Sermon 1478. Greater Things Yet Who Shall See Them?
DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, JUNE 8, 1879,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greaterthings than these. And He said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Henceforth you shall see Heaven open, and the angelsof God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man." John 1:50,51.
WE cannot help making a few remarks upon the narrative before we proceed to the distinct subject of discourse. Certain catchwords are exceedingly worthy of notice since they are abundantly full of instruction. When Nathanael had doubts as to whetherthe Messiah could come from Nazareth, Philip answered Him, "Come and see." Now, those were the precise words which the LordJesus had Himself used to His earliest disciples when they began to follow Him-He said to them, "Come and see." It is alwayssafe for us to use over again words which God has blessed. Did the Master say, "Come and see"? Then we cannot do better thansay what Jesus said and use, as near as possible, the Inspired expressions.
Was that short sentence, "Come and see," made useful to other souls? Then those who would win souls cannot do better thanuse such Gospel nets as have been tried and proven efficient in their own cases. Let none of us say that we cannot speak toothers about their souls. There was one passage of Scripture which was the means of our conversion and we cannot do betterthan repeat it in hearty tones to others, hoping that what God has blessed to us, He may bless to others. Short as were theinviting words, "Come and see," it was full of wisdom. Our Lord knows the philosophy of the human mind and understands howbest to produce faith in doubting hearts. "Come and see" is the sure cure for unbelief.
Some would tell doubters to sit down and think and create faith by reflecting on the nature of things. We may long considerthe state of man and the condition of our own nature before we shall thereby be enlightened as to the way of salvation. Ifwe would judge of Christ we must consider Christ, Himself. He is His own best argument! The cobweb spinnings of conceitedbrains are easily broken through, but the facts, the indisputable facts of the Savior's life and death hold the understandingand the heart as with iron bands. As our Savior said and as His servant, Philip, said, even so say we to all who would knowChrist, "Come and see"!
Be not blinded by prejudices or misled by preconceptions, but read His story for yourselves. Seek His face for yourselvesand taste and see that the Lord is good! Personal communion with Jesus is still the best evidence of His personal excellenceand His power to save. Brothers and Sisters, have you any doubts about the Master? "Come and see." Do you say within yourself,"Can He save such an one as I am?" "Come and see." Do your sins cast you down and cause you to despair because you fear thateven the Redeemer's blood cannot cleanse you? "Come and see." See Him as the Son of God and the Son of Man! See Him in Hislife of holiness and in His death of substitution! Or see Him, if you will, up yonder at the right hand of God, making intercessionfor sinners!
And as you are looking upon Him, faith will steal in upon you through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the mind's eye thatmust look and by that look, repentance and faith find entrance to the soul. "Come and see," for nothing will save a man buta personal sight of a personal Savior. Therefore, "Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world." The LordHimself says, "Look unto Me, and be you saved, all the ends of the earth." Our Lord Jesus Christ seems to have so approvedof the advice of Philip that He, Himself, followed it up and kept to the same form of expression.
Did Philip say, "Come and see"? Then the Lord Jesus says, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I sawyou: you have come to see Me, but I have already seen you: there has been an antecedent look on My part: I saw you beforeyou did know anything about Me, or had even heard of Me from Philip." Nor does our Lord change His note even to the end ofthe conversation, but closes it by saying, "Because I said unto you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you
believe? You shall see greater things than these." There, you see, is the great plan of salvation as it is worked in us! Firstthe Savior sees us, even when we are a great way off. Then we come and see and our hearts find rest in our Redeemer. And then,in later days, He gives us yet brighter and clearer views of Himself and of His Kingdom!
Oh, who would not come and see if this is so? If at our first coming and seeing we find life and rest, what must those stillgreater things be which are yet to be revealed? All that faith has yet discovered is but a foretaste and an earnest of moreglorious sights which shall yet be opened up before our favored eyes, for Jesus Himself says, "You shall see greater thingsthan these."
