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1. In not sending out their understandings, in not pointing their minds towards Jesus. • I write unto you (said the apostle) to stir up your pure minds, by way of remembrance.” 2 Peter 3:1. It is in the original, egeircin, to awaken your pure minds, and it was but need. See how Da. vid calls upon himself, “ Awake my glory!" Psal. 57:8. And see how Deborah calls upon herself, “ Awake, awake, Deborah, awake, awake, utter a song.” Judg. 5:12. Awaking, is a word that imports rousing, as birds that provoke their young ones by flight, to make use of their wings. Now, how few are there, that thus call upon themselves? It was the prophet's complaint, no man “stirreth up himself to take hold of thee,” Isa. 64:7. O what a shame is this? Is it fit that our understandings, which God hath entrusted us withal, should be no more improved? Is it fit, that our minds (those golden cabinets, which God hath given us to be filled with heavenly treasure) should either be empty, or stuffed with vanity, nothing, worse than nothing? O! that such glorious creatures as our souls, should attend upon every creature, which should be in attendance upon Christ, and should be like angels, waiting and standing in the presence of our God! O that such glorious things as our immortal spirits, should run after vanity, and so become vain; which if rightly improved, should walk with angels, should lodge themselves in the bosom of the glorious God! Do we not see, how Christ is sending out to us continually? The thoughts of his heart are love, eternal love; and shall not we send out our thoughts towards him? Shall not we let our minds run out towards him?
2. In not bending of their minds to this work. It may be the mind looks up, but it is so feeble, that, like an arrow shot from a bow weakly bent, it reacheth not the mark. It is the wise man's counsel,
" Whatsoe. ver thine hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." Eccl. 9:10. O that God's people should be so lazy, dull, sluggish, slothful in this spiritual work! as Jesus said to the multitudes concerning John, “ What went ye out into the wilderness to see?” Matth. 11:7. So may I ask believers in their looking unto Jesus, What went ye out to scc? When ye crawl, and move, as if you had no hearts, nor spirits within you. Whom go ye forth to see? What, him that is the Lord of glory? What, him that is “ the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person?" Heb. 1:3. What, are such heavy and lazy aspects fit to take in such a glory as this is? You see in what large streams your thoughts fly forth to other things, and are you only languishing, weak and feeble in things of so great concernment? Oh that Christians should be so cold in spirituals, and hot in the pursuit of earthly temporal things!
3. In not binding of their minds to this object, in not staying the eye on Jesus Christ. Some may give a glance at Christ, but they are presently wheeled off again: but why doth not the eyes abide there, at least till it come to some profitable issue; is not Christ worthy 'on whom our souls should dwell? Certainly, if we love our Jesus, that love will hold us: Christ then will be in our thoughts and minds, and we cannot forget him. As the loadstone having drawn the iron, and keeps it fast to itself, so, if love draw our hearts, it holds them fast to the object loved. Christ himself acknowledgeth such an operation of love upon himself, “Turn away thine eyes, for they have overcome me. Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse, with one of thine eyes.” Sol. Song 6:5. 4:9. Christ was held in the galleries, and captivated with love to his people, so that his eye was ever upon them. Nay, he could not get his eyes off them: “ Can a mother forget her child? No more can I forget you.” Isa. And is Christ so tender in his love towards us, that he ever ininds us, and shall our minds be so loose to him so futtering, and fleeting? Shall there be no more care to bind ourselves in cords of love to him, who hath bound himself in such cords of love to us!
4. In not daily exercising this blessed duty; it may be now and then they are awakened, and they get up into heaven to see their Jesus, but it is not daily. Oh consider! Is this now and then going to heaven within the veil, to live the life of friends? Is this to carry ourselves as children? What, to be so strange at home? But now and then? Once in a month, in a year! There to be seldom, where we should always be? Is Jesus Christ such a mean thing, that a visit now and then should serve the turn? The Queen of Sheba hearing Solomon's wisdom, Oh, said she, “ Happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and hear thy wisdom." i Kings 10:8. If she was so taken with Solomon, remember, “ That a greater than Solomon is here:" and shall we deprive ourselves of that blessedness, which we might enjoy, by standing always in the presence of Christ, to hear his wisdom, and to behold his glory?
