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the Christian's hope, as by contrasting it with that of the hypocrite. While this method may assist the true convert to discern the genuine. ness of his religion, it may, through the mercy of God, enable the false convert to perceive the spuriousness of his.
1. The hope of the true convert differs from that of the false, in its efficient cause. The scriptures attribute it to the efficiency of the Ho. ly Ghost. Rom. xv. 13. 2 Thess. ii. 16. In examining into the genuineness of our religion, the Bible would lead us to inquire, how we came by it; who is the author of it? This is one way by which true religion is distinguished from that which is the spontaneous growth of the natural heart. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his; if his religion is not produced by the Spirit of Christ, it will not be Christ-like; for it is that only which is born of the Spirit which is spirit. John iii. 6. If the Spirit of God has not convinced us of sin, righteousness, and judgment, we have not known the plague of our own heart; and unless this divine Agent has reveal. ed Christ to us, our knowledge of him is not a saving nature. Our love, faith, and hope, must be the fruit of the Spirit, else our religion is vain. Though we are incapable of having any direct perception of the operations of the Spirit, yet we can distinguish spiritual affections, which are the result of his operations, from those which can be excited by other means. The hope of the hypocrite, or false convert, is not in the most proper sense, the fruit of the Spirit. Men may
be subjects of the common and of the miraculous influences of the Spirit; and while under these may, without a radical change, obtain a hope that they have become heirs to a heavenly inheritance; but their hope is to be attributed to some other cause than the Spirit of God. It is generated in their own selfish hearts by the agency of that spirit whose business it is to deceive that he may destroy. Nothing short of the transforming influences of the Spirit of God can beget the hope which will prove an anchor to the soul.
2. The hope of the true convert differs from that of the false, in its object. The hope of both looks forward to another world, and they agree in calling the happiness which they anticipate by the same name; but in reality they desire two different heavens. The true convert is said to rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Rom. v. 2. To see the glory of God displayed, both on earth and in heaven, is what he de. sires above every thing else. ** This,” said our blessed Lord, “ is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent.” John xvii. 3. To know, in a holy man. ner, the true God and Jesus Christ, is that eternal life, that enduring blessedness, which the Christian hopes to enjoy in heaven. He hopes to see Christ as he is, and to be forever like him. 1 John, iii. 2, 3. The heaven in which he desires to dwell, is a place where the holiness cf God will be most advantageously displayed; where his law will be written in every heart; and where all will cordially unite in as cribing to him the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. A heaven less pure than this, would not satisfy the desires of him who is born of the Spirit.
But this is not the heaven which is desired by the false convert. He may call the heaven he desires a holy place : but let him search his heart, and he will be able to perceive that the glory of God, namely, the exhibition of his holiness, is not the food upon which he is prepared to feast through eternal ages. It is not the prospect of seeing the holy Redeemer, and being forever like him, that raises his hopes, and stimulates him to run the race set before him. Does such a one, I would ask, long for a heaven, where he shall never have an. other selfish affection, another proud imagination; where his trust in the Savior's righteousness will never be weakened by any self-righteous dependence; and where nothing will be done, spoken, or thought of, which will grieve the Holy Spirit of God?
3. The two hopes in question differ as to the nature of the evidences by which they are acquired and maintained. The true convert dares not indulge any hope of heaven, until he discovers in himself that character to which the promise of heaven is made. Nor, when indulged, can this hope be perpetuated, save by the same evidence through which it was obtained. But the false convert acquires and maintains his hope by other means ; for be certainly possesses nothing of the character to which the promises are made.
In the beginning of the fifth chapter of Romans, after the apostle had spoken of hope, he proceeds to tell us how it is acquired : Tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience, and experience, hope : and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.” By searching the scriptures the Christian finds that God has promised the kingdom of heaven to all, without respect of persons, who are possessed of a holy character. . Of God's ability or faithfulness to fulfil this promise, he can not entertain a doubt. All that he needs, therefore, to give him hope concerning his own future blessedness, is to know that he possesses the character to which the promise is made. Without some evidence of a renovated heart, manifested by love to God, submission to his will, repentance for sin, and faith in Christ, together with answera. ble practice, he can have no hope at all. These other graces of the Spirit are antecedent to hope, and form the only solid basis on which it can rest. With their growth hope is strengthened, and not without it. The graces of the Spirit, displaying themselves in correspondent actions, constitute the witness of the Spirit—the only witness which can be relied on to prove the fact that we are the sons of God. This witness begins to testify in our favor, when we begin to love and serve God, and becomes more full in its testimony, as we advance in sancti. fication. As experience begets, so it nurtures hope ; and when it is improved by tribulation, it serves to render hope stronger and more vigorous. The apostle told the Ephesian saints, that after they be. lieved, they were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, and that this was the earnest of their inheritance, i. e. the foretaste and evidence of future felicity. By this sealing of the Spirit, which was subsequent to their being brought into union with Christ, he meant the progressive work of sanctification which this holy Agent was carrying on in their hearts. And this he manifestly considered as furnishing the only proper support for a well grounded hope that they should finally enjoy the heavenly inheritance.
