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LOOKING UNTO JESUS.
THE FIRST BOOK.
Looking unto Jesus, the beginner and finisher of our faith. --Heb. 12:2.
THE PROEM, DIVISION, AND OPENING OF THE WORDS.
The most excellent subject to discourse or write of, is JESUS CHRist. Augustine, having read Cicero's works, commended them for their eloquence; but he passed this sentence upon them, “ They are not sweet, because the name of Jesus is not in them.” And Bernard's saying is near the same, “ If thou writest, it doth not relish with me, unless I read Jesus there; if thou disputest or conferrest, it doth not relish well with me, unless Jesus sound there.” Indeed all we say is but unsavory, if it be not seasoned with this salt, “I determined not to know any thing among you, (saith Paul,) save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." He resolved with himself, before he preached among the Corinthians, that this should be the only point of knowledge that he would profess himself to have skill in; and that, in the course of his ministry he would labor to bring them to: this he made “the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of his knowledge;" "yea, doubtless, (saith he,) and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” Eph. 3:18. Phil. 3:8.
In this knowledge of Christ, there is an excellency above all other knowledge in the world; there is nothing more pleasing and comfortable, more animating and enlivening, more ravishing and soul contenting; only Christ is the sun and centre of all divine revealed truths, we can preach nothing else as the object of our faith, as the necessary element of your soul's salvation, which doth not some way or other, either meet in Christ, or refer to Christ; only Christ is the whole of man's happi. ness, the Sun to enlighten him, the Physician to heal him, the Wall of fire to defend him, the Friend to comfort him, the Pearl to enrich him, the Ark to support him, the Rock to sustain him under the heaviest pressures, “ As an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest, as rivers of waters in a dry place, and as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” Isa. 32:2. Only Christ is that ladder between earth and heaven, the Mediator between God and man, a mystery, which the angels of heaven desire to pry, and peep, and look into. i Pet.1:12. Here is a blessed subject indeed, who would not be glad to pry into it, to be acquainted with it? “ This is life eternal, to know God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent.” John 17:3. Come then, let us look on this Sun of righteousness: we cannot receive harm but good by such a look; indeed by looking long on the natural sun, we may have our eyes dazzled, and our faces blackened; but by looking unto Jesus Christ, we shall have our eyes clearer, and our faces fairer; if “the light of the eye rejoice the heart,” Prov. 15:30. how much more, when we have such a blessed object to look upon? As Christ is more excellent than all the world, so this sight transcends all other sights; it is the epitome of a Christian's happiness, the quintessence of evangelical duties, Look. ing unto JESUS.
In the text we have the act and object. The act in the original is very emphatical, aphorontes eis, the English doth not fully express it; it sig. nifies an averting, or drawing off the eye from one object to another, there are two expressions, apo and eis; the one signifies a turning off the eye from all other objects; the other a fast fixing of the eye upon such an object, and only upon such. So it is both a looking off, and a looking on. On what? that is the object, a looking unto Jesus; a title that denotes his mercy and bounty, as Christ denotes his office and function. I shall not be so curious as to inquire why Jesus, and not Christ is nominated; I suppose the person is aimed at, which implies them both; only this may be observed, that Jesus is the purest gospel-name of all other names; Jesus was not the dialect of the Old Testament; the first place that ever we read of this title as given to Christ, it is in Matth. 1: 21. “ Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins." Some observe that this name Jesus was given him twice; once till death., Matth. 1:21. and afterwards for ever. Phil. 2:10. The first was a note of his entering into covenant with God, to fulfil the law for us, and to die for our sins; the second was a note of so meritorious a person, who for his humility was more exalted than any person ever hath been, or shall be. First, Jesus was the humble name of his deserving grace; now Jesus is the exalted name of his transcendent glory: at first the Jews did crucify Jesus and his name; and the Apostle did then distrust, whether Jesus was the true Jesus: but now God hath raised him from the dead, and “hath highly exalted him, and given him a name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in lieaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.” Phil. 2:9,10. My meaning is not to insist on this name, in contradiction to other names of Christ, he is often called Christ, and Lord, and Mediator, and Son of God, and Emmanuel; why? Jesus is all these, Jesus is Christ, is he is the anointed of God; and Jesus is the Lord, as he hath dominion over all the world; and Jesus is Mediator, as he is the reconciler of God and man; and Jesus is the Son of God, as he was eternally begotten before all worlds; and Jesus is Emmanuel, as he was incarnate, and so God with us. . Only because Jesus signifies Saviour, and this name was given him upon that very account, " for he shall save his people from their sins," I shall make this my design to look at Jesus more especially, as carrying on the great work of our salvation from first to last. This, indeed, is the glad tidings, the gospel, the gospel privilege, and our gospel-duty, Looking unto Jesus.
