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Man alone, of all creatures on this lower world, looks beyond the present. Nor is the up-springing hope in him easily beaten down or extinguished. There is indeed no certainty as to any earthly hope he cherishes being realised. Every passing day brings disappointment to thousands. Long-continued drought or incessant rain may destroy the crops of the husbandman. A hurricane may overwhelm the barque of the mariner, and he may find a watery grave. The man of business may fail in every venture he makes. But none of these possibilities prevent man from hoping. “Hope springs perpetual in the human breast," in spite of every discouragement.
Hope is not necessarily an ennobling faculty. Its existence in us speaks indeed for the grandeur of our nature, but the result of its exercise depends on its objects, as these again depend on the character of the man. The hopes of a low, mean, and grovelling character will be low, and mean, and grovelling. The hopes of a selfish man will be selfish, and those of a sensual man will be sensual. He who covets wealth will hope to be rich, while an ambitious man will hope for position and for fame. The nature, moreover, that generates unworthy desires will generate unworthy means of attaining them; and thus a man may be dragged down by the vileness of the hopes he cherishes into yet deeper debasement. On the other hand, the hopes of a good man, springing, as they do, from his goodness, will react on him with purifying and elevating power.
As might be expected from its nature, hope, when based on the truth and promises of God, inspired by the prospect of the “ life and immortality brought to light through the Gospel,” is not only one of the sweetest solaces, but also one of the most powerful forces of the Christian life. There are systems of thought, termed philosophical, from which the hope of a future life is excluded. Their advocates say to us, “ You are not to be influenced by the hope of immortality. All is uncertain regarding it. Live for the present, and take the future as it comes." But is it possible to make a true and worthy present if the thought of the future he discarded? There is surely something elevating and grand in the thought, I SHALL LIVE FOR EVER.
“ Yon gun is but a spark of fire,
A transient meteor in the sky;
Shall never die." The hope that the grave is the end of man—that the decaying body which we commit to the tomb is all that remains of us when this mortal life has passed away, may well be called “the hope of a worm." It is unworthy of a man. It certainly cannot be reckoned among “ the pleasures of hope." But why should hope, when inspired by the thought of
immortality, cease to be a pleasure ? Is it not because conscience makes a coward of the man, and turns his hope into fear ;-because a mean and selfish existence in the present cannot paint a bright and blissful existence in the future?
However this may be, the grand feature in Christian hope is that it fixes itself on immortality. The Christian lives " in hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, hath promised." He has been “begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” His hope casts anchor “ within the veil, whither the Forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus.” It is the Christian's privilege to “abound in hope,” to “ rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” But his hope has reference to “ the life that now is, as well as to that which is to come.” He lives in hope of all the good that God has promised, both in the present and in the future, whether in regard to himself, his family and household, his fellow-Christians, or the world of mankind at large. His is not a selfish hope it is interested for the welfare of others. It is as all-embracing as the words of Christ," And I, if I be lifted up, will
, draw all men unto me;" and as far-reaching as the Divine promise, “ All the ends of the earth shall remember, and shall turn unto the Lord.” The Christian's hope, in short, is limited only by the Divine promises, and by his faith and confidence in God. There is a necessary and most intimate connection between faith and hope. These graces are so inseparably intertwined that the one cannot be in exercise without calling out the other. If faith lays hold on the promise, hope immediately looks for its fulfilment. The Christian's hope is thus wide and full as those “promises of God, all of which, in Christ, are Yea, and in Him, Amen.” Hence, it embraces men of all climes and kindreds ; it rises from earth to heaven, and stretches away from time into eternity.
The foundation of this hope is sure. It is built on “ the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” It rests on that “ everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure,” which has been sealed and ratified by the blood of the cross. The hopes of worldly men have no solid basis to sustain them; neither have the worldly hopes often cherished by Christians. God has not set the warrant of His seal upon them, and they often “ make ashamed.” But when God would “show more abundantly unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, He confirmed it by an oath; 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 on the hope set before us." The foundation of our hope is thus the unalterable truth and unchanging faithfulness of God, confirmed unto us by the great work which His own Son has accomplished on our behalf.
This hope is purifying. Those who cherish it can say: "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory ;” “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” Now, Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He
“To understand how it is that hope should operate in this way," wrote the late Dr. Chalmers, “we have just to remember what that really is to which a believer looketh forward. Were it merely a heaven of animal enjoyments, or a heaven that rang with melody, or a heaven lighted up with variegated splendours, or even a heaven of science, where the understanding was feasted with truth even unto ecstasy—then one might hope for such a heaven without being moralised by it. But when it is a heaven whose essential characteristic is that it is a place of holiness ; a heaven defined in the book of Psalms as the land of uprightness, and described in the book of Revelation as that eternal city where the servants of God do serve Him, then it is not in truth or in nature that one should look forward with complacency to such a heaven, without a growing conformity in his character here to that which he rejoices to believe shall be his condition hereafter. He cannot look with pleased expectancy to such a place without gathering the radiance of its virtues upon his soul ; and if, amid the crosses and fatigues of a treacherous world, this be habitually the hope by which he is sustained, then, as surely as by any law of his moral or sentient constitution, this also is the hope by which he will be sanctified.”
