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169. The Baptist's Message
The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. John 1:29

PLACES and times become memorable when linked with our Lord; hence we are told what was done at Bethabara on such a day, and what happened on "the next day."

Let us treasure holy memories with great care—especially memories of Jesus—times when we saw the Lord.

In the case before us the preacher was a notable man, and his theme more notable still. John the Baptist preaches Jesus.

We have here a model for every minister of Christ.

I. THE TRUE MESSENGER.

1. He is one who sees Jesus for himself. There was a time when John did not know the Christ, but in due time the Holy Spirit pointed him out (verse 33). The true herald of Jesus is like John—

  • He is on the lookout for his Lord's appearing.

  • He rejoices to preach Jesus as one whom he has himself seen and known, and still hopes to see.

  • He preaches him as come, and as coming.
2. He calls upon men to see Jesus. "Behold the Lamb of God."

  • This he does plainly and confidently.

  • This he does continually— it is his one message. John preached the same sermon "again the next day after" (verse 35).

  • This he does earnestly and emphatically. "Behold!"

3. He leads his own followers to Jesus. John's disciples heard John speak, and followed Jesus (verse 37).

  • He had enough force to induce men to be his followers.

  • He had enough humility to induce his followers to leave him for Jesus. This is the glory of John the Baptist.

  • He had enough grace to make him rejoice that it was so.
Our speech should make men go beyond ourselves to Christ. "We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord" (2 Cor. 4:5.)

4. He loses himself in Jesus.

  • He sees the necessity of this "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).

  • He sees the propriety of this: he knows himself to be only the Bridegroom's friend, and not the Bridegroom (John 3:29).
Blessed is that minister of whom all these points can be asserted.

II. THE TRUE MESSAGE.

John's word was brief, but emphatic.

1. He declared Jesus to be sent and ordained "of God".
2. He declared him to be the one real, divinely-appointed sacrifice for sin—"the Lamb of God."
3. He declared him to be the only remover of human guilt—"which taketh away the sin of the world."
4. He declared him to be set forth as the object of faith—"Behold the Lamb" He exhorted his hearers to look at him with that look which saves.

The end of all ministries and ordinances is to bring men to look to Jesus. Both John, who ran before, and we, who run after, must point in the same direction.

III. THE TRUE RECEPTION OF THAT MESSAGE.

The conduct of John's disciples shows that our true wisdom concerning gospel testimony is—

1. To believe it, and so to acknowledge Jesus as our sin-removing sacrifice.
2. To follow Jesus (verse 37).
3. To follow Jesus, even if we be alone. These were the vanguard of the vast hosts who have since followed Jesus. They knew not what suffering it might involve, but went first and foremost.
4. To abide with Jesus (verse 39).
5. To go forth and tell others of Jesus (verse 40 and 41).

Here, then, is a lesson for those who preach. John's sermon was short, but full of Jesus, and effectual for soul-winning. Imitate him.
Here also is an example for those who have believed.
Here is a gospel for those who hitherto have not known the Savior.

Specialties

In 1857, a day or two before preaching at the Crystal Palace, I went to decide where the platform should be fixed; and, in order to test the acoustic properties of the building, cried in a loud voice, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." In one of the galleries, a workman, who knew nothing of what was being done, heard the words, and they came like a message from heaven to his soul. He was smitten with conviction on account of sin, put down his tools, went home, and there, after a season of spiritual struggling, found peace and life by beholding the Lamb of God. Years after, he told this story to one who visited him on his death-bed. —C. H. S.

Notice how simple the means, how grand the result! John simply declared, "Behold the Lamb of God." Here is no vehement appeal, no angry rebuke, no feverish, would-be impressive urging; it is a simple, earnest declaration of God's truth. What else have Christ's servants to do but to set forth the truth, the gospel, the will of God, as revealed in the person and work of Christ? How much more important to give all our energy and strength to this, than to the attempt of enforcing and applying, threatening and inviting, urging and pressing, in perorations thundering or melting! The truth itself thunders and melts, rouses and whispers, bruises and comforts; entering into the soul, it brings with it light and power. How calm and objective do Christ's sermons, and those of the apostles, appear! How powerful by the consciousness which pervades them: this is the truth of God, light from heaven, power from above! "Behold the Lamb of God." —Adolph Saphir

It is related of John Wesley that, preaching to an audience of courtiers and noblemen, he used the "generation of vipers" text, and flung denunciation right and left. "That sermon should have been preached at Newgate," said a displeased courtier to Wesley on passing out. "No," said the fearless apostle, "my text there would have been, 'Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.'"

