This precious and inspiring appeal appeared as No. 1 of the Apples of Gold Library—a series of small pamphlets published in the 1890's by the Pacific Press Publishing Association, Mountain View, California. The infinite importance of keeping our eyes fastened upon the Saviour is as valid today as it was at the close of the last century (if not more so). The editors of MINISTRY and the Re view are sending it forth simultaneously in their respective journals as a joint plea to make Jesus first, last, and best in our daily experience. We urge our readers to study carefully this document.—Editors.
Only three words; but these three words contain the whole secret of life.
"Looking unto Jesus"—in the Scriptures, to learn who He is, what He has done, what He gives, what He requires, to find in His character our pattern, in His teachings our instructions, in His precepts our law, in His promises our stay, in His person and in His work a full satisfaction offered to every want of our souls.
"Looking unto Jesus"—crucified to find in His blood poured out our ransom, our pardon, our peace. "Looking unto Jesus" risen again, to find in Him that righteousness which alone can justify us, and through which, unworthy though we are, we may draw near, with full assurance in His name, unto Him who is His Father and our Father, His God and our God.
"Looking unto Jesus"—glorified, to find in Him our advocate with the Father, making complete, through His intercession, the merciful work of our salvation; appearing even now in the presence of God for us, and supplying the imperfection of our prayers by the power of those which the Father heareth always.
"Looking unto Jesus"—as revealed to us by the Holy Spirit, to find in constant communion with Him, the cleansing of our sin-stained hearts, the illumination of our darkened minds, the transformation of our perverse wills, to the end that we may triumph over the world and the devil, resisting their violence through Jesus our strength, bringing their devices to naught through Jesus our wisdom, upheld by the sympathy of Jesus who was Himself tempted in all points, and by the help of Jesus, who resisted and conquered.
"Looking unto Jesus"—that we may receive from Him the work and the cross of each day, with grace which is sufficient to bear the cross and do the work; patient through His patience; active by His activity; loving with His love; asking not "What can I do?" but, "What can He not do?" relying upon His strength, which is made perfect in weakness.
"Looking unto Jesus"—that the brightness of His face may enlighten our darkness; that our joy may be holy, and our grief subdued; that He may humble us to exalt us in due time; that He may afflict and then comfort us; that He may strip us of our self-righteousness to enrich us with His own; that He may teach us how to pray, and answer our prayers, so that while we are in the world, we are not of the world, our life being hid with Him in God, and our words bearing Him witness before men.
"Looking unto Jesus"—who has reascended to His Father's house to prepare a place for us, that this blessed hope may give us courage to live without murmuring, and to die without regret, when the day shall come to meet the last enemy whom He has conquered for us—whom we shall conquer through Him.
"Looking unto Jesus"—who gives repentance as well as remission of sins, to receive from Him a heart that feels its wants, and cries for mercy at His feet.
"Looking unto Jesus"—that He may teach us to look unto Him who is the Author and Object of our faith, that He may keep us in that faith of which He is also the Finisher.
"Looking unto Jesus"—and to no other, as our text expresses it in one word which is untranslatable, and which enjoins us at one and the same time to fix our eyes upon Him, and to turn away from all besides.
"Looking unto Jesus"—and not to ourselves, our thoughts, our wishes, our plans; unto Jesus, and not unto the world, its allurements, its examples, its maxims, its opinions; unto Jesus, and not unto Satan, whether he tries to affright us with his rage or to seduce us with his flatteries. Oh, how many useless questions, uneasy scruples, dangerous compromises with evil, distracted thoughts, vain dreams, bitter disappointments, painful struggles, and backslidings could we not avoid by looking unto Jesus, and following Him wherever He leads the way, careful not even to cast a glance at any other way, lest we should lose sight of that in which He leads us.
"Looking unto Jesus"—and not to our brethren; not even to the best and most beloved among them. If we follow a man, we run the risk of losing our way; but if we follow Jesus, we are certain we shall never go astray. Besides, by putting a man between Christ and us, it happens that the man imperceptibly grows in our eyes, while Christ becomes less; and soon we know not how to find Christ without finding the man, and if the latter fails us, all is lost. But if, on the contrary, Jesus stands between us and our dearest friends, our attachment to our friends will be less direct, and at the same time more sweet; less passionate, and purer; less necessary, but more useful the instrument of rich blessings in the hands of God when it shall please Him to use it, and whose absence will still prove a blessing when it shall please Him to dispense with it.
"Looking unto Jesus"—and not to the obstacles we meet in our path. From the moment that we stop to consider them, they astonish and unnerve us and cast us down, incapable as we are of comprehending either the reason why they are permitted or the means by which we may overcome them. The apostle began to sink as soon as he turned to look at the boisterous billows; but as long as he continued looking unto Jesus, he walked upon the billows as upon a rock. The harder our task and the heavier our cross, the more it behooves us to look to Jesus only.
"Looking unto Jesus"—and not to the temporal blessings which we enjoy. By looking at these blessings first, we run the risk of being so much captivated by them that they even hide from our view Him who gives them. When we look unto Jesus first, we receive all these blessings as from Him; they are chosen by His wisdom, given by His love; a thousand times more precious because received at His hands, to be enjoyed in communion with Him, and used for His glory.
