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We are saved by hope.
HAVING proposed to shew the influence that hope hath unto salvation, by shewing both what influence it hath upon conversion, that brings us into a state of salvation; 249and then what influence it hath upon the Christian’s per severance even to the end, by which we are continued in that state, and so finally saved. We have hitherto insisted upon the former, and are now to proceed to the latter; to speak to that influence which hope hath upon a Christian’s perseverance in that holy course through which he is to pass on to the state of final glory and blessedness. And here it cannot but be obvious to you, from what hath been formerly said, that hope, as it refers to the perseverance of a Christian, must needs considerably differ from hope, as it hath at first influence into conversion; or a person’s entrance into the Christian state, both in the nature and in the object; or in respect of the object of the one and of the other hope.
1. In respect of the nature of the one and the other, that hope that doth influence conversion, and is necessarily presupposed to it, (if you consider the nature of it,) hath no more in it than what doth belong to a merely human, rational hope, assisted only by common grace; for special grace cannot be supposed to be before conversion or regeneration; but even that human rational hope, it hath its influence and usefulness towards conversion, as other things belonging to the human nature have; not only our minds and understandings, by which we are capable of thinking and considering of things that are to affect, and by which we are to be wrought upon, in order to conversion. But even to go lower than that, our very external senses themselves; “faith cometh by hearing,” and so it may come by reading the word and gospel, which is to be the means of conversion and salvation, to our souls. But if you look to the nature of that hope which is all along to influence the course of a converted person, one that is become sincerely a living Christian, that hope must needs be a part of the new man, or of the new nature, which is in regeneration communicated and imparted to the soul. And, accordingly,
2. The object of the one and the other hope must needs very much differ, even supposing the soul to be awakened, and that God is beginning to deal with it in order to conversion; it must be supposed to have some hope concerning the issue of this treaty, wherein it is now engaged with the great God about so important a matter. Otherwise (as hath been inculcated unto you again and again) it is impossible it should ever turn; converting and turning to God is not the act of a despairing, but of an hoping soul; and the dispositions thereunto do suppose some hope. And the 250object of this hope must be understood to be God as now to be reconciled. The object of the other hope that doth influence a Christian’s after course unto final salvation, is God hereafter to be enjoyed. God to be reconciled is the object of that hope, which a person hath while God is dealing with him in order to conversion; to wit, we must suppose him awakened; and being so, considers and bethinks himself, I am an offending, guilty creature; the God that made me hath just matter of controversy with me; will he be reconciled, or will he not? will he always hold me guilty, will he bear himself as an enemy and an avenger to a poor guilty creature as I am? or will he pardon? Will he forgive f Will he shew mercy? I hope he will, saith the poor trembling wretch. And then he turns at length. When God is dealing with the soul in order to conversion, it hath this hope in the midst of a great deal of fear and doubt,—Who knows but God will shew mercy to a returning soul? And thereupon it turns. So the object of his hope is now God to be reconciled,—present reconciliation.
But the object of this hope after conversion, all along, through his succeeding course, is God to be enjoyed in the final state; now more and more, and perfectly hereafter in that state, which is to be final and eternal.
And this the very state of the case itself doth plainly enough suggest to us. There must be this difference also, as to the object of the one hope and the other, according to the difference in the very nature of this and the other hope. The soul before regeneration, it can generally affect and covet to be happy, (which is natural to man,) and dread to be miserable; it is capable of being afraid of wrath and torment; and being so, the state of the case, as it is in view before it, not excluding hope, it can entertain some hope, an human rational hope amidst all that fear. And hereupon, the main thing that it is exercised and taken up about, is the present state of its case, whether God will be reconciled or no; but with final reference too, to its future state, that is, especially the privative part of it, salvation and escape from eternal wrath. It can very well entertain hopes, and admit of agitations of affections to what goes no higher than so, from the very nature of such a subject, an intelligent, reasonable soul, that is capable of happiness, and in general of desiring it; and that apprehends itself liable to misery, and that cannot, without dread and abhorrence, think of that.251
But in the mean time, before regeneration it is incapable of any such workings and dispositions as do belong to the holy divine nature. It cannot yet love God; it cannot yet desire a felicity in him; it cannot covet to be like him, or to have that happiness in view which consists in the vision of him. This only belongs to its state after it is regenerate. When once a person comes to be a son, is brought into a state of sonship, and hath a divine nature imparted and communicated to Him in regeneration; we see what his sense is, what a kind of happiness he is capable of relishing, and what, accordingly, his hope is. 1 John, iii. 1. When the apostle had told us, in the close of the foregoing chapter, “Everyone that doth righteousness is born of God;” every one that hath the same holy nature, which belongs peculiarly, and in its highest perfection, to God alone; every one that hath any participation of that nature, doth thereby appear to be born of God, (or as the same matter is elsewhere otherwise expressed to be of God;) why, that being supposed, in the beginning of the next chapter, he breaks out into that transport and admiration, wherein we find him introducing the matter that follows: “Behold, what manner of love is this, that we should be called the sons of God!” How come we to be called so? not as having a mere title, a name conferred upon us, and no more, but by having a new nature, a divine nature imparted. Adoption is founded in regeneration. There is no such thing as adoption that doth not presuppose regeneration and the participation of a new, divine, holy nature from God.
