privilege, right,–something more than mere strength or force–to be sons of God.
When we believe in Jesus, he indicates to us the Great Father’s willingness to let us be his sons. We who were prodigals, far away from him, perceive that, when we receive Christ, the Father, who gave us Christ, is willing to take us to be his sons. He would not have yielded up his Only-begotten if he had not willed to take us into his family. When we believe in Jesus, he bestows on us the status of sons. We were slaves before; now we are sons. We were strangers, aliens, enemies; and every word that means an evil thing might have been applied to us; but when we laid hold on Christ, we were adopted by some great citizen, and publicly acknowledged in the forum as being henceforth that man’s son, was regarded as such, so, as soon as we believe in Jesus, we get the status of sons. “Beloved, now we are the sons of God.”
Then Christ does something more for us. He gives us grace to feel our sonship. As we sang just now,–
“My faith shall ‘Abba, Father,’ cry,
And thou the kindred own.”
God owns us as his children, and we own him as our Father; and henceforth, “Our Father, which art in heaven,” is no meaningless expression, but it comes welling up from the depths of our heart.
Having given us grace to feel sonship, Christ gives us the nature of our Father. He gives us “power to become the sons of God.” We get more and more like God in righteousness and true holiness. By his divine Spirit, shed abroad in our hearts, we become more and more the children of our Father who is in heaven, who doeth good to the undeserving and the unthankful, and whose heart overflows with love even to those who love not him.
When this nature of sons shall be fully developed, Christ will bestow his glory upon us. We shall be in heaven, not in the rear rank, as servants, but nearest to the eternal throne. Unto angels he has never said, “Ye are my sons”; but he has called us sons, poor creatures of the dust, who believe in Jesus; and we shall have all the honour, and joy, and privilege, and delight that belong to the princes of the blood royal of heaven, members of the imperial house of God, in that day when the King shall manifest himself in his own palace.
Some of us could draw parallels, about being made sons, from our own lives. You were once a very tiny child; but you were a son then as much as you are now. So is it with you who have only just begun to believe in Christ; he has given you authority and right to become sons of God. Very early in our life, our father went down to the registrar’s office, and wrote our name in the roll as his sons. We do not recollect that, it was so long ago; but he did it, and he also wrote our name in the family Bible, even as our Father in heaven has enrolled our names in the Lamb’s Book of Life. You recollect that, as a child, you did not go into the kitchen, to dine with the servants; but you took your seat at the table. It was a very little chair in which you first sat at the table; but as you grew bigger, you always went to the table, because you were a son. The servants in the house were much bigger than you, and they could do a great many things that you could not do, and your father paid them wages. He never paid you any; they were not his sons; but you were. If they had put on your clothes, they would not have been his sons. You had privileges that they had not. I remember that, in the parish where my home was, on a certain day in the year, the church-bell rang, and everybody went to receive a penny roll. Every child had one, and I recollect having mine. I claimed it as a privilege, because I was my father’s son. I think there were six of us, who all had a roll; every child in the parish had one. So there are a number of privileges that come to us very early in our Christian life, and we mean to have them, first, because our Lord Jesus Christ has given us the right to have them; and, next, because, if we do not take what he bought for us,, it will be robbing him, and wasting his substance. As he has paid for it all, and has given us the right to have it, let us take it. You were put to school because you were a son. You did not like it; I daresay that you would rather have stopped at home at play. And you had a touch of the rod, sometimes, because you were a son. That was one of your privileges: “for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” One day you were in the street with other boys, doing wrong, and your father came along, and punished you. He did not touch your companions, for they were not his sons. You smile at those little things, and you did not at the time count your punishments as privileges; but they were. When the chastening of the Lord comes, call it a privilege, for that is what it is. There is no greater mercy that I know of on earth than good health except it be sickness; and that has often been a greater mercy to me than health.
It is a good thing to be without a trouble; but it is a better thing to have a trouble, and know how to get grace enough to bear it. I am not so much afraid of the devil when he roars, as I am when he pretends to go to sleep. I think that, often-times, a roaring devil keeps us awake; and the troubles of this life stir us up to go to God in prayer, and that which looks to us ill turns to our good. “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.”
III. Now I come to my last point, that is, A MATTER WHICH IS MYSTERIOUS. We are not only given the status of children, and the privilege of being called sons, but this mysterious matter is one of heavenly birth: “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
This new birth is absolutely needful. If we are ever to be numbered amongst God’s children, we must be born again, born from above. We were born in sin, born children of wrath, even as others; to be God’s children, it is absolutely necessary that we should be born again.
The change wrought thereby is wonderfully radical. It is not a mere outside washing, nor any touching up and repairing. It is a total renovation. Born again? I cannot express to you all that the change means, it is so deep, so thorough, so complete.
It is also intensely mysterious. What must it be to be born again? “I cannot understand it.” Says one. Nicodemus was a teacher in Israel, and he did not understand it. Does anybody understand it? Does anybody understand his first birth? What know we of it? And this second birth; some of us have passed through it, and know that we have, and remember well the pangs of that birth, yet we cannot describe the movements of the Spirit of God, by which we were formed anew, and made new creatures in Christ Jesus, according to that word from him who sits on the throne, “Behold, I make all things new!” It is a great mystery.
Certainly it is entirely superhuman. We cannot contribute to it. Man cannot make himself to be born again. His first birth is not of himself, and his second birth is not one jot more so. It is a work of the Holy Ghost, a work of God. It is a new creation; it is a quickening; it is a miracle from beginning to end.
Here is the point to which I call your special attention, it is assuredly ours. Many of us here have been born again. We know that we have, and herein lies the evidence of it, “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name, which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” If thou believest on Christ’s name, thou art born of God. If thou hast received Christ into thy soul, thou hast obtained that birth that comes not of blood, nor of the will of parents, nor of the will of man, but of God. Thou hast passed from death unto life.
Let no man sit down here, and cover his face, and say, “There is no hope for me. I cannot understand about this new birth.” If thou wilt take Christ, to have and to hold, henceforth and for ever, as thy sole trust and confidence, thou hast received that which no line of ancestors could ever give thee; for it is “not of blood.” Thou dost possess that which no will of the father and mother could ever give thee; for it is “not of the will of the flesh.” Thou hast that which thine own will could not bring thee; for it is “not of the will of man.” Thou hast that which only the Giver of life can bestow; for it is “of God.” Thou art born again; for thou hast received Christ, and believed on his name. I do not urge you to look within, to try and see whether this new birth is there. Instead of looking within thyself, look thou to him who hangs on yonder cross, dying the Just for the unjust, to bring us to God. Fix thou thine eyes on him, and believe in him; and when thou seest in thyself much that is evil, look away to him; and when doubts prevail, look to him; and when thy conscience tells thee of thy past sins, look to him.
I have to go through this story almost every day of the year, and sometimes half a dozen times in a day. If there is a desponding soul anywhere within twenty miles, it will find me out, no matter whether I am at home, or at Mentone, or in any other part of the world. It will come from any distance, broken down, despairing, half insane sometimes; and I have no medicine to prescribe except “Christ, Christ, Christ; Jesus Christ and him crucified. Look away from yourselves, and trust in him.” I go over and over and over with this, and never get one jot further. Because I find that this medicine cures all soul sicknesses, while human quackery cures none. Christ alone is the one remedy for sin-sick souls. Receive him; believe on his name. We keep hammering at this. I can sympathize with Luther when he said, “I have preached justification by faith so often, and I feel sometimes that you are so slow to receive it, that I could almost take the Bible, and bang it about your heads.” I am afraid that the truth would not have entered their hearts if he had done so. This is what we aim at, to get this one thought into a man, “Thou art lost, and therefore such an one as Christ came to save.”
One said to me just lately, “Oh, sir, I am the biggest sinner that ever lived!” I replied, “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” “But I have not any strength.” “While we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died.” “Oh! But,” he said, “I have been utterly ungodly.” “Christ died for the ungodly.” “But I am lost.” “Yes,” I said, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” “The Son of man has come to save that which was lost.” I said to this man, “You have the brush in your hand, and at every stroke it looks as if you were quoting Scripture. You seem to be making yourself out to be the very man that Christ came to save. If you were to make yourself out to be good and excellent, I should give you this word–Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. He did not die for the good, but for the bad. He gave himself for our sins; he never gave himself for our righteousness. He is a Saviour. He has not come yet as a Rewarder of the righteous; that will be in his Second Advent. Now he comes as the great Forgiver of the guilty, and the only Saviour of the lost. Wilt thou come to him in that way?” “Oh! But,” my friend said, “I have nothing to bring to Christ.” “No,” I said, “I know that you have not; but Christ has everything.” “Sir,” he said, “you do not know me, else you would not talk to me like this;” and I said, “No, and you do not know yourself, and you are worse than you think you are, though you think that you are bad enough in all conscience; but be you as bad as you may, Jesus Christ came on purpose to uplift from the dunghill those whom he sets among princes by his free, rich, sovereign grace.”
Oh, come and believe in him, poor sinner! I feel that, if I had all your souls, I would believe in Christ for their salvation; I would trust him to save a million souls if I had them, for he is mighty to save. There can be no limit to his power to forgive. There can be no limit to the merit of his precious blood. There can be no boundary to the efficacy of his plea before the throne. Only trust him, and you must be saved. May his gracious Spirit lead you to do so now, for Christ’s sake! Amen.
The True Tabernacle, and Its Glory of Grace and Peace and The Glory of Christ Beheld!
The Glory of Christ Beheld!
October 20th, 1861 by Rev. C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
“And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth”John 1:14
I cannot refrain from mentioning an incident connected with the perusal of the first chapter of John. I suppose there is not a passage in God’s Word which has not at some time or other been blessed to the conversion of a soul. Even the fifth chapter of Genesis, which is so uninteresting to the most of readers, because the verses continually end, “And he died,” “And he died,” “And he died,” has been blessed to one, who from the reiteration of the fact that men who lived nine hundred years nevertheless died, was led to think of his own death.
Now, the first chapter of John was the means of the conversion of a celebrated writer, Junius the younger, one who did good service in the Church. His father, perceiving him to be an ungodly young man, put in his way as much as possible the New Testament, and the following is an extract from Junius’s account of his own life. “My father, who was frequently reading the New Testament, and had long observed with grief the progress I had made in infidelity, had put that book in my way in his library, in order to attract my attention, if it might please God to bless his design, though without giving me the least intimation of it.
