Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

of faith we receive Jesus Christ, he himself has taught us in the Gospel, where he significantly uses the terms applied to eating for believing: for, as by eating we receive bodily nourishment, so by believing we are made partakers of Christ," chap. xv. "Man is not regenerated by faith, that he should continue in a state of indolence, but rather that he should apply himself, without ceasing, to the performance of those things which are useful and good: since the Lord hath said, 'Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit,' Matt, vii, 19: 'he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit,' John xv, 6."

The Church of England expresses herself in the following terms upon salvation by faith, and the good works produced by that faith:—" We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works and deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort," Art. xi. "Good works do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith, insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known, as a tree discerned by the fruit," Art. xii.

The true minister goes on to announce a lively hope.

"godlctess with contentment is great gain," 1 Tim. vi, 6. And the pastor, who is possessed of so invaluable a blessing, cannot be backward in soliciting all, within the circle of his acquaintance, to share it with him. Happy in the enjoyment of that precious secret, which enables him to rejoice without ceasing, he readily communicates it to the afflicted, by leading them to that lively hope which consoles and sustains the heart of every believer.

In a word, where the bitterness of evil is continually increasing; where we discover the scourges of a God, who will not fail to chastise his rebellious creatures; where disappointment and death successively deprive us of our dearest comforts, and where the forerunners of death are continually weakening all our imperfect enjoyments; in such a world, it is evident, that the most exalted pleasure we are capable of, must spring from a well-grounded hope of those immortal joys which are reserved for the righteous. The language of mortality is too feeble to describe either the power or the sweetness of such a hope. Here we can only cry out with the psalmist, "O taste, and see how gracious the Lord is," Psalm xxxiv, 8, in providing so potent a cordial for those who are travelling through a vale of tears.

The lively hope which gives birth to a believer's felicity, is one of the most exhilarating fruits of his faith, and is inseparably connected with it, since "true faith is the substance of things hoped for." In proportion as the truths and promises, upon which faith is founded, are evidenced and apprehended, such will be the hope with which that faith is accompanied. If Moses then, by the faith which he professed, was enabled to renounce the prospect of an earthly crown, with the hope of obtaining a more glorious inheritance; if he esteemed "the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, having respect unto the recompense of reward," Heb. xi, 26; what may not be expected from Vol. III. 10

a hope founded upon those precious promises, which have been sealed with the blood of that condescending Saviour, who "brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel?" 2 Tim. i, 10. "The law," saith the apostle, "made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God," Heb. vii, 19. "Seeing then that we have such hope," continues the same apostle, "we all, with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory," 2 Cor. iii, 12,18.

We every day observe the men of the world exulting in the hope of some temporal advantage. The prospect of an honourable title, an augmentation of fortune, an advantageous marriage, or even a poor party of pleasure, is sufficient to allure, to animate, to enrapture them. They will even acknowledge, that the flattering hope of future pleasure is sweeter than enjoyment itself. Who then shall attempt to declare those transports which flow from the lively hope of a triumphing Christian? A hope which is founded upon the Rock of ages, and which has, for its multifarious object, riches, honours, and pleasures, as much superior to those of worldly men, as the soul is superior to the body, heaven to earth, and eternity to the present fleeting moment.

The true minister publicly announces this hope to the world, persuaded that, if mankind were once happy enough to possess it, they would exchange a load of misery for a prospect of blessedness. But since he knows that this hope can never be admitted into hearts replete with sin, his first concern is to overthrow the vain confidence of the impenitent, to undermine the presumption of the Pharisaical, and to point out the true distinction between a sinner's groundless expectation, and the wellfounded hope of a believer in Christ.

In every place there are many to be found, who, without "evangelical faith or hope," are filled with a presumption as blind as that of the Pharisees, and as fatal as that of heathens hardened in their sin. To every such person, the true minister uniformly declares that he is "without Christ, without hope, and without God in the world," Eph. ii, 12. These very men, it is probable, may offer to the Deity a formal worship, and indulge high expectations from the mercy of a Divine Mediator, though they are totally destitute of an unfeigned "repentance toward God, and a true faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ," Acts xx, 21. Thus far the unconverted may proceed in a seemingly religious course. But the regenerate alone can truly say, "The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men, teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world: looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ," Tit. ii, 11—13.

The hope of unrighteous men is founded upon pride, false notions of the Deity, ignorance of his law, and upon those prejudices, which the irreligious communicate one to another. On the contrary, the hope of believers has, for its basis, the word of Him "who cannot lie," Tit . i, 2. "Whatsoever things were written aforetime," saith the apostle, "were written for our learning, that we [the children of God] through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope," Rom. xv, 4. It is founded not only upon the word, but equally upon the oath of God. "Men verily swear by the greater; and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of the promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, [namely, his word and his oath,] we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast," Heb. vi, 16-19.

When the faithful minister has rooted up every false hope, he then announces Jesus Christ, who hath brought in a better hope than that of heathens or Jews. Observe here the reason why those pastors who preach not Christ are incapable of doing any thing toward the furtherance of that living faith, of which Christ is the grand object, and that lively hope, of which he is the inexhaustible source. "Jesus Christ," saith St. Paul, "is our hope," 1 Tim. i, 1: and we declare unto you "the mystery, which hath been hid from ages," and is still hidden from worldly men, "which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." Thus the everlasting Son of the Father is made to his true followers the beginning and the consummation of hope, as well as "the author and finisher of faith," Heb. xii, 2.