"Looking unto Jesus"—and not to our strength; for with that we can only glorify ourselves. To glorify God we need the strength of God.
"Looking unto Jesus"—and not to our weakness. Have we ever become stronger by lamenting our weakness? But if we look unto Jesus, His strength shall fortify our hearts, and we shall break forth into songs of praise.
"Looking unto Jesus"—and not to our sins. The contemplation of sin brings only death; the contemplation of Jesus brings life. It was not by looking at their wounds, but by beholding the brazen serpent, that the Israelites were healed.
"Looking unto Jesus"—and not to the law. The law gives us its commands, but does not impart the strength necessary to obey them. The law always condemns, it never pardons. To be under the law is to be out of the reach of grace. In the same measure as we make our obedience the means of our salvation, we shall lose our peace, our strength, our joy, because we forget that "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth" (Rom. 10:4). As soon as the law has constrained us to seek salvation only in Christ, He alone can command obedience, an obedience which asks no less than our whole hearts and our most secret thoughts, but which is no longer an iron yoke and an intolerable burden—an obedience which He makes lovely while it is also obligatory—an obedience which He not only enjoins, but inspires, and which, well understood, is less a consequence of our salvation than a part of the same, and like every other part is the gift of free grace.
"Looking unto Jesus"—and not to what we are doing for Him. If we are too much taken up with our work, we may forget our Master—we may have our hands full and our hearts empty; but if we are constantly looking unto Jesus, we cannot forget our work; if our hearts are filled with His love, our hands will also be active in His service.
"Looking unto Jesus"—and not to the apparent success of our efforts. Apparent success is not always the measure of real success, and besides, God has not enjoined success upon us, but only labor; He will ask an account of our labor, but not of our success. Why, then, should we be too much concerned about it? We must sow the seed; God will gather the fruit, if not today, it will be tomorrow; if not for us, it will be for others. Even if success were to be granted to us, it would always be dangerous to look complacently upon it. On the one hand, we are tempted to claim for ourselves some of the glory; on the other, we are too prone to slacken our zeal when we see good results arising from it, and that is the very time when we ought to put forth double energy. To look at our success is to walk by sight; to look unto Jesus and to persevere in fol lowing and in serving Him despite all discouragements, is to walk by faith.
"Looking unto Jesus"—and not to the gifts that we have received or are now receiving from Him. As to the grace of yesterday, it has been withdrawn with the work of yesterday; we can use it no longer; we ought not to dwell upon it any longer. As to the grace of to-day, given for the work of to-day, it is entrusted to us, not to be contemplated, but to be used; not to be paraded, that we may appear rich, but to be employed at once, that we may in our poverty look unto Jesus.
"Looking unto Jesus"—and not to the depths of sorrow we feel for our sins, or to the degree of humility they produce in us. If they humble us, so that we no longer delight in ourselves; if they cast us down, so that we look to Jesus, that He may deliver us from them, that is all that He requires of us; and it is looking unto Him which above everything else shall cause our tears to flow and our pride to fall.
"Looking unto Jesus"—and not to the liveliness of our joy or the fervor of our love. Otherwise, if our love seems to grow cold, and our joy is dim—whether on account of lukewarmness or for the trial of our faith—as soon as these emotions have passed, we shall think that we have lost our strength, and we shall give way to hopeless discouragement, if not to shameful inactivity. Ah! let us rather remember that if the sweetness of religious emotions be sometimes wanting, faith and its power are left us; and that we may be always abounding in the work of the Lord, let us be constantly looking, not to our wayward hearts, but unto Jesus, the same yesterday, today, and forever.
"Looking unto Jesus"—and not to our faith. The last artifice of Satan, when he cannot lead us out of the way, is to turn our eyes away from Jesus to look at our faith, and so to discourage us, if it is weak; to puff us up, if it is strong; and in either case to weaken it. For it is not our faith which makes us strong, but it is Jesus through faith. We are not strengthened by contemplating our faith, but by looking unto Jesus.
"Looking unto Jesus"—for it is from Him and in Him that we should learn, not only without injury,\but for the good of our souls, as much as it is meet that we should know of the world and of ourselves—of our misery, our dangers, our resources, our victory; seeing all these things in their true light, because He shall show them to us at the very time and in the very measure when the knowledge shall be best calculated to produce in us the fruit of humility and wisdom, of gratitude and courage, of watchfulness and prayer. All that is well for us to know Jesus will teach us. All that He does not teach us, it is better for us not to know.
"Looking unto Jesus"—during all the time which He has allotted us here below—unto Jesus ever anew, without allowing either the remembrance of the past, which we know so little of, or the cares of an unknown future to distract our thoughts; unto Jesus now, if we have never looked unto Him; unto Jesus again, if we have ceased to do so; unto Jesus always, with a more fixed and steadfast gaze, "changed into the same image from glory to glory" and thus waiting for the hour when He shall call us to pass from earth to heaven, and from time to eternity, the promised, the blessed hour, when at last we shall be "like him, for we shall see him as he is."—Translated from the French.