The hope of the true convert rises and falls with the evidences of his piety. In rising, it passes through various degrees, from a weak, trembling hope, to a full assurance. Old experiences, which are not strengthened by new, are not sufficient to support it. It is quite dif. ferent with the false convert. As the hope he entertains was acquired without the discovery of any thing in his heart of the nature of true holiness, so it is maintained without it. It is kept up either by the repetition of false experiences, or by the recollection of old ones, which, like the leaves of autumn, have faded away. There are not a few of the members of the church of Christ, whose religious affections have long since died away; and yet their hopes of future happi. ness seem hardly to have flagged. It has by some been considered as an evidence of peculiarly strong faith, to keep up an unshaken hope, without any evidence derived from present sanctification. The case of Abraham has been adduced in support of it; of whom it is said, that against hope he believed in hope. But this can not mean, that he cherished a hope that he was a saint, in contrariety to scriptural evi. dence. It meant, what is altogether more honorable to his character as a believer, that he hoped or confided in God, that he would fulfill those promises, which, to the eye of sense, appeared so improbable as to be hopeless. Although we have no warrant to hope concerning our piety, any further than we have scriptural evidence of its existence; yet it is our duty to believe in God, without waiting for a particle of evidence that we are already accepted of him. The foundation we need for the exercise of faith, is nothing more than evidence that God has encouraged us to trust in him, and that he is a being worthy of our fullest confidence. But to entertain a hope that we shall enjoy his favor, we must have evidence, not only that he is worthy of our confidence, but also that we have actually confided in him. While, therefore, all classes of men, good and bad, false converts as well as the true, are culpable for not immediately exercising faith in God, even the faith of assurance, it is wrong for them to exercise a full assur. ance of hope, that they are entitled to the heavenly inheritance, when no such title exists. For the exercise of faith, then, we need only to know, that the character of God is good; but for the exercise of hope, it is necessary to know that ours also is good—that is, to know that we have received the truth in the love of it.
4. The hope of the true convert greatly differs from that of the false, in the influence it exerts on his heart and life. As his hope origi. nates in the discovery of some conformity to God, and is preserved and increased by perceiving a growing conformity, it furnishes a pow. erful stimulus to growth in grace. Nor is this the only way in which it has a tendency to promote his purification. The hope he has of being received to a heaven of perfect holiness when he dies, is calcu. lated to sanctify him while he lives. “Every man," saith the apostle, "that hath this hope in him, (that is, the hope of being ultimately with the Redeemer in heaven,) purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” 1 John, iii. 3. By this passage we are taught, that they, who have a scriptural hope of dwelling with Christ in heaven, and of being forev. er conformed to him, will even now be stimulated by it to seek a careful imitation of him, both in their temper and in their conduct When Paul admonished the saints at Rome, that it was high time for.
them to awake out of sleep, since their salvation was nearer than when they first believed, it implied, that a hope of enjoying at length the perfect salvation of heaven, is calculated to exert a holy influence on our present conduct; and that it is reasonable to expect, the nearer we approach to that perfect state, the greater will be the influence that such a hope will exert.
While the Christian's hope stimulates him to grow in grace, that of the hypocrite hardens his heart, and remarkably disqualifies him even for its reception. “ Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him." Prov. xxvi. 12. There is more hope of the sinner who is immoral, and who is thus known to be a fool, than of the sinner who has the hypocrite's hope to shield him against the arrows of conviction. Since such a one builds on a false religion, and seeks a heaven which is destitute of holiness, his hope has no tendency to cause him to purify himself. If at any time he appears to do it, it is only an appearance. His expectations of future blessedness, and the evidences on which they rest, are destitute of real holiness ; so that, however pure he may be in his own eyes, he is not washed from his filthiness.
