Let us be simple and plain whenever we have to speak of Christ and when our King Himself comes, let us step back and get out of sight, that He alone may be seen, and that all the people’s hearts may be won to Him.
John the Baptist
JOHN was the herald of Christ. He came to bear witness to Him and to prepare the way for Him. In olden times when kings traveled, they were accustomed to send heralds before them to announce their coming, and to prepare the way for them. And I have read that on several occasions the herald wore such gorgeous apparel—adorned with gold and lace—that when he went into some of the towns and villages, the people thought that he must be the king himself, so they made ready to receive him with royal honors. When he said, “No, I am not the king, I have merely come to sound the trumpet and to say that he is coming,” they wondered what the king himself must be like if his herald was so resplendent.
In the case of John the Baptist, he was not arrayed in soft raiment or rich apparel. He came straight up from the wilderness clothed in a garment of camel’s hair and with a leathern girdle about his loins — and his meat was locusts and wild honey. Nor was there anything at all about John’s mode of speech which was likely to attract attention to himself and make men think less of his Master when He should come. I wish that all of us, when we go forth as Christ’s heralds, crying, “Behold the Lamb of God” — and that is our main business here below — would take care that we were never so grand in our style of thought or language that when the Master Himself comes in all His wondrous simplicity, men would begin to despise Him because they remembered the fine tones of His pretended herald.
John was “a burning and a shining light” and all who came before him were, in Christ’s judgment, inferior to him. He said to the multitudes concerning John, “For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.” This was the difference between John and the prophets — his sight of Christ was clearer than theirs because he was nearer to Christ, and his view of Christ was brighter, fuller, and clearer than that of all who had gone before.
Pointing People to Christ
Are you anxious, my brother, to go and preach? What can you say when people ask you, “What is He like? Who is He that we should believe in Him?” You must look unto Him before you can speak of Him and the more steadfastly you gaze upon His person, His work, His offices, His humiliation, His glorification, the better will you be able to bear your witness concerning Him. You will then speak more surely and confidently for your God if you can testify concerning that which your heart knows to be true.
Let not any of us go and talk to our Sunday school class, or preach from the pulpit, or write a letter about our Lord, until we have had a fresh glimpse of Him. When you have yourself been with Christ, when you have just come forth from the ivory palaces of communion and fellowship with the Lord Jesus, all your garments will smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, and your words will have some of the precious savor clinging to them. So again I say that we must see Christ or else we cannot be witnesses to Him. And therefore, let us fix our hearts, and our thoughts, and our meditations, so completely upon Christ that, when we cry to other men, “Behold the Lamb of God,” it will be because we have just beheld Him ourselves.
If you say to the people, “Behold Christ,” yet all the while your eye is turned toward yourself, and you are wondering whether you will get through the sermon all right, whether you will have a fine peroration at the end, and what the congregation will think of it when you have done, that will be like saying, “Behold!” while you yourself are looking round the other way, and other people will look in the same direction. They will be sure to do as you do, and not as you say; and if you do not behold Christ, neither will they. Our inward thought, and conviction, and belief must be in strict accordance with our outward speech, or else we shall belie ourselves, and our message will be ill delivered, and will fall without power upon our hearers.
Christ is coming again!
I also remind you that we must preach Christ as coming. “Why!” says one, “He has come.” I know that He has, but He is coming again. It is grand preaching when the preacher can see Christ coming, when he can behold the throne of judgment set and can gaze upon the King in His beauty sitting upon it, and see Him reigning over all, King of kings and Lord of lords. It is glorious when he hears the hallelujahs of the approaching millennial age even while he is preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Oh, for open eyes, and expectant hearts, and earnest tongues, to see, and long for, and tell of our coming Lord! This is the way the faithful witness preaches Him to the people.
True Witnesses of Christ
The servants of Christ cry, “Behold the Lamb of God.” Our great difficulty is to get men’s eyes off themselves, off their works, off their forms and ceremonies, off mere creed-religion, and to get them to look at the living Christ who is still among us bearing the sin of all who truly seek His face. Take your eyes off all ministers, and all books, and all feelings, and even all believings; do not even fix your gaze on your own faith. You know that the eye cannot see itself. Did you ever see your own eye? In a looking-glass, perhaps, you may have done so; but that was only the reflection of it; and you may, in like manner, see the evidence of your faith, but you cannot look at the faith itself. Faith looks away from itself to the object of faith, even to Christ; and this is what the true witness desires. He will, if he can, keep men from looking anywhere but on his Master.
It was a beautiful trait in the character of John the Baptist that he was so ready to pass on to Christ his own disciples; he did not want to keep them merely to swell the number of his own followers, but only kept them with him until he could point them to his Master. When we try to win souls, if we find that people have confidence in us and affection for us, let us use that influence, not to attach them to ourselves except with the earnest desire to pass them on to Christ, that they may become disciples of the Saviour for themselves, and grow up from being babes who have to be nursed to become strong men in Christ Jesus.
One more thing about John the Baptist, which is also a characteristic of the true witness for Christ, is that he lost himself in his Master. Without a single atom of regret, he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Dear brothers and sisters, when you are serving Christ, do not seek also to serve yourself in a sneaking kind of way. It is easily done; under the appearance of glorifying Christ, you may really be extolling yourself. You may even seek to win souls with the view of having the credit of doing it; and if you do, you will spoil the whole work. It must not be so with you; this royal crown must be touched by none but Christ. You and I cannot really put the crown on his head, though we may wish to do so.
How can we be worthy to put the crown on His head when we are not worthy to unloose the latchet of His shoes?
Excerpted from the sermon titled “The Baptist’s Message” (John 1:29) by CH Spurgeon dated 29 October 1899. You are encouraged to read the full text of this sermon from THE BAPTIST’S MESSAGE (spurgeongems.org)