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the heart, no sanctifying operation on the life, no joyful elevation of the affections, is derived from it. May you, my brethren, so hold every Christian doctrine as to derive from it all the good which it was intended to communicate; and, in particular, so to hold the doctrine of the life to come; that it may engross your best contemplations; that it may intermix itself with all your feelings; that it may become your grand, ready, and universal ground of action; that it may give the tone to your whole character; that it may be your chief consolation, your great source of joy, your support in trials, your crown of glory in prosperity, your delight through life, your triumph in death. God grant that I may be enabled so to instruct and exhort you, and so to direct you to Him whose power is almighty to bless his servants, that these may be the happy effects resulting from your belief of the doctrines of the Gospel of Christ and the possession of the hope which they inspire.
But before these effects can be expected to follow from the hope of future glory, it is necessary that it should be strongly felt, and that we should be able to appropriate it to ourselves.
1. Faith is defined by the Apostle to the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen; that is, it gives a deep and abiding subsistence in the mind to all the objects of our hopes, and it causes things invisible to become as clear and obvious to us as if they were the objects of our sight. We ought, then, so to believe in the happiness of the world to come, as if we actually saw the heavens opened, and witnessed the glory there enjoyed. What impression would not such a view be calculated to make upon us! How continually would it be the object of our meditation, the subject of comparison with the present world! How frequently should we refer to it as the standard by which all our ideas of excellence should be tried! How scrupulously should we direct the course of our life here, so as to secure an inheritance in it! Now true faith gives that credit to the revelation of God which we give to the testimony of our senses; and, if we are fully persuaded of the truth of Revelation, we ought therefore to think, and feel, and act, as if we had seen the judgmeni-seat of Christ, beheld the awful doom of impenitent sinners, and witnessed the glories of the blessed inhabitants of heaven. What manner of persons, then, ought we to be in all holy conversation, who have such hopes set before us! O let us live more according to those hopes; more as the heirs of such an inheritance! Let us more frequently contemplate the bright prospects set before us. Let us pray for the Spirit of illumination and grace by which we may know what is the hope of our calling, and what the riches of the glory of the inheritance of Christ. How would even one quarter of an hour employed each day in serious meditation on eternal things raise us above this vain world! What transporting views would it not open to us! What different feelings respecting all the troubles and events of this life would it not give to us! Let me entreat you, as you value heaven and the hope of dwelling in it hereafter, not to permit this world to engross your thoughts when God has set before you another, so infinitely more worthy of your solicitude. .
2. But then the grand endeavour should be to appropriate this hope to yourselves.—It is not sufficient that a hope of glory should be laid up for the righteous, and that so many precious promises have been made to the church of Christ: you must lay in your claim to a participation of them, you must appropriate them to yourselves; you must yourselves possess a lively hope, and be looking for and hasting to the day of the coming of Christ, as the great day of your hopes, of your deliverance from evil, of your long-expected salvation.
But in order that your hope may not ultimately deceive you, it must be well founded. God forbid that you
should, upon slight and insufficient grounds, take up a hope which, whatever present comfort it might assord you, would only terminate in your destruction.
Too much care cannot be bestowed in examining the foundation of your hope; and it is infinitely better to be in a state of salvation, though we derive no consolation from the hope of it, than to abound in hope and joy, and, at length, to find that hope and joy vain and deceitful. Great caution should, therefore, be used in the indulgence of hope; but then, on the other hand, when well founded, it should be carefully cherished. The Scriptures evidently mean to communicate hope. The whole tenor of the Gospel is calculated to impart it. All the primitive Christians rejoiced in hope. It cannot be doubted that hope, if well founded, would have a most powerful effect both upon our comfort and our improvement; and that it will have this effect exactly in proportion to its being well founded. Let us not, therefore, cast away our confidence, because it is liable to be abused; nor, in all cases, reject the comfort of hope, because in some, it may not be well founded. Let us seek for the grace of hope; but let us search our ways and try our hearts, in order that our hope may stand the test of that day, when righteousness will be laid to the line and judgment to the plummet.