Other parts of the conversation are equally worthy of notice, as showing how fully the mind of the childlike Nathanael andthe holy Child Jesus responded to each other, as all true and childlike minds always do. Our Lord, as soon as He saw Nathanael,called him, "an Israelite, indeed, in whom is no guile." Jesus knew his simple, frank, open-hearted character and he producedan example of it, for Nathanael did not blush with mock modesty and pretend to question the praise, but in the simplest andmost unaffected manner, he tacitly admitted the description to be true and said, "From where do You know me?" He felt in hisown conscience that he was a true son of that wrestling Jacob who became prevailing Israel and, in accepting the title, hemade his words responsive to those of Jesus, for he said in effect, "True, I am an Israelite, but You are the King of Israel."
To this our Lord seemed to reply, "You are an Israelite, and you have acknowledged Israel's King. And now you shall have Israel'sprivileges for, like he, you shall see Heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."Thus, as in water, face answers to face, so did the heart of man to man in the communion of these two guileless spirits! Theirthoughts were so true that they harmonized like the parts of well-composed music! Their words so frankly bespoke their heartsthat they answered to one another like the echo to the voice. This is the character of the communion between our Master andHis sanctified ones. He says, "I am the Good Shepherd," and the heart replies, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want."
The spouse says, "Yes, He is altogether lovely," and her Bridegroom replies, "You are all fair, My love, there is no spotin you." Our Lord calls us, "My love, My dove, My undefiled," and we, being in full communion with Him, reply, "My Belovedis mine and I am His." As upon the sea in time of storm, deep calls unto deep, so within the sanctified heart, in heavenlycalm, truth calls unto truth-one word of love wakes up another-the commendation given by condescending love brings forth thepraise of grateful affection. But to produce this mutual sympathy there must be a common character, a similar absence of guile,for this is the great condition of fellowship with Jesus.
God's ways towards us are made to meet our own in a most instructive way. "With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful.With an upright man You will show Yourself upright. With the pure You will show Yourself pure and with the obstinate You willshow Yourself obstinate." When His children open their hearts to Him, He opens His mind to them. When they are true Israelites,He gives them the true Israel's privileges. When they acknowledge Him to be a great and glorious King, He makes them to seethe great things of His Kingdom. May it be ours through Grace to be as little children, even as Nathanael was, for so shallwe behold the Kingdom of God!
With those prefatory remarks we come at length to consider the promise of our Lord Jesus to Nathanael. May the Holy Spiritinstruct us! I think I am warranted in saying that this is the Savior's first personal Word of promise and it is instructivethat He gave it, not to the most talented, but to the most simple-hearted of His disciples. It was, moreover, no mean promise,but full of the largest conceivable meaning. "You shall see greater things than these." Those must be very great things whichwere greater than what Nathanael had already seen-there is room for boundless expectation in the words! It was promise whichbrought another linked with it as part and parcel of it. How often one Divine blessing is like a link of a chain of gold anddraws another with it-"You shall see greater things than these" is followed by, "henceforth you shall see Heaven open."
The beauty of it, in this instance, is that albeit Nathanael obtained a promise for himself at first, "you shall see," yetthis drew on the promise for all his brethren, for the 51st verse does not run, "hereafter or henceforth you shall see Heavenopen," but henceforth, "you shall see Heaven open." It is a great thing to receive a personal promise, but it is a greaterthing, still, to secure a promise for all our Master's household! Happy Nathanael to have been the occasion for the proclamationof the opening of Heaven and the commerce between Heaven and earth-the communion of saints with the things in Heaven throughtheir Mediator and Lord! This is the highest form of blessing when we are not only favored,
ourselves, but are made the occasion for enriching others! Was not this the choice inheritance of Abraham, "I will bless youand you shall be a blessing"?
In considering the words which our Savior spoke to Nathanael, I should like you to notice first, the favored man to whom Hespoke them. Then the gracious reward which is described in them. And lastly, the special sight comprised in that reward. Inall this may we be actual partakers and not mere lookers.