Oh! my brethren, let us take shame to ourselves, that to this day we have been so careless in sending, bending, and binding our minds to this blessed object Jesus Christ: yea, let us blush, that we have not made it our daily business. David describes the blessed man, by his “ delighting in the law of the Lord,” and by bis“ meditating on that law day and night." Psal. 1:2. How then is he to be reproved, that neither meditates on the law of the Lord, nor on the Lord, the law-maker, day and night? O, alas! we keep not a constant course, we are not daily in the exercise of viewing Jesus. Nay, I fear we look upon this duty of looking unto Jesus, as a questionable thing; it seems to many as a duty unknown, unheard of, uno thought of, it is not in their notice, and how should it be in their practicel But I leave this first use.
Use of Exhortation. Use 2. Is inward experimental looking unto Jesus a choice, and high gospel ordinance? One use of exhortation. “I beseech you, by the meeko ness and gentleness of Christ.” 2 Cor. 10:1. “I beseech you, by the mercies of God.” Rom. 12:1. “I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit,” Rom. 15:30. to look unto Jesus. Or, if my beseechings will not prevail, why, yet look on me as an ambassador of Christ, consider as though “God did beseech you by me,” I beseech, “ I pray you in Christ's stead.” 2 Cor. 5:20. It is a message that I have from God to your souls, to look unto Jesus; and therefore “ Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, for it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life.” Deut. 32:46,47.
O that I should need thus to persuade your hearts to look unto Jesus! What, is not your Jesus worthy of this? Why, then, are your thoughts no more upon him? Why are not your hearts continually with him? Why are not your strongest desires, and daily delights in, and after the Lord Jesus! What is the matter? Will not God give you leave to approach this light? Will be not suffer your souls to taste and see? Why then are these words in the text? Why then doth he cry, and double his cry, Be. hold
me, behold me? Ah, vile hearts! how delightfully and unweariedly can we think of vanity? How freely and how frequently can we think of our pleasures, friends, labors, lusts? Yea, of our miseries, wrongs, sufferings, fear? And what, is not Christ in all our thoughts? It was said of the Jews, that they used to cast to the ground the book of Esther before they read it, because the name of God is not in it; and Augustine cast by Cis
cero's writings, because they contained not the name of Jesus. Christians! thus should you humble and cast down your sensual hearts, that have in them no more of Christ: () chide them for their wilful or weak strangeness to Jesus Christ! O turn your thoughts from off all earthly vanities, and bend your souls to study Christ; habituate yourselves to such contemplations, as in the next use I shall present; and let not those thoughts be seldom or cursory, but settle upon them, dwell there, bathe your souls in those delights, drench your affections in those rivers of pleasures, or rather in the sea of consolation. O tie your souls in heavenly galleries, have your eyes continually set on Christ! say not, “ You are unable to do thus, this must be God's work only, and therefore all our exhortations are in vain." A learned divine can tell you, (Baxter's Rest,) Though God be the chief disposer of your hearts, yet next under him you have the greatest command of them yourselves: though, “ without Christ ye can do nothing;" yet under him you may do much: or else it will be undone, and you undone, through your neglect; do your own parts, and you have no cause to distrust whether Christ will do his. It is not usual with Christ to forsake his own people in that very work he sets them on. Oh but we can do nothing! How! nothing? What, are you neither spiritual nor rational creatures? If a carnal minister can make it his work to study about Christ through all his lifetime, and all because it is the trade he lives by, and knows not how to subsist without it; why then, methinks, a spiritual Christian should do much more. If a cook can labor and sweat about your meat, because it is the trade that maintains him, though perhaps he taste it not himself, methinks, you for whom it is prepared, should take the pains to taste its sweetness and feed upon it. Christians! if your souls were sound and right, they would perceive incomparably more delight and sweetness, in knowing, thinking, believing, loving and rejoicing in Jesus Christ, than the soundest stomach finds in his food, or the strongest senses in the enjoyment of their objects. Now, for shame never say, you cannot reach it; "I can do all things (saith Paul) through Christ that strengtheneth me.” Phil. 4:13. Oh it is our sloth, our security, our carnal mind, which is enmity to God and Christ, that keeps us off. Be exhorted ! Oh be exhorted in the fear of God.
