Chapter Seven - Seeing Jesus
PREACHED AT ZOAR CHAPEL, GREAT ALIE STREET, LONDON ON THURSDAY EVENING, APRIL 28, 1848.
I would call your attention to three things arising from these words.
First, let us endeavour to describe the characters who see Jesus. Secondly let us take notice of the person seen - Jesus. And Thirdly I shall make a few remarks upon the place where He is to be seen. "But we see Jesus."
I. - In the first place, we have to take notice of the characters who see Jesus spiritually. Observe the term used, "We see Jesus." He is to be seen only by the eye of living faith. No man can see Jesus spiritually without he is made a partaker of the Spirit and grace of God. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor. 2.14). But Jesus and the things of Jesus, are spiritually seen and discerned by God's spiritual people. Man in a state of nature without the quickening influence of divine grace in his soul, may see Jesus speculatively and nominally; he may see Him with a theoretical knowledge as He is set forth in the Bible as Saviour and Redeemer; but he cannot see Him spiritually without living faith. Balaam saw Him in a natural sense, and spake glorious things concerning Him; but Balaam did not see Him with the spiritual eye of faith as connected with the salvation of his soul. He had a consciousness of this; hence he says, "I shall see him, but not now. I shall behold him, but not nigh." His conscience told him that he should see Jesus as an angry judge, which made him tremble and desire that he might die the death of the righteous, and that his last end might be like theirs. But his heart bore testimony against him that he did not want to live the life of the righteous, nor have the grace of God in his heart as they do. He never saw by faith the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour and Friend, nor as the Redeemer of his soul.
No man ever did, ever will, nor ever can see Jesus really and truly as He is, and enjoy His preciousness, but those who are brought to see and feel their need of Him. Sinners, naturally dead in sin, must be made spiritually alive before they can see Jesus. A sinner in a state of nature is in a state of darkness. Darkness covers the great deep of his heart; and gross darkness the minds of the people. "Once ye were darkness," says the Apostle, "but now are ye light in the Lord." While a man or woman remains dead in sin, in a state of darkness and alienation from God, though he or she may be a vessel of mercy, and may have a personal interest in the salvation of Jesus, yet they never can see the Person of Christ nor the glory of Christ till divine life and light is communicated. The Lord Jesus Christ is to them while in this state, as the Prophet Isaiah describes a root out of a dry ground: without form or comeliness; and when He is seen, there is no beauty in Him that He should be desired. (Is. 53. 2)
Here I remember my own case, and how it was with me in my own heart. I look back at the place where I was when God first arrested my conscience-the state I have been attempting to describe was my condition before the Lord. I was in a state of death, darkness, blindness, ignorance, carelessness, and indifference; seeing neither suitableness, beauty, nor glory in the Lord Jesus Christ why I should be concerned about Him.
"But we see Jesus." When the Holy Spirit takes possession of a sinner's conscience; gives him to see his sin, guilt, blindness, ignorance, and darkness, and causes him to feel what a rebellious, lost, ruined, and undone sinner he is; what a transgressor and law-breaker he is before the Lord; all hope and expectation of saving himself is at once cut off by God's holy law. Yet the poor soul, all the time he remains under these spiritual convictions, does not see Jesus as His Saviour and Redeemer; he is as Paul writes to the Galatians, "shut up unto the faith which shall afterwards be revealed." He now sees only his sin, guilt, and misery; he discovers only an angry God in a broken law: he knows himself only as a vile transgressor, an enemy, and a rebel. He feels that he has sinned against heaven, and in the sight of the Lord, and that he is not worthy of the least of God's mercies; and what to do, or where to go, he cannot tell. His soul is all but sinking into despair; so that at times he wishes that he had never been born, or that he was not possessed of a never-dying soul. Darkness is on his mind in reference to how God can be just, and yet the justifier of such a sinner as he sees and feels himself to be. But the Holy Spirit gives this soul a glimpse of Jesus; this inspires hope, and a ray of encouragement is communicated to his waiting heart.
