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We are saved by hope.
I DID let you know the last time, that I intended to speak on these words; that as I had shewn you what ground there is of hope for solicitous, awakened souls, that they shall not finally be lost; so they might from thence see of what importance it is to them to hope that they shall be saved. Their very salvation itself depends very greatly upon their hope of it. If there should be any here (which God forbid!) to whom salvation itself is a little thing, the hopes of it cannot but be less. If there should be any with whom it is inconsiderable, and who do not use to trouble their thoughts with any such matter, whether they be saved or not saved; the hope of being saved cannot with such, but by consequence, be very inconsiderable; a thing that will weigh very little with them.
But for such whom God hath awakened, and made to bestir themselves, such as are afraid of perishing, and to whom destruction from the Almighty is a terror, such whose hearts tremble within them, to think of any possibility or hazard that they may yet be lost under a gospel of salvation; to such (methinks) these words should carry a grateful reviving sound.
And as they must be supposed to have this their wont, to revive this great question upon their minds, and be at it upon their hearts; What (oh what!) shall I do that I may be saved? Methinks it should be grateful to them to have so apposite and present an answer to their question,—why, you are to be saved by hope. The hope of being saved must do something to save you.
We know by common experience, that hope is that mighty powerful engine, which moves all the intelligent world, and rules and governs the whole frame and course of rational nature every where; so as that no design is driven on, no undertaking ever set on foot, but as men are 195influenced, and led on by hope. In reference to any thing whereof they have no hope, they sit still and do nothing.
And as it is so in reference to common affairs, it would be proportionably so too, in reference to the affairs of our salvation, if this great engine, which is planted in the very soul of every man, were but rightly and duly managed and turned this way. And so much the more effectual it must be, and work with so much the more energy, by how much the more its ground is better and firmer, in reference to those affairs that do relate to our souls, and to our final salvation. God hath set no such connection between the most earnest endeavours and answerable success, with reference to external and secular affairs. He hath given men no ground to be confident, that if they labour to be rich, they shall be rich; if they labour to be great and honourable in the world, they shall be so: but he hath given sufficient ground to be confident, that no man that seriously mindeth and manageth the affairs relating to his salvation, shall be lost. Therefore, whereas in reference to other affairs, hope is the causa sine qua non, here it is the causa sine qua non et cum qua; that is, in reference to other affairs, hope is the principle, without which nothing could be done or at tempted; but in reference to those affairs that relate to our final and eternal well being, not only the attempt, but a good issue, will ensue upon the use of a true hope.
And that is it therefore which I design to insist on from this scripture; That is, to shew you, (which you must take for the ground of our discourse,)
Doctrine. That whosoever are finally saved, are saved by hope. And in speaking to this I shall shew,
1. What this hope is, of which this is said.
2. What influence it hath towards our salvation.
1. What this hope is. It would be a very useless thing to discourse philosophically to you about hope in general; which every one doth better understand by feeling, by the sensation he hath of it in his own mind, than he could do by the most accurate definition of a philosopher. It is easy to be collected what hope in general is, by considering the nature of man, and his present state, in comparison with one another. The nature of man makes him covet to be happy, and he finds his present state admits of no such thing; whereupon hope is that passion which must of course arise from such a complexion of the rational nature, and such a state of the common case of men. “It is that passion of the soul, by which it reacheth forth itself 196to the uttermost, in the pursuit of somewhat that appears to be good, and likely to better its state, and that is attain able, possible to be attained, but not to be attained without difficulty.” This is hope in general.
But when we have this account of hope in the general notion of it, we are yet to seek of what hope this is said, that it saves, that we are saved by it. We are sure this is not universally true of all hope. There is much hope in the world that signifies nothing to men’s salvation; yea, much that signifies a great deal to their destruction. Many are not only lost, notwithstanding their hopes, but they are destroyed by them: they might have been safe and happy if they had had no such hope.
And therefore, what this hope is, concerning which this is said, we are more narrowly to inquire: and we do not find that the text itself doth suffice to give us a distinguishable account of it. It doth not assign its proper characters; it describes it no way, but only by its remote final issue,—We are saved by it.