Here, therefore, I unwittingly opened the New Testament thus providentially laid before me. At the very first view, although I was deeply engaged in other thoughts, that grand chapter of the evangelist and apostle presented itself to me ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God.’ I read part of the chapter, and was so greeted that I instantly became struck with the divinity of the argument, and the majesty and authority of the composition, as infinitely surpassing the highest flights of human eloquence. My body shuddered; my mind was in amazement, and I was so agitated the whole day that I scarcely knew who I was; nor did the agitation cease, but continued till it was at last soothed by a humble faith in him who was made flesh and dwelt among us.” One of the Platonic philosophers, who considered all Christian writers to be but barbarians, nevertheless said of the first chapter of John, “This barbarian hath comprised more stupendous stuff in three lines, than we have done in all our voluminous discourses.” And we will to this day glory in the power of the Holy Spirit, that an unlearned and ignorant man like John, the son of Zebedee the fisherman, should be enabled to write a chapter which excels not only the highest flight of eloquence, but the greatest divings of philosophy. But now for the verse before us. I think, if you look attentively at it, and if you are in some slender measure acquainted with the original, you will perceive that John here compares Christ to that which was the greatest glory of the Jewish Church. Let me read it, giving another translation: “The Word was made flesh, and tabernacled among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Now, you remember that in the Jewish Church its greatest glory was that God tabernacled in its midst: not the tent of Moses, not the various pavilions of the princes of the twelve tribes, but the humble tabernacle in which God dwelt, was the boast of Israel. They had the king himself in the midst of them, a present God in their midst. The tabernacle was a tent to which men went when they would commune with God, and it was the spot to which God came manifestly when he would commune with man. To use Matthew Henry’s words, it was the “trysting place” between the Creator and the worshipper. Here they met each other through the slaughter of the bullock and the lamb, and there was reconciliation between them twain. Now, Christ’s human flesh was God’s tabernacle, and it is in Christ that God meets with man, and in Christ that man hath dealings with God. The Jew of old went to God’s tent, in the centre of the camp, if he would worship: we come to Christ if we would pay our homage. If the Jew would be released from ceremonial uncleanness, after he had performed the rites, he went up to the sanctuary of his God, that he might feel again that there was peace between God and his soul; and we, having been washed in the precious blood of Christ, have access with boldness unto God, even the Father through Christ, who is our tabernacle and the tabernacle of God among men. Now let us draw the parallel a little further. The greatest glory of the tabernacle itself was the most holy place. In the most holy place there stood the ark of the covenant, bearing its golden lid called the mercy-seat. Over the mercy-seat stood the cherubim, whose wings met each other, and beneath the wings of the cherubim there was a bright light, known to the Hebrew believer by the name of the Shekinah. That light represented the presence of God. Immediately above that light there might be seen at night a pillar of fire, and by day a spiral column of cloud rose from it, which no doubt expanded itself into one vast cloud, which covered all the camp, and shielded all the Israelites from the blaze of the broiling sun. The glory of the tabernacles, I say, was the Shekinah. What does our text say? Jesus Christ was God’s tabernacle, and “we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” Jesus is not the tabernacle without the glory; he is not as the temple when the voice was heard with the rushing of winds before the siege of Jerusalem, crying, “Arise, let us go hence,” but it was a temple in which God himself dwelt after a special manner; “for in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” The apostle however points to a surpassing excellence in Christ the tabernacle, by which he wondrously excels that of the Jewish Church. “Full of grace and truth.” The Jewish tabernacle was rather full of law than full of grace. It is true there were in its rites and ceremonies, foreshadowings of grace, but still in repeated sacrifice there was renewed remembrance of sin, and a man had first to be obedient to the law of ceremonies, before he could have access to the tabernacle at all: but Christ is full of grace not a little of it, but abundance of it is treasured up in him. The tabernacle of old was not full of truth, but full of image, and shadow, and symbol, and picture; but Christ is full of substance; he is not the picture, but the reality; he is not the shadow, but the substance. Herein, O believer, do thou rejoice with joy unspeakable for thou comes unto Christ, the real tabernacle of God. Thou comes unto him who is full of the glory of the Father; and thou comes unto one in whom thou hast not the representation of a grace which thou needest, but the grace itself not the shadow of a truth ultimately to he revealed, but that very truth by which thy soul is accepted in the sight of God. I put this forth as a matter for you to think over in your retirement. It might have constituted the divisions of the sermon, but as I want more especially to dwell upon the glory of Christ, we leave these observations as a preface, and go more particularly to that part of the subject where the apostle says, “We beheld his glory, the glory of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” I. In the first place, we have here A FAVOURED PEOPLE. “We beheld his glory.” And who are these the “we” to whom the apostle here refers? They were first of all an elect company, for Jesus said, “I know whom I have chosen;” “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” He came unto his own, and his own received him not; but they who did receive him are described as men who were “born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” The elect in Christ’s day, though they were but a small remnant, nevertheless did exist. There were a few, else had that generation been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrah. There were twelves and seventies, and afterwards we read of three thousand, and then of many others who were added to the Church of such as should be saved. In Christ’s own day, however, the lines of manifest election seemed to be but very narrow, for there were but few that followed him, and of those who followed him it is said, many from that day went back and walked no more with him; for his truth had sifted the mere professors, and reduced them but to a slender company who followed the Lamb whithersoever he went. The “we,” then, who “beheld Christ’s glory,” were a chosen company. They were also a called company, for of many of them we read their special calls. Of John himself we read, that Jesus walked by the sea and “saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.” Of most of the apostles and immediate attendants’ upon Christ’s person we have a record of their divine and special call by Christ’s own voice; and in the case of those respecting whom there was no record preserved; yet was it, nevertheless, the fact, for he had called them as the shepherd calleth his own sheep by name and leadeth them out. Indeed, in all of us who shall at any time perceive Christ’s glory, it must be because he has called us unto this special privilege as the result of his election of us thereunto. These who beheld his glory were also an illuminated people; for Christ’s glory was not manifest unto the rest of mankind. None of the princes of this world knew him. The priests who had studied the law could not discover him; the members of the Sanhedrim, who were under some expectation of his advent, could not perceive him. In vain the star in the east; in vain the miraculous appearance of angels to the shepherds; the blind generation would not perceive him. In vain the opening of blind eyes and the preaching of the gospel to the poor; in vain the raising of the dead; in vain all those innumerable signs and wonders; they could not perceive his glory; but of those who did perceive it it may be said, as of Simon Barjonas, “Blessed art thou, for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee.” We may say, then, of those who beheld his glory, the favoured people, that they were chosen of sovereign grace, that they were called effectually by the Holy Spirit, and that they were anointed by the same divine person. And to this day, brethren, it is the same. None believe in Christ but those who are his sheep; no man cometh unto him except the Father who hath sent him draws them, and none ever perceive him but those whose eyes are opened by his own healing fingers. Let the question be passed round among us Do I perceive his glory? Have I seen something of the splendour of God in the humble man of Nazareth? Have I learned to magnify him in my soul, and have I desired to glorify him in my life, as my God, my life, my love, my all in all, though once despised and rejected of men? If so, beloved if we can say this from our heart, we are favoured indeed, and especially favoured if we remember how many there are who have never obtained this grace. Not many great men after the flesh see any glory in Christ; they find their glory in the clash of arms and in garments rolled in blood, but not in him who is meek and lowly of heart, who gives rest to weary souls. Not many wise men have seen any glory in Christ; they find glory in philosophy; they can see glory in nature, but not in him who is nobler than God’s creation, inasmuch as he is the only perfect one among the sons of men. They say they see something of glory in providence, and yet fail to perceive anything wonderful in grace. Not many wise men are called. Oh! let us be astonished at the sovereignty of God, let us be filled with gratitude at his compassion; let us pray that if ere we know something of the glory we may know more of it day by day, and may set it forth among the sons of men, that they too may by-and-by perceive his glory, “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” II. But now, secondly we have spoken of the favoured people let us spend a minute or two in dwelling upon THEIR EXALTED PRIVILEGE. “We beheld his glory.” What is the word “Beheld?” It says not we heard of his glory, we read of it in prophecy, or we listened to it from the lips of others, but we beheld his glory. What a privilege was this, which was accorded to the first disciples! Have you not often envied them? To see the man, the very man, in whom God dwelt to walk with him as one’s companion along his journeys of mercy to listen to the words as they stream all living from those eloquent lips to look into his eyes, and mark the depth of love that glistened there to see his face, even though it was more marred than that of any man. I have often sympathised in that child-like hymn:
“I think when I read that sweet story of old, When Jesus was here among men, How he called little children as lambs to his fold, I should like to have been with them then. I wish that his hands had been placed on my head, That his arm had been thrown around me, And that I might have seen his kind looks when he said, ‘Let the little ones come unto me.'”
But better still to have been with him to have leaned this head upon his bosom to have told him my griefs, as they did who took up the body of John, and went and told Jesus to have asked of him the explanation of difficulties, as they said, “Show us the Father, and it sufficeth” to have had one’s faith encouraged by touching his very flesh, as he did of whom it is written, that he put his finger into the print of the nails and thrust his hand into his side. But what are we talking about? All this is carnal, all this is of sight, and the Christian is a nobler being than to live and walk by sight. He lives by faith; and to this day, brethren, there is a sight of Christ which can be had by faith; and therefore, we need not murmur because we are denied the privilege of sight. The sight of Christ it seems, did but little good to those who had it, not even to his disciples, for they were sorry dolts, even though he was the Master. It was only when the Spirit came down at Pentecost, that they began to know Christ, and to understand what he had said to them, though he himself had said it. And truly ’tis better to see Christ by faith than it is to see him by sight, for a sight of him by faith saves the soul; but we might see him with the eye, and yet crucify him, yet be found amongst the greatest rebels against his government and power. Now we say to you, Have you beheld his glory by faith? Oh! ye have all of you heard of it. We, the ministers of Christ, have tried Sabbath after Sabbath to lift him up, and it is such sweet and blessed work that I would fain do it every day. When we have to preach the law, we feel it a hard and toilsome servitude, but to preach Christ; O how sweet and blessed is the labour! Happy is the man whose lips are ever overflowing with the news of Jesus! Blessed is he whose ministry is full of Christ! He is blessed in his own soul, as well as blessed unto others. Ye have heard of it, then, but what of all this? Ye may hear of his glory and perish in your sins. Ye have read of his glory; this book is in your houses, and ye read it, I trust, each day, thus ye have read the story of the Man of sorrows and grief’s acquaintance. And ye know how he ascended on high, leading captivity captive, and ever sitteth at the right hand of God. But ye may read all this; and yet it shall be a curse and not a blessing, for ye knew him and yet rejected him. You were among his own and he came unto you, and ye received him not. Oh! to behold his glory! This is soul work, saving work, blessed work, everlasting work: have ye any interest in it? But ye answer, “How can we behold his glory?” Why, faith sees it. Faith looks back to the man who lived and died for us, and sees glory in his shame, honour in his disgraces, riches in his poverty, might in his weakness, triumph in his conflict, and immortality in his death. Nay, Faith is sometimes assisted by Experience; and Experience sees his glory: it sees the glory of his grace in rolling away all our sins; the preciousness of his blood in giving us reconciliation with the Father; the power of the Spirit in subduing the will; the love of his heart in constantly remembering us upon the throne; and the power of his plea in its perpetual prevalence with God. Experience shows us the glory of Christ in the deep waters, while he puts his arm beneath us and says, “Fear not, thou shalt not be drowned.” It shows us the glory in the blazing furnace while the Son of Man treads the glowing coals with his afflicted Israel. Experience shows us the glory of Christ in all the attacks of Satan. While he is our shield he wards off every poisoned arrow, shows us the glory of Christ in helping us to live and enabling us to die, and by-and-bye it shall show us the glory of Christ in enabling us to rise and take possession of the crown which he hath purchased for his children. And with Experience there is another that helps us to behold the glory of Christ, namely, Communion. Beloved, I hope you know what that means when in the chamber shut in with God, and the world shut out, our eyes behold him and not another; when we can kneel down in the very posture of the poor agonizing victim of Gethsemane, and see by fellowship the sweat of blood as it streams from the pores of his frame: when we can mark him hounded, hissed, scouted through all the streets of his own city, and taken to Calvary to die. Communion knows something of the bitterness of the cup which he then drank, somewhat of the sharpness of the nails that pierced his hands, and somewhat of the death which was endured when at last he said, “It is finished!” and gave up the ghost. Yes, Communion can show us the glory of Christ even in his shame. And then it can take to its wings and show us his glory beyond the skies. These eyes have never seen the Saviour, but this heart hath seen him; these lips have never kissed his cheek, for that they might do and I might be a Judas; but the soul hath kissed him and he hath kissed me with the kisses of his mouth, for his love is better than wine. Think me not enthusiastic or fanatical when I say that the children of God have as near access to Christ to day in the spirit, as ever John had after the flesh; so that there is to this day a rich enjoyment to be obtained by those who seek it, in having actual fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. Oh, it is a joy worth worlds! Worldling, if thou hadst ever known the sweetness of this bread, thou wouldst never eat thine