The Holy Ghost never did, nor will He show such a sinner an end of perfection in himself and bring him into needy circumstances in his feelings before the Lord, and then leave him there. O no; that soul shall have an earnest and fervent cry put into his heart for help and salvation. The Holy Spirit will lead him to wrestle and plead with the Lord at the footstool of mercy for a discovery of Jesus to his conscience. When the Lord speaks by His Spirit in His word to this poor soul, He says, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else". "A just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me." The man may have been trying to save himself, but he could not: all he could do was to sink deeper into despondency and misery; so that at length he becomes afraid lest the pit should open its mouth on him, and swallow him up. Many in this state of mind have been so deeply exercised with these feelings that they have been afraid to close their eyes in sleep lest when they awake they should open them in the pit of perdition.
When the Holy Spirit leads the soul to see how the Lord Jesus Christ has espoused his cause in covenant and counsel, in the ancient purposes of His love; when He works faith in his heart to receive this glorious truth, and applies it with divine power to his soul, then he feels a happy liberty. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God; and now the soul finds the truth of this blessed declaration, that "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." These are sinners who are sick of sin, who are sorrowing on account of it, whose hearts are full of despondency and disquietude, and who want the manifestation and revelation of the blood of Jesus to be applied to their wounded consciences. When the Holy Ghost enables the soul to look by faith to the ability, the willingness, and the all-sufficiency of Jesus to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him - what a blessed sight it is to him! what a heart-cheering, soul-ravishing, Christ-exalting view it is to his soul! Then he sees that the Lord Jesus Christ is the highway of holiness; that He is a glorious way; a way whereby God can be just, and yet the justifier of all those who believe in Jesus; a way in which sin is taken away with all its damning consequences, the law with its curse removed, justice satisfied, and hell and destruction everlastingly defeated. When the believer is led to see and feel these things, how he delights in Jesus! Jesus becomes precious and "altogether lovely" to his never-dying soul. This is seeing Jesus my friends. "But we see Jesus."
II. - We come to the second branch of the subject: the person seen - Jesus. "We see Jesus." The very name of Jesus to the eye and ear of faith has a blessedness and preciousness in it. It is the most sweet and blessed name given under heaven.
The Person seen by the eye of faith is Jesus. When the angel announced to Mary that she should conceive and bring forth a son, it was told her that his name should be called Jesus. He is the promised Messiah - the Ancient of Days - the Bright and Morning Star - the Branch which should come out of Jesse's rod - the Sun of Righteousness that should arise with healing in his wings - the Seed of the Woman who should bruise the serpent's head - the Immortal Word that was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us - the Child born, the Son given, whose name is Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, and upon whose shoulders the government of all things in heaven and earth is placed - the King of kings, and Lord of lords! This is He, at whom devils fear and tremble. O, this is the glorious Person seen - the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom all fullness dwells, and who is head over all things to His body the church. Adored be His name, He is "over all, God blessed for evermore."
Why shall His name be called "Jesus"? There is a blessed and powerful reason why this name should be given to Him, and that is, "because he shall save his people from their sins. " Not make them an offer and proffer of salvation, if they will accept His mercy and His grace. O no, the Lord Jesus Christ went to the end of the law for righteousness for every one of His people. The Lord's testimony by the mouth of the angel was, that He should "save his people from their sins." The Father gave Him to the church in covenant counsel for this very purpose before the world began; hence He says, "All mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them."
We see Jesus our Redeemer, then, as Saviour from sin; and a blessed sight it is to the household of faith to see Him in this glorious character. He is the Saviour of poor, lost, ruined, and undone sinners. There is nowhere else the sinner can look to for rest, peace, joy, or comfort to his soul, but to the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of an elect world. The Holy Ghost leads every one of the chosen vessels of mercy to know something of what I am talking about.