But since it is manifest that all hope doth not save, and that much hope doth destroy, it is sufficiently intimated to us, that there must be somewhat very particular and distinguishing in the nature of that hope, to which this effect is ascribed, when we are told we are saved by it. It is intimated to us, that there is an hope that is saving. We must consider in what sense therefore hope may be said to be saving. It is in a twofold sense that hope may admit to have this said of it, in opposition to such nope of which it cannot be said.
1. As salvation hath a certain connection with it. There is an hope with which it hath a certain connection; a hope true at first, and which therefore continues, and which being continued, doth terminate upon salvation, and takes hold of it, as all of apiece with it. “Gird up the loins of your minds, and be sober, and hope to the end, for the grace that shall be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter i. 13. When we are there told of “receiving the end of our faith, the salvation of our souls;” verse 9. and are told of “them that believe, to the saving of the soul;” Heb. x. last verse; we find this believing, or that faith, described in the very next words, Heb. xi. 1. “to be the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen;” so that faith and hope (we may shew you hereafter with what difference) have their exercise upon one and the same objects, till they actually end in 197salvation, with which therefore they have a firm and immediate connection; even as a thing hath with itself; as that which is begun, and is yet imperfect, has with the same thing having arrived to its consummate and perfect state. But then,
2. Hope may be said also to be saving, not where it hath an immediate connection only with salvation, but where” also it hath a leadingness and tendency thereunto, though that effect may not certainly ensue. And accordingly there must be a twofold hope. There is an hope that we are to reckon an effect of the Spirit of holiness, a real part of the new creature, a divine production in the soul. “The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, by the power of the Holy Ghost.” Rom. xv. 13. There is such a hope as that; and there is also a rational human hope, which may have its exercise about the same thing, about the same final object, and about many things that lie intermediate thereunto, as means for the attaining of it; and which, being assisted by the common grace of the Spirit, may end in the former hope, and consequently in salvation. Now it is the former hope that must be aimed at, and for this latter hope it is neither to be rejected nor rested in. It is not to be rejected.—A rational human hope, as such, when it is employed about divine objects, while we have no more in us, it any have nothing more, yet in him; this he ought not to reject, nor ought he to rest in it by any means; but labour to cherish it as an improvable thing, as that which by the influence and operation of the Divine Spirit falling in, may be heightened and raised up into that which shall be certainly saving hope; or the hope that shall be in immediate next connection with salvation. And both these are very distinguishable from the hope that hath no tendency to save, hut hath a most direct aptitude in it to destroy, ruin, and undo souls for ever. They are both of them very distinguishable from that. And to speak a little more particularly, I shall therefore here,
1. Shew you what hope it is that hath not this tendency, and is not like to have this end of saving. And,
2. Then shall shew you what it is.
1. What hope is not saving? It is not that which is quite wrong and false, both as to its object, and as to its ground; or in reference to the one or the other of these. Take them distinctively, that hope which is wrong, either 198as to its object or as to its ground, is none of the hope that hath any tendency to the saving of us.
1. If it be wrong as to its object, its material object, the thing we hope for; if that be quite alien, and of another kind from the business of our salvation, and final felicity, it can contribute nothing thereto: all that hope wherein the minds of men do go besides the proper business, and run into things of quite another kind: it is plain that hope can do a man no good, in order to his being saved. That hope whereof the object is a worldly felicity, or prosperity, whether it be for one-self, or whether it be the felicity or prosperity of any party of men in secular respects, to which he hath thought fit to adjoin himself, and to make one with: this can signify nothing, it is plain, to the saving of him. “If in this life only, we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” 1 Cor. xv. 19. This hope doth not only not save, but it destroys, carnalizes men’s minds, habituateth them to this earth, and transforms them into the image of it. And do men think to carry a piece of earth with them up into heaven, when that is all their hope terminateth upon, or is concerned about? No; this is so far from helping to their salvation, that it hurts and hinders all that can be. It is by such an inclination of mind as this, that men run themselves into snares and temptations, and come at length to be drowned in perdition and destruction. 1 Tim. vi. 9. The root of all evil is that very desire that is twisted into this hope. And suppose it be a good state of things in this world, from any community or party to which they have adjoined themselves, so as that their minds and hopes fly no higher, but only that things may go well with them and their party, here in an earthly state. This signifies as little to final, eternal salvation; yea, though the party and design be never so right with which any such have united themselves. It is very true, it is no unlawful thing, yea, it is an highly commendable thing, a praiseworthy thing, to have one’s mind very much concerned and taken up about the prosperity and success of a just cause, of a good and honest interest in this world, supposing these two things be provided against.
