“The best advice I can send, or the best wish I can form for you, is, that you may have an abiding and experimental sense of those words of the apostle, which are just now upon my mind,— “LOOKING UNTO JESUS.”
The duty, the privilege, the safety, the unspeakable happiness, of a believer, are all comprised in that one sentence.
Let us first pray that the eyes of our faith and understanding may be opened and strengthened; and then let us fix our whole regard upon Him.
But how are we to behold Him? I answer, in the glass of His written word; there He is represented to us in a variety of views.
The wicked world can see no form nor comeliness in the portraiture He has given of Himself; yet, blessed be God, there are those who can ‘behold His glory as the glory of the only begotten Son of God, full of grace and truth;’ (John 1:14) and while they behold it, they find themselves, ‘changed into the same image, from glory to glory,’ (2 Cor. 3:18) by the transforming influence of His Spirit.
In vain we oppose reasonings, and arguments, and resolutions, to beat down our corruptions, and to silence our fears; but a believing view of Jesus does the business.
When heavy trials in life are appointed us, and we are called to give up, or perhaps to pluck out, a right eye, it is an easy matter for a stander-by to say, ‘Be comforted;’ and it is as useless as easy;—but a view of Jesus by faith comes home to the point.
When we can fix our thoughts upon Him, as laying aside all His honours, and submitting, for our sakes, to drink off the bitter cup of the wrath of God to the very dregs.
And when we further consider, that He who thus suffered in our nature, who knows and sympathizes with all our weakness, is now the Supreme Disposer of all that concerns us, that He numbers the very hairs of our heads, appoints every trial we meet with in number, weight, and measure, and will suffer nothing to befall us but what shall contribute to our good;– this view, I say, is a medicine suited to the disease, and powerfully reconciles us unto every cross.
So when a sense of sin prevails, and the tempter is permitted to assault us with dark and dreadful suggestions, it is easy for us to say, ‘Be not afraid.’
But those who have tried, well know that looking to Jesus is the only and sure remedy in this case;— if we can get a sight of Him by faith, as He once hung between the two thieves, and as He now pleads within the veil, then we can defy sin and Satan, and give our challenge in the apostle’s words, ‘Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again; who also maketh intercession for us:’ (Romans 8:34)
Again, are we almost afraid of being swallowed up by our many restless enemies? Or, are we almost weary of our long pilgrimage through such a thorny, tedious, barren wilderness?
A sight of Jesus, as Stephen saw Him, crowned with glory, yet noticing all the sufferings of His poor servants, and just ready to receive them to Himself, and make them partakers of His everlasting joy, this will raise the spirits, and restore strength; this will animate us to hold on, and to hold out; this will do it, and nothing but this can.
So, if obedience be the thing in question, looking unto Jesus is the object that melts the soul into love and gratitude, and those who greatly love, and are greatly obliged, find obedience easy.
When Jesus is upon our thoughts, either in His humbled or His exalted state, either as bleeding on the cross, or as our nature by all the host of heaven, then we can ask the apostle’s question with a becoming disdain, ‘Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?’ (Rom. 6:1)
God forbid. What! Shall I sin against my Lord, my Love, my Friend, who once died for my sins, and now lives and reigns on my behalf; who supports, and leads, and guides, and feeds me every day?
God forbid. No; rather I would wish for a thousand hands and eyes, and feet, and tongues, for ten thousand lives, that I might devote them all to His service: He should have all then; and surely He shall have all now!
Alas, that in spite of myself, there still remains something that resists His will!
But I long and pray for its destruction; and I see a day coming when my wish shall be accomplished, and I shall be wholly and forever the Lord’s.”
–John Newton, The Works of John Newton, Volume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 4-6.