I. Let us think of THIS FAVORED MAN. Nathanael was "an Israelite, indeed, in whom is no guile." He was one of those who werenot only of the chosen seed after the flesh, but after the Spirit. He was noted for being a simple-minded, unsophisticatedperson-as honest as the day. He was a truthful man who knew nothing of policy, or craft, or double dealing, or reserve. Hewas a man out of whom all the twists had been taken-an upright and downright man-true to the core and transparent as clearglass!
He was not a Jacobite, a child of the crafty supplanter, but an Israelite, an Israelite, indeed, with the Jacob extractedout of him. He was pure, simple-hearted, ingenuous-not childish, but yet thoroughly childlike. To such a man the Word of Godwas given, "You shall see greater things than these." Notice, first, that he was a man who honestly made enquiries which fairlysuggested themselves. Before he became a Believer, he did not, as some do, invent doubts and raise questions, which questionsare merely raised for question's sake. He did not put queries to Philip which he could have answered himself, nor seek toentangle his instructor by artful speech. Nothing of the sort. He sought truth, not controversy and word-chopping.
The two questions which he put came out of his heart and were points which seemed to be vital to him. He did not go aboutto discover difficulties, but they occurred to him then and there and he spoke them out with honest plainness. He was toldthat the Messiah had been found and that He was Jesus of Nazareth. I am sure he was well acquainted with Holy Writ and hedid not recollect any text in which the Christ was said to come out of Nazareth and, therefore, he thought within himself,"I read of Bethlehem Ephratah, that out of it shall He come forth who is to be Ruler in Israel, but I do not remember a wordconcerning Nazareth." Without a moment's hesitation, he put the question, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?"
Nazareth was a poor, miserable little place of unsavory reputation. This, then, was a difficulty-a true and real difficulty-andhe stated it and was content to, "come and see." When the Savior met him with the words, "Behold an Israelite, indeed, inwhom is no guile," he enquired, "From where do You know me?" A most natural question to ask, for on its answer would dependthe value of the words. Might it not happen that this accurate description of himself might have come to Jesus by report?If a correct description of Nathanael's character had reached the Savior by Philip or any other friend, then it did not proveanything. But if Jesus knew it by His own perception and could read the character of a man to whom He was a stranger, thenNathanael knew what conclusion to draw! So he only asks the question because it ought to be asked and not to be a trick question.
How I love to meet with seekers who, though they are in difficulties, are willing to be led out of them and are not studyinghow to invent more! Some of you cannot find peace in Christ because you willfully darken the atmosphere around yourselves.You are not assailed by doubt, but you invite doubt to assail you! You believe a great deal more than you care to admit, butyou do not want to believe and are fishing for excuses for your unbelief. It is a sad state of mind for a man to be in-tobe trying to discover reasons why he should not be saved-but that is what many are doing. That is a wretched mind which manufacturesdifficulties and complicates plain things because it cannot or will not take a thing in its straightforward, simple meaning,but must be puzzled and perplexed.
Some men are too intellectual to believe the poor man's Gospel-the poor man runs and reads the Gospel-the Gospel of, "Believeand live." The intellectual must be mystified, or excited, or driven to despair-or else they refuse to believe. There is acraving in some men for something that will appall them and fill them with despair. Is not this folly? Wait not for such sensations,I pray you! If you do, you will miss the blessing! But if, even while as yet you have not received full faith, you are honestenough to admit of none but honest difficulties, there is in you some good thing towards the Lord God of Israel and the Lordis praised for it.
This Nathanael without guile was, next, a man who honestly yielded to the force of the Truth of God. Omniscience was provento be an attribute of Christ to Nathanael by the pointed remark which Jesus addressed to him. What was Nathanael doing underthe fig tree? "I know," says one, "for I have heard it said he was praying." Well, I did not say he
was not praying, but I will defy anybody to prove that he was! What was Nathanael doing under the fig tree? We frequentlyread, in the Talmudic writers, of learned rabbis who studied the Law under the fig tree. Was Nathanael studying the Law? Idid not say he was not, but I will defy anybody to prove that he was! What was he doing under the fig tree? There are onlytwo people who could have told us and both of these are silent on the matter. Both Jesus and Nathanael knew, but no one else!