(1.) That we do not mind and employ our thoughts and hopes about things of that nature finally and term i natively, so as to exclude the great things of me other world, and that last end that runs into eternity. An everlasting felicity to ourselves and the church of God, wherein he is to 199have out of us, and from all, his entire, complete, and consummate glory. Supposing that the intention of our minds and thoughts, and the exercises of our hopes about these temporary things, do not exclude and shut out their higher and more vigorous exercise, proportionally to the higher excellency of the things themselves, about these superior things. Supposing that in the first place. And,
(2.) Supposing too, that we do not so mind such concernments, as thereby to debase and weaken religion. It is a very usual thing, and hardly to be avoided, and which is actually avoided (I doubt) but by a few, where there is a complication of secular interests and religious interests, together with one another, so to let our minds be involved and run into the one as to look off from the other. And thereby in that very complication, religion suffers, 1st. A debasement; and 2nd. A defilement, an enfeeblement; it is made a weak thing first, and thereupon a feeble and impotent thing. But how few are there in the world that do mind the concernments of it, in reference to the concernments of another world; and that do exercise their thoughts about its present concernments with an universalized mind, a truly enlarged mind, that takes in the interests of God and Christ as the main thing, and the interests of men as men, and of Christians as christians, under a common notion? But how mean is it, and debasing to the spirit of a man, and how enfeebling to religion itself, when all the intention of men’s souls runs about the little separate interests of this or that party, even as it is such, without considering the reference of things to God and the Redeemer? It is this that hath made religion a mean, sordid, terrene, and earthly thing. A political religion is that which, of all things, I cannot but consider with dread, according as I find verging, degenerating, and declining more and more into that. Let each orb be kept apart, and distinct from one another; and religion for the proper ends and purposes of religion, to refine men’s minds, to bring them nearer to God, to make them capable of his converse and enjoyment, and to fit them for a blessed eternity. Let religion do its own work as such; and let all secular concernments be only minded in subserviency hereto, as they serve to promote the interest of such religion, as is really worthy the name, and will do the work of religion. But in the mean time, hopes that do fill the minds of men with thoughts about, whether their own private, or more common and public secular affairs, so as to eat up the thoughts 200of heaven, and to emasculate the strength and vigour of their spirits, that should work thitherward: all these hopes signify no more than a dream towards their salvation; and have no more reference to it, but to prejudice and to hinder our pursuit of it, and our final attaining of it. And,
2. Suppose that hope be placed on salvation itself, (and certainly that hope must subserve to salvation, must be the hope of salvation, as it is called, 1. Thes. v. 8.) yet if the ground of it be wrong, it can signify nothing to this end. If a man hope to be saved upon no ground that will bear the burden of such an hope, or that can rationally support it. That is,
(1.) If men do hope in themselves, if they hope to be saved from their own worthiness, through the apprehensions they have, whether of their own excellency, or if it be but of their own innocency; here is an hope that will betray them to perdition, while it is with them the hope of salvation. Or again,
(2.) If they hope in Christ, but not upon his terms: many are very full of hopes that they shall be saved; and confess themselves to be sinners, and pretend to despair of being saved for their own sakes, or upon their own account; but it must be for Christ’s sake, and upon his account. But then they hope for it upon none of his terms: as if a man hope to be saved by Christ, without ever being made holy by him. “He that hath this hope, purifieth himself.” 1 John iii. 3. It must be an hope right first, as to its end, as to its final object: that is, an hope of seeing God as he is, and then right as to the way; that is, of being made like him, as that which only can agree with such a vision, or make the soul capable of it. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And every one that hath this hope in him, (it may well enough be under stood of Christ, to have reference to him,) purifies himself, as he is pure;” that hope, it will attemper the soul to the final object. It is exercised, and taken up about a state wherein men are to be like God, upon their seeing of him as he is; “every one that hath this hope, purifies himself.” It drains the soul from terrene dross, and from every thing that is defiling and impure: a man cannot converse with so glorious objects but by an hope that carries (as it were) a printive power and property with it; for it is by hope that we do enjoy the object hoped for at a distance. This I say, 201cannot be, but that objects will impress their image, and beget somewhat like themselves in the soul. The soul that is directed and carried, by the power of its own expectation, to a continual converse with God, as him whom he expects to see as he is, and to be made perfectly like him, by the power of this hope, it will be growing liker and liker to him, and will be purifying itself as he is pure. But he that hopes to be saved, without ever undergoing any such change in the present temper of his spirit, he that hopes to be saved without ever being regenerate, he that hopes to be saved against the plain word of Christ, is so far from hoping upon his terms, that he doth hope against the terms which he hath expressly laid down in the gospel; whereas he hath said in his gospel, “Except a man be born again, John iii. 5. except a man be regenerate, born from above, (as the word admits to be read,) he can never see, or enter into the kingdom of God. Yet I will hope that I shall enter into that kingdom, and possess that kingdom, though I never be regenerate, though I remain the same man I was all my days.
