Nathanael Under the Fig Tree; Or, Religion in Secret
John 1:48
Nathanael said to him, From where know you me? Jesus answered and said to him, Before that Philip called you…

I. IT IS IN SECRET THAT TRUE RELIGION HAS ITS ORIGIN. Thus we perceive that the rise of religion in the soul must necessarily be out of sight. The new creation is accomplished by the secret agency of the Holy Spirit. The origin of great rivers is sometimes wrapped mystery; they rise in Borne inaccessible regions on which human eye has never gazed. For centuries the sources of the Mile were unknown; to discover them was the highest ambition of many an adventurous explorer; but till very recently every attempt had been of no avail. Indeed, the fountain-heads of some of our own rivers lie far away from the haunts of men. If you would trace the Severn to its source, you must ascend the height of Plinlimmon, and there, in a dreary, wild, secluded region, you will find the obscure fountain, where the noble river rises. Truly, this is not an unapt representation of the beginning of the Divine life in the soul.

II. IT IS IN SECRET THAT TRUE RELIGION IS MOST IMPORTANT. This is manifest when we consider that —

1. Man is a lonely being. It may be a startling statement, but it is profoundly true. Between man and man there lies a wide distance; beyond a certain point they cannot approach each other; thus every one stands emphatically by himself. A casual visitor to a large town is frequently overwhelmed with a painful sense of loneliness. Man is alone in most of those circumstances which make up the sum of his existence. His thoughts and reflections, his hopes and fears, are for the most part unknown to his bosom friends. The stage of a theatre is generally so decorated as to present a very gorgeous appearance. You might imagine that those who move and talk upon it live in a kind of fairy land. Beau. tiful forms chatter and dance, amidst sunny groves and laughing streams. All this, however, gives you but a very erroneous idea of what those men and women are in real life. Still, were you allowed to go behind the scenes, where they retire after having played their parts, you might form a sounder estimate of their actual character; but the proceedings there are never beheld by the crowd of spectators who fill the house. But a man's religion follows him into the most retired places; it leaves its impress upon his most private actions; it forms and fashions his most secret meditations.

2. Religious declension invariably begins in secret. This shows how jealous we should always be of the integrity of our inner life. Think of a stream, which, as it winds its way along the meadow, supplies man and beast with its crystal waters. But one day it becomes suddenly thick and troubled. What can be the cause? Somebody has been tampering with the fountain-head. It is in secret that the foundation of our religion is laid. And if the foundation be not firm, the superstructure must be in danger.

3. We can form a more accurate judgment of our religion from our secret life than from anything else. There are two distinct spheres wherein a man's religion may be tested; namely, in public and in secret. Some profess religion from the love of praise — some from a baser motive still, the love of gain. But such motives as these can have no possible influence upon us in secret.

III. TRUE RELIGION IN SECRET IS ACCOMPANIED BY TRUE RELIGION IN PUBLIC. We have a remarkable instance of this in the case of Nathanael. When called upon to act in public, he practised the principles which he cherished in secret.

1. He who has God's love in his heart cannot altogether hide the fact from others. Religion is not a latent principle, buried up in the depths of the soul; for it displays itself in works of righteousness before the world.

2. The secret life of man cannot but tell on his public life. If a man commune much with God in secret, he cannot be otherwise than God-like in public. Unconsciously to himself, he sheds abroad a powerful influence wherever he goes.

(A. Rowlands, B. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.

WEB: Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you."

Christ's Knowledge of His People
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