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in order to our admission into the glory of heaven, are not a mere arbitrary constitution, but founded in the unchangeable nature of God. If there were any defect and irregularity in the architecture of the visible world, in the frame and order of its parts, it were less dishonourable than if there were no connexion between a holy life and blessedness : for the first would only reflect upon his wisdom and power, but the other would asperse his holiness and justice, the most divine perfections of the Deity. · Christian hope purifies, by the frequent and serious thoughts of the heavenly glory. The object of hope fills the mind and memory, and gives order and vigour to our endeavours. If riches or honour be the object of our expectation, the soul will entertain itself with the pleasant thoughts of them, and contriving how to obtain them. Love and hope are fixed upon the same objects, and have the same efficacy: they transport the soul to their distant objects, and transform them into their likeness, The object is spiritual and divine, and the frequent contemplation of it has a warm influence into the affections, purifies and raises them from the earth. When our thoughts are often conversant upon the state of future glory, we feel its attractive force more strongly working in us : as in a chase, if there be a cold scent, it is but coldly pursued; but when the game is in view, it is eagerly prosecuted. When heaven is seldom thought of, our desires and endeavours are cooled towards it; but when it is in the view of our understandings, and near us, our inclinations and endeavours are more fervent and zealous. The apostle saith, “our conversation is in heaven, from whence we look for the Lord Jesus.”
The hope of heaven purifies us, from a principle of thankfulness to God, who is donor of it. St. John breaks into an ecstaсу of wonder, “behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the 'sons of God!" The angels, those comprehensive spirits, are astonished, that worthless rebels should be taken into a relation so nigh and near to God, who deserve to be irrevocably banished from his kingdom. The apostle observes the various degrees of this happi
now we are the sons of God, but it does not appear what we shall be :” now we are adopted, but the height of our felicity, when we shall be crowned, is a secret ; but we are assured, “ we shall be like the Son of God,” the glorious original of all perfection. Now the confirmed hope of this transcendent happiness, inflames a believer with sincere and supreme love to God, that will make us zealous to please him, by entire obedience to his precepts, and a likeness to his nature.
Thirdly. The purity of a christian consists in a conformity to Christ. The Son of God incarnate is both the author of our holiness, and the pattern of it. As the sun is the first fountain of light, and a crystal globe filled with light, may be a secondary fountain, transmitting the beams unto us : so the Deity is the original cause of all created holiness; but it is transmitted through the Mediator. In his life on earth there was a globe of precepts, a perfect model of holiness. All the active and suffering graces appeared in their exaltation in his practice.
Our relation to him infers our likeness : “ for whom he did foreknow, he did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” The image in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, had the head of fine gold, the breast and the arms of silver, the belly and thighs of brass, the legs of iron, the feet part of iron, part of clay: but Christ united to his church is not such an irregular composition : as the head is holy, so are all the vital members.
From hence we are informed how to judge of our hopes, whether they are saving, and will attend us to the gates of heaven. If they purify us, they will certainly be accomplished in heavenly blessedness: if we be like our Saviour in grace, we shall be like him in glory: but carnal and loose hopes will issue in disappoint
Our Saviour tells us, that every visible christian, in a spiritual sense, is a builder, and raises a fabric of hope, that may appear fair to the eye : but there is a time of trial coming, that will discover how firm it is. It is our wisdom to descend to the foundation of our hope, that we may understand whether it be a rock that cannot be shaken, or the quicksand that cannot bear the weight of it. Those “ who hear the words of Christ, and do them,” build upon a foundation more stable than the centre; the perfect veracity of God is engaged in his promises : but those who hear without doing, build upon the sinking sand. Carnal men will pretend they hope for salvation, only for the infinite mercies of God, and merits of Christ : it is true, these are eternal foundations ; but to secure a building, the superstructure must be strongly fastened to the foundation, or it cannot resist a storm. If we are not united to Christ by the sanctifying spirit, and a purifying faith, our hopes will deceive us. When sin has dominion, which is certainly discovered by the habitual course of men's lives, when there is a remaining affection to it in men's hearts, which is known by their reflections upon past sins with pleasure, and the prospect of future sins with desire, their hope is like a spider's web, that can bear no stress. Hope is subordinate to faith, and faith is regulated by the promise. Some believe without hope: they are convinced of the reality of the future state, of the eternal judgment, and the consequents of it, but are careless and desperate in their wickedness : others hope to be well hereafter without the belief of the gospel. Indeed, there is none can bear up under despairing thoughts, when they are raging in the breast. He that is absolutely and with consideration hopeless, falls upon his own sword. The tempter deals with sinners according to their conditions : if they are swimming in prosperity, he stupifies conscience, and induces them to be secure; if they are sinking in deep distress, he is so skilful in all the arts of aggravation, that he plunges them into despair : and both temptations are fatal; but the most perish by fallacious hopes. It is strange, that the greatest number of professors are more unwilling to suspect the goodness and safety of their condition, than to mistake, and be deceived for ever. But they are so strongly allured by worldly objects, that though in their lives there are the visible marks exclusive of salvation, they are unconcerned. They are satisfied with carnal vain hopes, which are the seed of all evils committed, and the spring of all evils suffered. Hope that should encourage holiness, imboldens wickedness; and that which should lead men to heaven, precipitates them into hell.