It is a comforting hope. It lightens the Christian in darkness, and cheers him in sorrow, and is to him “an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast" on the stormy, troublous sea of human life. The Christian is not secured from trying providences. His hope is intended, nct to save him from trouble, but to support him under trouble. The ship's anchor does not prevent the storm from gathering, and, it may be, bursting with terrific violence; but it enables the ship to ride through the storm in safety. So with the hope of the Christian. It does not prevent the storms of life from gathering, and their waves and billows from going over him; but it keeps him from being greatly moved by them. He may be assailed by fierce blasts of temptation, but his hope enables him to outride them all. He may have his seasons of darkness and sorrow, but he knows that, like a November fog, the bright and warm beams of the sun will soon pierce through the darkness, and scatter it all away. He has to pass through the valley of the shadow of death, but, to him, it is gilded with celestial light, for his hope is in Him “who hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel."
It is a stimulating anl strengthening hope. The Christian knows that the world has been redeemed by Christ; that “the heathen," whether
at home or abroad, “ have been given to Him for His inheritance," and that He shall “see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied.” What a glorious object are Christians called to labour for; the enlightenment, regeneration, and salvation of the world! As they gaze they behold the great Captain of Salvation leading the armies of the cross in His onward march through the ages. The wilderness and the solitary place are made glad for them, and the desert rejoices and blossoms as the rose. His ransomed ones, delivered from the thraldom of sin and from the bondage of Satan, are beheld returning from the land of their captivity, and the long procession moving on with songs to that better country, where they shall obtain joy and gladness, and from which sorrow and sighing shall flee away. Is it strange that growing members, stirred by the prospect and confident of the result, should labour with patient, and self-denying, and not unfruitful toil, to drain the stagnant swamps of ignorance and vice around them, to let in the healthful breezes of Christian truth and love, that the malaria which poisons and destroys so many may be swept away, and that thus the moral wastes around them may be turned into the garden of the Lord ? The work goes on apace. There may be much darkness and many discouragements; but it advances. The prayer is offered, “Thy Kingdom come," and, behold, the Kingdom does come! Each fresh generation witnesses to the progress made, and points onward to the glorious consummation, Is not this hope-the hope of saving some, and hastening the salvation of the world--the mighty engine that is moving the wheels of Christian activity all the earth over at the present time? “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye, in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, at His coming? For ye are our glory and joy."
Let us then cherish this hope by exercising a strong, hearty, unwavering faith and confidence in God, and in His “exceeding great and precious promises" made to us in Christ Jesus. Our hope will be bright and cheerful, it will stimulate and strengthen us, and pour its rich consolations into our hearts, just in proportion to the earnest tenacity with which faith lays hold on Christ, and on God in Christ, and craves the deep and all-pervading indwelling and renewing of the Holy Ghost.
W. P. LYON.
Home life is often very trying. But cross words are sent to make us gentle, and delay hath patience, and care teaches faith, and press of business makes us look out for minutes to give to God, and disappointment is a special messenger to summon our thoughts to heaven. Seek not to run away from these things. Learn God's lesson in them, and you will cease to call them trying.
Full Assurance of faith. Do these words fitly represent an attainable experience? Is it practicable for a man here on earth to have the habitual knowledge that he is in the favour of God and in the way to heaven? Is religion an experience or a chimera ?—a matter of solid certainty, or only of more or less doubtful conjecture? In the light of the title of this article, which we borrow from St. Paul, the answer to these questions is easy. Either the most logical of the apostles, here and often elsewhere, when he seems to be speaking most plainly, uses language with the wildest poetic license, or else religion is an experience—a conscious, transforming, unutterably glorious experience.
And yet the battle for this primary position in religious thinking must ever be fought anew. There are, and always have been in Christendom, persons enough who admit that religion is a belief and a code of ceremonies, and a line of conduct; but who are by no means so sure that it is also a mighty inward life and power. Their faith in all the unseen realities is weak. God is invisible ; heaven seems to them a brilliant dream; angels are myths ; " the powers of the world to come are ideas only, and not powers. And, if they see a man so under the dominion of those “powers ” that he acts as though the world, with all its treasures, was only a glittering bauble compared with the prize held out to his eager spirit, they are quick to smile at his fanaticism, and reckon him among Quakers, with their “inner light,” or Spiritualists, with their pretended visits from the departed. They do not deny that it was proper for Moses to “endure as seeing Him who is invisible," and to “esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt;" but that was a long time ago, and the circumstances were very peculiar. Let a man do so now, and they will brand him as a fanatic-in their unspoken thoughts, at least, if not also with curling lip.
The ideas of many in the Church even are totally inadequate. They fear God. They feel their guilt and demerit. They pray, read the Scriptures, join the Church, and resist sin with variable success; but never come to have the Spirit of adoption. They are trembling servants, but not rejoicing sons. They gravely doubt whether it is safe to venture much beyond this condition in this life. The proportion of this class in the Church is much smaller than it was a century ago. Then, if & young convert, all aglow with the new-found joy of pardon, went to an old deacon with his glad story, he was very likely to be met with— “My child, the heart is deceitful above all things. Be careful. I fear you are still in the gall of bitterness. It is a very serious thing to in