Phil. 2:12

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“Looking Unto Jesus” – A Thought From The Past by John Newton

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

“I still reflect with pleasure on the opportunities I was favoured with among you; and if, as I hope, my little visits were not unacceptable to each or any of you, let us not lose a moment in apologies or compliments to each other, but refer the whole praise where it is wholly due. Salvation, in its whole extent, and in each particular step, is of the Lord. Though we can but lisp a little word about his goodness, yet when he is pleased to be near us, his presence and blessing can work by the meanest instruments, and cause our hearts to burn within us. On the other hand, when he withdraws, we can no more help each other than we can help ourselves: then, the very best of us prove miserable comforters, fruitless teachers, and blind guides. Could I bring my heart to this point, to regard myself as insufficient to think one good thought, or to speak one profitable word, any further than is influenced by that enlivening Spirit which Jesus is exalted on high to bestow, I should be well; but, alas! I am often hurt by a fond desire of being or doing something considerable, and this, so often as it prevails, like a sudden fatal blast, spoils my fairest blooming prospects of comfort and usefulness. It is a great point to be constant and diligent in the use of all appointed means, and yet to have our souls waiting only upon God, in a deep persuasion that neither the best means, nor the closest attendance upon them, can do any thing for us in themselves; and that nothing short of renewed communications from him, can either satisfy or sanctify our hearts.

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;’ and while they behold it, they find themselves, ‘changed into the same image, from glory to glory,’ 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 vail, 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?’ 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 for ever the Lord’s.”

John Newton, “Letter I: Letter To Miss M****, September 10, 1760,” in Eighteen Letters To Several Ladies in The Works of John Newton, Vol. 6, ed. Richard Cecil. (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 3–6.