How great will their fall be from a conceited heaven into a real hell! Hope, of all the passions, is the most calm and quiet; but when utterly disappointed in a matter of high concernment, it is most turbulent; for the consequent passions, despair, impatience, sorrow, rage, are the cruel tormentors of the minds of
“ Now what will become of the hope of the hypocrite, when God shall take away his soul ?” He may feed and cherish it while he lives; but in the fatul moment, when he dies, his blazing presumption will expire, not to be revived for ever.
“ But the righteous has hope in his death:” the sanctified spirit inspires and preserves life in it, till it is consummated in that blessedness that exceeds all our desires, and excludes all our fears for ever.
The hope of glory should be a constant and commanding motive to purify ourselves. Hope is the great spring of actions in this world; it enters into all our designs, and mixes with all our endeavours. The husbandman ploughs in all the frosts and snows to which he is exposed, in hope of a fruitful harvest. The mariner sails through dangerous seas, often enraged with storms and tempests, and among rocks and sands, for a hopeful ven
How much more should the hope of heaven make us active and ardent in seeking for it ; considering we have infinitely greater security of obtaining it, the word of God, and the object, is above all comparison with the things of this world. Here the wisest and most diligent are uncertain to obtain their ends, the trifes which they earnestly expect, and are certain after a while to lose them : but if we in the first place seek the kingdom of God, we shall certainly obtain it, and it is unforfeitable for ever. I will conclude with the efficacy of this argument declared by the apostle, “ The grace of God that bringeth salvation has appeared unto all men, teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live godly, righteously and soberly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope, the glorious appearance of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ. This will keep us steadfast and unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.”
IV. The fear of God is a grace of excellent efficacy to perfect holiness in us : it is the apostle's direction, “ perfecting holiness in the fear of God." The divine wisdom has annexed rewards and punishments to strengthen the authority of the law, to work upon hope and fear, which are the secret springs of human actions; and for the honour of his goodness and justice that are principally exercised in his moral government. That hope may be a powerful motive to do our duty, and fear a strong bridle to restrain from sin, the reward must exceed all the temptations of profit, or pleasure, or honour, that can accrue by transgressing the law, and the penalty of all the evils that may be inflicted for obedience to it. From hence it is, that divine hope and godly fear have such a commanding conquering power in the hearts of true believers, and are so operative in their lives, that they will not neglect their duty to avoid the greatest evil, nor commit a sin to obtain the greatest good.
The grace of fear I have discoursed of in another place, and shall be the shorter in the account of its nature, and cleansing virtue here. Fear introduces serious religion, preserves and improves it : it is the principle of conversion to God, and knocks at the door of the soul, that divine love may have admission into it : it arises from the conviction of guilt, and the apprehension of judgment that follows. When Paul discoursed of righteousness, and temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled :" the prisoner, with the assistance of conscience, made the judge tremble. This fear was more torment than reverence. According to the greatness and nearness of an evil, and the apprehensions of it, the stronger is the fear. In the turning of sinners, the impressions of it are different : stronger degrees are requisite to rouse the obdurate, and to make them fly from the wrath to come. The jailor surprised with terrors, cries out, “ sirs, what shall I do to be saved ?" It is said, “the Lord opened the heart of Lydia,” as with an oiled key; but an earthquake was necessary to open the jailor's. Till there is felt something more tormenting than carnal sweets are pleasing, men will not mortify their lusts. One will not suffer a part of his body to be cut off, unless an incurable gangrene threatens speedy death. The world is present and sensible, and continually diverts men from the consideration of their souls, unless eternal things are by a strong application impressed on their minds. Till urged by the terrors of everlasting death, they will reject the offers of everlasting life. While carnal men are in prosperity, they hate instruction to prevent sin, and despise reproof to correct sin; they slight the fearful report of thunder, and do no more tremble at the torments of hell, threatened in the word of God, than at squibs and crackers, the sport of boys. But in sharp afflictions, and the approaches of death, when conscience draws near to God's tribunal, it becomes bold, and resumes the government, and calls them to an account for all their rebellions, and forces them to confess what they would fain conceal, their fears of eternal judg.
Holy fear preserves and increases religion. This may be considered as it includes reverence of God, with circumspection and