Peter felt this in his heart and soul. There were many who followed Jesus only for the loaves and fishes; but He said to those characters, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him:" and again, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. " But these mere letter professors of religion did not much like this doctrine of election and predestination; and therefore we read, "From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. "As though Peter should have said, 'There is no other Saviour but Thee, Lord; there is not another- name given under heaven whereby we can be saved but Thine. We have tried other refuges, O Lord, but they have all failed; and we have now followed Thee as a matter of necessity. We are deeply dyed and stained with sin, and we cannot save our own souls; but we look to Thy precious blood to wash our sins away. We have no worth or worthiness of our own to plead, but we look to Thy righteousness alone for justification. Such being our state and case, O Lord, to whom can we go? to whom can we look but unto Thee? For thou alone hast the words of eternal fife: Thou, and Thou alone, art exalted as a Prince and a Saviour to give repentance unto Israel and remission of sins.'
Now this is seeing Jesus. Have you seen Him? If so, you have had a glimpse of His beauty: you have felt the need of His great salvation, and seen His suitability and preciousness to your case and circumstances: you have had pantings and longings for faith's view of His glorious Person. This is seeing Jesus: and such knowledge of Him is eternal life. These feelings are not wrought by nature, but they are all the effect of the grace of God in the heart. "But we see Jesus."
This Person is not only called Jesus; but the Holy Ghost calls Him also in the scriptures, "Jesus Christ," or "Christ Jesus our Lord. " Whoever sees Jesus high and exalted, sees Christ. In the constitution of His Person as God and man in union, He is Immanuel, the anointed of the Father; the Son of man whom He has made strong for Himself; mighty to help, save, and deliver guilty sinners who cry to God for salvation. When the soul feels himself so sinking and helpless, and so low that he cannot help or raise up himself or his brother, how sweet it is to have faith's view of this blessed and mighty Person. He knows that God's ministers cannot help or raise him up, only as God works by them. He rejoices that his help comes from a more blessed source; from the Lord of hosts, the great Creator of heaven and earth. This is the Christ of God, the Lord's anointed. That precious text, "I have laid help upon one that is mighty," has done my soul good many times, when I have felt myself so weak and helpless; to know that I have such a mighty Saviour, Helper, and Deliverer. This glorious Person is Jesus, the Christ of God, the anointed of the Father, the Redeemer of the church, who is strong and mighty to save.
The believer not only sees Him by faith, but he feels Him precious too. It is useless to see Him merely in the judgment, and never feel the life and power of His salvation in the soul. But whenever a believer enjoys the blessed influences of the Spirit in his heart, he more than sees Jesus; the sight lifts him out of his sin and wretchedness, raises him from his legal workings and gloomy fears, and gives him blessed evidence in his own soul that this person is Jesus, the Christ of God, by the might of God's grace, and the glory of His power.
"We see Jesus" when we see Him as Lord of all. "Ye call me Master and Lord; and ye say well; for so I am. " He is the Lord God omnipotent, who lives and reigns in the high court of heaven; whom angels worship and adore, and whom they delight to honour and obey. Jesus Christ, our Lord and Master, is worshipped and adored by ransomed spirits before the throne, who cast their blood-bought crowns at His precious feet, and crown Him Lord of all. He is worshipped and adored by holy and elect angels, who never left their first estate. His glorious Person is seen in that world of bliss and blessedness in all His beauty and immortal grandeur. Our Lord and Master is "King of kings, and Lord of lords." He is the blessed and only Potentate, by whom kings reign and princes decree justice. He has this blessed and noble appellation given to him, "Prince of the kings of the earth." (Rev. 1.5.) The Father says of Him, "Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion." He reigns also in the hearts of His children; grace reigns in them through righteousness unto eternal life. Wherever grace reigns in the heart, it will reverence and obey the Lord's precepts and commands. If He is your Lord and Master, you will delight to fear, reverence, and obey Him in all His appointed institutions.
