Beloved, let us PASS BY THAT CROWD OF OUTER-COURT WORSHIPPERS WHO ARE CONTENT TO LIVE WITHOUT KNOWING CHRIST. I do not mean the ungodly and profane; we will not consider them just now—they are altogether strangers and foreigners to him—I mean children of God: the visible saints. How many there are of these whom I must call outer-court worshippers, for they are strangers to this panting to know him. They can say with Paul, “That I may win him and be found in him”—that they do want; but this higher wish, “That I may know him,” has not stirred their hearts. How many brethren we know, who are content to know Christ’s historic life! They read the evangelists and they are charmed with the perfect beauty of the Savior’s history. “Never man spake like this man,” say they; and they confess that never man acted with such love as he did. They know all the incidents of his life, from his manger to his cross; but they do not know HIM. They are as men who have read “Caesar’s Commentaries,” but who have never seen Caesar. They know the battles which Caesar fought; they can even recognize the mantle which Caesar wore “that day he overcame the Nervii;” but they do not know Caesar himself. The person of the Lord Jesus is us much hidden from their eyes us the golden pot of manna when concealed in the ark. They know the life of Christ, but not Christ the Life; they admire his way among men, but they see not himself as the way.
Others there are who know Christ’s doctrine, and prize it too, but they know not Him. All which he taught is dear to them; orthodoxy—for this they would burn at Smithfield, or lay down their necks at Tower Hill. Many of them are well-instructed and divinely-illuminated in the doctrine of Christ, and the wonder is, that they should stop there; because, beloved, it does seem to me when I begin to know a man’s teaching, that the next thing is the desire to know his person. Addison, in one of the ” Spectators,” tells us that the reason why so many books are printed with the portraits of the authors is just this, that as a man reads a book, he feels a desire to know what sort of appearance the author had. This, indeed, is very natural. If you have ever been refreshed under a minister’s printed sermons, if you have at any time received any benefit from his words, I know you have said, “I would like to see that man; I would like to hear the truth flow hot and fresh from his living lips; I would like to know just how he said that sentence, and how that passage sounded as it came from his earnest heart.” My beloved, surely if you know the doctrine of Jesus, if you have so been with Christ as to sit at his feet and hear what he has to say, you must, I hope, have had some longings to know him—to know his person; and if you have, you will have had to pass by multitudes of followers of Jesus who rest satisfied with his words, but forget that he is himself “THE WORD.”
Beloved, there are others—and against them I bring no complaint; they go as far as they can—who are delighted with Christ’s example. Christ’s character is in their esteem the mirror of all perfection. They desire to walk in his footsteps; they listen to his sermon upon the Mount; they are enchanted with it—as well they may be; they pray to he obedient in all things to Christ, as their Master and their Lord. They do well. Mark, I am finding no fault with any of these who prize the history, or who value the doctrine, or who admire the precept; but I want more. I do want, beloved, that you and I should “know HIM.” I love his precepts, but I love HIM better. Sweet is the water from Bethlehem’s well; and well worth the struggle of the armed men to win but a bucket from it; but the well itself is better, and deserves all Israel’s valor to defend it. As the source is ever more valuable than the stream, so is Christ ever better than the best words of his lips, or the best deeds of his hand. I want to know him. I do care for his actions; my soul would sit down and admire those masterly works of holy art—his miracles of humiliation, of suffering, of patience, and of holy charity; but better far I love the hands which wrought these master-works, the lips which spoke these goodly words, and the heart which heaved with that matchless love which was the cause of all. Yes, beloved, we must get farther than Immanuel’s achievements, however glorious; we must come to “know him.”