own ashes again. O pleasures of the world! ye would cease to tempt us, if ye knew how much more sweet are the pleasures of his face. O thunders of this world! ye would cease your attempts to frighten us, if ye knew the sweet satisfaction and solace which we find in him, when everything is bitter and disconsolate abroad. Yes, we have beheld his glory, just as surely as if we had seen it with our eyes; as certainly as if we had heard with our ears the acclamations of the glorified, and taken our seat with them at the foot of his throne, or with them had veiled our faces with wings, and cried, “Holy holy, holy, Lord God omnipotent!” Just as truly, though not so fully, we have beheld his glory the glory of the only-begotten of the Father full of grace and truth. III. Thirdly we have in the text, A MOST BLESSED VISION. We have had the favoured persons, their exalted privilege, and now we have their blessed vision. We have beheld his glory. Let us dwell upon the thought of his glory for awhile. My brethren, what a glory have we beheld by faith! By faith, in the first place, we have beheld the glory of his complex person. We have known and believed that he is the everlasting Word, the veritable Son of the Father, we have beheld him by faith, as dwelling with the Father or ever the world was, the beloved of his Father’s soul; we have seen him and we have marked that his goings-forth are of old, even from everlasting, we have seen him weighing the clouds, measuring the channels of the great deep, planning the heavens, and meting out the sea, we have seen him with the line and with the plummet, making all things according to his wisdom, and the purpose of the counsel of his will, for “without him was not anything made that was made.” We have seen him as God, seated upon the throne of his Father, and we have believed that the sea roareth only as he bids it, that the earth with all the creatures that are therein obeys his glorious will. Lo, in his hands to-day the keys of heaven and death, and hell! We have had no doubts whatever as to his Divinity, for we have seen and known that he is “very God of very God.” “God over all, blessed for ever Amen.” We have seen him too as man. We have perceived that he is of the substance of his mother, bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh; man in all infirmities, but not man in any guiltiness of his own; man weak, suffering, hungry, thirsty, dying, but without spot or wrinkle pure, the immaculate Lamb of God. We have beheld him in the glory of this complex person not God deteriorated to man, not man deified to God, but God, very God, and very man; God in all that is God-like, man in all that is manlike, and we have adored him as such. We have seen in him the lustre of a beauty which far outshines all that earth can present us, or all that heaven can offer. Whom have we on earth but Jesus? Who is there in heaven that we can desire beside him? Next, we have beheld his glory, not merely in his person, but in the motive for which he undertook his great work. That motive was love, love which could have his self interest to be an alloy, love to worthless creatures, love to those who could never repay his love to rebels, love to men who crucified the Lord of glory, and we have said as we have seen this love sparkling like a jewel in a black setting, lying in the heart of the pool, injured, poverty-stricken, houseless, comfortless Man of Nazareth. “There is a glory here in this love that is never to be found elsewhere.” Then, we have beheld the glory of his self-sacrifice. We have looked upon him giving up everything for us, renouncing his crown and sceptre, laying aside his royal robes and splendour, leaving his Father’s house, and palaces, and honour, becoming man, nay, a poor man, a despised afflicted man; nay, becoming obedient to death, even the death of the cross. We have read history through, but we never saw a self-sacrifice that could equal his. In him selfishness never lived, and therefore, never needed to be kept in check. He was not his own; his whole history could be written in this: “He saved others, himself he cannot save,” Glorious Christ, in this whilst thou wast rejected of men, we have beheld thy glory. We have beheld, moreover, the glory of his endurance. He is tempted in every point, yet fails in none. The world’s glory lies at his feet, he chooses rather our salvation than the glories of earth. He counted the reproach that he should bear for us greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt. We see him mocked, yet never reviling, spit upon, yet never spitting back again even so much as a word of venom. We see him despised, yet never attempting to clear himself; accused, yet silent before the judgment-seat; so giving up himself that he can bear all things, whatsoever they may be. Many waters could not quench his love, neither could the floods drown it. Though all the substance of the world’s house were offered him that he might renounce his love, yet did he utterly despise the world. Who was ever such a martyr as the Saviour? Who endured as he did? Who bore such contradiction of sinners against himself? Great God, O Jesu, for such thou art Great God, there is none like thee in the omnipotence of thine endurance. We have seen thy glory, even when thou didst tabernacle among men. And we have seen his glory also in his great and blessed perseverance even to the end, having loved his own which were in the world he loved them to the end: having undertaken he went through, he never paused till he could say, “It is finished.” Then he gave up the ghost, but not till then. Now to-day behold his perseverance. For Zion’s sake he does not rest, and for Jerusalem’s sake he never holds his peace day nor night until God shall be pleased to make her glory come forth as the brightness, and her righteousness as a lamp that burneth. On, on, on, neither to the right nor to the left turning for a moment, without pause without making a moment’s question, onwards to his destined work he speeds, and never doth he cease till he can say to his Father, “I have finished the work that thou gavest me to do.” And then, not to keep you too long even upon such a subject as this, we have beheld his glory in his final triumph. Yes, brethren, by faith we have seen in the very moment when the sun was darkened, and when the earth was shaken, and the rocks rent asunder, we have seen Christ darkening the world’s glories, we have seen him rending rocky hearts, and bidding the dead arise. We have seen him in the very instant when he gave up the ghost leaping from the cross, pursuing with thunderbolts the prince of hell, and driving him to darker shades below, we have seen him grasping at last the tyrant in his hands, and chaining him to his chariot wheel. Our faith has beheld him riding up the everlasting hills, leading captivity captive, we have seen the gates wide open flung while angels said, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.” We have joined by faith the triumph and have swelled the train, we have heard the acclamation of the spirits of the just made perfect; we have heard above all the voice of God, “Well done, thou hast finished thy Father’s will.” We have seen him ascend in august majesty the throne which is his resting place, and we have seen him sit down on the right hand of the Father, while from heaven and earth, and even hell, there went up one prolonged note of praise, “Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah! the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” Nay, our faith has gone beyond the mere matters of the past. We have beheld his glory, we have seen him as one by one his sheep are brought, and his prayer is heard, “Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am.” We have seen him going forth day after day in the chariot of Salvation scattering with both his hands his mercies among the poverty-stricken sons of men, and we have cried unto him, “Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O thou most mighty.” Often has our prayer been, Come forth, O Jesus, heaven obeys thee, earth shakes at thy presence, hell trembles at thee, devils are dismayed. Come forth, put thine arrow to the string, and lift up thy glittering spear. Who, who shall stay thy course, or in thy presence stand. Like chaff before the wind so shall they be driven and as stubble before the flame so shall they be utterly consumed. We have been helped to fly even to the great end of all things, and by faith have seen his second advent. We have beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father. We have seen him come,
“But not the same As once in lowliness he came, A silent Lamb before his foes, A weary man, and full of woes.”
We have seen him come
“With dreadful form, With rainbow-wreath and robes of storm; On cherub wings, and wings of wind, Appointed Judge of all mankind!”
We have beheld his millennial reign. We have marked the dwellers in the wilderness blowing before him, the kings of Seba and Sheba offering their gifts; we have heard the universal song from the dwellers in the rocks and the islands of the sea, we have seen the halcyon age of love, when no strife shall vex Messiah’s reign. When they shall
–“Hang the useless helmet high And study war no more.”
And then we have seen the judgment; we have beheld the reeling earth unable to bear the splendour of his triumph; we have heard the wailings of his enemies; we have seen them melt as wax before the flame, utterly consumed like the fat of rams upon his altar. We have at last, by faith, seen the end, when he shall give up the kingdom to God, even our Father; we have heard, I say, the last word of the whole history in the shout of complete victory
“Lo, Jehovah’s banners furled Sheathed his sword: he speaks ’tis done! And the kingdoms of this world Are the kingdoms of his Son.
Then the end, beneath his rod, Man’s last enemy shall fall; Hallelujah! Christ in God, God in Christ is all in all.”
IV. Have patience with me while I now conclude. In the fourth place, the text reminds us of THE TESTIMONY WHICH WE WHO HAVE SEEN HIS GLORY ARE SURE TO BEAR. We bear our testimony that he is “the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Brothers and sisters, instead of preaching let me bear my testimony; my testimony of what I have seen, what my own ears have heard, and my own heart has tasted that Christ is the only begotten of the Father. He is divine to me, if he be human to all the world besides. He has done that for me which none but a God could do. He has turned my stubborn will, melted a heart of adamant, broken a chain of steel, opened the gates of brass, and snapped the bars of iron. He hath turned for me my mourning into laughter, and my desolation into joy, he hath led my captivity captive, made my heart rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Let others think as they will of him, to me he must be the only begotten of the Father: blessed be his name.
“O that I could now adore him, Like the heavenly host above, Who for ever bow before him, And unceasing sing his love. Happy songsters! When shall I your chorus join?”
Thy name is precious even as ointment poured forth. Thou art indeed my Lord and my God, as certainly as ever thou wast the God of Thomas. Like Paul, my soul shall say, “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Again, I bear my testimony that he is full of grace. Ah! had he not been, I should never have beheld his glory. I was full of sin to overflowing. I was condemned already, because I believed not upon him. He drew me when I wanted not to come, and though I struggled hard, he continued still to draw; and when at last I came all trembling like a condemned culprit to his mercy-seat, he said, “Thy sins which were many are all forgiven thee be of good cheer.” “He took me up out of the horrible pit, and out of the miry clay. He hath set my feet upon a rock, and put a new song into my mouth, and established my goings.” Let others despise him; but I bear witness that he is full of grace. Oh, I would that some poor sinner here who is full of sin, would remember that Christ is full of grace: I would that thou, poor despairing one thou who hast given thyself up as a lost soul, wouldst remember that
“Plenteous grace with him is found, Grade to pardon all thy sin: May the healing streams abound, Make and keep thee pure within.”
Finally I bear my witness, that as he is full of grace he is full of truth. True have his promises been, not one has failed. I have often doubted him, for that I blush; he has never failed me, in this I must rejoice. His promises have been yea and amen. I do but speak the testimony of every believer in Christ, though I put it thus personally to make it the more forcible. I bear witness that never servant had such a Master as I have; never brother had such a kinsman as he has been to me; never spouse had such a husband as Christ has been to my soul; never sinner a better Saviour; never soldier a better captain; never mourner a better comforter than Christ hath been to my spirit. I want none beside him. In life he is my life, and in death he shall be the death of death; in poverty Christ is our riches, in sickness he makes our bed; in darkness he is our star, and in brightness he is our sun; he is the manna of the camp in the wilderness, and he shall be the new corn of the host when they come to Canaan. He is the rock that follows them today; he is the rock on which they shall rest, and within which they shall dwell for ever.
“All hail Immanuel, all divine In thee thy Father’s glories shine; Thou brightest, sweetest, fairest one, That eyes have seen or angels known. O may I live to reach the place Where he unveils his lovely face. Where all his beauties saints behold, And sing his name to harps of gold.-
So be it, Lord. Amen.
The True Tabernacle, and Its Glory of Grace and Peace
September 27th, 1885 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 . “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”John 1:17
There was a time when God freely communed with men. The voice of the Lord God was heard walking in the garden in the cool of the day. With unfallen Adam the great God dwelt in sweet and intimate fellowship; but sin came and not only destroyed the garden, but destroyed the intercourse of God with His creature man. A great gulf opened between man as evil, and God as infinitely pure; and had it not been for the amazing goodness of the most High, we must all of us forever have been banished from His presence, and from the glory of His power. The Lord God in infinite love resolved that He Himself would bridge the distance, and would again dwell with man; and in token of this He made Himself manifest to His chosen nation Israel when they were in the wilderness. He was pleased to dwell in type and symbol among His people, in the very centre and heart of their camp. Do you see yonder tent with its curtains of goats’ hair in the centre of the canvas city? You cannot see within it; but it was all glorious within with precious wood, and pure gold, and tapestry of many colours. Within its most sacred shrine shone forth a bright light between the wings of cherubim, which light was the symbol of the presence of the Lord. But if you cannot see within, yet you can see above the sacred tent a cloud, which arises from the top of the Holy of Holies, and then expands like a vast tree so as to cover all the host, and protect the chosen of God from the intense heat of the sun, so apt to make the traveller faint when passing over the burning sand. If you will wait till the sun is down, that same cloud will become Alimonies, and light up the whole camp. Thus it was both shade and light; and by its means was enjoyed that safety which was afterwards set forth in the promise, “The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.” Over all the glory was a defence and a comfort. The Lord dealt not so with any nation, save only His people Israel, of whom He said, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” The day of the type is over; we see no more a nation secluded from all others and made to be as “the church in the wilderness.” God doth not now confine His abode to one people; for “The God of the whole earth shall he be called.” There is now no spot on earth where God dwells in preference to another. Did not our Lord say, at the well of Sychar, “Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.” “But . . . the true worshipers shall worship the Father it spirit and in truth”? Wherever true hearts seek the Lord, He is found of them. He is as much present on the lone mountain’s side as in the aisles of yonder above, or in the galleries of this tabernacle. “Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool; what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest?” Yet there is a true house of, a real temple of the infinite, a living abode of the Godhead. The epistle to the Hebrews speaks of “the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.” There is still a trysting-place where God doth still meet with man, and hold fellowship with him. That place is