What he was doing under the fig tree, we may not pretend to guess, for it is more instructive to leave it in the dark- ourLord's words were a kind of secret sign to Nathanael, all the more conclusive because perfectly unknown and uninterpretedby the rest of mankind. Whether he was going to be baptized by John the Baptist and sat down there to think of what he wasdoing. Or whether, having been baptized, being on the way home, he suddenly felt an impression that he must sit in that placeand wait-he knew not why-I may not profess to know. But it was an important moment to his own mind and he remembered it assuch. As soon as Jesus said, with a look, "When you were under the fig tree," Nathanael was startled into a conviction thathis secret heart was known to Jesus.
Under that tree he had done, or said, or thought something known only to himself. How had the Person before him known of thatdeed? It was true that his deed, or word, or thought under the fig tree was a pure, simple and honest one, but how did Jesusknow? "If He knows that I was under the fig tree and knows what I was doing there. And if He read my simple-minded, guilelesscharacter when I was there, then He is the Son of God, the King of Israel!" This was Nathanael's immediate conclusion andthe argument was very clear and complete.
Similar reasoning was used by others soon after Nathanael's conversion and with the same result. When our Lord said to thewoman of Samaria, "Go, call your husband and come here," and she replied, "I have no husband," He answered, "You have wellsaid, I have no husband, for you have had five husbands and he whom you now have is not your husband: in that said you truly."Then the woman said, "Come, see a Man which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?" It was good argument,for Omniscience proves Godhead. An Omniscient one here in human flesh among the sons of men must be the Anointed of God! Hemust be the Lord's Christ!
I do not know whether Nathanael remembered the passage of Scripture, but this was the kind of argument used by the great God,Himself, when He proved Himself to be God in Isaiah 44:5. Notice how the passage, in many of its words, is parallel to our text. One shall say, I am the Lord's and another shallcall himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the nameof Israel. "Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and His Redeemer, the Lord of Hosts; I am the First, and I am the Last;and beside Me there is no God." And what is the proof of it? "Who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in orderfor Me, since I appointed the ancient people? And the things that are coming, and shall come, let them show unto them." Hechallenges the false gods to tell what was being done in secret places and what was to be done in the future and He givesthis as a proof of His Godhead!
The heathen oracles attempted prophecy because they saw how clearly it would prove the existence of their gods. Our Lord isa discerner of hearts, reading them as a scholar scans his books and we know Him to be our God. Nathanael had drunk into thevery essence of that wonderful 139th Psalm. No greater proof of Godhead can be given than the fact that all things are nakedand open before the Lord! "O Lord, You have searched me. You know my sitting down and my rising up. You understand my thoughtsafar off." When I sat under the fig tree You did read my heart.
"You compass my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but, lo,O Lord, You know it altogether. You have beset me behind and before, and laid Your hands upon me. Where shall I go from YourSpirit? Or where shall I flee from Your Presence?" All this, you see, is a manifestation of Godhead. Nathanael argued, therefore-"Hesaw me when nobody else did! He read my character in a simple act, an act which other people might have misunderstood andthought me a fool! He perceived the uprightness of my heart and now I know that He is certainly Divine!"
Notice, further, the blessing of our text comes to a man who in simple honesty believes much upon the evidence of one assuredfact. It is proven that Christ can see in secret and read men's hearts-and from this, in addition to His Divinity, Nathanaelinfers that "He is a great Teacher"-and he makes his first confession of faith by calling Him, "Rabbi." He is sure that Hewho knows all things is worthy to be a teacher and he gives Him the teacher's title. Then, as we have already said, he perceivesthat if He is Omniscient, He is Divine and he makes the confession, "You are the Son of God." And, not
satisfied with that, he sees that if He is, indeed, the Son of God, He must be Ruler and Lord and, therefore, he calls Himthe King of Israel.