Roger Clark, one of the English martyrs, when at the stake, cried out to the people, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." How suitable such a cry from a saint about to seal his testimony with his blood!

No herald could live long in the wilderness on locusts and wild honey, if he had not to tell of a man or an era nobler than himself, and brighter than his own twilight-hour. John lived more truly on the prophecy he proclaimed than on the honey and locusts. —Dr. Parker

A young telegraph operator was anxious about his soul. After a sleepless night, he went to his duties; while restless and absorbed in the thought of his being a sinner, he heard the click of his instrument, and, with great astonishment and emotion, spelt out this message—
"From H.____ Windermere.

    To J.___ B.___ Warkworth.
'Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world; in whom we have redemption, through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.'"

This was sent as an answer to a letter from a young man, who also was seeking peace. It acted as a double blessing, showing to both operator and receiver the way of salvation.

Charles Hadden Spurgeon


170. The Israelite Indeed
Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! John 1:47

THIS is a chapter of "beholds." We are first to "Behold the Lamb of God," and then to behold a man of God.

Nathanael was simple, straightforward, honest, "an Israelite indeed."

In this he was not like his great progenitor, Jacob, who was a supplanter, and not a prince with God, till that memorable night when the angel wrestled with him, and withered his carnal strength. Then, in the weakness of that simplicity which laid hold upon the mighty One, Jacob became Israel (Gen. 27:36; 32:28). A sincere and simple character was not common in our Lord's day. It is despised by many at this day.

It was greatly appreciated by our Lord, who has the same character in perfection, and is truly called "the holy child Jesus?'

This characteristic of guilelessness is—

I. A HAPPY SIGN IN A SEEKER.

We will illustrate this by Nathanael's procedure.

1. He is the sort of man to whom disciples like to speak. "Philip findeth Nathanael" (verse 45).
2. He is outspoken with his difficulties, and therefore his friends see how to meet them. "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" (verse 46).
3. He is ready to apply the proper tests "Come and see" (verse 46).
4. He is honest in his use of those tests. Our Lord saw that Nathanael was no captious critic, nor idly-curious observer (verse 47).
5. He is open to conviction if fair evidence be supplied. As soon as our Lord proved his omniscience Nathanael believed (verse 48).
6. He is ready to make confession (verse 49).
7. He is prepared to proceed far in the school of Christ. The Lord promised him the sight of greater things because he was prepared to see them (verses 50 and 51).

An Israelite is the man to know "the King of Israel" (verse 49).
An Israelite is the man to understand the famous dream of the father of all Israelites (verse 51; Gen. 28:12).

II. A VITAL POINT IN A BELIEVER.

The truly upright man, and he only, can be a Christian.

l. A sense of pardon removes the temptation to guile: we cease to excuse ourselves when pardon is received (Ps. 51).
2. A reception of Christ as "the truth" causes guile to be hated.
3. A truthful assurance of the gospel prevents a hypocritical faith.
4. A complete consecration to the Lord puts an end to a double-minded life, and to all false aims and maxims.
5. A sense of the presence of God makes guile appear absurd.
6. A brave faith in God causes it to appear mean and cowardly.

III. A SURE PRODUCER Of OTHER QUALITIES.

1. It makes a man love his Bible. Nathanael was familiar with the law and the prophets.
2. It makes him pray. He is an Israelite (Gen. 32:28).
3. It leads him to be much alone. "Under the fig-tree" (verse 48).
4. It makes him wear his heart in his countenance. "Behold an Israelite indeed."
5. It prepares him to behold the pure and true glories of heaven.

Who among us is renowned for cleverness, craft, shrewdness, and the critical faculty in general?

Let him be afraid of the much-admired quality of cleverness.
The absence of simplicity is by no means a healthy sign.
Let us be true in any case, and may the Lord teach us his truth!