the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, “in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. “The manhood of Christ is become to us the anti-type of that tent in the centre of the camp. God is in Christ Jesus; Christ Jesus is God; and in His blessed person God dwells in the midst of us as in a tent; for such is the force of the original in our text. “The Word was made flesh, and tabernacled, or tented, among us.” That is to say, in Christ Jesus the Lord dwelt among men, as God of old dwelt in His sanctuary in the midst of the tribes of Israel. This is very delightful and hopeful for us: the Lord God doth dwell among us through the incarnation of His Son. But the substance far excels the shadow; for in the wilderness the Lord only dwelt in the abode of man, but now His approach to us is closer, for He dwells in the flesh of man. “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” Note that word “flesh.” It doth not say, “The Word was made man”: it means that, but the use of the word “flesh brings the Lord Jesus still closer to us, and shows that He took on Him the very nature and substance of manhood: He did not merely assume the name and notion, and appearance, of manhood, but the reality: the weakness, the suffering, the mortality of our manhood He actually took into union with Himself. He was no phantom, or apparition, but He had a human body and a human soul. “The Word was made flesh.” When the Lord became bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, His incarnation in a human body brought Him far nearer to man than when He only abode within curtains, and occupied a tent in the midst of Israel. Moreover, it is to be noted that God does in the person of Jesus not merely dwell among men; but He hath joined Himself unto men the Word not only dwelt in flesh, but “was made flesh.” It is impossible to use words which are exactly accurate to describe the wonderful incarnation of the Son of God in human flesh; but these words are used to show that our Lord is as truly and as really man as He is God. Not only does God dwell in the body of man; but our Lord Jesus is God and man in one person. He is not ashamed to speak of men as His brethren. “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same with us. This approach to us is exceeding close. God was never one with the tabernacle, but in Christ Jesus He is one with us. This union hath in it a sweetness of sympathy, a tenderness of relationship, and a condensation of fellowship greatly to be admired. Now we listen to the music of that blessed name Emmanuel, “God with its.” In the person of the only begotten, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we see God reconciling the world unto Himself. Let us rejoice and be glad that we have in Jesus more than Israel had in the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. The ancient believer gazed upon the sacred tent, he thought of the holy place of sacrifice, and the Holy of Holies, the inner shrine of the Lord’s indwelling; but we have undesignedly more, we have God in our nature, and in Him “truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” In and around the tent wherein the Lord dwelt in the centre of the camp there was a manifestation of the presence of God. This was the glory of that house: but how scanty was the revelation! A bright light which I have already mentioned, the Shekinah, is said to have shone over the mercy-seat; but the high priest only could see it, and he only saw it once in the year when he entered with blood within the veil. Outside, above the holy place, there was the manifest glory of the pillar of cloud by day, and of fire by night. This sufficed to bear witness that God was there; but still, cloud and fire are but physical appearances, and cannot convey a true appearance of God, who is a spirit. God cannot be perceived by the senses; and yet the fiery, cloudy pillar could appeal to the eyes only. The excellence of the indwelling of God in Christ is this that there is in Him a glory as of the only begotten of the Father, the moral and spiritual glory of Godhead. This is to be seen, but not with the eyes; this is to be perceived, but not by the carnal senses: this is seen, and heard, and known, by spiritual men, whose mental perceptions are keener than those of sight and hearing. In the person of the Lord there is a glory which is seen by our faith, which is discerned of our renewed spirits, and is made to operate upon our hearts. The glory of God in the sanctuary was seen only by the priest of the house of Aaron; the glory of God in the face of Christ is seen by all believers, who are all priests unto God. That glory the priest beheld but once in the year; but we steadily behold that glory at all times, and are transformed by the sight. The glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ is not a thing of outward appearance, to be beheld with the eyes, like the pillar of cloud and fire; but there is an abiding, steady lustre of holy, gracious, truthful character about our Lord Jesus Christ, which is best seen by those who by reason of sanctification are made fit to discern it. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God; yea, they do see Him in Christ Jesus. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” Many of us besides the apostles can say, “We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” We have not seen Jesus raise the dead; we have not seen I Jim cast out devils; we have not seen Him hush the winds and calm the waves, but we do see, with our mind’s eye, His spotless holiness, His boundless love, His superlative love and truth, His wondrous heavenliness; in a word, we have seen, and do see, His fullness of grace and truth; and we rejoice in the fact that the tabernacling of God among, men in Christ Jesus is attended with a more real glory than the mere brilliance of light and the glow of flame. The condescension of Christ’s love is to us more glorious than the pillar of cloud, and the zeal of our Lord’s self-sacrifice is more excellent than the pillar of fire. As we think of the divine mysteries which meet in the person of the Lord, we do not envy Israel the gracious manifestation vouchsafed her when “a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord covered the tabernacle”; for we have all this and more in our incarnate God, who is with us always, even to the end of the world. As the Holy Spirit shall help me, I shall at this time say, first of all, Let us behold this tabernacling of God; and secondly, Let us avail ourselves of this tabernacling of God in all the ways for which it was intended. 1. First, then, LET US BEHOLD THIS ‘TABERNACLING OF GOD WITH US. “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. “In Jesus Christ all the attributes of God are to be seen; veiled, but yet verily there. You have only to read the gospels, to look with willing eyes, and you shall behold in Christ all that can possibly be seen of God. It is veiled in human flesh, as it must be; for the glory of God is not to be seen by us absolutely; it is toned down to these dim eyes of ours; but the Godhead is there, the perfect Godhead in union with the perfect manhood of Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory forever and ever. Two divine things are more clearly seen in Jesus than aught else. Upon these I would speak at this time, considering the two together, and then each one separately “Full of grace and truth.” Observe the two glorious qualities, joined inseparably grace and truth and observe that they are spoken of in the concrete. The apostle says that the only begotten is “full of grace and truth.” He did not come to tell us about grace, but actually to bring us grace. He is not full of the news of grace and truth, but of grace and truth themselves. Others had been messengers of gracious tidings, but He came to bring grace. Others teach us truth, but Jesus is the truth. He is that grace and truth whereof others spoke. Jesus is not merely a teacher, an exhorter, a worker of grace and truth; but these heavenly things are in Him: He is full of them. I want you to note this. It raises such a difference between Christ and others: you go to others to hear of grace and truth, but you must go to Christ to see them. There may be, there is, grace in other men; but not as it is in Christ: they have take it as water flowing through a pipe, but He has it as water in its fountain and source. He has grace to communicate to the sons of men, grace without measure, grace essential and abiding. There is truth in others where God has wrought it, by His Spirit; but it is not in them as it is in Christ. In Him dwell the depth, the substance, the essence of the fact. Grace and truth come to us by Him, and yet they evermore abide in Him. I say again, our Lord did not merely come to teach grace and truth, or to impress them upon us; but He came to exhibit in His own person, life, and work, all the grace and truth which we need. He has brought us grace in rivers and truth in streams: of these He has an infinite fullness; of that fullness all His saints receive. This grace and truth are blended. The “and” between the two words I would treat as more than a common conjunction. The two rivers unite in one fullness “Full of grace and truth”: that is to say. The grace is truthful grace, grace not in fiction nor in fancy, grace not to be hoped for and to be dreamed of, but grace every atom of which is fact; redemption which does redeem, pardon which does blot out sin, renewal which actually regenerates, salvation which completely saves. We have not here blessings which charm the ear and cheat the soul; but real, substantial favours from God that cannot lie. Then blend these things the other way. “Grace and truth”: the Lord has come to bring us truth, but it is not the kind of truth which censures, condemns, and punishes; it is gracious truth, truth steeped in love, truth saturated with mercy. The truth which Jesus brings to His people comes not from the judgment-seat, but from the mercy-seat; it hath a gracious drift and aim about it, and ever tends unto salvation. His light is the life of men. If thou art overshadowed with a dark truth which seems to deepen thy despair, look thou to it again and thou wilt perceive within it a hidden light which is sown for the righteous. The darkness of convincing and humbling truth maketh for light: by engendering despair of self, heart-searching truth is meant to drive thee to the true hope. There is grace to God’s people in everything that falls from the lips of’.Jesus Christ. His lips are like lilies dropping sweet smelling myrrh; myrrh in itself is bitter, but such is the grace of our Lord Jesus that His lips impart sweetness to it. See how grace and truth thus blend, and qualify each other! The grace all true, and the truth is all gracious, This is a wondrous compound made according to the art of the divine Apothecary. Where else is grace so true, or truth so gracious? Furthermore, it is grace and truth balanced. I wish I were able to communicate my thoughts this morning as they came to me when I was meditating upon this passage; but this thought almost speaks for itself. The Lord Jesus Christ is full of grace; but then He has not neglected the other quality which is somewhat sterner, namely, that of truth. I have known many in this world very loving and affectionate, but they have not been faithful: on the other hand, I have known men to be sternly honest and truthful, but they have not been gentle and kind: but in the Lord Jesus Christ there is no defect either way. He is full of grace which doth invite the publican and the sinner to Himself; but He is full of truth which doth repel the hypocrite and Pharisee. He does not hide from man a truth however terrible it may be, but He plainly declares the wrath of God against all unrighteousness. But when He has spoken terrible truth, He has uttered it in such a gracious and tender manner, with so many tears of compassion for the ignorant and those that are out of the way, that you are much won by His grace as convinced by His truth. Our Lord’s ministry is not truth alone, nor grace alone; but it is a balanced, well-ordered system of grace and truth. The Lord Himself is in His character “just and having salvation.” He is both King of righteousness and King of peace. He does not even save unjustly, nor does He proclaim truth unlovingly. Grace and truth are equally conspicuous in Him. Beloved, notice here that these qualities in our Lord are at the full. He is “full of grace.” Who could be more so? In the person of Jesus Christ the immeasurable grace of God is treasured up. God has done for us by Christ Jesus exceeding abundantly above all that we ask, or even think. It is not possible even for imagination to conceive of any person more gracious than God in Christ Jesus. You cannot desire, certainly you cannot require, anything that should exceed what is found of grace in the person, offices, work, and death of the only begotten. Come, ye that have large minds, and intellects that are creative, and see if ye can devise anything that should be mentioned in the same day with what God, in the infinite glory of His grace, has given us in the person of His Son. And there is an equal fullness of truth about our Lord. He Himself, as He comes to us as the revelation and manifestation of God, declares to us, not some truth, but all truth. All of God is in Christ; and all of God means all that is true, and all that is right, and all that is faithful, and all that is just, all that is according to righteousness arid holiness. Christ Jesus has brought to us the justice, truth, and righteousness of God to the full: He is the Lord our righteousness. There are no reserves of disagreeable faith in Christ. There is nothing hidden from us of truth that might alarm us, nor anything that might have shaken our confidence; nor, on the other hand, is any truth kept back which might have increased our steadfastness. He says, “If it were not so I would have told you.” Admire the full-robed splendour of the Sun of Righteousness. Ask not with Pilate, “What is truth?” but behold it in God’s dear Son. Oh, I know not how to speak to you upon themes so full and deep! How shall 1, that am but as a twinkling dewdrop on a blade of grass, reflect the full glory of this Sun of Righteousness? But all truth and all grace dwell in Christ in all their fullness beyond conception, and the two lie in each other’s bosoms forever, to bless us with boundless, endless joy and glory. Thus have I taken the two together. Now I want to dwell briefly on each one by itself. Grace is put first. “We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace.” Jesus Christ is the Son of God; He is His only begotten Son. Others are begotten of God, but no other was ever begotten of God as Christ was; consequently, when He came into this world the glory that was about Him was a glory as of the only begotten. A very singular, and very special, and incommunicable glory abides in the person of our Lord. Part of this was the glory of His grace. Now, in the Old Testament, in that thirty-fourth chapter of Exodus, which we read in part this morning, you notice that the glory of God lay in His being “the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.” The glory of the only begotten of the Father must lie in the same things as the glory of the Father, namely, in long-suffering and truth. In Christ there is a wonderful gentleness,patience, pity, mercy, and love of God. Not merely did He teach the grace of God, and invite us to the grace of God, but in Himself He displayed the grace of God. This is seen, first, in His incarnation, It is a wonderful instance of divine grace that the word should be made flesh and dwell among us, and reveal His glory to us. Apart from anything that springs out of the incarnation of Christ, that incarnation itself is a wondrous act of grace. There must be hope for men now that man is next akin to God through Jesus Christ. The angels were not mistaken when they not only sang, “Glory to God in the highest,” but also, “on earth peace, goodwill towards men,” because in Bethlehem the Son of God was born of a virgin. God in our nature must mean God with gracious thoughts towards us. If the Lord had meant to destroy the race, He never would have espoused it and taken it into union with Himself. There is fullness of grace in the fact of the Word made flesh tabernacling among us. More than this, there is fullness of grace in the life of Christ when we consider that He lived in order to perfect Himself as our High Priest. Was He not made perfect through His sufferings, that He might sympathize with us in all our woes? He was compassed with infirmities, and bore our sorrows, and endured those crosses of the human life which press so heavily on our own shoulders; and all this to make Himself able to deal graciously with us in a tender and brotherly way. Apart from that which comes wonderful brotherhood, there is a bottomless depth of grace about the fellowship itself. The Lord Jesus cannot curse me, for He has borne my curse: He cannot be unkind to me, for He has shared my sorrows. If every pang that tends my heart has also rent His heart, and if into all my woes He has descended even deeper than I have gone, it must mean love to me, it cannot mean anything else; and it must mean truth, for Jesus did not play at fellowship, His griefs were real. I say then that this manifestation of God in the person of Christ Jesus is seen in His sorrowing life to be full of grace and truth. Then think for a minute of what He did. He was so full of grace that when He spoke His words dropped a fatness of grace, the dew of His own love was upon all His discourses; and when He moved about and touched men here and there, virtue went out of Him, because He was so full of it. At one time He spoke and pardoned a sinner, saying, “Thy sins be forgiven thee”; at another moment He battled with the consequences of sin, raising men from sickness and from death: He again He turned Himself and fought with the prince of darkness himself, and cast him out from those whom he tormented. He went about like a cloud which is big with rain, and therefore plentifully waters waste places. His life was boundless compassion. There was a power of grace about His garments, His voice, His look; and in all He was so true that none ever thought Him capable of subterfuge. Everywhere He went He scattered grace among the children of men; and He is just the same now; fullness of grace abides in Him still. When it came to His death, which was the pouring out of His soul, then His fullness of grace was seen. He was full of grace indeed, forasmuch as He emptied Himself to save men. He was Himself not only man’s Saviour, but his salvation. He gave Himself for us. He was indeed full of grace when He bore our sins in His own body on the tree. His was love at its height, since He died on the cross, “the just for the unjust, to bring us to God,” pronounce the word “Substitution, ” and you cannot help feeling that the Substitute for a guilty man was full of grace; or use that other word, ” representative,” and remember that whatever Jesus did, He did as the covenant Head of His people. If He died, they died in Him; if He rose again, they rose in Him; if He ascended up on high, they ascended in Him; and if He sits at the right hand of God, they also sit in the heavenly places in Him. When He shall come a second time it shall be to claim the kingdom for His chosen as well as for Himself; and all the glory of the future ages is for them, and not for Himself alone. He saith, “Because I live, ye shall live also.” Oh, the richness of the grace and truth that dwell in our Lord as the representative of His people! He will enjoy nothing unless His people enjoy it with Him. “Where I am, there also shall my servant be.” “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in Thy throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” There is yet another word higher than “substitution,” higher than “representation,” and that is “union.” We are one with Christ, joined to Him by a union that never can be broken. Not only does He do what He does, representing us, but we are joined unto Him in one spirit, members of His body, and partakers of His glory. Is it not a miracle of love that worms of earth should ever be one with incarnate Deity, and so one that they never can be separated throughout the ages? Thus I have shown you that there is in our Lord a fullness of grace. Your own thoughts will dig deeper than mine. But then it is said there is in Him also a fullness of truth, by which I understand that in Christ Himself, not merely in what He said, and did, and promised, there is a fullness of truth. And this is true, first, in the fact that He is the fulfilment of all the promises that went before concerning Him. God had promised great things by His prophets concerning the coming Messiah, but all those predictions are absolutely matters of fact in the person of the Well-beloved. “All the promises of God are yea and Amen in Christ Jesus.” Verily He hath bruised the serpent’s head. Verily He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. Verily He hath proclaimed liberty to the captives. Verily He hath proved Himself a prophet like unto Moses. According to my second text, in verse seventeen, I understand our Lord Jesus to be “truth” in the sense of being the substance of all the types. The law that was given by Moses was but symbolical and emblematical; but Jesus is the truth. He is really that blood of sprinkling which speaketh better things than that of Abel; He is in very deed the Paschal lamb of God’s Passover: He is the burnt-offering, the sin-offering, and the peace-offering all in one! He is the true scapegoat, the true morning and evening Lamb; in fact, He is in truth what all the types and figures were in pattern. Blessed by God, brethren, whenever you see great things in the Old Testament in the type, you see the real truth of those things it the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Jew had nothing that we have not; he had nothing even in outline and shadow which we have not obtained in substance. The covenant in its fullness is in Christ: the prophecy is in Moses, the fulfilment is in Jesus: the foreshadowing is in the law, the truth is in the Word made flesh. Further than that, our Lord Jesus Christ is said to be grace and truth in this sense, that He truthfully deals with matters of fact in the case of our salvation. I know the notion of the world is that the salvation of Christ is a pretty dream, a handsome piece of sentiment. But there is nothing dreamy, about it: it is no fiction; it is fact upon fact. The Lord Jesus Christ does not gloss over or conceal the condition of man in his salvation; He finds man condemned, and takes him as condemned in the very worst sense, condemned of a capital offence; and as man’s substitute He endures the capital penalty, and dies in the sinner’s stead. The Lord Jesus views the sinner as depraved, yea, as dead in trespasses and sins, and He quickens him by His resurrection life. He does not wink at the result of the fall and of actual sin; but He comes to the dead sinner and quickens him; He comes to the diseased heart and heals it. To me the gospel is a wonderful embodiment of omnipotent wisdom and truth. If the gospel had said to men, “The law of God is certainly righteous, but it is too stern, too, exacting, and therefore God will wink it at many sins, and make provision for salvation by omitting to punish much of human guilt,” why, my brethren, we should always have been in jeopardy. If God could be unjust to save us, He could also be changeable, and cast us away. If there was anything rotten in the state of our salvation, we should fear that it would fail its at last. But our foundation is sure, for the Lord has excavated down to the rock; He has taken away every bit of mere sentiment and sham, and His salvation is real throughout. It is a glorious salvation of grace and truth, in which God takes the sinner as God is, on the principles of true righteousness; and yet saves him. But it means more than that. The Lord deals with us in the way of grace, and that grace encourages a great many hopes, but those hopes are all realized, for He deals with us in truth. Our necessities demands great things, and grace actually supplies those great things. The old law could never make the comers thereunto perfect as pertaining to the conscience, but the grace of God makes believers perfect as pertaining to the conscience. If I were to sit down and try to imagine a flaw in the ground of my salvation by Christ, I could not do it. Believing as I do in Him who bore my sins in His own body on the tree, I feet that by no possibility can His atonement fail me. I have not imagination strong enough to feign a reason for distrust: I do not see hole or corner in which any charge could lurk against the man that believes in Jesus Christ. My conscience is satisfied, and more than satisfied. Sometimes it even seems to me that my sins could not have deserved that the Son of God should die. The atonement is greater than the sin. Speak of the vindication of the law! not the vindication even greater than the dishonour? Does not the law of God shine out more lustrous in its indescribable glory through the sacrifice of Christ as the penalty for sin, than it would have done had it never been broken, or had all the race of law-breakers been swept into endless destruction? O brothers in the salvation of Jesus there is a truth of grace unrivalled! There is a deep verity, a substantiality, an inward soul-satisfaction in the sacrifice of Christ, which makes us feel it is a full atonement a fountain of “grace and truth.” Nor have I yet quite brought out all the meaning, even if I have succeeded so far. Christ has brought to us “grace and truth”; that is to say, He works in believers both grace and truth. We want grace to rescue us from sin; He has brought it: we need truth in the inward parts; He has wrought it. The system of salvation by atonement is calculated to produce truthful men. The habit of looking for salvation through the great sacrifice fosters the spirit of justice, begets in us a deep abhorrence of evil, and a love for that which is right and true. By nature we are all liars, and either love or make a lie: for this cause we are content t with refuges of ties, and we compass ourselves with deceit. In our carnal state we are as full of guile as an egg is full of meat; but when the Lord comes to us it Christ, no longer imputing our trespasses to us, then He takes out of our heart that deceit and desperate wickedness which had else remained there. I say it, and dare avow it, that the system of salvation by the indwelling of God in Christ and the atonement offered by Him for men has a tendency in it to infuse grace into the soul and to produce truth in the life. The Holy Ghost employs it to that end. I pray that you and I may prove it so by the grace which causes us to love both God and man, Santa and the truthfulness with which we deal in all the affairs of life. Thus has our Lord displayed the glory of God in the grace and truth with which He is filled. I am sorry have spoken so feebly on a theme so grand. May the Spirit bless you even through the infirmities of my speech! II. Now I want a few minutes to say to you, Come brothers and sisters, LET US AVAIL OURSELVES OF THIS TABERNACLING OF GOD AMONG US. First, then, if God has come to dwell among men by the Word made flesh let us pitch our tent around this central tabernacle; do not let us live as if God were a long way off. To the Israelites God was equally near from every near from every quarter of the camp. The tabernacle was in the centre, and the centre is equally near to every point of the circumference. No true Israelite could say, “I must go across the sea, or soar up into the air, or dive into the depths to find my God.” Every Israelite could say “He dwelleth between the cherubim: I have but to go to His tabernacle to be in His presence and speak with Him.” Our God is not far from any one of His people this day. We are made nigh by the blood of Christ. God is everywhere present, but there is a higher presence of effectual grace in the person of the only begotten. Do not let us feel as if we worshipped a far-off God. Let us not repine as if we were deserted. Let us not feel alone, for the Father is with us.
God is near thee, therefore cheer the sad soul.
Open thy window towards Jerusalem, as Daniel did; pray, with thine eye upon Christ, in whom all the fullness of the Godhead bodily the greatest nearness to us. God is never far away since Christ has come to dwell among men. Next, let us resort to this central tabernacle to obtain grace to help in time of need. Let us come to Christ without fear, for He hath grace to give, and He will give it to us abundantly whenever we need it. I like to think of the wording if my text. Leave out the parentheses, and it runs, “He dwelt among us full of grace.” He could not have dwelt among such provoking ones if he had not been full of grace.” But if He dwells among us full of grace, we need not fear that He will cast us away because of our sins and failings. I invite you, therefore to come boldly to Him who is full of forgiving love. I beg you to come and receive of His fullness, for grace is truly grace when it is communicated: grace which is not distributed is grace in name only. “Alas!” you say, “I want so much grace.” Brother, it is treasured up in Christ for you without measure. It is placed in Him that you may have it. Do we not try to persuade the sinner that there is life in a look? Shall I need to persuade saints that grace is equally free to them? Do we tell the sinner that God is not be sought for as far away, but that He is waiting to be gracious? Must I tell the believer the same? You may at this moment obtain all the grace you need. The door is open; enter and take what you will. Do not stop till you reach home and go through a set of religious exercises; but here, and now, believe in Jesus to the full. In the centre of the camp is the incarnate God; Israel had but to go the central tent to find present help in time of trouble. In the person of Christ, who hath said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the world,” there is, in truth, all the grace you can possibly need. Come to this well and drink. Receive of His fullness, and go on your way rejoicing. What next shall we do? Brethren, since God in Christ is in the midst of us, let us abide in joyful, peaceful confidence in Him who is grace and truth to us. Do not let us wander to other sources. To whom should we go? Shall we leave our God? Shall we leave His grace, His truth? Do not let us dream that He has changed, for He is God. Do not imagine that He has removed, for He hath said. “This my rest forever; here will I dwell, for I have desired it.” Do not let us conceive that His grace and truth are exhausted; for His fullness is eternal. Let us receive strong consolation, and remain steadfast, unmovable. Let us quietly rest in the firm belief that all we can want between here and heaven, all that we need this moment and in all moments yet to come, is treasured up in Christ Jesus, who is abidingly the centre of His church and the manifestation of God. Once more: if this be so, and God really in Christ dwell in the midst of His people “full of grace and truth,” let us tell everybody of it. I am sure if I had been an Israelite in the wilderness, and had met an Amalekite or an Edomite, I should have gloried in the privileges which His presence secured me. We know that Amalekites and Edomites could not have come into the house of the Lord: but nowadays, if we meet with one who is a stranger, we can tell him of our privilege, with sweet persuasion that the stranger can be brought nigh through the blood of the Lamb. Therefore let us abundantly speak of the dwelling of God with men. Let us tell to all that the Lord has come to man, not in wrath, not in judgment, but “full of grace and truth.” O my unconverted hearer, come to Jesus! He is able to save to the uttermost those that come unto God by Him. Draw night to the meek and lowly Jesus, and you draw night to God. He saith, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” Publish the invitation of grace to the four winds. Ring out your silver trumpets, or if you have them not, sound your ram’s horns; but somehow let all people know that the tabernacle of God is with men, and He doth dwell among them. Tell out his news in the far country, that the wandering prodigal son may hear it, and cry, “I will arise, and go to my Father.” God has come to men’ will not come to receive grace and truth? One more lesson remains, And that is what manner of people ought we to be among whom Jehovah dwells? It must have been a very solemn thing to be a member of that great camp of two million in the wilderness of Sinai. God’s presence in the midst of the camp must have made every tent sacred. As we walked through the streets of that canvas city, if we had been Israelites, and in our right minds, we should have said, “These tents are none other than the house the house of God and the very gate of heaven; for see, Jehovah is in the midst of us. Mark you not the bright light that shines about His sanctuary?” We should have felt that in such in such a camp all should be holy. The pollution of sin should be unknown there. In such a camp constant prayer and praise should be presented to Him whose presence was its glory and defence. Today let our congregation be a holy convocation; and as for ourselves, let us be holiness unto the Lord. We are consecrated men and women, seeing the Lord has come so very near to us. I spoke of solemnity; I meant not dread and sorrow, but a solemnity full of joy. It is a solemn thing to have God so near, but the joy is equal to the solemnity. Glory be unto God most high, for He is here! Let us spend our days and nights in gladness and delight. God is reconciled to us in the person of His dear Son, and we have fellowship with God in Christ Jesus; Wherefore let us rejoice evermore. Amen and amen.
