I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
Applying for Relief to the All-Sufficiency of Christ
Samuel Davies (1723–1761)
I hear the counsel of a Friend;
To the kind voice, my soul, attend.
“Come, sinners, wretched, blind, and poor,
Come, draw from My unbounded store.”
“I only ask you to receive,
For freely I My blessings give.”
Jesus, and are thy treasurers free,
Then I may dare to come to Thee?
I come for grace, that gold refined,
To enrich and beautify my mind,
Grace that will trials well endure,
By trials more divinely pure.
Naked I come for that bright dress,
Thy perfect spotless righteousness,
That glorious robe, so richly dyed
In Thine own blood, my shame to hide.
Like Bartimaeus, Lord, to Thee
I come; oh, give the blind to see!
E’en clay is eye-salve in Thine hand,
If Thou the blessing but command.
Poor, naked, blind I hither came,
Oh, let me not depart the same!
Let me return, all-gracious Lord,
Enriched, adorned, to sight restored.
—Worthy Is the Lamb (Soli Deo Gloria, 2004).
Phillip and Nathanael Follow Christ
Let us observe, as we read these verses, how various are the paths by which souls are led into the narrow way of life.
We are told of a man, named Philip, being added to the little company of Christ’s disciples. He does not appear to have been moved, like Andrew and his companions, by the testimony of John the Baptist. He was not drawn, like Simon Peter, by the out-spoken declaration of a brother. He seems to have been called directly by Christ Himself, and the agency of man seems not to have been used in his calling. Yet in faith and life he became one with those who were disciples before him. Though led by different paths, they all entered the same road, embraced the same truths, served the same Master, and at length reached the same home.
The fact before us is a deeply important one. It throws light on the history of all God’s people in every age, and of every tongue. There are diversities of operations in the saving of souls. All true Christians are led by one Spirit, washed in one blood, serve one Lord, lean on one Saviour, believe one truth, and walk by one general rule. But all are not converted in one and the same manner. All do not pass through the same experience. In conversion, the Holy Spirit acts as a sovereign. He calleth every one severally as He will.
A careful recollection of this point may save us much trouble. We must beware of making the experience of other believers the measure of our own. We must beware of denying another’s grace, because he has not been led by the same way as ourselves. Has a man got the real grace of God? This is the only question that concerns us.—Is he a penitent man? Is he a believer? Does he live a holy life?—Provided these inquiries can be answered satisfactorily, we may well be content. It matters nothing by what path a man has been led, if he has only been led at last into the right way.
Let us observe, secondly, in these verses, how much of Christ there is in the Old Testament Scriptures. We read that when Philip described Christ to Nathanael, he says, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write.”
Christ is the sum and substance of the Old Testament. To Him the earliest promises pointed in the days of Adam, and Enoch, and Noah, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. To Him every sacrifice pointed in the ceremonial worship appointed at Mount Sinai. Of Him every high priest was a type, and every part of the tabernacle was a shadow, and every judge and deliverer of Israel was a figure. He was the prophet like unto Moses, whom the Lord God promised to send, and the King of the house of David, who came to be David’s Lord as well as son. He was the Son of the virgin, and the Lamb, foretold by Isaiah,—the righteous Branch mentioned by Jeremiah,—the true Shepherd, foreseen by Ezekiel,—the Messenger of the Covenant, promised by Malachi,—and the Messiah, who, according to Daniel, was to be cut off, though not for Himself. The further we read in the volume of the Old Testament, the clearer do we find the testimony about Christ. The light which the inspired writers enjoyed in ancient days was, at best, but dim, compared to that of the Gospel. But the coming Person they all saw afar off, and on whom they all fixed their eyes, was one and the same. The Spirit, which was in them, testified of Christ. (1 Pet. i. 11)
Do we stumble at this saying? Do we find it hard to see Christ in the Old Testament, because we do not see His name? Let us be sure that the fault is all our own. It is our spiritual vision which is to blame, and not the book. The eyes of our understanding need to be enlightened. The veil has yet to be taken away. Let us pray for a more humble, childlike, and teachable spirit, and let us take up “Moses and the prophets” again. Christ is there, though our eyes may not yet have seen Him. May we never rest until we can subscribe to our Lord’s words about the Old Testament Scriptures, “They are they which testify of me.” (John v. 39.)
Let us observe, thirdly, in these verses, the good advice which Philip gave to Nathanael. The mind of Nathanael was full of doubts about the Saviour, of whom Philip told Him. “Can there any good thing,” he said, “come out of Nazareth?” And what did Philip reply? He said, “Come and see.”
Wiser counsel than this it would be impossible to conceive! If Philip had reproved Nathanael’s unbelief, he might have driven him back for many a day, and given offence. If he had reasoned with him, he might have failed to convince him, or might have confirmed him in his doubts. But by inviting him to prove the matter for himself, he showed his entire confidence in the truth of his own assertion, and his willingness to have it tested and proved. And the result shows the wisdom of Philip’s words. Nathanael owed his early acquaintance with Christ to that frank invitation, “Come and see.”
If we call ourselves true Christians, let us never be afraid to deal with people about their souls as Philip dealt with Nathanael. Let us invite them boldly to make proof of our religion. Let us tell them confidently that they cannot know its real value until they have tried it. Let us assure them that vital Christianity courts every possible inquiry. It has no secrets. It has nothing to conceal. Its faith and practice are spoken against, just because they are not known. Its enemies speak evil of things with which they are not acquainted. They understand neither what they say nor whereof they affirm. Philip’s mode of dealing, we may be sure, is one principal way to do good. Few are ever moved by reasoning and argument. Still fewer are frightened into repentance. The man who does most good to souls, is often the simple believer who says to his friends, “I have found a Saviour; come and see Him.”
Let us observe, lastly, in these verses, the high character which Jesus gives of Nathanael. He calleth him “an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.”
Nathanael, there can be no doubt, was a true child of God, and a child of God in difficult times. He was one of a very little flock. Like Simeon and Anna, and other pious Jews, he was living by faith and waiting prayerfully for the promised Redeemer, when our Lord’s ministry began. He had that which grace alone can give, an honest heart, a heart without guile. His knowledge was probably small. His spiritual eyesight was dim. But he was one who had lived carefully up to his light. He had diligently used such knowledge as he possessed. His eye had been single, though his vision had not been strong. His spiritual judgment had been honest, though it had not been powerful. What he saw in Scripture, he had held firmly, in spite of Pharisees and Sadducees, and all the fashionable religion of the day. He was an honest Old Testament believer, who had stood alone. And here was the secret of our Lord peculiar commendation! He declared Nathanael to be a true son of Abraham,—a Jew inwardly, possessing circumcision in the spirit as well as in the letter,—an Israelite in heart, as well as a son of Jacob in the flesh.
Let us pray that we may be of the same spirit as Nathanael. An honest, unprejudiced mind,—a child-like willingness to follow the truth, wherever the truth may lead us,—a simple, hearty desire to be guided, taught, and led by the Spirit,—a thorough determination to use every spark of light which we have,—are a possession of priceless value. A man of this spirit may live in the midst of much darkness, and be surrounded by every possible disadvantage to his soul. But the Lord Jesus will take care that such a man does not miss the way to heaven. “The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.” (Psalm xxv. 9.)
—J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (Baker Books, 2007), 3:76–80
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.