See here how he drinks into the spirit of the second Psalm, where Son and King are the two great notes of harmony. "Yet haveI set My king upon My holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the Lord has said unto Me, You are My Son; this day haveI begotten You. Kiss the Son lest He is angry and you perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessedare all they that put their trust in Him." Gladly does Nathanael submit Himself to the Son and proclaim Him King of Israel.Was not this the first time that our Lord had been actually proclaimed as King since He had come into His public ministry?Was not this the answer to the wise men's question when they followed His star from regions far remote?
Here was He who was born King of the Jews! This guileless man, who seemed to lack shrewdness, had seen more than his fellows.His eyes, undimmed by falsehood or suspicion, had seen the King, though His humiliation had unclothed Him of His royal mantleand taken off His crown. See, then, Beloved, that the gist of our first head is this-It is the pure in heart that shall seeGod! We must be honest and sincere; we must be clear of all subtlety and craft; we must be transparent as glass before Himor else the Lord will not reveal Himself to us or by us! He loves the guileless and the true-and when He has made us thus,He will fill us with light but not till then. Note, again, that those who are ready to believe upon sure evidence-for Nathanaelneeded that-are the men who shall see more and more. Nathanael did not require the evidence to be repeated to Him again andagain-he saw the argument at once and yielded himself to it. When a point is once proven, it is proven-and that is an endof it.
One conclusive argument is as good as 20 to an unsophisticated mind. Those who are willing to see shall see. Heaven is opento those from whose eyes the scales of prejudice are removed. The Lord manifests Himself to those who manifest themselvesto Him. If you will be Christians of the highest type, you must be true to the core and you must realize Christ and believein Him with that mighty faith which sees Him and realizes Him as close at hand. The Presence and the power of Jesus must beundoubted by your soul-they must be as much a matter of fact to you as your own existence-and then yours shall be the wordswhich we are now about to consider-"You shall see greater things than these."
II. Let us now look at THE GRACIOIUS REWARD. Only a few words upon it. Because this simple-hearted man had believed upon theone argument of the Lord's discernment of his heart, he was favored with the promise of seeing greater things. By these wordsour Lord meant that His perceptions would become more vivid. Do you believe? You shall see! If we demand to see first, weshall never believe! But if we are willing to believe we shall, by-and-by, see.
There is a growth in faith which renders it not the less faith and yet approximates it more and more nearly to sense. I mean,"sense," in its best signification-so that what at first we believe, simply upon the testimony of God, we come, by-and-by,to believe upon personal experience. We believe until we so realize the Object of faith that we look at the things which arenot seen and see Him who is invisible. From this we go further, still, until we both taste and handle of the good Word ofLife and faith becomes the substance of things hoped for. From looking to Christ we come to live, move and have our beingin Him. The eye of faith gathers strength. At first it sees Christ through its tears and that look saves the soul, thoughit perceives comparatively little of Him. But in later days the eye of faith becomes so powerful that it emulates that ofthe eagle which can gaze upon the sun at midday. Thus faith becomes a second sight. Remember our Lord's words to Martha, "SaidI not unto you, that if you would believe you should see the Glory of God?" "Do you believe? You shall see."
This was not all our Lord's meaning. He virtually promised that Nathanael should discover other Truths of God than he as yetknew. "You shall see greater things than these." Now, what is there greater to be seen than the Omniscience of Christ? "Suchknowledge is too wonderful for me: it is high: I cannot attain unto it." Is there anything greater than this? Yes, so theSavior says! I suppose He means this-First, as you have seen My Omniscience in your own case, you shall go on to see it inthe case of all mankind, for by My Cross shall the thoughts of many hearts be revealed and by My Gospel shall men be revealedunto themselves. The Word of God is quick and powerful and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart-and whenNathanael came to preach it in later years, he found it so and saw for himself that Christ read every man's heart.