Our blessed Jesus is seen and felt to be Lord of all by the children of God. He is Lord of all their afflictions and trials; He reigns over men and devils; and He has declared that nothing shall hurt or harm them; and that "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise up against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn." When He sends forth His ambassadors to publish good tidings of peace upon the mountains of Zion, they are to say to His church and people, 'Fear not: thy God, thy Saviour, thy Redeemer lives and reigns.' Yes; bless His precious name, He not only reigns over all in heaven, but He reigns over all in earth, and over all the affairs of His church. This oftentimes enables us to praise Him with our heart and soul, that whatever events may transpire will serve to shew forth His glory in the salvation and spiritual welfare of His church and people, which made the Apostle to say, "All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."
This is Jesus, the Christ of God, our Lord and Master, whom we worship and adore. Have you seen Him, my friends? 'Ah,' says one, 'I hope and trust I have seen a little of Him; but it is only a little.' Why, those who have seen the most of Him have had but a little sight of His majesty and glory; they have seen Him only through a glass darkly; but the time will come when they shall see Him in open vision without a vail between. Some one may say, 'I hope and trust I have seen a little of the beauty of Christ; I see my own need and destitution; I feel my lost, ruined, and undone condition. But I want to see more of the Lord, and to enjoy more of Him in my soul. I want to get nearer to His heart; and to love, honour, and glorify Him more.' Such a soul as this is made honest by the grace of God. He has seen Jesus to be his Lord and Master; he is drawn and attracted to Him as steel is to the loadstone, the Holy Spirit working in him to will and to do of His good pleasure. "But we see Jesus."
III. - In the third place, let us notice the place whereJesus is to be seen. "But we see Jesus." Though we may have spiritual eyes given us to see the Lord Jesus Christ, and be blessed with a very strong sight to see an amazing long way backwards and an amazing long way forwards; yet, if I may use a metaphor for illustration's sake, we cannot behold Jesus without a telescope is given us to see with. That telescope I hold in my hand - the word of the Lord! Jesus is seen by the eye of faith as He is set forth in the word of God's grace.
We observe in reference to the place where Jesus is seen that He is seen with the spiritual eye of faith in the secret counsels of eternity, in the vast covenant settlements of the eternal Jehovah. David saw Him in the everlasting covenant on his dying bed; and the sight of Jesus as his covenant Head cheered and refreshed his soul in the prospect of dissolution. He says, "Although my house be not so with God, yet hath he made with me an everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure." Jesus is seen as the covenant Head of His church. The Father chose and ordained the church to life and salvation in Christ before the foundation of the world. The blood of Jesus is seen to the eye of faith to be the blood of the covenant; and His righteousness is the righteousness of the covenant.
Faith sees the Lord Jesus Christ as espousing the cause of His church and people by assuming their nature, in being made of a woman and made under the law, that He might deliver them from all their miseries and woes, and all the awful consequences connected with their fallen state. Faith beholds Jesus taking their sin and guilt into His own hands, and putting it away for ever. It assured them of their everlasting interest in Him, and that He will raise them up from the depths of sin and hell to the highest bliss in glory. Thus the believer sees how Jesus has espoused His cause in the counsels of eternity. It is a soul-ravishing sight, and it has done my soul good many a time, when by faith I have been enabled to see how Christ has united Himself to my person in the everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure; how He has taken my cause into His hands, and how He has established it on better promises than the old covenant. He will never fail. If He make a promise, He will be sure to fulfil that promise in the experience of His people. I seldom stand up to preach but what this comes to my mind: God says, "He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth." (Isa. 42. 4.) He shall not fail in accomplishing the salvation of His people; He will finish the work which the Father gave Him to do.
"But we see Jesus." We see Him in the types and shadows, and in all the promises and prophecies made concerning His coming in the flesh. He is seen in His incarnation. Time would fail us in tracing the holy life and history of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us therefore call your attention to some of the most important places where Jesus is seen by the household of faith.