The Christian's hope supports him in his arduous conflict with the 'world, the flesh, and the devil. It is recounted among the pieces of armor, with which he is to clothe himself, that he may be able to stand in the day of battle. Hope answers to the warrior's helmet. “ And putting on," said the apostle, “the breast-plate of faith and love; and for an helmet the hope of salvation.” The more there is of the true hope of the salvation of Christ, the more vigorously will the Christian warfare be carried on: but if our expectation of future blessedness be false, it either prevents us from fighting, or leads us to fight with others than the enemies of the Lord.
Hope is a joyful exercise; therefore the apostle classes it with joy, when he says, “ Rejoicing in hope.” Rom. xii. 12. The joy produced by a purifying hope, is a purified joy. It is an anticipation of what the believer will receive when he shall enter into the joy of his Lord. But the joy of the hypocrite, or false convert, like his hope, is alto. gether selfish, and therefore undesirable. The angels of God do not rejoice in his joy; for they know that the joy of the hypocrite is but for a moment. Job xx. 5.
5. The two hopes which have now been contrasted, will have a very different termination ; the one will be fully realized in the blessed. ness of heaven, while the other will meet a complete disappointment. The hope which the righteous has in his death, and which he had all along in his life, will not make him ashamed when he shall awake in the world of spirits ; for he will then find himself surrounded with a guard of holy angels, sent down to convoy him to the abodes of the blessed. Hope is the Christian's anchor; and a good hope is an an. chor both sure and steadfast, which entereth into that within the vail. While he is yet on this tempestuous sea, his anchor is cast within the vail; and there will he at length arrive in safety, through the guidance and protection of Jesus the forerunner, who, in behalf of his people, has already entered that haven of eternal rest.
But the sure and steadfast anchor will not illustrate the hope of the false converts. This may not remain with them through half the voyage of life. The religious course of such is often very short; and some. times their hope vanishes with their religion ; but if it should contin. ue to the end of life, it will then terminate. “ The hypocrite's hope shall perish.” “For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul ?” Job viii. 13, and xxvii. 8. They who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others, will now become convinced that their boasted attainments were nothing better than self-righteousness. They will know they did not love God, and that they did not embrace the true gospel of Jesus Christ. They will now perceive that the heaven which they hoped for, was of an entirely different character from the heaven of the Bible. They will find themselves in hell, at the very time when they expected to have been in heaven. Their hope is exchanged for despair.
There is no discord in the scriptures in relation to this subject. The testimony they give is harmonious. The hope which they approve has one uniform character; and such is its character, that it is never described as the spontaneous growth of the natural heart, but as the fruit of the Spirit. The scriptures speak nothing against the hope of the righteous; nor in favor of the hope of the hypocrite.
Let us compare it with those Articles of the experimental system which have been considered.
Hope has such an entire agreement with faith, that it often seems difficult to distinguish between them. Thus it is said, “ Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established.” “ Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him." “ That your faith and hope might be in God.” 2 Chron. xx. 20. Ps. xlii. 5. 1 Pet. i. 21. There is, how. ever, a difference ; for some things are believed which are not desi. rable: also, things past as well as to come ; but the things which we hope for are future, and, in our own estimation, always desirable. When, however, the object of our faith is at once a future and a wish. ed-for event, then faith and hope have a near resemblance. Faith leads the way, and, confiding in the promise of that God who can not lie, expects the promised good: hope follows after, and, relying on the future reception of this good, enters, by anticipation, upon the immedi. ate enjoyment of it. A well-grounded hope of salvation grows out of that faith in Christ, by which we commit our souls to his keeping; and it supposes us to have evidence that we possess the faith in ques. tion. And though faith may sometimes be much stronger than hope, yet an increase of the former usually produces a corresponding increase of the latter. It is when the God of hope fills the saints with all joy and peace in believing, that they abound in hope. Rom. xv. 13.
There is doubtless as perfect a harmony between hope and repent. ance, as between hope and faith, though perhaps it is not equally discernible.
Without having exercised that repentance which is unto salvation, you may hope to escape future misery; (and such a hope is probably cherished by the impenitent world at large;) but without such repentance, you can not desire a place in that heaven where every