How wonderfully do we know this to be true in our time and in this place, for here the Word of God finds us out and lays usbare to our own consciences! You have been startled in your seats, sometimes. You have wondered how it could be
that not only in the gross has your experience been set before you, but even in little details there have been minute toucheswhich have amazed you with the distinctness of the Divine knowledge! Our Lord did not say, "I saw you under a tree," as ifit might have been an oak or an olive, but He spoke definitely of "the fig tree." Even so does He cause His ministers to bevery minute and particular so that you wonder where their knowledge comes from! And so, when this is done on a large scale-asit is done whenever Christ is preached-then is it true that we see greater things than when, for the first time, we perceivethat our own character is revealed.
He would see "greater things," next, because he would see more of the Godhead. Did you see Omniscience? You shall see Omnipotence!Did you discover that I could read your heart? You shall learn that I can change your heart! Did you find that My eyes couldglance into the secrets of your soul? You shall find My Word casting out devils, healing the sick and hushing the storms!You shall see clearer ensigns of My Godhead than this one experiment in the reading of the heart. The Lord, in calling Himselfthe Son of Man, opens up to Nathanael one of those greater things. He had perceived Him to be the Son of God by His readinghis heart and it was a great thing to perceive the Godhead, but it was a greater wonder, still, to see that Godhead linkedwith humanity!
Jesus, as Son of God, is glorious, but at the same time as Son of Man, He has a double Glory! Our Lord seemed to say to Nathanael,"You have believed that I am the Son of God-you shall see the Son of Man." And is this a greater thing? In one sense it isa descent for Jesus to be the Son of Man, but yet, you who know how to read the riddle aright will say that the Godhead isnot half so wonderful in itself as when it comes to be united with our humanity. The Incarnation has about it a mystery whichis not seen, even in the mystery of the Godhead! That there should be a God, heathens might spell out-but that this God shouldcome in human flesh among us-this is the mystery which angels desired to look into! Nor may I forget that the idea of ourLord as King of Israel is not so great as His connection with all nations which is displayed in His title, Son of man. Heis not confined in His Grace to Israel, as Nathanael probably thought, but He is Brother to our entire humanity! Here wasanother of the greater things!
Note further that Nathanael had only seen an opened heart, but now he was to see an opened Heaven. He had seen Christ's eyesentering into his secrets, but he was now to see communications established between the lowly hearts of men and the secretsof Heaven! He saw how Christ, Son of God, dwelt among men-he is now to see how the abodes of God and man shall be blendedin one and high communion maintained between earth and Heaven. I come back to the one thought, that the sight of greater thingsis reserved for guileless Believers. To those who already have much by faith, more shall be given. Beloved, as a Church andpeople, we have seen great things in this place in the work of the Lord among us. And we have lately celebrated with muchjoy and thankfulness the loving kindness of the Lord to us-let us make this a new starting point and hear the Lord say-"Fromthis day will I bless you."
We desire to see much greater things than we have known and, in order to this, we must have more faith. And that faith mustbe more simple and childlike. The rule of the Kingdom is that according to our faith, so shall it be unto us. Unbelief barsthe way of mercy. We tie the hands of Jesus if we have no faith. Is it not written, "He could not do many mighty works therebecause of their unbelief"? We must believe or we shall not be established, nor shall our works prosper. Whatever we haveaccomplished has been worked by faith, but we believe that we might have done a hundred times more if we had manifested ahundred times more faith. May the Lord grant us downright, honest, simple faith and then we shall see greater things thanthese, for all obstacles will be removed and eternal love will work wonders among us!
Faith makes a man a fit instrument for God to use and, therefore, God does great things by him. If you are unbelieving, Godwill no more use you than a warrior would use a reed for a weapon! He works no wonders by unbelieving ministers and unbelievingchurches, for these are not prepared to be blessed-they are not vessels fit for the Master's use-rust is upon them of theworst kind. When your heart is resting in the Lord, expecting to see His arm made bare and quietly waiting to see how He willglorify Himself and fulfill His promises, then will you see greater things! When faith fails, it disqualifies us and setsus aside even as in the case of Moses and Aaron, to whom the Lord said, "Because you believed Me not, to sanctify Me in theeyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this congregation unto the land which I have given them."