The Lamb of God in Scripture
August 25th, 1889 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
“Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; and looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God.”John 1:35-36
You all know the old, old story. The world was lost; God must punish sin; He sent His son to take our sin upon Him that He might honour the law of God, and establish God’s government by being obedient to the law, and yielding Himself up to the death-penalty. He whom Jehovah loves beyond all else came to earth, became a man, and, as a man, was obedient unto death of the cross. It is He who is called in our text “the Lamb of God,” the one Sacrifice for man’s sin. There is no putting away of sin without sacrifice; there is only one Sacrifice that can put away sin, and that is, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is divine, yet human; Son of God, yet son of Mary. He yielded up His life, “the Just for the unjust,” the Sinless for the sinful, “that He might bring us to God,” and reconcile us to the great Father. That is the story, and whosoever believeth in Him shall live. Any man, the world over, who will trust himself to Christ, God’s great Sacrifice, shall be saved, for this is our continual witness, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Tonight I do not intend so much to preach a sermon as to urge those who have seen the Lamb of God to look at him more intently, to study Him more, and especially to please for the power of the Holy Ghost to reveal Him to them. I want to entreat men, who have looked elsewhere, now to turn their eyes away from the fruitless search after peace and life, and to come and “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” May the Spirit of God open their eyes, and incline their hearts, that tonight, even tonight, they may look unto Him and live! When John saw Jesus on that memorable day, he, first of all, beheld Him himself and then he said to others, “Behold the Lamb of God.” “Looking upon Jesus as He walked,” steadfastly beholding Him, watching Him, gazing with humble admiration at Him, he said, “behold the Lamb of God!” Brethren, we cannot preach what we have not practised. If these eyes have never looked to Jesus, how can I bid your eyes look at Him? Beholding Him, I found peace to my soul; I, who was disposed even to despair, rose from the depths of anguish to the heights of joy by looking unto Him; and I therefore dare to say to you, “Behold the Lamb of God?” Oh, that each one of you might believe our testimony concerning Jesus and look to Him and live! What did John mean by saying, “Behold, in the Latin, ecce, is a note of admiration, of wonderment, of exclamation. “Behold the Lamb of God!” There was nothing of greater wonder ever seen than that God Himself should provide the Lamb for the burnt offering, that He should provide His only Son out of His very bosom, that He should give e the delight of His heart to die for us. Well may we behold this great wonder. Angels admire and marvel at this mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh; they have never left off wondering and adoring the grace of god that gave Jesus to be the Sacrifice for guilty men. Behold and wonder, never leave off wondering; tell it as a wonder, think of it as a wonder, think of it as a wonder, sing of it as a wonder at this glorious Lamb of God. I think that John also meant his disciples to consider when he said to them, “Behold the Lamb of God!” So we say to you, “Think of Him, study Him, know all that you about Him, look Him up and down. He is God; do you understand that He stood the sinner’ stead? He is man; do you know how near akin He is to you, how sympathetic He is, a brother born for your adversity?” The person of Christ is a great marvel; how God and man can be in one person, it is impossible for us to tell. We believe what we cannot comprehend; and we rejoice in what we cannot understand. He whom God has provided to be your Saviour is both God and man; He can lay His hand upon both parties, He can touch your manhood in its weakness, and touch the Godhead in its all-sufficiency. Study Christ; the most excellent of all the sciences in the knowledge of a crucified Saviour. He is most learned in the university of heaven who knows most of Christ. He who hath known most of Him still says that His love surpassed knowledge. Behold Him, then, with wonder, and behold Him with thankfulness. But when John says, “Behold the Lamb of God!” he means more that wondering or considering. “Looking” is used in Scripture for faith: “Look unto me, and be ye saved.” Therefore we sing
There is life for a look at the crucified One, There is life at this moment for thee!
Beholding is a steady kind of looking. Believe then, in Christ with a solid, abiding confidence. Come, ye sinners, come, and trust your Saviour, not for tonight only, but forever. Believe that he is able and willing to save you, and trust Him to do so.
Venture on him, venture wholly, Let no other trust intrude.
Take your eyes off everything else, and behold the Lamb of God! You need not see anything else, nothing else is worth seeing; but behold Him. See how He takes your guilt, see how he bears it, see how He sinks under it, and yet rises from it, crying, “It is finished.” He gives up the ghost, He is buried, He rises again from the dead because He is accepted of God, and His redeeming work is done. Trust Him, trust Him, trust Him. “Look and live,” is now our nosegay; not “do and live,” but “live and do.” If you ask how you are to live, our answer is look, trust, believe, confide, rest in Christ, and the moment you do so, you are saved. But once more, when John said to his disciples, “Behold the Lamb of God!” It was a hint that they should leave off at John, and turn their attention wholly to Jesus, and follow Him. Hence we find that John’s two disciples left him, and became the disciples of Christ. Beloved, we who preached long to have your attention, but when you give your attention to us, our longing then is to pass it on to Christ our Lord. Look on Him, not us. What can we do, poor creatures that we are? Look unto Him, mark His footsteps, tread in them. Do as He bids you, take Him for your Lord, become His disciples, His servants. Behold the Lamb of God, and always behold Him. Look to Him, look up to Him, and follow where He leads the way. Thus I have put the text before you pretty simply. Now, I want to talk to you a little about beholding this Lamb of God, taking a hasty run through various Scripture references to the Lamb; and I will ask you, first, to Behold the Lamb of God in His connections which men, and secondly, to Behold the Lamb of God in His benedictions to men. I. Let us, first, BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD IN HIS CONNECTION WITH MEN. How was the Lamb of God first seen in the world? It was the case of the lamb for one man, brought be one man for himself, and on his own behalf. You all know that I refer to Abel, who was a shepherd, and brought of the firstlings, of his flock, that is, a lamb, and he brought this lamb for himself, and on his own account, that he might be accepted by God, and that he might present to God an offering well-pleasing in His sight. Cain brought of the fruit of the ground as an offering to God. I think that there was a difference in the sacrifice, as well as in the man bringing it, for the Holy Ghost says little about the difference of the man, but He says, “By faith Abel offered unto to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain,” and he was accepted because he brought a more excellent sacrifice. The one sacrifice was bloodless, the fruit of the ground, the other was typical of Christ, the Lamb of God, and was therefore accepted: “and the Lord had respect unto Abel, and to his offering.” Now, beloved, our first view of Christ usually is here, to know Him ourselves. I am a sinner, and I want to have communion with my God; how shall I obtain it? I am guilty, I am sinful; how shall I draw near to the holy God? Here is the answer. Take the Lord Jesus Christ to be yours by faith, and bring Him to God; you must be accepted if you bring Christ with you. The Father never repelled the Son, nor one who was clothed with the Son’s righteousness, or who pleaded the Son’s merit. Come you, as Abel came, not with fruits of your own growing, but with the sacrifice of blood, with Christ the holy Victim, the spotless Lamb of God, and so coming, whoever you may be, you shall be acceptable before God by faith. Now, behold Him, each one of you for yourself! I know what someone will say, “I hope to do that by-and-by.” I hope you do not so deceive yourself. I have heard that there was once a great meeting in the den of the arch-enemy, and he was stirring up his myrmidons to seek the destruction of men. One of the them said, “I have gone forth, and I have told men that there is no God, and no hereafter, and no difference between sin and righteousness, and that they may live as they like”; and there was considerable approbation among the evil spirits. But Satan himself said, “Thou hast done small service, for man has a conscience, and his conscience teaches him better; he knows that there is a God, he knows that there is a difference between sin and righteousness, he knows that there must be future punishment; you have done but little.” Then another stood up, and said, “I have done better, I think, most mighty chieftain, for I have told them that the Bible is a worn-out book, that it was a fable at the first, and that they need not believe it.” There was a round of cheers, for they said that he had done splendid service for the cause of darkness; but Satan said, “It is in vain that you meddle with the old Book, it has taken care of itself, and it can still do so. There is no shaking, it is like a rock. Thou hast done service for a time, but it will soon pass away.” And scarcely did anyone of the fallen spirits venture to bring forward his boasting in the presence of the terrible master who sat it the midst of them; but, at last, one said, “I have told men that they have souls, and there is a God, and that the Bible is true. I have left them to believe as they will, but I have whispered in their ear that there is plenty of time to consider all this.” Then there was a hush, and the great master of demons said, “Thou hast done best of all. This is my great net in which I take more souls that with any other, this net of procrastination or delay.” Therefore say I to you, my hearers, disappoint the fiend. Fly to Jesus at once, Behold, not tomorrow, but tonight, behold the Lamb of God, each man for himself. Now turn over the pages of the grand old Book, and you will find the Lamb in another connection. Israel was in Egypt, and there they had the lamb for the family, “In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house.” Oh, I wish that you would all go on to behold the Lamb of God for your households! “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Why do you stop before you finish this verse? What said the apostle to the trembling jailer? Not merely all that I have quoted, but more; “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Are there not many believers who do not believe for their house. Come, now, and believe in his provision of the Lamb for the house. Trust the grace of God for that little girl, the last born, and for that boy who is still at school, who does not think much of these things as yet; and for that son of yours who has left home, and gone out as an apprentice. Oh, that the Lamb of God might be for him! Pray for him, tonight; and you older parents, pray for your sons who are married, and your daughters who have taken to themselves husbands, and are away from you. The Lamb is for the house, pray for the whole household tonight; take in your grandchildren, all you old folks, all of them who are in your house. Pray that the Lamb may be for the house. I do bless God that I can look upon all my household, and rejoice that they are converted to Christ. My father has this joy, too; and my grandfather also had that joy. Oh, it is a great bliss to have families, generation after generation, all brought to Christ without exception! Why should it no be so? Let us cry for it; surely we may expect the same blessing that God gave to His chosen people under the law, and expect it more largely. Grace does not run in the blood, but grace often runs side by side with it, so that Abraham is loved, and Isaac, and Jacob, and Joseph, and Ephraim, and Manasseh. Thus the covenant blessing goes from one to another. Please with God, tonight, that all in your house may be beneath the sprinkled blood of the lamb, and be saved from the destroying angel, and that all with you may go out of Egypt to have a possession in the land of the promised. A little further on, following the Scripture, and asking you still to behold the Lamb, in the twenty-ninth chapter of that famous Book of Exodus, at the thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth verses, we come across God’s command for the lamb for the people. “Now this is that which thou shalt offer upon the altar; two lambs of the first year day by day continually. The one lamb thou shalt offer in the morning; and the other lamb thou shall offer at even.” Here is the lamb for all the chosen people, the lamb for Israel. It began with the unit, it went on to the family; and here the Lord, who “loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling of Jacob,” makes His tabernacle to be the central place where a lamb shall be offered for the whole nation. Think of it with delight, tonight, that Christ died for all His chosen people. He hath redeemed them from among men. Though they be as many as the stars for number, or as the sand on the sea-shore innumerable, yet that one Sacrifice has redeemed them all. Glory be to God for the blood of the Lamb, by which the whole of Christ’s people are redeemed! Then let your mind take wing right out of the Old Testament into the New, for I have not time to trace all the successive steps. Come now to John, saying, in the twenty-ninth verse of this chapter, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” Now you have gone beyond the bounds of Israel, and have come to the Lamb for the world. You have come to the Lamb of God, who dies for Gentiles as well as Jews, for men in the isles of the sea, for men in the wilds of Africa, for men of every colour, and every race, and every time, and every clime. Oh, glory be to God, wherever there are men, we may go and tell them of Christ! Wherever there are men born of Adam’s race, we may tell them of the second Adam, to whom looking, they who shall live, and in Him they shall find eternal life. I love to think of the breaking down of the bounds that shut in the flow of grace to one nation. Behold, it flows over all Asia Minor, at first, and then over all Greece, and then to Rome, and Paul talks of going to Spain, and the gospel is borne across the sea to England, and from this country it has gone out unto the utmost of the earth. Well, now, take your flight, if you can get beyond that, away to heaven itself, and there you will see the Lamb for all heaven. Look at Revelation, the seventh chapter, and the fourteenth verse; no, you need not look it out, you know it. All the saints in heaven are standing in the glittering ranks, white-robed, pure as the driven snow. They sing and praise one glorious name; when one of the elders first asked the question, “What are these which are arrayed in white robes, and whence came they?” he himself gave the answer, “These are they which came out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
‘Round the altar priests confess, If their robes are white as snow, ‘Twas the Saviour’s righteousness, And his blood that made them so.
The blood of the lamb has whitened all the saints who are in heaven; they sing of Him who loved them, and saved them from their own sins in His own blood. I have often wondered why that second word was not brought into our translation, for it so beautifully fits the language of the beloved Apostle John: “Unto him that loved us and saved us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us king and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” There is no whiteness in heaven but what the Lamb has wrought, no brightness there but what the Lamb has bought; everything there shows the wondrous power and surpassing merit of the Lamb of God. If it be possible to think of something more glorious than I have already described, I think you will find it in the fifth chapter of Revelation, at the thirteenth verse: “And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever.” The day shall come when, from every place that God has made, there shall be heard the voice of praise unto the Lamb; there shall be found everywhere men and women redeemed by blood, angels and glorious spirits, rejoicing to adore Him who was, and is, and is to come, the Almighty Lamb of God. I think I have given you something to consider if you turn over the pages of Scripture, and follow the track of the bleeding Lamb. II. But now, taking you again over the same road a little, I want you, in the second place, TO BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD IN HIS BENEDICTIONS TO MEN. The first blessing of all is that of Abel. He was accepted of God; he offered a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain. Well now, let anybody here, who does not know it, try to learn this lesson tonight. You can only be “accepted in the Beloved.” God loves His Son with such an overflowing love that He has love enough for you, love enough for me, if we are in Christ Jesus. He is the great conduit or channel of God’s love, and that love flows through all the pipes to every soul that believes in Jesus. Hide behind your Lord, and you are safe. Trust His name, living and dying, and nothing can harm you. How many dear hearts, when passing through the valley of death-shade, when grim thoughts have clustered about them, have been cheered, and comforted by the thought of Christ! Remember the monk who, as he died, put away the priest, and the crucifix, and everything else, and cried, “Tua vulnera, Jesu! Tua vulnera, Jesu!” “Thy wounds, Jesus! Thy wounds, Jesus!” I am not saved by what I can do, but by what He has done; not by what I have suffered, but by what He has endured. There hangs our everlasting hope; we trust to Christ in life and in death, and we are accepted for His sake. Come, every sinner, bring the Lamb of God; put Him on the altar, and you shall be accepted at once, and you may at once begin to praise the name of the Lord. But then, as we go on, we find this Lamb of God useful, not only for acceptance, but also for rescue and deliverance. It is a dark and dreadful night; Egypt shivers, and stands aghast; and just at twelve at night forth flies an angel, armed with the sword of death. In every house of Egypt there is heard a wail, for the firstborn is dead, from the firstborn of Pharaoh to the firstborn of the woman who turns the mill to grind the daily corn. Death is in every house; nay, stay; there are houses wherein there is no death. What has secured those habitations? The father took a lamb, shed its blood, dipped the bunch of hyssop in it, and smeared the lintel and the two side posts; and then all sat down and feasted on the lamb undisturbed, and calm and happy. They rejoiced to have for food that lamb whose blood was the ensign of their safety. There was no crying there, no dying there; death could not touch the inhabitants of the house that was marked with the blood of the Paschal lamb. Beloved, you and I are perfectly safe if we are sheltered beneath the blood of the Lamb of God; nothing can harm us, everything must bless us; and we may go to our beds tonight singing
Sprinkled afresh with pardoning blood, I lay me down to rest, As in the embraces of my God, Or on my Saviour’s breast.