CHAPTER II, Section 1. The duty of looking off all other things, confirmed and
cleared. Doct. I. But first, we must look off all other things, the note is this, We must take off our mind from every thing which might divert us in our Christian race from looking unto Jesus. Aphorontes, the first word, or first piece of a word in my text, speaks to us thus, hands off, or eyes off from any thing that stands in the way of Jesus Christ. i remember it was written over Plato's door, “ There's none may come hither that is not a geometer.” But on the door of my text is written clean contrary: “No earthly minded man must enter here.” Not any thing in the world, be it ever so excellent, if it stand in the way of Jesus Christ, is to be named the same day; we must not give a look, or squint at any thing that may hinder this fair and lovely sight of Jesus.
This was the Lord's charge to Lot, “ Look not behind thee.” Gen. 19:17. He was so far to renounce and detest the lewdness of Sodom, as that he must not vouchsafe a look towards it.
“At that day shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the holy One of Israel, and he shall not look to the al. tars, the work of his hands.” Isa. 17:7, 8. This was the fruit of God's chastisement on the elect Israel, that he should not give a look to the altars, lest they diverted, or drew his eyes from off his Maker.
“We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen," saith Paul, 2 Cor. 4:18. A Christian's aim is beyond visible things. O when a soul comes to know what an eternal God is, and what an eternal Jesus is, and what an eternal crown is; when it knows that great design of Christ to save poor souls, and to communicate himseli eternally to such poor creatures, this takes off the edge of its desires as to visible temporal things; what are they in comparison?
1. Quest. But what things are they we must look off in this respect? I answer,-1. Good things. 2. Evil things.
1. Good things. The apostle tells us of a cloud of witnesses in the former verse, which no question, in their season, we are to look unto. But when this second object comes in sight, he scatters the cloud quite, and sets up
Jesus himself; now the apostle willeth us, aphoran, to turn our eyes from them, and to turn them hither to Jesus Christ. q. d. If you will indeed see a sight once for all, look to him; the saints, though they be guides to us, yet are they but followers to him; he is the arch guide, the leader of them, and of us all. Look on him. There is a time when James may say, “ Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example:” James 5:10. but when Jesus comes forth that said, “ I have given you an example;” John 13:15. an example above all examples, then "be silent, О all flesh, before the Lord," Zech. 2:13. Let all saints and seraphim, then cover their faces with their wings, that we may look on Jesus, and let all other sights go.
2. Evil things.-1. In general, 2. In special. 1. In general, we must look off all things that are on this side Jesus Christ, and so much the rather, if they be evil things. In a word, we must look off all self, whether it be sinful self, or natural self, or re. ligious sell; in this case we must draw our eyes off all these things. 2. In special, we must look off all that is in the world; and that the
apostle comprizeth under three heads, “ The lusts of the eye, the lusts of the flesh, and the pride of life," 1 John 2:16. 1. Pleasures, profits, and honors.
1. We must look off this world, in respect of its sinful pleasures; Jude tells us, “such as are sensual have not the Spirit,” Jude ver. 19. We cannot fixedly look on pleasures, and look on Jesus at once. Job tells us, “They that take up the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ, that spend their days in mirth,” are the same that
say unto God, « Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways: what is the Almighty that we should serve him? And what profit should we have if we pray unto him?” Job 21:12, 13, 14, 15. We have a lively example of this in Augustine's conversion; he would indeed have had Christ, and his pleasures too, but when he saw it could not be, Oh! what conflicts were within him! In his orchard, (as he tells us in his book of confessions,) all his pleasures past represented themselves before his eyes, saying, What, wilt thou depart from us for ever, and shall we be no more with thee for ever? ( Lord, (saith Augustine, writing this confession,) turn away my mind from thinking that which they objected to my soul! What filth! What shameful pleasures did they lay before mine eyes! At length after this combat, a shower of tears came from him, and casting himself on the ground under a fig-tree, he cries it out, O Lord, how long, how long shall I say, To-morrow, to-morrow? Why not, To-day, Lord, why not, To-day? Why should there not be an end of my filthy life even at this hour? Immediately after this he heard a voice, as if it had been a boy or girl, singing by, Take up and read, take up and read: and thereupon opening his Bible, that lay by him at hand, he read in silence the first chapter that offered itself, wherein was written, “Let us walk honestly as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus, | and make not provision for the flesh,
to fulfil the lusts thereof,” Rom. 13:13, 14. Further than this sentence I would not read, (saith Au. gustine,) neither indeed was it needful, for presently, as if light had been poured into my heart, all the darkness of my doubtfulness fled away. His eye was now taken off his pleasures, and for ever after it was set on Jesus.
