Isaiah 45:22 - Homilies By W.m. Statham
The eye of the soul.
Look unto me, and be ye saved." Faith can look! We have the spiritual vision and the spiritual object. "Blessed are your eyes, for they see." We look, and are saved! Yes; and we look in hours of sorrow and unrest, and our burdens are lightened. This is no dream of the quietist; no meditation of the mystic. We do not look into infinity, and feel awe. We do not merely set religious imagination to work. We have a loving Lord and Saviour, to whom we look. "Sir, we would see Jesus." When our eyes are filled with worldly visions; when we are active in the warehouse, the office, the street, the home;—then we have experience of time-visions. When our souls are awake we gaze on the unseen Lord, who has been about our path all the day, and who is always waiting to be gracious. What is the exact word, do you say? I see! You are accustomed to a close exegesis of the Scripture. It is well! The Hebrew means, "flowed together." Is not that beautiful? "They looked unto him, and flowed together." We are lightened by oneness with our Lord.
I. LOOKING UNTO JESUS LIGHTENS US BY CONSCIOUS SYMPATHY . This always lightens. In a human sense it does. We can enter into each other's lives, and bear each other's burdens. We want not more strength, but more cheer. He does not give new faculty, but the Holy Spirit quickens faith; faculty we already have. Think of the one Divine life. Christ knew what it was to go to his Father in prayer, to be alone, to be misunderstood, to be solitary and forsaken. He was tempted, too, in all points as we are, yet without sin. He suffered, being tempted. We look to the Brother as well as the Saviour. Sympathy! Is it not precious? We get hardened by habits, where each has to struggle for himself or herself. Yes, herself! The womanly life is often a heroism of endeavour in the sense of seeking sometimes a livelihood; and the world to a widow does seem a very selfish place at times. Christ was poor. He was, in a human sense, needy. But, you say, even in these lives of struggle and difficulty, the spiritual anxieties are the deepest: to maintain a pure heart, a faithful love, a true conscience, a gracious progress in heavenward affection. Then remember he knows your inner history. Look to him. Seek oneness. Let your life and his "flow together."
II. LOOKING UNTO JESUS LIGHTENS US BY CONSCIOUS POWER . He is able to keep—able to save. Have you ever been in a gale at sea, and been nervous and timorous? But there, on the bridge, is the calm, keen-eyed, well-trained captain. You feel that there is confidence coming to your heart as you look at him. What waves cannot Christ calm? What coast of life does not he know the soundings of? What can surprise his vigilance, or blind his knowledge, or binder his commands? Even when the earthly physician came to your sick child, you watched his face and were lightened; he hoped, and you renewed your strength. A Christ less than Divine is no real refuge for such anxious souls as ours. We need not only beautiful ethics, exquisite parables; but we want Divine authority: " I will ; be thou clean !" We are at rest when we can say with the centurion, "Truly this was the Son of God." We feel how guilty we are. We admit no man, no priest, into the picture-gallery of the soul. We decline to reveal our leprosy of heart to our fellow-men. But we are all polluted and evil; and we have deep repose of heart when we come to the one fountain open for sin and uncleanness, and know that Christ is "able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him." No look lightens us which is merely imitative—which is a lesson-look of duty. We need a great Saviour as well as a great Teacher.
III. LOOKING UNTO JESUS LIGHTENS US BY CONSCIOUS OBEDIENCE . This comes next. We flow together, not merely in sympathy, but in life and service. We do his commandments; we know in following him we are in the right path; and how it lightens one to feel that the way is right, however hard and painful it may be! Rectitude is the music of the soul. Is not this sometimes forgotten? you say. Or, if not forgotten, is obedience relegated to a very inferior place by some Christians? Yes; they mean well, but they take a superficial view of the gospel. Removal of guilt is not all. Doing is not a deadly thing, it does not end in death—if it is life-doing and not law-doing. Christ says, " Keep my commandments." "This do, and thou shalt live." We are never lightened by self-indulgent piety, which leaves all to God. We are to exercise our graces; to use what Paul calls "the gymnastic of godliness"—a beautiful expression. Looking to Jesus, we shall gain strength for every earnest endeavour after the Divine life. But is there not a danger of spiritual pride? Is it not better to feel God does all? There is no one of us free from the danger of spiritual pride. We must all watch and pray against it. But you may detect spiritual pride often very manifestly in those who think that they, and they alone, know the entire secret of God's will; and their secret is, a leaving it all to him. Then pride says, " See ; I am free from legalism, and I have no danger of self-righteousness." Pride may hide under this cloak of confessed humility. We are only safe in Christ's own way. He and no earthly teacher is to be really our spiritual Director, and he says, "If ye love me, keep my commandments;" "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them;" "He that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto eternal life." Not by a cowardly shrinking from duty, but by looking up to the Captain of the great host and gathering nerve to throw one's self into the thick of the fight is our heart lightened.
IV. LOOKING UNTO JESUS LIGHTENS BY CONSCIOUS EXPERIENCE . We have tried it in the days of old! Christ has lightened many a burden we foolishly tried to carry alone. Men are ashamed of their failures. They boast of a certain specific, and it fails. They recommend certain methods of conduct which break down in operation. But our faces are not ashamed. They glow with the consciousness of what Christ has been in past times of test and trial. He has never failed—never forsaken. This is a beautiful idea about the countenance—a Christian should have no shame there. I do not mean a face defiant or boastful; that is not the meaning of these words, "And their faces were not ashamed." It means no confusion, no flush of anxiety, no prophecy of failure on it. We can all look to him. We are all invited! None of us can measure the weight on the heart. Christ can. And he knows that it is heavy, very heavy. We are often tired and weary. Come to him! You need him! You have slighted and neglected him long time now; but you have found no Friend, no Saviour away from him.
"'Lay down, thou weary one, lay down
Thy head upon my breast.'"
Let us do so. Then this experience will have brought to us a peace which passeth all understanding.—W.M.S.
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