We may rise tomorrow morning, if we are spared, and go into this busy world without any fear. The broad arrow of the King is set upon us in the blood-mark of the atoning sacrifice, and we are safe, and safe forever. Glory be to the name of the Lord for this! Nor was that all. As I have told you, the blood of the Paschal lamb was not only sprinkled for the protection of the house, but its fresh was the food of the inmates. Oh, brethren, we do no at first know what it is to feed of Christ! We are satisfied to be sprinkled with His blood; but the believer afterwards find that Christ is the food of his soul. His blood is drink, indeed, and His flesh is meat, indeed. Oh, what a festival have we kept over the person of our Lord! Sometimes, when faint and hungry, we have begun to think of the Incarnate God, the bleeding Lamb, the full atonement paid, and we have said, “My soul is full, satisfied with favour, full of the blessing of the Lord.” I do not know what there is in the gospel if you take away the atoning sacrifice; it seems to me that there would be nothing left but chaff, which might suit asses and horses, but would not be fit for men. Look to Jesus dying in our stead, and here is something for the soul to feed upon, aye, and to be satisfied with, as with marrow and fatness! I pointed you a little further on, to the lamb in the wilderness, the lamb offered up every day; that brings us to another point in our Lord’s work. We have had Christ for acceptance, Christ for safety, and Christ for food, now we have Christ for perpetual resort. The Lamb of God in the morning! Oh, blessed be God for a Saviour in the morning! If the night has gathered aught evil, He doth then disperse it, as the sun dispels the darkness. But oh, what a precious thing also to have the Lamb of God in the evening! If in the day we have soiled our feet in traversing this busy world, here we come to the fountain, and we are made clean through the blood of the Lamb. Perpetual merit, perpetual intercession, perpetual life-giving, perpetual salvation, flow from Jesus Christ the Lamb of God. He is not slain twice; His one wonderful offering has finished transgression, and made an end of sin; but its efficacy continues as though He were sacrificed often, ever supplying us with merit, so that, in effect. His wounds continually do bleed. He is always a new Saviour for me every morning, always a new Saviour every night, and ; yet always the same Saviour, the same Christ. There is no getting weary of Him, there is nothing “stale” in Him. They may talk about “a new view of the atonement.” I have no view of the atonement but this, “Who loved me, and gave himself for me”; “Who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree”; and that old view of the atonement is ever fresh and ever new to the heart and conscience. Well now, beloved, when we come to John again, following our former run of thought, we find the Lamb of God useful for guidance, for when John said, “Behold the Lamb of God,” the two disciples followed Jesus; and we read of some, “These are they which follow the Lamb withersoever he goeth.” The Lamb if our Guide. The Lord is a Shepherd as well as a Lamb, and the flock following in His footsteps is safely led. My soul, when thou wantest to know which way to go, behold the Lamb of God! Ask, “What would Jesus do?” Then do thou what Jesus would have done in such a case, and thou canst not do amiss. Further on we find a passage as this, telling us of victory through the Lamb of God: “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb.” The Lamb is a great Warrior, there is none like Him. Is He not the Lion of the tribe of Judah? Though He be gentle as a lamb, yet against sin and iniquity He is fiercer than a young lion when it roareth on its prey. If we follow Him, hold fast His truth, believe in His atonement, and perpetually proclaim His gospel, we shall overcome all error, and all sin, and all evil. Well now, this blessed Lamb it is not easy to leave off talking about Him when one once begins is so blessed that you may well behold Him, for all happiness comes through Him. In heaven you will see nothing without Him. “Nothing?” say you. No, nothing; here is a proof of my words. “The city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.” All the light, the knowledge, the joy, the bliss of heaven, come through the atoning sacrifice of Christ. Not Jesus only, but Jesus slain, Jesus the Lamb of God, is the very light of heaven. And what, think you, is the joy-day of heaven, the time for the highest exultation? Why, the joyous day when all the golden bells shall peal out their glorious melodies, and all the silver trumpets shall ring out their jubilant notes, will be the day of the marriage of the Lamb. It is the heaven of heave, the climax of ineffable delight; and the voice of the great multitude, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, sings, “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.” So that, at the topmost round of the ladder of eternal bliss, there do you find the Lamb. You cannot get beyond Him. He gives you all He has, even Himself. Behold Him, then, and go on beholding Him throughout the countless ages of eternity. I would to God that you had all beheld Him, and I pray you to behold Him tonight. It is but a little while, and the death-film will gather about your eyes; and if you have not seen the Lamb while yet you have mortal eyes, you will see Him, you will certainly see Him, but your vision will be like than of Balaam, “I shall see Him, but not now: I shall behold Him, but not nigh.” If it is with you “not now,” it may be “not nigh” It will be an awful thing to see the Lamb with a gulf between yourself and Him, for there is a great impassable gulf fixed in the next world; and when you see Him across that gulf, how will you feel? Then shall you cry to the mountains and rocks. “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb!” Jesus will still be a Lamb, even to the lost; it is “the wrath of the Lamb” that they will dread. The Lamb is always conspicuous; He may be neglected, rejected, refused tonight, but He will be beheld in eternity, and beheld to your everlasting confusion and unutterable dismay if you refuse to behold Him now. Let it not be so with any of you.
Ye sinners, seek his face, Whose wrath ye cannot bear; Fly to the shelter of his cross, And find salvation there. Amen.
Found by Jesus, and Finding Jesus
by C. H. Spurgeon August 26th, 1894
“The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”John 1:43-45
For a soul to come to Jesus, is the grandest event in its history. It is spiritually dead till that day; but it then begins to live, and a saved man may reckon his age from the time in which he first knew the Lord. That day of first knowing Christ is important in the highest degree, because it affects all the man’s past career; it sheds another light on all the years that have gone by If he has lived in sin, as no doubt he has, the transaction of that day blots out all the sin. The day in which a man comes to Christ, that very day his transgressions and iniquities are blotted out, even as the thick clouds are driven from the sky when God’s strong wind chases them away. Is not that a grand day in which our sins are cast into the depths of the sea so that henceforth it can be said of them, “They may be sought for, but they shall not be found; yea, they shall not be, saith the Lord”? I say that the day in which a soul comes into contact with Christ is the greatest day of its history, because all the past is changed by it; and as for the present, what a different life does a man begin to live on the day in which he finds the Lord! He commences to live in the light instead of being dead in the darkness; he begins to enjoy the privileges of liberty, instead of suffering the horrors of slavery; he is started on the way to heaven, instead of continuing on the road to hell. He is such a new creature that he cannot tell how changed he is. One said to me, “Sir, the change in me is of this kind; either the whole world is altered, or else I am.” So is it when we are brought to know Christ; it is a real, total, radical change. With many, it is a most joyous alteration; they feel like the man who had been lame, and who, when Peter spoke to him in the name of Jesus, and lifted him up, so that his feet and ankle bones received strength, was not satisfied with walking, for we read, “He leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.” He was walking, and leaping, and praising God; do you wonder at it? If you had lost the use of your legs for a while, you would feel like leaping and praising God when you had them all right again; and thus is it with a soul when it first finds the Saviour. Oh! happy, happy day, when the miraculous hand of Christ takes away the infirmities of the soul, and makes the lame man to leap as a hart, and causes the tongue of the dumb to sing! The day in which a man comes to Christ is also a wonderful day in its effect upon all his future. It is as when the helm of a ship is put right about; the man now sails in a totally different direction. His future will never be what his past was. There may be faults; there may be infirmities and shortcomings; but there will never be the old love of sin any more. “Sin shall not have dominion over you.” This is God’s own promise to us, given through his servant Paul. When Christ comes to our soul, he so breaks the neck of sin, that though it lives a struggling, dying life, and often makes a deal of howling in the heart, yet it is doomed to die. The cross of Christ has broken its back, and broken its neck, too, and die it must. Henceforth the man is bound for holiness, and bound for heaven.
Now, dear friends, have any of you come to Christ? I know that you have, the great mass of you, and I bless God, and so do you, that it is so with you; but if there are any of you who have never come to the Saviour, I wish that this might be the night when you should find him. I am but a poor lame preacher; you are not often troubled with the sight of one sitting down and preaching; yet I think that if I had lost my legs, and had always to lie on my back, I would like even then to preach Christ crucified, and to–
“Tell to sinners round,
What a dear Saviour I have found.”
I do pray that some of you to-night, made to think all the more by the infirmity of the preacher, may be led to seek and to find the Saviour, and then it shall be a happy day indeed for you, as it has been for so many more.
I am going to talk to you about Philip’s conversion, and first, I ask you to notice, in our text, the converts description of it: “Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” That is Philip’s description of it: “We have found Jesus.” It was a true description, but it was not all the truth; so, in the second place, we will notice the Holy Spirit’s description of it: “The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip.” Philip’s account of the incident is that he found Christ; but the Holy Spirit’s record of it is that Christ found Philip. They are both true, however; although the latter is the fuller. We will talk a little about both descriptions of Philip’s conversion.
I. First then, THE CONVERTS DESCRIPTION OF HIS COMING TO CHRIST is given in these words, “We have found…Jesus,” and what he says is perfectly true. If any one of you is saved, it will be by finding Christ, by your personally making a discovery of him, as that man did who found the treasure that was hid in the field. There must be a search after Christ; but if there be a search after him, we may be certain of this one thing, that there will first be a consciousness of needing him.
Philip had sought Christ, or else he would never have said that he had found him; but, before that, Philip knew that there was need of a Messiah. When he looked round about on the world, and on the church, he said to himself, “Oh, that the promised Messiah would come! There is great need of him. The people need him, the church needs him, the world needs him.” When Philip looked into his own heart, he said, “Oh, for the coming of the Messiah! I feel that I want him; I have urgent need of him.” Dear hearer, do you feel that you need a Saviour? You never will seek him until you do feel your need of him. You must recognize that there is sin in you, sin for which you cannot make atonement, sin that you cannot overcome. You must realize that you need another and a stronger arm than your own, that you need divine help, that you need One who can be your Brother, to sympathize with you, and be patient with you, and yet who can be the Mighty God to conquer all your sin for you. You do need a Saviour; that is the first thing that will prompt you to search for him.
Wanting a Messiah, Philip read the Scriptures concerning him. He speaks about Moses and the prophets, and of what they had written concerning the promised Deliverer. O my dear hearers, if you want to find Christ, you must search the Scriptures, for they testify of him! Oh, that you did search the Scriptures more, with the definite object of finding the Saviour! Probably, the great majority of unconverted people never read their Bibles at all; or they read only just enough to satisfy their curiosity, or their conscience. Perhaps they read the Bible as a part of literature which cannot be quite ignored; but they do not take down the Holy Book, and read it carefully and prayerfully, saying, “Oh, that I might find holiness here! Oh, that I might find Christ here!” If they did, it would not be long before they found Jesus. Well does Dr. Watts sing,–
“Laden with guilt, and full of fears,
I fly to thee, my Lord,
And not a glimpse of hope appears
But in thy written Word.
The volume of my Father’s grace
Does all my griefs assuage;
Here I behold my Saviour’s face
Almost in every page.”
He who reads the Bible with the view of finding Christ, will not be long before some passage of Scripture will seem to leap up, to attract his attention, as though it were set on fire, and then it will speak to him of Jesus, whispering to him of the great sacrifice on Calvary, and speaking to his heart of divine love and mercy. Philip was a searcher after Christ in the place where Christ loves to be,–in the pages of Scripture,–and you must be the same if you desire to find Jesus. But then Philip also gave himself to prayer. We are not told so, but we feel sure of it. He asked the Lord to reveal Christ to him, to guide him to where the Christ would be, to let him know the Christ. Oh, if you want to be saved, be much in prayer! I do not mean merely saying prayers; what is the good of that? I do not mean simply saying fine words of your own, merely for the sake of uttering them. Prayer is communing with God; it is asking the Lord for what you really feel that you need. What waggon-loads of sham prayers are shot down at God’s door, as if they were so much rubbish thrown away! Let it not be so with your prayers; but speak to the Lord out of your very soul when you come to the throne of grace. I cannot give you a better prayer than the one we have been singing,–
“Gracious Lord, incline Thine ear,
My requests vouchsafe to hear;
Hear my never-ceasing cry;
Give me Christ, or else I die.
