Looking unto Jesus … Paul’s Pastorial Word to Us.

Written by Isaac Ambrose (1604-1664)
Edited for thought and sense.

THE most excellent subject to discourse or write about is, Jesus Christ.

Augustine, having read Cicero his works, commended them for their eloquence, but he passed this sentence upon them, they are not sweet, because the name of Jesus is not in them. And Bernard’s saying is near the same, “If you write, it doth not delight me, unless I read Jesus there; if thou dispute or contest, it doth not sit well with me, unless Jesus found there.” Indeed all we say is but unsavory, if it be not seasoned with this salt.

I determined not to know anything else, says Paul, except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. He resolved with himself before he preached among the Corinthians, that this should be the only point of knowledge that he would profess himself to have skill in; and that, in the course of his ministry he would labor to bring them to: this he made the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of his knowledge; yea doubtless (says Paul) and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, Eph. 3:18 and Phil. 3:8.

In this knowledge of Christ, there is an excellency above all other knowledge in the world; there is nothing more pleasing and comfortable, more animating and enlivening, more ravishing and soul-contenting; only Christ is the sun and center of all divine revealed truths, we can preach nothing else as the object of our faith, as the necessary element of your soul’s salvation, which doth not some way or other, either meet in Christ, or refer to Christ; only Christ is the whole of man’s happiness, the sun to enlighten him, the Physician to heal him, the wall of fire to defend him, the friend to comfort him, the pearl to enrich him, the ark to support him, the rock to sustain him under the heaviest pressures, As a hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest, as rivers of waters in a dry place, and as the Shadow of a great rock in a weary land, Isa. 32: 2.

Only Christ is that ladder betwixt earth and heaven, the Mediator betwixt God and Man, a mystery, which the angels of heaven desire to pry, and peep, and look into, 1 Pet. 1:12. Here’s a blessed subject indeed, who would not be glad to pry into it, to be acquainted with it? ‘This is life eternal that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. John 17: 3. Come then, let us look on this Sun of Righteousness; we cannot receive harm but good by such a look; indeed by looking long on the natural,sun we may have our eyes dazzled, and our faces blackened; but by looking unto Jesus Christ, we shall have our eyes clearer, and our faces fairer; if the light of the eye rejoice the heart, Prov. 15:30. How much more, when we have such a blessed object to look upon?

As Christ is more excellent than all the world, so his sight transcends all other sights; it is the epitome of a Christian’s happiness, the quintessence of evangelical duties, is the act of looking unto Jesus.

In the text we have the act and object, and the act in the original is very emphatic, [aphorontes eis;] the English does not fully express it; it signifies an averting, or drawing off the eye from one object to another: there are two expressions, [apo and eis-,] the one signifies a turning of the eye from all other objects; the other a full fixing of the eye upon such an object:, and only upon such.

So now we know that it is both a looking off, and a looking on. But on what? That is the object, a looking unto Jesus; a title that denotes his mercy and bounty, as Christ denotes his office and function. I shall not be so curious as to inquire why Jesus, and not Christ is nominated; I suppose the person is aimed at, which implies them both; only this may be observed, that Jesus is the purest gospel-name of all other names; Jesus was not the dialect of the old Testament; the first place that ever we read of this title as given to Christ, it is in Matthew 1:21. Thou shalt call his name JESUS, for he shall save his people from their sins. Some observe that this name Jesus, was given him twice; once till death, Matthew 1:21; and afterwards for ever, Phil. 2:10. The first, was a note of his entering into covenant with God, to fulfill the law for us, and to die for our sins; the second was a note of so meritorious a person, who for his humility was more exalted than any person ever hath been, or shall be.

First, Jesus was the humble name of his deserving grace; now Jesus is the exalted name of his transcendent glory…

…at first the Jews did crucify Jesus and his name; and the apostle did then distrust, whether Jesus was the true Jesus; but now God hath raised him from the dead, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, Luke 24:21. Phil. 2:9-10.

My meaning is not to overly insist on this name, in contradiction to other names of Christ, he is often called Christ, and Lord, and Mediator, and Son of God and Emmanuel; why? Jesus all these, Jesus is Christ, as he is the anointed of God; and Jesus is the Lord, as he hath dominion over all the world; and Jesus is Mediator, as he is the reconcile of God and man; and Jesus the Son of God, as he was eternally begotten before all worlds; and Jesus is Emmanuel, as he was incarnate, and so God with us. Only because Jesus signifies Savior, and this name was given him upon that very account, For be shall save his people from their sins.

I shall make this my purpose, to look at Jesus more particularly as carrying on the great work of our salvation from first to last. This indeed is the glad tidings, the gospel, the gospel-privilege, and our gospel-duty, Looking unto Jesus.

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Meet the author and part of your Christian Heritage: Isaac Ambrose (1604 – January 20, 1663/1664) was an English Puritan divine. He associated himself with Presbyterianism, and was on the celebrated committee for the ejection of “scandalous and ignorant ministers and schoolmasters” during the Commonwealth.

So long as Ambrose continued at Preston he was favoured with the warm friendship of the Hoghton family, their ancestral woods and the tower near Blackburn affording him sequestered places for those devout meditations and “experiences” that give such a charm to his diary. As a religious writer Ambrose has a vividness and freshness of imagination possessed by scarcely any of the Puritan Nonconformists. Many who have no love for Puritan doctrine, nor sympathy with Puritan experience, have appreciated the pathos and beauty of his writings, and his Looking to Jesus long held its own in popular appreciation with the writings of John Bunyan.

Dr Edmund Calamy (1600-1666) wrote about him, ”He lived & died a Nonconformist and was a man of that substantial worth, that eminent piety, and that exemplary life, both as a minister and a Christian, that it is to be lamented the world should not have the benefit of particular memoirs concerning him from some able hand”. He lived in the latter part of his life at Preston and when his end drew near was very sensible of it. Having taken leave of his friends abroad with unusual solemnity, as if he foresaw that he should see them no more, he came home to Preston from Bolton, and set all things on order. In a little time some of his hearers from Garstang came to visit him. He discoursed freely with them, gave them good counsel, told them he was now ready whenever his Lord should call, and that he had finished all he designed to write; having the night before sent away his discourse concerning angels to the press. He accompanied his friends to their horses, and when he came back shut himself in his parlour, the place of his soliloquy, meditation, and prayer; they thought he stayed long, and so opened the door, and found him just expiring. This was in the year 1663-4,cetat. 72. He was holy in his life, happy in his death, and honoured by GOD,and all good men” (This quote by Dr Calamy is quoted in the opening pages of the Isaac Ambrose book “Prima, Media Et Ultima”)

Character excerpts from Wikipedia