We must have faith, for faith fulfils the condition which is virtually appended to every promise. Has not the Lord promisedto answer the prayers of those who cry unto Him believingly? But as for the wavering, He has said, "Let not
that man expect to receive anything of the Lord." Is not faith our very life? "The just shall live by faith." Is it not ourentrance into blessedness? We see that Israel in the wilderness could not enter into Canaan because of unbelief. All the promisesare for Believers-there are none for unbelievers. "As you have believed so be it unto you," stands as the measure of blessing-thereis no other. Strong faith, coupled with a guileless character, brings a man into the special, complacent love of God, for,albeit that He loves all His elect, He does not delight in all alike. There were Apostles among the disciples-there were threechoice ones out of the twelve-there was one peculiar favorite out of the three!
He is dearest to God who trusts Him most completely and is most childlike and true. God will do most by that man who is mostreliant upon Him and most open with Him. David, who makes the Lord, alone, to be his confidence, is the man after God's ownheart. And Abraham, who in faith could even give up his only son, is the friend of God. We shall never be full-gown with Goduntil we become too little to dare to doubt; too insignificant to venture to question and too true to suspect the Lord. Increasein faith is the one thing necessary to our advance in the Divine life and work-and may the Holy Spirit work it in us for Christ'sname's sake!
III. We have only a minute or two in which to mention THE SPECIAL SIGHT which was promised to Nathanael. He was to see anopened Heaven. The gates of Glory are not only opened now to Believers, but they are carried right away and Heaven is laidopen to all its citizens, even to those who dwell below. This is a great joy to the believing heart, for free communion withHeaven is the delight of our spirit.
I cannot enlarge upon this, which is worthy of another sermon, but I may not say less than this-that in Christ the saintsare brought very near to God, for even now they have come to the heavenly Jerusalem. The franchise of the new Jerusalem isextended to these low-lying regions in which we sojourn. The veil is torn and we have access to the holiest. The wall of separationis removed and now the abode of the Church below is an adjunct of Heaven, a suburban district of the metropolitan city ofthe New Jerusalem. The gates shall not be shut, nor a division created, nor communion suspended. Is not that a glorious thing,that in the Person of Christ Jesus, Heaven is laid open to earth and earth laid open to communications with Heaven?
Do you know that, Beloved? It is a simple thing to talk of, but do you know it? Have you taken up your citizenship, so thatyou can say, "Truly our citizenship is in Heaven"? While you are sitting under that fig tree do you know what it is to sitin the heavenly places, together with Christ? Are you risen and reigning with Him even now? If so, this is a joyful stateof things and one which should cause you much assurance! We are now dwelling in the house of our God, or at the very leastwe are sitting by the very gate of Heaven! Our condition is known to the Lord and He is near to help us. We suffer not unseenand labor not unobserved. Nothing hinders God from helping us-nothing hinders us from securing His aid.
Then the Lord went on to promise that he should see that the communion between Heaven and earth, by the way of the Mediator,is not only possible, but actual. The ladder is set and there are angels ascending and descending upon it. God hears, helpsand speaks with believing men of pure heart. Observe, that according to the text, the angels ascend first. It does say, "Descendingand ascending," as we might naturally suppose, but they ascend first because when Jesus was on earth they were already hereand ascended at His bidding to carry His messages upward! When Jesus Christ was here, He was never without His bodyguard ofangels and these were His messengers to the courts above.
We, today, Beloved, are surrounded by the forces of the Eternal-they have not to come to us for the first time-lo, they have,these many years, kept watch and guard around the fold of the redeemed! And when a new danger comes, they are prompt to dothe part of watchers and of guardians and to carry tidings to the sentinels of Heaven. Let us pray, for as we pray our prayersascend to Heaven and our praises, too. If we lead an angelical life, our thoughts will always be going up to Heaven or returning.Beloved, have you realized this-that as you have believed in Christ upon the testimony of His Word, you have now the rightof access to the Eternal Throne at all times? You have but to speak and God will hear you!