Most believers rest perfectly at ease with knowing Christ’s sacrifice. They see Jesus as the great High Priest, laying a great sacrifice upon the altar for their sins, and with their whole heart they accept his atonement. By faith they know that all their sin is taken away by precious blood. This is a most blessed and hallowed attainment, I will grant you; but it is not every Christian who perceives that Christ was not only the offerer of a sacrifice, but was himself the sacrifice, and, therefore, loves him as such. Priest, altar, victim, everything Christ was. He gathers up all in himself, and when I see that he loved me, and gave himself for me, it is not enough to know this fact: I want to know him, the glorious person who does and is all this. I want to know the man who thus gave himself for me. I want to behold the Lamb once slain for me. I want to rest upon the bosom which covers the heart which was pierced with the spear; I pray him to kiss me with the kisses of that mouth which cried, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” I love Calvary, the scene of woe, but I love Christ better, the great object of that agony; and even his cross and all his sufferings, dear though these must ever be to the Christian mind, only occupying a second place; the first seat is for himself, his person, his deity, and humanity.
Thus, you see, we have to leave a great many believers behind; nor have we enumerated all, for I believe that even some of those saints who have received grace to look for the coming of Christ, yet in their vision of his coming too much forget him. Is it not possible for nine to pant for the second advent as to lose sight of him who is to make that advent? So to long for a millennium, that I may forget him who is to reign King of kings? So to pant after that glory of Israel that I may forget him who is Israel’s glory? Anywhere short of knowing him, I would not have you stop, beloved; and even when you know him, I would urge you still to be impelled with the same desire, and to press forward, crying with the apostle, “That I may know him.”
Beloved, how many there are who have heard of Christ and read about Christ, and that is enough for them! But it is not enough for me, and it should not be enough for you. The apostle Paul did not say “I have heard of him, on whom I have believed,” but “I know whom I have believed.” To hear about Christ may damn you, it may be a savor of death unto death to you. You have heard of him with the ear; but it is essential that you know him in order that you may be partakers of eternal life. My dear hearers, be not content unless you have this as your soul’s present portion.
Others there be who have been persuaded by the judgment and encouragement of others, that they know something about the great Redeemer. They do not know him, but still they are persuaded by others that they have an interest in him. Let me warn you of second-hand spirituality, it is a rotten, soul-deceiving deception. Beware of all esteeming yourself according to the thoughts of others, or you will be ruined. Another man’s opinion of me may have great influence over me, I have heard of a man in perfectly good health killed by the opinion of others. Several of his friends had foolishly agreed to play him a practical trick; whereupon one of them met him and said, “How ill you look this morning.” He did not feel so; he was very much surprised at the remark. When he met the next, who said to him, “Oh! dear, how bad you look,” he began to think there might be something in it; and as he turned smart round the corner, a third person said to him, “What a sight you are! How altered from what you used to be!” He went home ill, he took to his bed and died. So goes the story, and I should not marvel if it really did occur. Now, if such might be the effect of persuasion and supposed belief in the sickness of a man, how much more readily may men be persuaded into the idea of spiritual health! A believer meets you, and by his treatment seems to say, “I welcome you as a dear brother”—and means it too. You are baptized, and you are received into Church-fellowship, and so everybody thinks that you must be a follower of Christ; and yet you may not know him. Oh, I do pray you, do not be satisfied with being persuaded into something like an assurance that you are in him, but do know him—know him for yourself.
There are many who I hope will be saved ere long; but I am in great doubt of them, because they can only say they half think they know Christ; they do not quite believe in him, but they do not disbelieve in him; they halt between two opinions. Ah, dear hearer, that is a very dangerous place to stand in. The border-land is the devil’s hunting ground. Undecided souls are fair game for the great fowler. God give you once for all the true decision by which through grace you shall know him. Do not be satisfied with thinking you know him; hoping you know him, but know him. Oh, it is nothing to have heard about him, to have talked about him, to have eaten and have drank with him, to have preached him, or even to have wrought miracles in his name, to have been charmed by his eloquence, to have been stirred with the story of his love, to have been moved to imitate him—this shall nothing avail you, unless you win him and are found in him. Seek with the apostle, to give up everything of your own righteousness, and all other objects and aims in life, and say, “This I seek after, that I may know him.” Thus much, then, on the first point. Leaving those behind who do not know him, let us make an advance.
– Charles H. Spurgeon
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