Now, this being communicated, the happiness that such are hereupon capable of is, and so much (though we do not know what it will be in the perfect state fully yet) we do know concerning it, that we shall be like him, (as it there is,) “for we shall see him as he is.” This, they who are his regenerate sons, are capable of understanding, and relishing. And thereupon you see what their hope is; “every one that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, as he is pure.” The hope that a regenerate person, a son, hath concerning him, is, that “he shall be like him, and see him as he is.”
This is a very considerable difference; though there is an hope (as hath been said) that hath influence upon conversion and salvation itself, yet there is an hope that after wards hath influence upon the Christian’s perseverance through the whole of his after course. These two do very 252greatly differ, according as the state of the case doth; the one being part of the new creature, or of the new man, or principle belonging to the new nature, which is now regenerated. The other may be only an human, rational hope, assisted by common grace, tending towards, and improveable in the methods of God’s gracious communications unto the other, heightened up unto the other; so, whereas the principal exercise of the soul under these previous workings, which lead and tend to conversion, is taken up about a present peace and reconciliation with God; but its workings afterwards, under the influence of that nobler and more sublime hope, is taken up about a final felicity and blessedness in him; and so “rejoices in hope of the glory of God,” as the matter is expressed, Rom. v. 2. and “obtaining of salvation by Christ Jesus, (1 Tim. ii. 10.) with eternal glory;” that being the thing whereunto such an one finds himself actually called. That cannot but be his hope, that is called to an everlasting kingdom, and the glory of God by and through Christ Jesus; the call proceeding from the God of all grace: “the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after ye have suffered awhile, make you perfect.” 1 Pet. v. 10. That which is the final term of his calling, is the hope of it, as the apostle speaks, where he prays for the Ephesians, that God would give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, that the eyes of their minds might be enlightened, and that “they might know the hope of his calling.” Eph. i. 18. It is another kind of knowledge they are capable of having concerning the “hope of their calling,” or what they are to hope for in the state to which they are called after regeneration, and which proceeds from that divine light which is suitable to a regenerate soul, as such. I say, it is quite another sort of hope from that which it was capable of before; and so they are quite another sort of things, about which the soul is exercised and taken up.
And, in short, that which a person once converted and brought home to God, is entertained and taken up with through the remaining part of his Christian course, is the future state of things; the invisible state. As he is to be saved by hope, (as the text speaks,) brought on to final salvation by the continual influence of hope; and to have this influence upon his whole course unto final salvation, is the immediate product of faith; the soul believes the word of God revealing such and such things that are out of sight, and that come not within the view of common eyes; 253and believing the word of promise, it hereupon hopes for the things promised, reacheth forth in vehement aspirings towards these things, and contends against the difficulties that lie in the way of attainment. And so we are told the holy soul, the just one, is to live by his faith. Heb. x. 37. And that we are told in the very beginning of the next chapter, is “the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of the things not seen.” Heb. xi. 1. Agreeably to what the text saith, “we are saved by hope; but hope that is seen, is not hope.” It is hope pitched upon unseen things, upon the invisible state of things, by which a person is sustained, borne up through the whole of his course in this world, unto final salvation. “What a man sees, why doth he yet hope for?” It is a matter relating to an unseen state of things, the heavenly state, which is to influence a Christian all along, till he reach heaven.