He is seen spiritually by a living faith. When a sinner is convinced of sin by the work of God's law on his conscience, he will generally be going about to establish a righteousness of his own. But when the Spirit of God brings him into bankruptcy, gives him to see his guilt, and causes him to feel its workings in his heart, then he wants to see Jesus who has redeemed him from it, and gone to the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. Faith traces Jesus in His pure and perfect life from the manger to the cross; but beholds nothing but fire and destruction in God's holy and righteous law. Heaven is well-pleased for His righteousness' sake; He has magnified the law, and made it honourable. The soul sees in the Lord Jesus Christ a justifying righteousness. This righteousness is imputed by God the Father to him; and the soul receives it by precious faith, and glorifies in the perfect obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ. The believer is complete and accepted in Jesus; and he stands before the eyes of infinite Purity in Jesus all fair, without spot, blemish, or any such thing; and though in himself he is as black as the tents of Kedar, yet in the Lord Jesus Christ he is all comely and all fair. He sees that in Jesus he has a law-fulfilling righteousness; and as he beholds it, he sees such a glory in it, that he bursts out with the church of old, "Surely shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength." Or again, "My soul shall be joyful in the LORD; I will glory in the God of my salvation." It is here that you see Jesus is made your law-fulfilling righteousness.
Do you desire to see Jesus by precious living faith? Do you hunger and thirst after Him? Do you earnestly pray to be found complete and accepted in Him? If so, you have seen Jesus: and the sight of Him has done your soul good. When we see Jesus made sin for His church and people, we see Him in very solemn and awful circumstances. When by faith we view Jesus in His agonies and sufferings, we are able to enter into that prophecy, "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced." The Lord is determined that His people shall see Him in the garden of Gethsemane as a suffering Saviour, oppressed and labouring under the weight of their sin, and enduring the contradiction of sinners against Himself; resisting unto blood, striving against sin. Jesus must be seen nailed to the accursed tree, expiring as a spectacle to angels, men, and devils.
"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life." Jesus must be seen lifted up and exalted on the cross. Look at the type. The Israelites were suffering under a dreadful malady in the wilderness, and were in dying circumstances. Moses is directed to make a serpent of brass, to erect it on a pole, and make this proclamation throughout the camp, that whosoever shall look to the brazen serpent shall be healed of his malady. The antitype says, "So must the Son of man be lifted up," that whosoever looks to Him by faith shall be saved from the malady of sin. Some may ask, "Why is the type used a serpent? It is contrary to the nature of the meek, lowly, and immaculate Jesus to be typified by a serpent. There was no guile found in His mouth, wherefore then should the antitype be prefigured by a serpent?' It is to set forth the evil and malignity of sin, and to show that it has its origin from the old serpent, the devil. It is a truth big with comfort to the household of faith, that when Jesus hung upon the cross He was a pure, holy, innocent lamb in Himself; but as He was suspended there, with the guilt and sin of His church and people imputed to Him, enduring the curse of the divine law, bearing their sins and transgressions away, and delivering them from Satan the old serpent, He was made a curse for them. Though Jesus was perfect innocence itself, yet sin and iniquity being imputed to Him upon the cross, He bore the tremendous curse due to sin, and atoned for it on the accursed tree.
As Jesus is seen by faith in His blood-shedding and sacrifice, in His solemn and awful death, enduring the curse of the law and bearing away the multiplied transgressions of His people; as He is seen exalted on the cross, making an end of sin and bringing in everlasting righteousness; while the soul is looking to Jesus by faith, and gazing on Him in His awful and solemn sufferings, he loses the burden of sin from his conscience; he loses his doubts and fears; he sees Jesus made sin for him, removing the curse of the law. While a sinner looks to Jesus thus by precious faith the devil flees away. The Devil cannot stand his ground when the soul is gazing by faith on Immanuel on the cross; he loses his chains and his fetters, and is brought into sweet and blessed liberty. He sees that He who was rich, for his sake became poor, that he through His poverty might be made rich; that He died the just for the unjust, to bring sinners to God; that He died for their offences, and was raised again for their justification. This is a most solemn sight, a most humbling sight; yet at the same time a most soul-comforting, heart-cheering, God-honouring, and Christ-exalting sight. Everyone who has seen Jesus thus by faith is sure of immortal glory.
