45.Philip findeth Nathanael. Though proud men despise these feeble beginnings of the Church, yet we ought to perceive in them a brighter display of the divine glory, than if the condition of the Kingdom of Christ had been in every respect, from the outset, splendid and magnificent; for we know to how rich a harvest this small seed afterwards grew. Again, we see inPhilip the same desire of building which formerly appeared in Andrew. His modesty, too, is remarkable, in desiring and seeking nothing else than to have others to learn along with him, from Him who is a Teacher common to all.
We have found Jesus. How small was the measure of Philip’ faith appears from this circumstance, that he cannot utter a few words about Christ without mingling with them two gross errors. He calls him the son of Joseph, and says, that Nazareth was his native town, both of which statements were false; and yet, because he is sincerely desirous to do good to his brother, and to make Christ known, God approves of this instance of his diligence, and even crowns it with good success. Each of us ought, no doubt, to endeavor to keep soberly within his own limits; and, certainly, the Evangelist does not mention it as worthy of commendation in Philip, that he twice disgraces Christ, but relates that his doctrine, though faulty and involved in error, was useful, because it nevertheless had this for its object, that Christ might be truly known. He foolishly says that he was the son of Joseph, and ignorantly calls him a native of Nazareth, but yet he leads Nathanael to no other than the Son of God who was born in Bethlehem, (Mat_2:1,) and does not contrive a false Christ, but only wishes that they should know him as he was exhibited by Moses and the Prophets. We see, then, that the chief design of doctrine is, that those who hear us should come to Christ in some way or other.
There are many who engage in abstruse inquiries about Christ, but who throw such darkness and intricacy around him by their subtleties that they can never find him. The Papists, for example, will not say that Christ is the son of Joseph, for they distinctly know what is his name; but yet they annihilate his power, so as to hold out a phantom in the room of Christ. Would it not be better to stammer ridiculously, like Philip, and to hold by the true Christ, than by eloquent and ingenious language to introduce a false Christ? On the other hand, there are many poor dunces in the present day, who, though ignorant and unskilled in the use of language, make known Christ more faithfully than all the theologians of the Pope with their lofty speculations. This passage, therefore, warns us that, if any unsuitable language has been employed concerning Christ by ignorant and unlearned men, we ought not to reject such persons with disdain, provided they direct us to Christ; but that we may not be withdrawn from Christ by the false imaginations of men, let us always have this remedy at hand, to seek the pure knowledge of him fromthe Law and the Prophets.