Listening, Beholding, Following

The first thing needful, in order to walk with God, is to have the conscience perfectly at rest; the blood of Christ alone can secure this to us. If the conscience is not at rest, having no sense of being so perfectly purged that it is fit for the presence of God, there is no liberty in respect to it; and all things are regarded in the light of its felt need, and, as yet, unsatisfied demands. A conscience enlightened by the word of life will not rest, and cannot rest, short of full and uncondemning quietness in the presence of God, where He dwells. How blessedly perfect, then, must that work be, which, on the one hand, has so perfectly glorified God, down to the very lowest depths of humiliation and judgment, where the eternal Son of the Father, who humbled Himself to become a man, went and lay for us, and has, on the other hand, so Divinely and completely settled the question of sin, in its guilt and power, as regards our consciences, that the believer in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, is both relieved and delivered in regard to his conscience; and blessed up to the full height of that glory where Christ is, in whose once marred, but most blessed face, the whole glory of God now shines.
My reader, have you got such a conscience before God?—until you have, it is vain to speak of other things.
Allow me to show you, as far as I am able, and with God’s help, how this blessed redemption-work of the Lord Jesus thus acts upon the conscience. As born of the first Adam, every man by nature is lost and guilty; the first, or “lost,” is common to all men alike as born into this world. The other, “guilty,” relates to conduct or acts; and hence, each man has his own guilt, or sins, to account for to God. Now, this twofold pressure on the conscience, is blessedly met by the death of Christ. Scripture declares that “the worshiper once purged should have had no more conscience of sins” (Heb. 10:22For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. (Hebrews 10:2)). Observe carefully the expression, “conscience of sins”: what does it mean? Why, simply, that there is nothing between me and God; that God has no controversy with me in respect of sins; they are, for me, completely put away, and my conscience is perfectly purged. Now, mark, consciousness of sin, which means that I know I have an evil nature in me, is a different thing altogether from “no more conscience of sins.” Knowing that I have an evil nature in me, need not, and ought not to give me a bad conscience. Yielding to that evil nature, indulging it, or giving way to it, will surely soil my conscience, and make it bad practically, so that I cannot stand against the wiles of the devil.
But I can well suppose some one of my readers, to whom all this is quite new, (and it is for such I write), earnestly asking this question, “How can I ever get that liberty from this evil nature, which I am conscious is in me, and under the dominion of which, I fear, I really am at this moment?” Well, there are few questions more important; and if the answer is not known in the soul, its history is the monotonous circle of self, self, self: the blessed fact is, that, not only are the sins of the believer all put away, that his conscience may be perfectly purged, so that there should be nothing between him and God; but his old man, i.e., his evil nature, has been crucified with Christ on the cross; and God does not regard the believer now as in that nature at all, but in Christ risen from the dead, in whose death that old man was judged and condemned—“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Rom. 6:66Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. (Romans 6:6)). “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:33For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: (Romans 8:3)).
Now I quite admit there is a difference in the way in which these truths reach the conscience, and I will endeavor to point it out here.
With respect to the first, namely the question of my sins, believing on the Son of God, I have the testimony of God, in the word, to my conscience, that all my sins are forgiven, never to be remembered any more. This is not, in any sense, feeling or experience. No doubt such will flow from it, and the more so in proportion as faith is simple; but in no sense do I believe because I experience or feel it; but, on the contrary, I feel it as I believe it. The pillars of my faith are the atoning death of the Son of God on the one side; and the blessed witness of the Holy Ghost on the other. “Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us . . . their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. 10:15, 1715Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, (Hebrews 10:15)
17And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. (Hebrews 10:17)
There are three great objects on which the eye of faith rests.
• 1st. The cross, and the garden with its new sepulcher, hewn out of the rock, wherein the blessed One was laid, and out of which He was raised and glorified.
• 2nd. The Father’s throne in the heavens, on which He who bore my sins, is now seated—soon to be on His own throne.
• 3rd. The blessed witness of the Holy Ghost, the record, the testimony of the living God, which endureth for ever.
With regard to the other truth, viz., how we are delivered from the dominion of sin, experience has every place, i.e., it has to be learned by experience; and this process leads to discovering these three things:—
• 1st. That in us, that is, in our flesh, there dwells no good thing.
• 2nd. That there is in us a new nature as well as (yet quite distinct from) the old.
• 3rd. That, notwithstanding this, the old is too strong for us, and deliverance from it is looked for outside of self altogether, and from another: this issues in, “I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord”; it is the song of the prisoner bird, now liberated—it is its first note as it flies; it is not its highest, nor its every note; it is the starting-post of the soul, not its goal or prize. Perhaps many souls have recently found this new liberty and life—if so, the Lord be praised; but do not, dear reader, allow yourself to suppose for a moment, that it is anything more than the normal state of a Christian. It is not, I suppose, to be wondered at, that those who considered it a necessary thing to be tied and bound with the chain of their sins, for so many years, should regard their newly found liberty (if they have found it) as something wonderfully beyond what any one else had ever known,—and the highest and greatest good.
There is one further point, and when I have touched on it, I feel I shall have cleared the way for my subject.
Have you ever looked at two scriptures, to which I shall now allude? viz., {first} Rom. 6:9-119Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. 11Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:9‑11), “Knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Now what does that mean? Why, simply this, that faith accepts this wondrous fact, that our old man is crucified with Christ, and the believer accordingly recognizes himself to be dead—the Lord give us thus simply by faith to keep our reckonings with God.
The other Scripture is, 2 Cor. 4:1010Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. (2 Corinthians 4:10)—“Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.”