By the mercy of God, and through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, the believer has already received the promise of a free pardon for past offences; otherwise he deserves not to be termed a believer: at least, he is destitute of evangelical faith. Now, when the believer sincerely receives the glad tidings of redeeming grace, he then assuredly receives Jesus Christ, in whom "all the promises are yea and Amen," 2 Cor. i, 20; and he would conduct himself in a manner contrary to that which both reason and Scripture prescribe, if he should refuse to rejoice in God his Saviour. By such a mode of acting, he would prove his want of gratitude for that which Christ hath already done, and of hope for that which he hath promised still to perform. But when he gives himself up to a joy, as reasonable as it is refreshing, he then answers the gracious designs of his benevolent Lord. Continually taken up with more satisfactory enjoyments, he despises the seducing pleasures of sin. He carries in his own bosom a source of celestial pleasure, while the man of the world disquiets his heart in the vain pursuit of earthly joys. The difference between the enjoyments of these two characters is as great as between the rational pleasures of those who gather their wheat into the barn, and the puerile mirth of children, who are busied in collecting the scattered straws and thorns; the former are securing an inestimable treasure, while the latter have nothing more in view, than to dance round a short-lived blaze, the truest emblem of a sinner's satisfaction.

In the Holy Scriptures very excellent things are spoken of the hope which produces this sacred joy. (1.) It is a Divine hope, since it has for its object the enjoyment of God, and because it draws supplies of strength from that Holy Spirit which discovers to believers the greatness and stability of Gospel promises. Thus St. Paul teacheth us that "the Father of glory giveth us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation: enlighten.ing the eyes of our understanding, that we may know what is the Hope of our calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance among the saints," Eph. i, 17, 18.

r

2. It gives honour to the faithfulness and power of God. Abraham, saith St. Paul, against all human probability, believing "in Hope, staggered not at the promise; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; being fully persuaded, that what he had promised he was able also to perform," Rom. iv, 18-21. "Therefore, being justified," like Abraham, "by faith, we rejoice," continues the apostle, with a confidence like his, "in hope of the glory of God. And this hope maketh not ashamed," Rom. v, 1-5. How unlike the fallacious hope of worldly men, who are frequently put to shame by their blasted expectations!

3. This hope is said to fill us with a holy joy. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," saith St. Peter, " who hath begotten us again to a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Wherein ye greatly rejoice," 1 Pet. i, 3, 6. And on this account it was, that the Apostle Paul prayed with so much ardour for an increase of hope among believers. "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost," Rom. xv, 13.

4. It actually saves us, as St. Paul himself declares in the following words: "I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. And," supported by this sweet persuasion, "we wait for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For," in this respect, "we are saved by hope," Rom. viii, 18, 24.

5. It is equally sweet and solid; since it rests upon the right which the children of God may claim to the inheritance of their heavenly Father; a sacred right, which is confirmed to them with the utmost solemnity in the New Testament. Now every man who receives, with sincerity, the Lord of life and glory, receives with him a title to everlasting possessions, and ranks, from that moment, among "the sons of God," John i, 12. So that to such the following passages may, with propriety, be applied: "He hath made us accepted in the Beloved—in whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation: in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession," Eph. i, 6, 12, 14.

6. It purifies us. "Now are we," saith St. John, " the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. Whosoever is born of God [or regenerated by a true faith and a lively hope] doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God," 1 John iii, 2,3, 9. The truth of this assertion is clear to the eye of reason. We fall into sin, because we suffer ourselves to be seduced by the allurements of some transitory good, which presents itself either to our senses or imagination. But when we are once persuaded that infinite enjoyments await us, we can then look with contempt upon those deceitful appearances; and after our hearts are animated with a confident hope of possessing those invisible realities, the charm of sin is broken. In such a state, we break through temptations with as much resolution as a prince who is going to take possession of a kingdom, renounces the little amusements that occupied his thoughts before they were engrossed by a concern of so vast importance. "Who is he that overcometh the world," but the man who believes with that faith which affords him a lively representation of things hoped for? Compare 1 John v, 5, with Heb. xi, 1.

7. This lively hope produces charity in the soul. "We give thanks to God," saith the apostle, "praying always for you, since we heard of the love which ye have to all the saints; for the HOPE which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the Gospel," Col. i, 3-5. Nay, of so prevailing an influence is this solid hope, that the apostle intimates, in the same chapter, that believers shall be presented before God, holy and unblamable, provided they be not "moved away from the HOPE of the Gospel," Verses 22,23. "For," continues he, "we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end," Heb. iii, 14. "And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises," Heb. vi, 11, 12.

8. This hope is full of consolation. "We who remain," saith the apostle, "shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words," 1 Thess. v, 17, 18. "Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts," 2 Thess. ii, 16, 17. When we observe among us some who are disquieted and cast down, who want courage to support affliction without impatience, and to fill up their duties with cheerfulness, we then behold persons who never enjoyed, or who have unhappily lost, the lively hope of true Christians. If all ministers of the Gospel had experienced the sweetness and power of this hope, with what pleasure would they publish it to the afflicted! And with what perseverance would they join to their discourses the most ardent prayers, that all their hearers might come to the enjoyment of so invaluable a blessing!

When the true minister leads his flock to this lively and joyful hope, he treads in the footsteps of his Divine Master. Christ, it is true, began his ministry by preaching repentance, Matt, iv, 17. But immediately after we find him placing before the believer's eye beatitudes and promises of the most consolatory nature, verse 1, &c. In a vast variety of affecting passages, he exhorts his followers to the exercise of a joyful hope in the severest trials, making that an indispensable duty, which is indeed a glorious privilege. "Fear not them," saith he, "which are not able to kill the soul. Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven," Matt, x, 28, 32. "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom," Luke xii, 31. "I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hands," John x, 27, 28.

He appears anxious that his people should be partakers of his peace, his joy, and his hope, till they come to the possession of consummate blessedness. "These things have I spoken," saith he, " that in me ye might have peace. In the world ve shall have tribulation; but be of

« AnteriorContinuar »