Some of God's people do not know much about this. Praying is a religious exercise with them-a very proper exercise, but itis not speaking with God-it is not doing business with God and obtaining supplies at His hands. It is a ladder without angels,or, if you please, with ascending angels only, but none coming down with heavenly gifts! Beloved, I hope you have not falleninto this error. What? Is not prayer real with you? Do you expect nothing from it? Would you send an angel on a fool's errand?Do these ascend to Heaven in mere sport and rush up and down to do nothing? Let us
mean business when we pray, or we shall be mockers of the Divine Majesty! Too many come before God and ask for everythingin general but nothing in particular-and they get but scant answers to their pointless prayers.
Many more are very slack in prayer and, therefore, they starve their souls. Many angels must go up if many are to come down!Prayer must be constant and real with us. We should live as if we really had power with God, as if like, Elijah, we couldgo the top of Carmel and pray a bronze sky away and deluge the earth with showers of blessings! Are you unable so to livelike this? Then the fault lies at your own door.
What was next? Nathanael was to see angels descending upon the Son of Man, that is to say, he was to see heavenly spiritsand blessings coming down to man by Jesus Christ. He who truly believes in Christ and is without guile, shall have continualblessings from on high-all Heaven shall be opened to him! God will help him by Providence; will help him by Grace; will helphim by actual angels and will help him spiritually by the all power which He has given unto Christ in Heaven and in earth.How earnestly do I desire that this Church, this morning, may see for itself what my eyes have seen for myself-for my faithsees Heaven opened to supply the needs of Christ's work and all the might of God working to achieve His purposes!
I am just entering upon another work for God. We have had enough of these enterprises, some say, why not wait? I am forcedto go forward and onward! I must go, nor do I fear, for lo, I see Heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending,by the way of Christ Jesus, to bring us help! We may venture. There is no venture in it-we may trust God for anything! Wemay trust God for everything and just go straight on! It looks like walking on water, sometimes, to trust Christ-especiallyabout gold and silver-but we need not fear! The waters shall be a sea of glass beneath our feet if we can but simply trust!
But oh, we must purge ourselves! We must be without guile! There must be no self-seeking! There must be a simple-hearted desirefor God's Glory and for nothing else! We must sink self-Christ must reign! And then we must trust and go forward. I hope weare right in this matter. And if so, we shall see the salvation of God! Nothing can stop us. Behold, this day all things worktogether for good to them that love God. The stones of the field are in league with us! Yes, it is not on earth, alone, thatwe find allies, but the stars in their courses fight against our foes and all Heaven is on the stir to befriend us in theservice of God! See how the ladder swarms with coming and going angels! Heaven surrounds those who are doing Heaven's work!God Himself is with us, for our Captain and His host, which is very great, is round about us even as horses of fire and chariotsof fire were round about the Prophet.
All things shall be given that are needed and as our day, our strength shall be. Brace yourselves, my Brothers and Sisters,for a new endeavor! Be strong in the Lord and you shall see greater things than these. Full of weakness, yet stand in Hisstrength, each one, and play the man! Say, "I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me." Omnipotence is waitingto gird your loins! Buckle it about you and become mighty through God! Our Head, Christ Jesus, has all power in Heaven andin earth and that power He pours into all His members!
By faith I commit myself and I trust, also, my beloved Church and Friends, to farther efforts for our Lord, relying upon HisWord, "You shall see greater things than these," and fully believing that through Christ Jesus all the forces of Heaven arein alliance with us and the will of the Lord shall surely be accomplished!
PORTIONS OFSCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON-John 1:35-51; Genesis28:10-22. HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"-H2, 335, 317.
[Mr. Spurgeon alludes to the Girls' Orphanage. The fund has just commenced and land has been purchased. A large amount willbe needed, but there is a great God to look to!]