What does this mean? Why, this simply, that Paul constantly applied the Cross, the dying of Jesus, to himself, so as to keep in the silence of death, sin, that was in him. Oh, how one’s soul ought to adore in the presence of such wondrous liberty and power, secured through the precious death of Him who was God over all blessed for evermore. This, then, is the realization of faith, as the other is the recognition of faith. The Lord give us to be established in these times that we may be free to listen.
That we may listen to His voice we must be in possession of both liberty and rest. If you have not repose, you cannot give him an audience. I do not mean to deny for a moment that there is a previous exercise connected with the silencing of nature, the fading of other sounds which were wont to fill the ear of the soul; but this is the dying of what intrudes, in order that the disengaged ear may be turned without distraction to Him instead of a morbid heart that wastes a weary, restless life away by feeding on itself.
There is a repose in one who listens well, that is very blessed to witness—there was something of it at least in Mary, when she sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard His word. Her very attitude was restful; she sat, and heard.
I do not deny the activity of life, either in its earnestness to obtain, or its readiness to surrender; but I contend it ought to be restful activity—an activity which is kept alive and sustained by an object outside itself.
“As ground, when parched with summer heat,
Gladly drinks in the welcome shower;
So would we, listening at His feet,
Receive His words, and feel His power.”
I shall here note one or two results of listening in this spirit.
First, there is abstractedness of soul. Other sounds which otherwise might influence, now fail to interest. The ear is turned to catch every note of the voice of the Charmer; and, oh, what a voice that is! His enemies, even, declared that never man spake like Him.
The bride (when the day of union had not as yet dawned and whose affection is restless) is spell-bound as she listens in the twilight, and announces with rapture “the voice of my beloved,” . . . “my beloved spake”—her whole soul turns to hear what the bridegroom of her heart has to say.
Next to abstraction is absorption, entire occupation of soul; the ear, not only bent to hear, but filled with the sound of His voice; and that, too, not as one who is apart from me, but One to Whom I am united.
‘Tis His voice that chains my heart;
‘Tis His hand that draws apart;
‘Tis the music that I hear.
Rivets, presses me more near;
Every other sound has gone;
‘Float I down the stream alone:
All the universe above,
Like a mirror for His love.”
The eye of the soul is exercised as well as the ear: the voice of the object delights and engages the ear; the Person Himself delights the eye, the vision of the soul. It is a wonderful thing to know that the heavens are opened to the faith of a believer now, and Jesus in glory {is} pointed out by the indwelling Holy Ghost to the one who looks up with steadfast gaze. Oh, it is everything to have the eye on the object. What distinguishes Christianity from what went before it is an object outside of us, and power in us: Jesus in the glory of God, and the Holy Ghost, Who dwells in us.
If the eye of the soul is turned in, the object is not seen. Failure will necessitate this, but self-judgment will clear the way out of it; so that the object may again fill the eye: self- judgment will hinder self-occupation, and promote earnestness and purpose of heart. Self-judgment is not an act, once for all performed, but a continuous habit of soul. Oh, what a blessed sight for faith, that transcendent Person, that glorified Man, that mighty Savior! Well may we pray,
“O fix our earnest gaze
So wholly, Lord, on Thee.”
Let me again impress upon you the fact that we do not behold the Savior in glory as apart from Him, but as those who are united to Him, one with Him. How very blessed to know I am one with my object. I shall only touch upon one or two consequences of beholding.
First, as we behold we are transformed into the same image (2 Cor, 3:18); i.e. as we are occupied with Christ, where He is, we become like Him; the moral features of Him Who is our object are transferred to those who, by the Spirit, behold Him in glory. Stephen is a beautiful instance of this; he acted like Christ in the midst of the most trying circumstances, (see Acts 7).
Next, we find that the Object in glory forms the affections suited to Itself. Herein lies the difference between Christian affection and heart-longing, and that which is found in the Song of Songs; in the latter, the bride does not possess the profound repose and sweetness of affection that flows from a relationship already formed, known and fully appreciated. Previous to the day of union, the relationship sought for was the consequence of the state of the heart, but now that the day has dawned, the state of the heart, the affections, are the consequence of the relationship. The same is observable in the Psalms; yearning, panting after God, are all to be found there; and the earnestness might well put us to shame: but the relationship, as well as the object of faith, and the power to enjoy the one, and behold the other, are wanting. In the Song of Songs, the bride is not united to the bridegroom; and in the Psalms, the Remnant, whose experience is so blessedly depicted in various scenes and circumstances, is as yet outside of all that which will, ere long, crown their hopes, aspirations, and yearnings.
The feet pursue the path marked out by His blessed footsteps, Who has gone before. For this divine energy is needed. The blessed apostle, who knew Christ in glory, heard His voice speak to him from glory, and had seen Him in glory, follows Him—“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” The mark denoted the spot, as it were, whither he pressed; the prize was that for which he ran. He did not think of his eye, or his feet. That on which his eye rested, and for which his feet pressed on, was everything to him: purpose of heart, earnestness, energy, there must be, as well as self-abnegation, every step of the course; diligence of soul and vigilance of heart too;—but if Christ, seen in glory, and known in glory, does not form and maintain these in the heart, I know of no other motive or power. The Lord keep us hearing, and beholding, and following His own Son; that the tastes, suited to Christ, may be both formed and kept alive in us; and we ourselves, thus divinely strengthened to refuse everything of the first man, because we are so satisfied with the Second Man; and that we may show forth His virtues, and glories, and excellencies, in a crooked and perverse generation, among whom we shine as lights (heavenly bodies) in the world, holding forth the Word of life.