Mosaic

"Twas well Christ spake among plain men. Had the Scribes and the Pharisees heard him, had some men of these times heard him, they would have said that Christ purposed to define a fool. Who is not now a fool that is not false? He is rated as having but small wit that is not of great subtlety and great wiliness? Plainness is weakness, and solid sincerity stolid simplicity. No man is honest but for want of sense. Conscience comes only from a crazed brain. He hath no reach that cloth not overreach. Only to disguise is to be wise; and he is the profoundest that is the grandest counterfeit. Christ will have a serpent and a dove coupled together--wisdom and simplicity; and he bids, what God hath joined, that man should not sever. But the world dares uncouple them. Uncouple them? That's little; dares divorce them. In these days doves may not consort with serpents, nor singleness and sapience harbor in one heart. Certainly plain-dealing is a jewel; but the world dubs him a fool that useth it.

Hence it is that, nowadays, men dare not deal uprightly, lest their wit be called in question; they are afraid of honest plainness lest they be held for idiocy. Term one an honest man, you do discredit him. The name of fool is so disgraceful, one will rather be a villain than be called a fool. But here, God's Word, God's Wisdom, defines a true Israelite, by truth and plainness; he is one that hath no guile. —Richard Clerke

"Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile." The expression would appear to be so distinct an allusion to the thirty-second Psalm as to amount to a quotation, and to imply that this guilelessness of spirit was not mere amiability, but was the fruit of forgiven sin. "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered (or atoned). Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile." Nathanael, if we may follow this clue, was no stranger to the spiritual meaning of atonement; no stranger, therefore, to the consciousness of sin which made its necessity felt. Pressed on the one hand by the sense of guilt, allured on the other by the provision of atonement in the temple sacrifices, he had been forced to earn his first title by wrestling in prayer with God for pardon; and, having prevailed, there had sprung up within the forgiven man the guileless spirit of childlike trustfulness in God, who had thus stooped to his prayer, and granted the benison he sighed for. He is in the happiest state of preparation for the personal knowledge of Christ, and we shall see with what fullness of faith he honors his Master al the first interview, uttering on the threshold of discipleship a confession more advanced than was made at the same point by any other of the twelve. C. A. Davis

Nathanael was one of these true Israelites; he was in reality, as well as by profession, one of the people of God; and the evidence he gave of this was his freedom from guile. But our Savior does not say he has no guilt. A man may be freckled, or have spots, and not be painted. A Christian is not sinlessly pure—he has many unallowed and bewailed infirmities, but guile he has not: he is no hypocrite. He does not in religion ascend a stage, to assume a character which does not belong to him. He is what he appears to be. There is a correspondence between his professions and actions, his meanings and his words. He is upright in his dealings with himself, in his dealings with his fellow-creatures, and in his dealings with his God. He is all of a piece. He is the same alone as in company; the same in his own house as in the house of God; the same in prosperity as in adversity. William Fay

The clearer the diamond, the more it sparkles; the plainer the heart is, the more it sparkles in God's eye. What a commendation did Christ give Nathanael "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" Thomas Watson

Charles Hadden Spurgeon


171. Jesus Sitting on the Well
Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well; and it was about the sixth hour. John 4:6

MANY things may well remind us of our Lord. Chiefly may we think of him when we see a well or a weary peasant resting at noon.

How truly human was Jesus! To him a long walk brought weariness; his weariness needed rest; to rest he "sat thus on the well."

How worn was his humanity! He was more weary than the disciples.

  • He had a greater mental strain than they.

  • He had a weariness that they knew not of.
His self-denials were even then remarkable.

  • He would in all points be made like unto his brethren.

  • He would not exempt himself from fatigue.

  • He would not work a miracle for his own refreshment.

  • He would not refuse to bear heat, thirst, exhaustion.
He has thus made himself able to sympathize with—

  • The traveler who rests by the roadside.

  • The laborer who is worn-out with toil.

  • The sufferer who feels pain in bone and flesh.

  • The poor man who must rest on a cold stone, and look for refreshment to the public fountain.

  • The weary mind, oppressed by life's long way, which has no luxurious comfort prepared for it, but finds a measure of repose in the simple arrangements of nature.
Reading this text, let it set a picture before you, and—

I. LET YOUR CONSCIENCE DRAW A SPIRITUAL PICTURE OF YOUR WEARIED SAVIOR.

1. He is wearied with our sins (Isa. 43:24).
2. He is wearied with our formal worship (Isa. 1:14).
3. He is wearied with our errings through unbelief (Ps. 95:10).
4. He is wearied with our resistance of his Spirit (Isa. 63:10).
5. He is wearied with our cavillings and rebellions (Mal. 2:17).

