I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you shall go: I will guide you with my eye.…
— A teachable disposition is implied by the notable words, "I will guide thee with Mine eye." We lay great stress on these words. It is manifest that the eye of God can guide none but those who are diligently observing the lightest indications of His will. And the following verse contains a warning to them who are of an opposite disposition, who will yield only to harsh measures and severe discipline. A contrast is intended between those who would be guided by the eye, and those who required the bit and bridle. It is as much as to say — you have heard of those who are so blessed as to be led by God, even such as by watching His countenance catch from it the least signs of His will. Be not ye, then, careless and stubborn, resembling those beasts who need the rein and the muzzle, and whom nothing but force will keep in the right path. But let us consider the first of these expressions, "I will guide thee with Mine eye." Now this supposes great attentiveness on the part of those who are led, great desire to know the will of their Guide. See an affectionate child; he will gather his father's will not merely from his actual words, but from looks, tones, gestures; and when he cannot do much more than guess what that will is, he will act on what is likely, rather than excuse himself by the want of more distinct information. Now this is the disposition which God here approves. The party whom He would guide with His eye must be one who will search out the slightest hints, the briefest intimations, and will not demand in every case express categorical instructions. The Bible seems to be largely constructed on the principle that God would guide His Church with His eye, truths being often intimated rather than alarmed, left to be discerned by the attention, and not exposed to every cursory observer. Now apply this —
I. To SOME SUBJECTS ON WHICH WE ADMIT THAT FULL DIRECTIONS, PLAIN COMMANDS, ARE NOT GIVEN IN SCRIPTURE. To infant baptism, for example. From Christ's receiving of little children surely we may gather that it is the Lord's will that we should receive them thus into His kingdom. And to the observance of Sunday, the Christian Sabbath. And to Episcopacy as a form of Church government. Are there not hints, and indirect evidences on all these points which, while not sufficient for the hard, dogmatical temper — the worst in which we can read the Bible — are yet to him who desires above all things to do his Lord's will, sufficient to determine his judgment and to guide his conduct? Those who will yield to nothing but mathematical demonstrations may be likened to animals who must be ruled by bridle and bit. There is in Scripture much that is adapted for the management of the restive and stubborn; but its general character is that of a document designed for the docile and meek. Hence we shall miss much of its instruction if we yield only to the hand and will not follow the eye.
II. To THE TRUTH OF A PARTICULAR PROVIDENCE. Some deny, some ridicule, such a doctrine. It is easy to pour contempt upon it, and some of its advocates have, by their extravagance, almost justified such ridicule. But what is God's guiding us with His eye, but His indicating to us His will by means of the providential events, and these often the most common and ordinary, of our daily lives? There are times in almost every man's history at which he owns the workings of God, but if we believe in an universal Providence, and will be on the look-out for God's hand and will, we shall find in the events of everyday life as convincing proofs of the Divine working as though life were a series of miracles. He who is always noting the Divine providence will grow so used to its workings, as to be able, in a measure, to prepare for the future from what he has marked in the past and in the present. But this promise supposes us to be looking at the eye which is to guide us. It is not enough that that eye be fixed on us; our own eye must also be fixed on God: and it is only, so to speak, when the two eyes meet that we can gather instruction as to the way we should take. If God promised to guide us with His voice, we might not need to be so watchful. But we must be so if He is to guide us with His eye. We must be ever on the watch for the intimations of His will. If we are not we oblige Him to use harsh measures, and to compel our attention by something startling and severe. Much has been said about the language of the eye. Think for a moment of the look which our Lord cast upon Peter, and how much that said to him, and what an effect it had upon him. There are striking and startling events of God's providence, and they are His voice, but there are noiseless and more common ones and these are the glances of His eye. The former are as the shoutings of a foe to drive us from the wrong path, the latter as the leadings of a friend. And God desires to direct us by these rather than by the others. If He have recourse to stern methods it is only because gentler ones have failed. God doth not afflict willingly, but, alas! men are "born like the wild ass's colt," and a mere look will not tame them. Let us refuse to be guided by the eye, and it will be needful to be curbed by the hand. But even the glance of the eye may be terrible. The wicked at last will pray that the rocks and hills may fall upon them and hide them from its glance. Let us not so live that at the last it shall be lit up with anger, when now it seeks to guide us by its love.
(M. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.