“Lord, deny me what Thou wilt,
Only ease me of my guilt;
Suppliant at Thy feet I lie,
Give me Christ, or else I die.
“Thou dost freely save the lost!
Only in Thy grace I trust:
With my earnest suit comply;
Give me Christ, or else I die.
“Thou hast promised to forgive
All who in Thy Son believe;
Lord, I know Thou canst not lie;
Give me Christ, or else I die.”
With the open Bible before you to guide your understanding, kneel down, and say, “O God, graciously reveal Christ to me by thy Holy Spirit; bring me to know him, bring me this day to find him as my own Saviour!”
It is certain, also, that Philip realized that he might claim the Messiah for himself. One of the things that every man, who would find the Saviour, must do, is to make sure of his right to come and take the Saviour. The question that puzzles many is, “May I have the Saviour?” My dear friends, every sinner in the world is permitted to come and trust the Saviour, if he wills to do so. “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” “But,” asks some troubled soul, “will Christ have me?” That is not the question; the question is, “Will you have Christ?” He says, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” It is you who cast out the Saviour, not the Saviour who casts you out. The bolt to the door is on the inside; it is you who have bolted it, and it is you who must undo the bolt, and invite the Saviour to enter your heart. He is willing enough to come in; wherever there is a soul that wants him, he comes at once; therefore, do not raise any quibbling questions about whether a sinner may come to Christ, or may not come. Is he not bidden to come? We are told to preach the gospel to every creature, and he who gave us our great commission also added, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
Philip accepted Christ as the Messiah. Do you ask, “What am I to do that I may find the Saviour?” Well, what you have to do is practically this, accept him. If you were sick, and the doctor stood before you, with the medicine ready prepared, you would not say, “What am I to do with this medicine, sir? Am I to rub my hand on the outside of the bottle?” You know very well that there are certain directions as to how much is to be taken, and how often. What you have to do with the medicine is to take it. “But I cannot make that medicine work for my restoration.” Who said you could? All you have to do is to take it. It is just this that you have to do with Christ; take him, accept him, receive him. Remember the twelfth verse of this chapter out of which our text is taken: “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” That is it, you see, receive him, believe on his name. “But surely I am to do some good works.” Certainly, you will do good works after you have received Christ; but for your soul’s salvation, you are to do no good works, but simply to receive Christ. “Oh, but I must lead a holy life!” Yes, and you will lead a holy life after you have received Christ; but in order to the leading of a holy life you must have a new heart, and to get a new heart, you have to receive Christ. He will change you, he will renew you, he will make you a new creature in himself. What you have to do is to receive him, and to believe on his name. O my dear hearers, I do trust that I am speaking to some this evening who will understand what I am saying. I fear that I am addressing many who will not believe, though I may put the truth as plainly as it can be preached. You know that you may hold a candle right against a blind man’s eyes, and yet he will not see even then. The Holy Spirit must open your eyes to see what is meant by this receiving Christ, or else you will not understand what you are to do. You are not to give anything to Christ; you are to take all from him. You are not to give anything to Christ; you are to take all from him. You are not to bring anything to Christ; you are to come to him just as you are, and he will bring to you everything that you need. Then, when you have accepted him by the simple act of faith, you will say with Philip, “We have found Jesus.” That is the converts description, and a very good one, too: “We have found Jesus.”
II. But now, secondly, what is THE HOLY GHOST’S DESCRIPTION?
I will read to you the very words again; here they are: “The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip.” Jesus finds Philip before Philip finds Jesus; Philip finds Jesus because Jesus has found Philip.
Now, notice, that this is the previous work; it came before Philip’s own finding. Jesus would go forth into Galilee to find Philip. Dear friends, I recollect very well that, after I had found the Lord, I did not at first fully understand the doctrines of grace. I had heard them preached; but I had not comprehended them. I think at the time I should have been very much puzzled with the doctrine of election, if anybody had spoken to me about it; but I was sitting down, one day, gratefully reflecting on what God had done for me. I knew that my sins were pardoned, I knew that I was accepted in Christ Jesus, and I knew that I was renewed in heart, and in one moment the revelation came to me, “All this is the work of God.” The instant I saw that truth, I said to myself, “Yes, that is the fact, and God be glorified for it! But why has this great work been wrought in me?” I knew that there was no merit in me before the Lord had dealt in mercy with my soul, so I said to myself, “This is the effect of sovereign distinguishing grace.” Then I understood in a moment how it is that God begins with us, and that it is God’s will and God’s eternal purpose, which, after all, lie deeper down than our will or our purpose; and God’s will and God’s eternal purpose must have the glory. What a revelation it was to me! I saw the doctrines of grace immediately; and I think that anybody who has been brought to find the Saviour, and who prayerfully studies the reasons for his salvation, can see the same truth that the Lord revealed to me. Because, first of all, you began to be thoughtful, did you not? Who made you thoughtful? You would never have found the Savour if you had not become thoughtful instead of careless and indifferent. Who made you think of divine things? What influence was it which wrought upon you, and caused you to feel that you must think about eternity, and heaven, and hell? Surely it was God the Holy Ghost going forth, in the name of Jesus Christ, and dealing with you in mercy.
Then you had a sense of your need and of your sinfulness. There was a time when you had no such sense; then, who gave it to you? Where do you think that repentance, that sorrow for sin, that desire after Christ, came from? Did all that grow in your own fallen human nature? Ah, believe me, that dunghill never brought forth such fair flowers as these! No, it was Christ who sowed the good seed in your soul; it was he who made you feel your need of him.
Next, when you read the Bible, you understood it. You perceived that Jesus was the only Saviour of sinners, you saw his fitness to meet your case, and you understood the plan of salvation. Who made you understand it? I know that it is plain enough for a child to comprehend; but no one ever does understand spiritual things except by the operation of the Spirit of God. It was the Holy Spirit who gave you the spiritual power by which you were able to grasp the simple truth concerning the way of salvation.
Then you began to pray. I have spoken of that matter already. But who taught you to pray? You had not been accustomed to real prayer; you had often had great mouthfuls of words, that was all; but now you began to cry, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” Oh, the groaning of your spirit, and the anguish of your heart, as you cried to God! Who gave you that anguish? Who broke you all to pieces, and made every broken bone cry out for mercy? Who, indeed, but Christ who wrought mightily in your soul by the power of the Holy Spirit?
And when you yielded yourself up to Christ, when you believed in Jesus, and found salvation, where did that faith come from? Is it not always the work of the Spirit of God? Is not faith the gift of God, and do you not confess that it is so in your case? Once, when I was a little child, I thought I saw a needle moving across the table; and I should have been wondering who made the needle march as it did, but I was old enough to understand that somebody was moving a magnet underneath the table, and the needle was following the magnet which I could not see. Thus the Lord, with his mighty magnet of grace, is often at work upon the hearts of men, and we think that their desire after God, and their faith in Christ, are of themselves. In a sense, the desire and the faith are their own; but there is a divine force that is at work upon them, producing these results. It is Jesus finding Philip, though Philip does not know it. Philip thinks that he is finding Jesus, but behind the veil it is Jesus finding Philip. This was the previous work. And, dear friends, this was very delightful work for the Lord Jesus Christ. Notice how it is put: “The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip.” O my blessed Lord, how he will go forth to find a soul! A journey is never too long for him, and he never wastes a day. “The day following Jesus would go forth, and findeth Philip.” Oh, may my Lord delight to come forth, and find some of you! You are to-night in a place where he has found a good many; I pray that he may find some of you. Perhaps you do not know how it was that you came here. You did not mean to come out to-night; but here you are in this crowd, in the thick of this great throng. My Lord has found many a precious jewel here; to its own self it seemed nothing but a poor pebble, but to him it was a diamond of the first water. O my Master, find some more of thy jewels to-night! Lord Jesus, come and find Philip, and find Mary, and then let Philip and Mary declare that they have found thee!
When our dear Master goes forth to find a soul, it is very effectual work. He said to Philip, “Follow me.” I will gladly end my sermon just here if my Master will preach to some of you his two-worded sermon, “Follow me,” “Follow me,” “FOLLOW ME.” “Come, poor soul, you do not know the way! ‘Follow me.’ You want some one to go before you, to be your leader. ‘Follow me.’ You want some one to be your shelter, your companion, your all. ‘Follow me.'” That is what you have to do, good woman. You have been worrying about what you have heard from different preachers; Christ says to you, “Follow me.” That is what you have to do, young man. You have been reading those rubbishing modern thought books till you do not know whether you are on your head or on your heels. Burn them. Jesus says, “Follow me.” I know that some of you have been distracted with all sorts of silly talk; let that go to the dogs. Jesus says, “Follow me.” The crucified Saviour says, “Follow me.” Take him for your atonement. The risen Saviour says, “Follow me.” Take him for your life. The Saviour on the throne says, “Follow me.” Take him for your joy. The Saviour coming in glory hereafter says, “Follow me.” Take him to be your hope. “Follow me,” “Follow me,” that is the text for to-night, and that is the sermon, too. Jesus said to Philip, “Follow me,” and Philip followed him directly; and he not only followed Christ himself, but he began immediately to try to get others to follow him.
Please to notice also that Philip was found by Christ in a very different way from the other disciples. Two of them had been found through the teaching of John the Baptist; but Philip had apparently had no teaching. Another of the little company had been found through the private call of his brother; Philip may not have had any relative or friend to speak to him, but the Saviour just said to him, “Follow me,” and he followed him. Dear friends, do not begin comparing your conversion with somebody else’s. If the Lord Jesus Christ calls you, and says to you, “Follow me,” and you follow him, if there never was another soul converted in exactly the same way, it does not matter at all. If you have come to him, if you have trusted in him, you are saved.
The pith of all that I have to say is this. Do not get worrying yourselves, as some of you do, about God’s eternal purpose, and about the secret working of the Holy Spirit, and about how this can be consistent with your following Christ when he bids you. They are perfectly consistent. Some persons have asked me at times to reconcile these two things; and I have said to them, “Very well, tell me the difficulties, and I will reconcile them.” It would be quite as easy to state them as to meet them, for in fact there are none. “Oh, but,” says one, “you tell me to believe in Christ, and yet you constantly preach that faith is the work of the Spirit of God.” I do. “And yet you say that men are to choose Christ?” I do. “Well, how do you reconcile those two things?” Show me that there is any difficulty about the two things, and then I will reconcile them. You imagine the difficulty, for there is none in reality, there does not exist any in practical life. I believe that God has predestinated whether I am going down to the Lord’s supper at the close of this service; but I shall go down as well as my legs can carry me. “Oh!” say you, “you make it out to be a matter of your own free will?” Yes, I do. “And yet you believe it to be God’s eternal purpose?” Yes, I do. “Well, then, reconcile the two things.” Again I say that there is no difficulty in the case, there is nothing to be reconciled, for both statements are true. You might as well ask me to reconcile the land and the water, or to reconcile the dog star, Sirius, and a farthing rush-light. There is no quarrel between them, and I have no time to waste on needless argument. Come you to Christ; and if you do, it will be because the Holy Spirit draws you. If you find the Saviour, it will be because the Saviour first found you. Perhaps, in heaven, you may see some difficulties, and get them explained; down here, you need not see them, and you need not ask to have them explained. Salvation is all of God’s grace, from first to last; yet is it true that the grace of God leads men to do what Moses did, according to our subject this morning,*–to make a choice and to choose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. God grant that you may make an equally wise choice!
I have done when I have said this one thing more. Philip, and Peter, and Andrew, were all of Bethsaida: “Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.” These three good men, these three apostles, were all of Bethsaida. That ought to be some comfort to many of you, my dear hearers, because there are numbers of you, who are here tonight, who are of Bethsaida. Sitting all round me, I see people who, I believe, are of Bethsaida. “Oh!” say you, “we never were there in all our lives.” Listen. Bethsaida was one of the places in which Christ had done many of his mighty works; and you remember that, when the people repented not, Jesus uttered over them that sad lamentation, “Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.”
Now, there are some of you here who have heard the gospel for many years, and have seen the power of the grace of God in your families, and it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, and for Sodom and Gomorrah, in the day of judgment, than it will be for you, inasmuch as you have rejected the Saviour. But, as there were these three men, Philip, and Peter, and Andrew, who were of Bethsaida,–and I should think that the home of James and John was not very far off from the same place,–why should not you come to Christ? Why should not you become members of his Church, and, if it be the Lord’s will, preachers of his Word? God grant that it may be so!
Oh, how I long in my soul for the salvation of every one of you! Many of you, who have come here to-night, are strangers to me. I trust that you will not be strangers to my Master. To-night, I pray you, here in the very heat of midsummer, ere yet the harvest shall be past, and the summer shall be ended, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Receive Christ, trust in him. God grant that you may do so, for Jesu’s sake! Amen.