O that we may see more and more by faith our Jesus suffering and dying on the cross for our sins, and rising again for our justification! O that we may have more fellowship with Him in His sufferings! O that we may look more and more unto Him; and in looking feel our burdens fall off, and enjoy sweet peace, pardon, and liberty in our conscience! Before we are enabled to look to Jesus, all is darkness and misery; but in proportion as we are looking to Him, we shall be delivered from our darkness and gloominess. The more Jesus is seen by faith, and revealed to the heart, the more will His beauty and preciousness be seen, and the more will the soul delight in Him as the altogether lovely, and the chiefest among ten thousand.
"We see Jesus. " He is seen in the tomb. When Jesus entered the grave, all the sins and iniquities of His church and people were buried in the tomb with Him to rise no more. Jesus was laid in the grave in death's cold embrace, the same as His people: but with this difference; we sleep to rise no more till the resurrection morn; but our victorious and conquering Head burst the barriers of the tomb on the third morning. He put away our sin, endured the curse, satisfied law and justice, vanquished death and hell, brought life and immortality to light, and rose triumphant over death, hell, and the grave. Our Jesus is seen in His immortal triumphs as conquering all our foes. He is the spiritual Samson, who has overcome all the enemies of His church and people. It is a blessed sight to see our risen and exalted Lord! He became the first-fruits of them that slept. As sure as Christ our covenant head arose from the dead in victory over all His enemies: so sure shall every elect vessel of mercy not only be raised from a death of sin and iniquity to live a life of faith upon the Lord; but when He comes the second time in His triumphant glory, all the members of His mystical body shall rise up fashioned like unto His glorious body, and live and reign with Him in blessedness for evermore. The resurrection of Christ is not only a "lively hope" to our souls; but it is "a good hope through grace," which we would not give up for a thousand worlds. Sometimes I see and feel such a beauty in it that I would not give it up for a million worlds. If we were to give that up, we should have no anchor for our vessel in the storm and the tempest. We can never give up our hope; it is an anchor to the soul, both sure and steadfast, and it enters into that within the vail whither the Forerunner is for us entered. That hope lays hold of a precious Christ. We are saved by hope. We follow Him because we love Him.
Faith beholds our Jesus ascending up on high. God is gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet. Faith sees heaven's gate thrown open, the everlasting doors give way; and that very Jesus, who suffered, bled, and died on Calvary's tree the accursed death of the cross, now rising up to glory as Head over all things to His body the church, and sitting down at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens as Lord of all. Faith delights to see it, and to crown Him Lord of all! O how blessed it is to have faith's view of a precious Christ! To see Him in His covenant engagements; to follow Him in His incarnation, life, obedience, sufferings, death, and resurrection; and then to follow Him in His ascension to glory, and to behold Him for ever living there carrying on the cause of His church and people.
God Almighty bless the feeble efforts made to set forth a precious Jesus. The happiest moments I have is in lifting up Jesus on the pole of the everlasting gospel; in exalting, extolling, and setting Him up on high as the all in all in the salvation of His people. It is now more than twenty years ago since the Lord Jesus Christ, my sovereign Lord and Master, employed me in this blessed work of lifting up the stem of Jesse's rod, and crowning Him Lord of all. I can say it to His praise and honour, the longer I serve Him, the more I love Him, and desire to spend and be spent in His service. Well might Dr. Watts say,
The preciousness, the majesty, and the glory of our Lord and Master can never be told. His blessedness can never be fully described or known, till we wake up in His likeness, and see Him as He is!