Sect. v. Motives from our Wants, in Case of Neglect. To quicken us to this duty; I shall propound some moving considerations: ponder and weigh them with an impartial judgement. Who knows, but, through the assistance of Christ, they may prove effectual with your hearts, and make you to resolve upon this excellent duty of looking unto Jesus.
Consider, 1. Our wants in case of our neglect. 2. Our riches, in case we are lively in this duty.
1. For our wants. If Christ be not in view, there is nothing but wants.
Suppose first a Cbristless soul, a poor creature, without any beam or ray of the Sun of righteousness, and what sad condition is he in? I may say of such a one, that
1. He is without light. There is no oil of saving knowledge, no star of spiritual light arising in his soul, “ Ye were once darkness,” Epb. 5:8. saith the apostle to his Ephesians: not only dark, but darkness itself; they were wholly dark, universally dark, having no mixture nor glimpse (whilst without Christ) of spiritual light in them. Of such carnal wretches, saith our Saviour, “ They have not known the Father, nor me," John 16:3. They have not known the Father in his word, nor me in my
natures, offices, sufferings, exaltations, communications. Very miserable is the carnal man's ignorance of God and Christ, he hath no saving knowledge of Jesus.
2. Such an one is without grace, without holiness. Christ is our wisdom and Sanctification, as well as righteousness and redemption, 1 Cor. 1:30. Where Christ is not, there is no spiritual wisdom, no inclination to the ways and works of sanctification.
3. Such an one is without contention; the soul in this case finds nothing but emptiness and vanity in the greatest abundance. Let a man have what the world can give; yet, if he have not Christ, he is nothing worth. Christ is the marrow and fatness, the fulness and sweetness of all our endowments: separate Christ from them, and they are bitter, and do not please us; empty, and do not fill us.
4. Such an one is without any spiritual beauty, “There is nothing in him but sores and swellings, and wounds and putrefaction,” Isa. 1:6. From the sole of his foot, to the crown of his head, there is nothing in him, but loathsome and incurable maladies. Hence the greatest sinner is the foulest monster. Bodily beauty without Christ is but as green grass upon a rotten grave. Did man see his uncomeliness and deformity without Jesus Christ, he would style himself, as the prophet styled Pashur, Magor-missabib, Fear round about, every way a terror to himself, Jer. 20:3.
5. Such an one is without peace. There is no true, spiritual heavenly peace, no joy and peace in the Holy Ghost, without Jesus Christ. Joram asking Jehu, “ Is it peace?" was answered, “ What hast thou to do with peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel, and her witchcrafts are so many?” 2 King 9:22. A Christless man asking, Is it peace, 0
messenger of God? He can look for no other but Jehu's answer, What hast thou to do, O carnal man, with peace, so long as thy lusts are so strong within thee, and thy estrangements from the Prince of peace so great? The soul that is without Jesus Christ, is an enemy to the God of peace, a stranger to the covenant of peace, uncapable of the word of peace, an alien to the way of peace, “ There is no peace to the wicked, saith my God,” Isa. 57:21.
6. Such an one is without acceptation with God the Father Christ only is God's beloved, and therefore, as Joseph's brethren might not look him in the face, unless they brought their brother Benjamin, so cannot we look God in the face with any confidence or acceptance, unless we bring Christ with us in the arms of our faith. Without Christ man is stubble, and God is a consuming fire to destroy him; man is a guilty malefactor, and God is a severe judge to condemn him; the whole of man without Jesus Christ is a very abomination in God's presence.