And whereas Christ hath said, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish,” Luke xiii. 3. yet men will hope they shall be saved, though they never repent. And whereas Christ hath said, they that believe “shall not perish, but have everlasting life,” John iii. 16. they will yet hope to be saved without gospel faith; and that, notwithstanding the gospel itself so expressly saith, “He that believeth not shall be damned;” Mark xvi. 16. “he that believeth not is condemned already;” John iii. 18. “he that believeth not, the wrath of God abideth on him.” John iii. 36. And whereas, again, the word of the gospel hath said that Christ will be the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him,” Heb. v. 9 men will yet hope that he shall be to them the author of eternal salvation, though they continually disobey him, and live in affronts to him, to his known laws, and the sceptre of his government; and that, also, notwithstanding he hath so expressly said that Christ will “come in flaming fire, taking vengeance upon all that obey not his gospel.” 2 Thess. i. 8. Such as do hope for salvation by Christ altogether without ground, are never to think that that hope will save them, but betray them into perdition, or at length, be the very instrument of a self-destruction to them; their own instrument, and of their own destruction. This is an hope that will never save, but will do more to destroy than to save 202them. That hope, that is first totally wrong in its object; and, secondly, is altogether without ground, be the object what it will, yet it rests upon no ground that can sustain such an hope. But then,
2. We shall briefly shew what the hope must be that hath this tendency to save; hath (at least) a tendency to it. It must,
(1.) Be an hope rightly terminated as to its object. As I told you before, it must be the hope of salvation, which is said to be that part of the spiritual armour, which is thought fit to be expressed by the name of an helmet. The helmet is to defend the head. You all know the head is the seat of design, where projects are formed, where counsels are laid. Now no man (as you heard before) designs for that of which he hath no hope; that confounds all designs. If a man hath formed in his head never so specious models; when once any thing appears in view which shews the whole business to be impracticable, so as there is no hope of succeeding, all those models are confounded and lost; there is an end of them. Therefore, there needs an helmet to protect the head, the seat of counsels and designs. And this is that which doth it,—“the hope of salvation.” If there be a firm, well-laid hope of salvation, this keeps the mind clear, and in a composed posture, ready still for deliberation, and to contrive the way, and course, and method, that may best serve on the one hand, and to countermine whatsoever may obstruct, and hinder in the prosecution of it, on the other hand. This hope must have for its final object the divine glory and likeness, as that which we are to behold, as that which we are to bear, as that into which we are to be transformed; as above in this chapter; “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” And it is the hope of this that saves, taking in the other requisites, of which you will hear more hereafter. So, (Rom. v. 1, 2.) “being justified by faith, we have peace with God, and rejoice in hope”—of what?—“of the glory of God.” The great thing that terminates this hope must be “salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, with eternal glory.” As the apostle conjoins the privative and positive expressions there; whereas, when there is no such conjunction, either put alone serves for both, when a man’s hope is pitched upon this final term and end; that (as was intimated before) draws his heart, and keeps it under the transforming influence 203of the object which the Divine Spirit accompanies.. The Divine Spirit doth the transforming work, even at first, and progressively afterwards; but it doth it by objects, by glorious objects, by objects blending in the gospel. We are first changed, and continually “changed into the same image, from glory to glory;” but it is “by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Cor. iii. last verse. And then,
(2.) This hope must be right as to its ground, as well as in reference to its object; and that can be nothing else but the covenant of God in Christ,—God in Christ to be apprehended and closed with in a covenant; or, as he is pleased to give a sinner the advantage of taking hold of him, as he hath brought himself under the bonds of a covenant. I will be such and such to you; my Son shall be such and such to you. I engage in a covenant: it shall be so, if you take hold. Here is the only firm, secure ground of such an hope; and this is that which the soul actually must do, or must (at least) be actually designing to do; and accordingly may its hope be either certainly saving, or have a leadingness and tendency thereunto, as was told you before. If the heart can bear record in the sight of God, I have taken hold of the gospel-covenant, and therein of God in Christ upon gospel-terms, my heart regretting nothing of them; but readily, and with good liking falling in with every thing; then I have that hope in me, that, while it lasts, is a piece of salvation; salvation and it are of a piece.
