Sermon The Manifestation of God
On the manifestation of God
From this request, it appears that the best of men in the present life see but in part, and know but in part; which arises both from the weakness of the understanding, and from the incomprehensible nature of the things to be known; so that what in some respects they are acquainted with, they are ignorant of in others. Hence, though Christ tells his disciples in the foregoing verse, that, from henceforth they know the Father, and had seen him, yet Philip immediately confesses his ignorance, and says, "Shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us."
The person who preferred this request was Philip, a Christian of Christ's making, a minister of his calling, an apostle of his sending; and he speaks in behalf of the rest. The knowledge and happiness which Christians desire, they would by no means monopolise, but seek it for others, though they cannot impart it themselves. The person to whom the request was made, is Christ, their Master and Saviour, to whom they had been accustomed to present their petitions, and who had been used to grant them. Philip here calls him Lord, which may be considered either as a divine title, or as expressive of that peculiar relation in which he stood to them, claiming their reverence and homage. Christ is, in an especial sense, the Lord of true believers; and the Apostle Paul tells us, that no man can call him so, that is, with appropriate dispositions, but by the Holy Ghost.
But we notice more particularly the request itself "Shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us."
If a corporeal sight of God was here intended, it was a weak request, and the object was impossible to be obtained; for God told Moses, that he could not see his face and live. If a spiritual sight, then, though a bold, yet it was an interesting and becoming request; a request that we should all make, and renew again and again, till it be granted. Considering this as the language of awakened souls, I would observe the three following things:
That there is something of God which all such seek to know; that it is the work of Christ thus to reveal him; and that such a revelation will be abundantly satisfactory.
1. There is something of God with which all awakened souls want to be acquainted.
1. As the only true God, in opposition to all false or imaginary divinities; that he really is, and is what he has revealed himself to be, possessed of all possible perfections, and the sole object of religious worship.
2. We should seek the knowledge of his peculiar excellence and glory. Thus Moses requested, " I beseech thee, show me thy glory."
3. God should be known by us as the supreme good and most desirable portion. Thus he was known to David: "Whom," says he, "have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth I desire besides thee."
4. We should not be contented without an appropriating knowledge of God.
2. Thus to reveal the Father is the work of Christ; and this he did personally when upon earth, and now does in the use of means, and by the agency of his Spirit.
1. He did it personally when upon earth. In the person and ministry of Christ there was a glorious representation of all the attributes and excellences of Deity.
2. He does this now in the use of means, and by the instrumentality of his Spirit. Various are the means to be adopted for this purpose, such as prayer, reading, hearing, meditation, and Christian conversation. These are all rendered effectual by the Spirit ...
3. To shew that the knowledge of the Father which Christ communicated personally when he was upon earth, and now imparts by his Spirit, is of a very satisfactory nature.
To be the greatest favourite in the Persian court was not enough for Haman; nor a kingdom for Ahab, without Naboth's vineyard; nor a whole world for Alexander the Great. But the language of the gracious soul is, "Shew me the Father, and it sufficeth me ; I want no more, I desire no more." Here we may observe
1. The real comfort and satisfaction of the soul consists in seeing and enjoying God.
2. It is' only a sight of God, afforded by and in the Lord Jesus Christ, that is thus satisfying and contenting.
To know God out of Christ is to know him as an inexorable judge, an implacable enemy, or, as the Apostle expresses it, " a consuming fire." It is neither sanctifying nor saving knowledge; it drives from him instead of leading to him, and excites terror instead of producing comfort. ... O let us all then join in this request! Some want to see strange places, great curiosities, absent friends; St. Austin wished to see Christ in the flesh, Paul preaching, and Rome in its glory. Let us say with Philip, " Shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us;" and let us say it to Christ. It is he alone that can reveal Him, and to do this is a part of his prophetical office,—an office too little regarded;—and yet without it his other offices would be of no service to us. He is the Day- spring from on high that hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. Can you be contented, my brethren, without the grace and knowledge of God ? Is your language like that of the giddy multitude - "Who will shew us any good ?" If so, you are in a woeful state indeed; for as it is life eternal to know, so is it death eternal to be ignorant of, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent; and him whom you will not know to your comfort here, you will know to your everlasting confusion hereafter. On the contrary, that acquaintance which is begun upon earth will be completed in heaven, which is therefore called the " beatific vision," because its happiness chiefly consists in the knowledge of God.