Charles Simeon (1759-1836) on John 1:29

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in John 1:29



John i. 29. Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.

IN the general estimation of the world, they are reputed great who bear sway over their fellow-creatures, and are surrounded with pomp and splendor. But, with God, men are accounted great according as they possess a knowledge of his ways, and advance the ends of his government. Hence we are told by our Lord himself that John the Baptist, a plain rustic man, clothed with coarse raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle, and subsisting on the spontaneous produce of the wilderness, was the greatest of all men that had ever been born. And what was it that so exalted him, not only above all the monarchs of the mightiest empires, but above Abraham, or Moses, or David, or any other of the prophets? It was this:

they had seen Christ only at a distance, and spoken of him only in dark prophecies; but he beheld him personally; and, having discovered him by an infallible sign from heaven, pointed him out to others as that very Lamb of God, who should take away the sin of the world. Through the goodness of God, we may be as much exalted above him, as he was above others, if we behold Jesus in the character which is here assigned him; because the completion of his sacrificial work, together with the more perfect revelation of it, which we have in the New Testament, enables us to enter far more deeply into the mystery of redemption, and more fully to comply with the ends and designs of God in it.1 To forward therefore your truest advancement, we shall,

I. Illustrate the character of our Lord as it is here described–

[Under the law there were lambs offered every morning and evening in sacrifice to God; and it is to these, and not to the Paschal Lamb, that St. John refers. They were to be of the first year, and without blemish:2 and by the continual offering up of them God was pacified, as it were, so that his wrath did not break forth to destroy his people on account of their daily transgressions. Such a lamb was Christ: he was the Lamb, whom all the others typified. He was truly without spot or blemish;3 and was offered on the altar of his cross, not merely for the good, but in the stead, of sinners.4 He was really a propitiatory sacrifice, inasmuch as he bore in his own body the curse due to sin,5 and expiated all its guilt. As there was no variation of the daily sacrifices, but only a repetition of the same, so his one offering of himself is the sole cause of our acceptance with God: nor need that to be repeated, because the virtue of it extends from the beginning to the end of time;”he is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”6 Nor is it the sin of one nation only that he takes away, but the sin of the whole world.7 He was eminently the Lamb of God, having been chosen to that office by God, and being accepted by him on our behalf in the discharge of it: He was “an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor.”8]

II. Call more particularly your attention to him–

1. Let the careless sinner “behold” him–

[It is but too evident that they, who live in the neglect of God and their own souls, know little of the evil and malignity of sin. But let such persons view the Son of God leaving the bosom of his Father, and assuming our nature to atone for sin: let them go to Gethsemane and behold him bathed in a bloody sweat through the agonies of his soul: let them follow him to Calvary, and hear him crying in the depths of dereliction, “My God, my God! why hast thou forsaken me.” Let them view him expiring under the curse and condemnation of the law; and then let them judge, whether sin be so light and venial an evil as they imagine? Let them bethink themselves, “if such things were done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?”9 Let them behold him whom they have pierced, yea, whom they are daily crucifying afresh, and mourn.10 Let them know that what he suffered was for them; and that, if they be only willing to humble themselves for their iniquities, the benefits of his death shall extend to them. O that we might all so behold him, as to experience the efficacy of his blood in the removal of our sins!]

2. Let the self-righteous moralist “behold” him–

[How strange is it that any one, who bears the name of Christ, should expect salvation by the works of the law! Why should that Lamb of God have come down from heaven to expiate our guilt, if sin could have been taken away by means of any repentance or righteousness of ours? What truth could there be in the Baptist s assertion, if pardon were to be obtained in any other way than through the sacrifice of Christ? Yea, for what end could so many thousands of lambs have bled upon the altar, but to shew, that “without shedding of blood there could be no remission;”11 and consequently, to lead the attention of all to that Lamb of God, that should in due time be offered on the cross? Let such indignity then be no longer shown to the Savior of the world: but, as it is his office to take away our sin, let us renounce all self-righteous hopes, and trust entirely in his all-atoning sacrifice.]

3. Let the mourning penitent “behold” him–

[No sight under heaven can be so welcome to a contrite soul as a sight of Jesus dying in the place of sinners: for, can we suppose, that he was appointed of God to make atonement for us, and that he executed his commission by dying on the cross, and that, after all, he is unable or unwilling to take away our sin? Was as he designed to be a “propitiation for the sins of the whole world,” and is there such malignity in the sins of any individual, that there is not a sufficiency in his blood to atone for them? Let us put away such disparaging thoughts of this Lamb of God: let us view him as infinite both in power and grace: let us listen to his encouraging invitation, “Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth:”12 “and let us, whatever be our state, trust in him, as “able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him.”]

4. Let the professor of godliness “behold” him–

[Well may you rejoice in the sufficiency of your Savior’s merits; well may you glory in the security which his blood affords you. But remember, it is not the guilt of sin only that he removes, but the power of it also: and the experience of the latter is our only evidence that we have experienced the former. “To redeem us from the love and practice of iniquity, and to purify us unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works,” was no less the intent of his death, than to deliver us from condemnation.”13 While therefore we behold the Lamb of God as the ground of our hope, let us also behold him as a pattern for our imitation.14 Let us follow his steps in all meekness and patience, in all purity and holiness: and let us convince the world that faith in Christ, so far from relaxing our zeal for good works, is the strongest incentive to the performance of them.]

Charles Simeon, ‘Horæ Homileticæ,” in The Entire Works of the Rev. Charles Simeon (London: Printed by Richard Clay, Bread-Street-Hill, 1833), 13:213-216. [Some reformatting; footnote values modernized; italics original; some spelling modernized; and underlining mine.]


1Matt. xi. 11.

2Exod. xxix. 38 41. Numb, xxviii. 3 8.

31 Pet. i. 19.

41 Pet. iii. 18. Gal. iii. 13.

51 Pet. ii. 24.

6Rev. xiii. 8.

7John ii. 2.

8Eph. v. 2.

9Lukexxiii. 31.

10Zech. xii. 10.

11Heb. ix. 22.

12Isai. xlv. 22.

13Tit. ii. 14. 1 Pet. ii. 24.

141 Pet. ii. 21.

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