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“Christian,” we shall now presume, has a well-grounded faith, or perception of divine things; and this will lead him, in the next place, to hope that at some future day, when he shall leave the body, he shall fully possess and enjoy them.
As it is written:
That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge, to lay hold upon the hope set before us. Heb. vi. 18. For we are saved by hope; but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth be yet hope for? Rom. viii. 24. Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end, for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Pet. i. 13.
And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure. 1 John iii. 3.
Hope is the desire of some good, attended with a conviction of the possibility, at least, of obtaining it; and is enlivened with joy, greater or less, according to the probability there is of possessing the object of our hope. Scarce any passion seems so natural to man as hope; and, considering the many troubles he is encompassed with, none is more necessary; for life, void of all hope, would be a heavy and spiritless thing, very little desirable, perhaps hardly to be borne; whereas hope infuses strength into the mind, and by so doing, lessens the burdens of life. If our condition be not the best in the world, yet we hope it will be better: and this helps us to support it with patience. The hope of the Christian is an expectation of all necessary good, both in time and eternity, founded on promises, relations, and perfections of God, and on the offices, righteousness, and intercession of Christ. It is a compound of desire, expectation, patience, and joy.
Hope, of all passions, most befriends us here:
Hope is that grace whereby a soul that believeth the gospel to be true, doth comfortably expect that the benefits promised shall be its own. It is an applying act: the first act of faith saith, the gospel is true, which promiseth grace and glory through Christ. The next act of faith saith, I will trust my whole soul upon it, and take Christ for my Saviour and help; and then hope saith, I hope Baxter. for this salvation by him.
Hope, in the strict and proper sense of the word, is Christ; for He, and He only, as the Prophet hath described Him, is the Hope of Israel, and the Saviour thereof; Jer. xiv. 8. and, indeed, this view must be uniformly preserved, and kept up; because, without an eye to Christ, there can be no such thing as hope; for all our whole nature is, in its universal circumstances, without God and without hope in the world; Eph. ii. 12. And it is very blessed to turn over the Scriptures of God, and behold the Lord Jesus Christ set forth under this endeared character, in a great variety of figures and representations, throughout the whole Bible.
Jesus was the grand hope of all the Old Testament believers be fore his incarnation. They all, like Abraham, saw his day afar off, rejoiced, and were glad; and, like him, amongst all the discourag ing circumstances they had to encounter, against hope, they believed in hope.
Hence, though the longing expectation of the Church, as Solomon expressed it, was like hope deferred, which maketh the heart sick,
Prov. xiii. 12. yet, as Jeremiah was commissioned to tell the Church, there was still hope in the end, saith the Lord, that the children of Christ should come to their own border. Jer. i. 17.
Christ, therefore, being held up to the Church's view as the hope of his redeemed, is set forth under various similitudes corresponding to this character. His people are called prisoners of hope, Zech. ix. 12. And the apostle Paul, under the same figure, calls himself the Lord's prisoner, and saith, it is for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain. Acts xxviii. 20. Eph. iv. 1. And elsewhere, he describes it under the strong metaphor of an anchor to the soul, both sure and stedfast, Heb. vi. 19. In short, Christ is the only hope of eternal life, to which we are begotten by his resurrection from the dead. In Him, our flesh is said to rest in hope, when returning to the dust; and all our high expectations of life and immortality are expresed in-Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearance of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
As Christ, then, is the only true hope the Scriptures speak of, it is very evident, that every other hope not founded in Christ is, and must be, deceitful. The world is full of hope, and the life of carnal and ungodly men is made up of it. But what saith the Scripture of all such? The hope of the hypocrite, saith Job, shall be cut off, and his trust shall be as a spider's web; Job viii. 14. So that the hope of the faithful, which is Christ himself, affords the only well-grounded confidence for the life that now is, and that which is to come.
And this hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost. It is founded in Christ; and is, indeed, Christ formed in the heart, the hope of glory. Rom. v. 5. Col. i. 27.