But suppose I am not arrived to that pitch yet, that I dare avow it before the Lord, that I have come to such a closure; I am not sure of the sincerity of my own heart; yet, if this be the thing I design, I abandon all other hopes, and all other grounds of hope; and this is that I am aiming and driving at, to come to a sincere closure with God in Christ upon the terms of the gospel. I do not yet know whether I am come up to it fully or not; but I am aiming at it, making towards it as I can. This, even this is saving hope, in one of the senses before explained; that is, as having a tendency and leadingness to salvation; and which, as it is not to be rested in till it come to a plerophery; so, nor is it to be rejected neither; it is to be cherished and complied with. God may make somewhat of this more trembling hope, though my anchor be not yet so firmly cast within the veil, or I do not know that it is; while I yet abandon and renounce all other hopes, and look to be saved in no other way; and am aiming to be saved 204in this way, it is a good sign, for there can be no aim without some hope; total despair throweth you off from every thing of endeavour, and every thing of design, for heaven and eternity; gives you up to perish, and delivers you up to eternal perdition. But while you cannot say your hope is saving, as that which will certainly save you at last, yet it may be said to be saving while it is tending towards a state of salvation, and carrying your hearts for wards towards that state. And this account, that is, that though you are not sure you have actually built upon the proper ground, yet you have the proper ground in view before you, and there you design to build, and you wilt build no where else. Why all this, while there is that hope which hath a leadingness and tendency to salvation, and which ought to be cherished, that it may save. When it is so far (as hath been said) right, as to its object, and when it is so far designingly right as to its ground. This, in the one sense or the other, is the thing whereof the text speaks; “We are saved by hope.” Then,
2. The second thing is, to shew the influence that such hope hath upon, and towards salvation; and that would be very easy to shew you by representing to you what it is that is necessary to salvation; or what are the certain characters of the saved ones. They do make a select community, distinct from all the rest of the world. The nations of them that are saved, (as they are called Rev. xxi. 24.) they are all gathered into that city of God; they make a very distinct community from all the rest of the world; and must be understood to be distinguished from them by that which is characteristical of them that are saved ones. And so the distinction must consist in something or other that doth notify them to be the subjects of salvation. If it doth appear that such an hope be necessary to that, it must be concluded to be necessary to salvation too. That that is necessary for that which is necessary for salvation, is itself too necessary to salvation: Causa causae est causa causati; do but agree what thing or things are necessary to salvation, and it hope have a necessary influence upon these things, it must itself be in the way to salvation also. And if it be productive of those things it will be productive of salvation too; and not only be the cause without which salvation cannot be, but by which it will be.
Now it is very plain that these two things are necessary to salvation:205
1. Thorough conversion; the bringing of a person into a state of grace:—And,
2. Continual perseverance therein unto the end. Both these are necessary to salvation. And if such hope as we have already in some measure described to you be necessary to both these, it must be necessary to salvation too. And that is it which, in future discourses, I shall labour to shew you; that hope is necessary to conversion first, and then to perseverance. The soul’s conversion; its turning to God in Christ, it is with hope; it is not the act of a despairing soul; it cannot be; it is no more possible for a despairing man than for a despairing devil to repent and turn to God, and to close with Christ. I do not speak of the difference of the law; that signifies nothing in this case; but I speak in reference to the complexion of the mind and spirit; and in respect of that, despair would as much keep a sinful man from turning to God through Christ, as it doth an apostate devil.
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