7. Such an one is without life; “ He that hath not the Son, bath not life,” saith John, 1 John 5:12. Christ lives not in that soul; it is a dead soul, “ dead in sins and trespasses,” Eph. 2:1. As the dead see nothing of all that sweet and glorious light which the sun casts forth upon them, 80 the dead in sin have no comfortable apprehension of Christ, though he shine in the gospel more gloriously than the sun at noon. And as the dead know not any thing,” Eccl. 9:5. so the dead in sin know nothing at all of the wisdom of Christ guiding them, or of the holiness of Christ sanctifying them, or of the fulness of Christ satisfying them, or of the death of Christ mortifying their lusts, or of the resurrection of Christ quickening their souls, or of the dominion of Christ reigning in their hearts. O what a misery is this!
All this you may say is true to a Christless soul, but what evil to him
that may have a Htle to Christ, and yet minds not Christ, makes not use of Christ, doth not look unto Jesus?
Such a case I confess may be. Yea as many duties are neglected hy some godly, so this main duty is (I may tremble to think it) exceedingly neglected. But O! the sin and sadness of those souls! O the wants attending such poor creatures! consider them in these particulars:
1. They have not that wisdom, knowledge, discerning of Christ, as otherwise they might have; by looking and serious observing of Christ, we gain more and more knowledge of Christ, but if we will not look, how should we understand those great mysteries of grace? Nor speak I only of speculative knowledge, but more especially of practical and experimental; without looking on Christ we cannot expect that virtue should go out of Christ; there is but a poor character or cognizance of Christ upon them that are such; they have not so clear, and comfortable, and inward, and experimental a knowledge of Jesus Christ.
2. They do not so taste the goodness of Christ, as otherwise they might. Christ is no other unto them, whilst neglected by them, but as an eclipsed star, with whose light they are not at all affected; Christ is not sweet to them in his ordinances, they find not in them that delight and refreshment, that comfort and contentment, which they usually minister. They cannot say of Christ, as the spouse did, Cant. 2:3. “I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.” They are in the case of Barzillai, who could not taste what he did eat, or what he did drink, nor could hear any more the voice of singing-men, or of singing-women: so they cannot taste the things of God, nor hear the spiritual melody, which Cbrist makes to the souls of them that look up to him.
3. They have not the love to Christ which Christ's beholders have; they meditate not upon Christ as lovers on their love; they delight not themselves in Christ, as the rich man in his treasure, and the bride in the bridegroom which they love; their thoughts are rather on the world than Christ; their palates are so distempered, that they have no pleasure in the choicest wine; they cannot say, That their souls long after him; and no wonder, for how should they love Christ, who turn their eyes from him, who is "the fairest of ten thousands," to other objects! Surely they have no flaming, burning love to Christ, that will give every base thing a kind of pre-eminence above Christ.
4. They have not the sense of Christ's love, which those that exercise this duty have. Whilst the soul neglects Christ, it cannot possibly discern the love of Christ; it perceives not Christ applying the doctrines of his love to the conscience: Christ appears not in his banqueting house, he enables not the soul to pray with confidence, he makes it not joyful in the house of prayer. And hence it is that such souls move so slowly in God's service; they are just like Pharaoh's chariots, without wheels. O they perceive not the love of Christ, either in the clear revelation of his secrets, or in the free communication of his graces, or in the sanctifying and sweetening of their trials, or in sealing up the pardon of their sins: () they feel not those ravishing comforts, which usually Christ speaks to the heart, when he speaks from his heart in love. O the want! O the misery of this want!
5. They have not that experience of the power of Christ, which they have that are in the exercise of this duty. Would you know wherein lies the power of Christ? I answer, In casting down the strong holds of sin, in overthrowing Satan, in humbling men's hearts, in sanctifying their