What is the just foundation of hope it would be impossible to describe, at much length, in a single sermon. It is, in fact, the grand object of my preaching to explain that point, and to press it upon your consideration. It will be sufficient to observe, in this place, that all our hope must be built upon what the Son of God has done and suffered for us. His merit must form the true and only basis of our hope, and on his gracious intercession in our behalf must our confidence be placed. But when this is acknowledged in the fullest manner, it must still be observed that our hope has not been truly built upon the rock of our salvation, unless we also find that it has received the sanction of the Spirit of God, by the fruits which it produces under his holy influence. An unholy person ought not to rejoice in hope; and before he can, he must have done violence
to his conscience, which will again and again resist all efforts to create a peace and hope which are not well founded.—And here appears the value of a just and scriptural system of religious doctrine. A false and erroneous system may encourage a spurious hope; but with a true system no one can attain to a blessed hope of immortality, unless his conscience first sets to its seal that he is faithful and upright before God. It is the business of many persons to labour after the possession of a joyful hope by clearer views of doctrine, by resting more resolutely upon some particular promise, by an exclusive attention to the consolatory passages of Scripture; but their hopes, so acquired, are often suddenly thrown down by the stubbornness of conscience, which will not sanction their delusion. What such persons want is a purer conduct, rather than clearer views of doctrine. Let them pray more seriously; let them read the word of God more attentively; let them be more careful to omit no duty, and to persist in no sin; and this conduct will more speedily and more certainly produce in them a more solid hope, than any mere improvement in their doctrinal system.
Indeed, it is well for us that it pleases God, in general, to withhold peace wherever it ought not to subsist, and that he has entrusted conscience to give its sanction to peace; else multitudes would fatally deceive themselves by an unfounded hope, which would awfully disappoint them at the last day. Conscience is Ġod's vicegerent, and our guard: let us reverence its monitions, and it will be equally faithful to God and friendly to ourselves.
There are many, however, who have the testimony of their conscience, and of the word of God, that they are entitled to a joyful hope of the glory ready to be revealed. Faithful disciples of Christ, acknowledging with all humility, their unworthiness, and lamenting it continually before God, yet resting on the gracious promises of a Saviour, and the value of his atoning blood, and walking circumspectly in all uprightness of heart, they have a good foundation for this hope. They ought to know, and to value, and to exercise their high privilege. Let them, with thanksgiving to God, and with overflowing joy, look forward to the bright scenes of future bliss; and, through the influence of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, contemplate them as their own inheritance. One view of that glory, realized by faith and appropriatied by hope, will have an inconceivable influence
possessor. It will arm him with the fortitude of a martyr; it will invigorate him with the strength of an angel, the strength of faith and love. It will console him with joys and consolations; such as the blessed Apostle felt, whom no trials or sufferings, of an earthly kind, could move. It will elevate devotion by a gratitude unspeakably great, for it will be gratitude for the hope of heaven. It will render all earthly trials light, and all earthly enjoyments vain; for, weighed in the scale with heaven, they will both be lighter than vanity
But the chief advantage of such a joyful hope of eternal happiness is found in the powerful motive which it affords to holiness, and the increased efficacy which it gives to all the means of grace. Filling the soul with love to God and an ardent devotion to him, it purifies the heart, even as God is pure, as heaven is pure, as all the joys of heaven are pure. Great also is the encouragement it imparts in resisting the world, the flesh, and the devil. For with the prize of our high calling immediately in view, how low would the gratifications appear which these tempters could offer to us! Whilst we derive little consolation from the service of Christ, and are barassed by doubts and fears whether after all we shall succeed in our arduous spiritual contest, no wonder that our hands hang down and our knees are feeble. But when heaven is before us; when its glories already dawn upon us; when the celestial gate is already opening for our admittance, and the mansions are prepared in which we shall dwell for ever; who would not endure, who would