For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen for what a man seeth, why doth be yet hope for?
is not hope: for Rom. viii. 4.
In this and the following verse the apostle remarks, that our Christian life is as yet but a life of hope: that we live upon expecta➡ tion, not enjoyment. But this hope, as a duty and condition of our future glory, obliges us to go through the sufferings of life with all patience and constancy.
He who possesses "the hope of salvation," through the power of such hope can do all things, and bear all things; because he still looks forward to the end of his hope, which will reward all his actions, and make ample amends for all his sufferings: but that once given up, there is nothing any longer worth contending for, or thinking about. The mind, turning itself on every side to seek rest, and finding none, sinks into all the wretchedness of utter despondency, and the agonizing groan of suicide is heard! Evermore then let us remember to "take for an helmet the hope of salvation," and put it not off, till the contest be finally over, and hope ceases by our becoming possessed of its object.
Hope is a glorious grace, whereunto all blessed effects are ascribed in the Scriptures, and an effectual operation unto the support and consolation of believers; by it we are purified, sanctified, saved; and, to sum up the whole of its excellency and efficacy, it is a principal way of the working of Christ as inhabiting in us; (Col. i. 27.) Christ in you, the hope of glory. Where Christ evidenceth his presence, he gives us an infallible hope of glory; he gives us an assured pledge of it, and worketh our souls unto an expectation of it. Hope, in general, is but an uncertain expectation of a future good which we desire: but as it is a gospel grace, all uncertainty is removed from it, which would hinder us of the advantage intended in it. It is an earnest expectation, proceeding from faith, trust, and confidence, accompanied with longing desires of enjoyment. From a mistake in its nature, it is but few Christians labour after it, exercise themselves unto it, or have the benefit of it; for to live by hope, they suppose, infers a state, not only beneath the life of faith, and all assurance in believing, but also exclusive of They think, to hope to be saved, is a condition of men who beve no assurance, But this is to turn a blessed fruit of the Spirit into a common affection of nature. Gospel hope is a fruit of faith, trust, and confidence; yea, the height of the actings of all grace issues in a wellgrounded hope; nor can it rise any higher. Rom. v. 2-5.
True hope is grounded in God only; that he will bless us; that it may be as an anchor for the soul, sure and sted fast. Heb. vi. 17-19. If you trust, rely, and stay yourselves on Christ, or hope in Him, without assuring yourselves of salvation by him, you make no better use of him than if he were a broken reed; and if you would stay yourselves on the Lord, you must look upon him as your God; as the prophet teacheth-"Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God." Isa. 1. 10. Marshall.
Hope is a sensible commotion of our nature, excited by the perception of some attainable good; and this expectation is enlivened with joy in proportion to the sense and persuasion we have of the probability of possessing the good we want. If this expectation is strong and lively, it is always indulged with pleasure. Ryland.
What is hope? It is the lively animating expectation of some ́future good, after the possession and enjoyment of which, the desires of the heart are earnestly excited. Rom. viii. 24, 25.
Temple of Truth.
Hope is the ease, yea, the life of our hearts, that else would break, yea, die within us. Despair is no small part of hell: God cherisheth hope, as he is the lover of souls: Satan, our enemy, cherisheth despair, when his way of blind presumption faileth. As fear is a foretaste of evil, before it is felt; so hope doth anticipate and foretaste salvation, before it is possessed. Baxter.
Now the reason why men have no more use of, no more benefit by this excellent grace, is, because they do not abide in thoughts and contemplation of the thing hoped for. The especial object of hope is eternal glory; Col. i. 27. Rom. v. 2. the peculiar use of it is to support, comfort, and refresh the soul, in all trials, under all weariness and despondencies, with a firm expectation of a speedy entrance into that glory, with an earnest desire after it. Wherefore, unless we acquaint ourselves, by continual meditations, with the reality and nature of this glory, it is impossible it should be the object of a vigorous, active hope, such as that whereby the Apostle says we must be saved, Without this, we can neither have that