Perhaps we have specially wearied the Lord, as we read in Amos 2:13, where singular provocations are mentioned.

That is a grave question asked by the prophet Isaiah, "Will ye weary my God also" (Isa. 7:13)?

II. LET YOUR CONSCIENCE DRAW A SPIRITUAL PICTURE OF YOUR WAITING SAVIOR.

1. He waits for comers to the well: he seizes on all occasions to bless, such as affliction, the hearing of the Word, the recurrence of a birthday, or even the simplest event of life. Men have other errands; they come to the well only to draw water, but the Lord meets them with his greater errand.
2. He waits for the most sinful; she that had had five husbands.
3. He waits to enlighten, convince, convert.
4. He waits to accept, and to commission.
5. He waits to begin by one convert the ingathering of a great harvest of souls, as in the case of the Samaritans.

How long he has waited for some of you!
At how many points has he been on the outlook for you!
Is he not waiting for you at this very hour? Will you not yield to his patient love?

III. LET YOUR PENITENCE DRAW ANOTHER PICTURE.

Alter the position of the character.

1. Be yourself weary of your sinful way.
2. Sit down on the well of your Lord's gracious ordinances.
3. Wait and watch till your Savior comes.
4. Ask him to give you, to drink, and, in so doing, give him to drink for this is his best refreshment.
5. Drink yourselves of the living water, and then run to tell others. Will you not do this at once? May his Holy Spirit so direct you!

Musings

It was the hour of noon, and weary as he was with the long journey, possibly also with the extreme heat, our Lord sat "thus on the well." The expression in the original is most pathetically picturesque. It implies that the Wayfarer was quite tired out, and in his exhaustion flung his limbs wearily on the seat, anxious, if possible, for complete repose. —Archdeacon Farrar

When hard-working people sit down at midday for their few minutes of rest and refreshment, let them recall their Master's noonday rest at the well. He was tired, like we are, yet his rest was short, and his work scarcely broken. He was tired with seeking for us. Our stubborn hearts brought him all this way from heaven. He has long sought for our love, and hardly finds it. Think on this verse. With whom did Jesus find his portion in this life? Not with the great and luxurious, but with the common people, sharing their toils. —Practical Reflections on the Gospels By a Clergyman

While we sympathize with the bodily weariness of our Lord, it will be well to remember the soul-weariness which sin must have occasioned him. He hungered to bless men, and they refused the bread of life. He would have gathered them, but they would not be gathered. He must have been specially wearied with the ostentatious hypocrisy of the Pharisees, and the silly legalisms of the Scribes with their tithing of mint and anise. He was often wearied with the dogged unbelief of the Jews, and the provoking want of faith among his own disciples. The sin, the caviling, the slander, the selfishness, the hardness of heart of those about him, must have worn down his holy soul, and made him every day a Man of sorrows. Yet he never left the well, never refused to give the living water to a thirsting soul, never ceased to entreat men to come to him and drink. —C. H. S.

"Jesus, therefore, being wearied"—And in that he himself had suffered, he was the more able and apt to help this poor Samaritan. So the apostle bids us pity those in adversity, as being ourselves in the body, i. e., the body of flesh and frailty, subject to like misery. —Trapp

When wearied, let us still be on the watch to do good. Wearied, and sitting on the well, our Lord is still in the attitude of observation. "I am never too tired to pray," said a minister, who, after a hard day's toil, found his host ready to excuse him from conducting family prayer. When God is blessing the Word, true ministers forget their fatigue, and hold on long into the night with inquirers. Alas! when the Holy Spirit has nothing to do with a man's heart, the man excuses himself from "making overtime;" as I once heard a professor call it, when he quitted the room the instant the service was over. Another, in describing a minister, said, "Oh, he is so cold! He is one who thinks it is wrong to be too religious. He cannot endure zeal." Be it ours to show a more excellent way. Holy Brainerd, when he could not preach, because he was on his dying bed, called to him a little Indian boy, and tried to teach him his letters. Let us live soul-saving, and so let us die. —C. H. S.

Charles Hadden Spurgeon

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