2. We must look of this world in respect of its sinful profits. A look on this keeps off our looking unto Jesus. “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him," 1 John 2:15. Just so much as the world prevails in us, so much is God's love abated both in us, and towards us, “ Ye adulterers and adulteresses, (saith James) know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?” James 4:4. Covetousness in Christians is spiritual adultery, when we have enough in God and Christ, and yet we desire to make up our happiness in the creature, this is plain whoring. Now there are degrees in this spiritual whoredom, as,
1. The minding of this world; ye know there may be adultery in af. fection, when the body is not defiled; unclean glances are a degree of Just, so the children of God may have some worldly glances, straggling thoughts; when the temptation is strong, the world may be greatened in their esteem and imagination.
2. The setting of the heart upon the world; this is an higher degree of this spiritual adultery, our hearts are due and proper to Christ, now to set them on the world, which should be chaste and loyal to Jesus Christ, what adultery is this? “ Ye cannot serve God and Mammon," Matth. 6:24. That woman that is not contented with one husband, must needs be an harlot.
3. The preferring of the world before Christ himself. This is the height of covetousness, and the height of this adultery; what, to make the members of Christ the members of an harlot? Why, worldlings! those admiring thoughts are Christ's, those pains are Christ's, that love is Christ's, that time, that care, that earnestness is Christ's; they, are all Christ's, and will you give that which is Christ's unto the world? And prefer the world before Christ with his own? What, live as professed prostitutes, that prefer every one before their husbands? How will this expose you to the scorn of men and angels? At the last day they will come pointing and say, This is the man that made not God his strength, but trusted in the abundance of his riches; this is the Gadareen that loved his swine more than Christ Jesus, Ps. 57:2. “Love not the world,” (saith John,) 1 John 2:15. Christ is never precious in man's apprehension, so long as the world seems glorious to him. As we begin to relish sweetness in Christ, so the world begins to be bitter to us. The more sweetness we taste in the one, the more bitterness we taste in the other.
4. We must look off the world in respect of its sinful honors; what is this honor but a certain inordinate desire to be well thought of, or well spoken of, to be praised, or glorified of men? As if a man should run up and down street after a feather flying in the air, and tossed hith. er and thither with the gusts and blasts of infinite men's mouths, it is a question, whether ever he get it. But if he do, it is but a feather; such is this pride of life, honor, vain glory; it is hard to obtain it, but if ob. tained, it is but the breath of a few men's mouths, that alter upon every light occasion; but that which is worst of all, it hinders our sight of Je. sus Christ, “Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called," 1 Cor. 1:26. Worldly honor keeps many back from Christ, and therefore, “ Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharoah's daughter, Esteeming the reproach of Christ, greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt," Heb. 11:24.26. If the blind man in the way to Jericho, had depend. ed on the breath or liking or approbation of the multitude, he had never received the benefit of his sight, for they (saith the text) “which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace,” Luke 18:39. They dissuaded him from running and crying so vehemently after Christ; experience tells us how these things pull and draw us off from Jesus Christ, “ The lust of the eye, the lusts of the flesh, and the pride of life.”
2. Quest. But why must we look off every thing that diverts our looking unto Jesus?
1. Because we cannot look fixedly on Christ, and such things together, and at once; the eye cannot look upwards and downwards at once in a direct line; we cannot seriously mind heaven and earth in one thought, “No man can serve two masters,” saith Christ, Matth. 6:24. Especially such as jar, and who have contrary employments, as Christ and mammon have.
2. Because, whilst we look on these things, we cannot see the beau. ty that is in Christ; suppose a squint look on Christ, whilst we have a direct look on other things, alas! Christ will be of no esteem that while; this was the voice of sinners concerning Christ, “ He hath no form nor