And so much being premised, I shall now, for the clearing of this to you, (that as hope hath an influence, in order to conversion, so it hath afterwards, a continual influence upon perseverance, unto final salvation,) do these two things; 1st. Shew how, and in what way, hope hath this influence. And then 2dly. Shew you how necessary this influence is to this purpose; to wit, a Christian’s perseverance; his holding on the prescribed course, till he reach the blessedness of it in salvation.
1. I shall shew you what influence it hath, or how it comes to have influence to this purpose. And whereas it is plain and evident, that hope cannot sustain a Christian in his course, if it be not sustained itself I shall upon this head, more distinctly, do these two things; 1st. Shew what ad vantages such hope, kept up in life and vigour in the soul, doth afford a Christian’s continuing in his course, in the ways of God, till he reach the end of it: and then shall, 2ndly. Shew what encouragement a Christian hath so to hope; or what it is, whereupon all along his hope is to sustain itself, that it may sustain him.
1. For the former of these, What advantages such an hope, kept up in life and vigour, is apt to afford a Christian, for the continuing of him in his way, or that he may persevere unto the end. Here I shall let you see, that it hath influence upon the many gracious dispositions, which it is necessary should be, and should be continued in the soul, in order to its persevering in the way of life. I shall instance in such things as do most directly refer to this very purpose, the keeping of a person with God, in that holy 254course, into which, by conversion, he hath been brought. As,
(1.) An habitual seriousness. This is a gracious temper and disposition of spirit, that conduceth greatly to perseverance, and which is continually influenced by hope. By a serious temper of spirit, I mean (as the thing itself doth sufficiently speak to any one’s understanding) a considering temper of mind; that is, a serious mind or spirit, that can consider, and is apt to consider things; nothing is more necessary to a Christian’s perseverance in his course. Apostacy and defection from God is never so likely to prevail, as when persons do begin to remit the intention of their minds, as to the considering of things which they are so much constantly concerned to consider, in reference to their present states god-ward, and their future and final state. When once the soul is relaxed and loosened from the objects, which it should be principally exercised, and taken up about, then comes its danger. The unthinking soul falls into mischief, is liable to be caught by this, and that, and the other snare. If there be a disposition to ponder things, while a considering frame of spirit is preserved, the soul is safe. But what shall oblige it to consider those things that are most preservative of it, which have great est aptness in them to its preservation, and its being kept from destructive snares? What can engage it here unto, so probably and so strongly, as a continual, lively, vigorous hope?
You may see what that will signify to that purpose, by that of the Apostle, “Gird up the loins of your minds, be sober, and hope to the end.” 1 Peter i. 13. “Gird up the loins of your minds,” a most emphatical expression, to signify a temper of spirit, most intent upon consideration. Then is the soul in a considering posture, when the loins of your minds are girt up, when fluid thoughts are collected, as more fluid garments are collected, and bound about a man by a girdle: when the more volative thoughts are drawn in, and made to centre upon the things that we are more deeply concerned to consider. Then may we truly say, this soul is composed to a special sobriety. These expressions do expound one another, gird up the loins of your minds, and be sober; a mind girt up in its loins is a considering mind, and that lies in nothing more fitly, and more truly, than in a certain sort of spiritual sobriety. And how is this influenced, and maintained in the soul? Why, by a continual hope, hope to the end. This is naturally so, that 255the hope we have of any design whatsoever, intends our minds, and collects them to the business: but if we have no hope, we are off from it. Whatsoever we have no hope of we abandon, we lay aside thoughts concerning it; it is to no purpose to consider, or think any longer about a business, in reference to which we have no hope. But as long as there is hope, there will be an agitation of thoughts, and the mind will turn itself this way and that, revolving things over and over. There will certainly therefore, be a considering habit of mind preserved, as long as hope remains in any liveliness and vigour, in reference to the great concerns of eternity that we have before us. And,
(2.) To our continuing in our course (if we be by conversion and regeneration brought into a truly Christian course) a steadfast resolution is of most constant necessity. That we may continue our course, we must be most steadfastly resolved that through the grace of God, we will not be put out of our way. There must be a “cleaving to God, with full purpose of heart.” Acts ii. 23. And it is plain that a continual hope must influence this resolution; Why will I not forsake this way? Why am I (with dependance upon the grace of God) resolved to persist in it, that nothing shall turn me out of it? Why, I have a great hope before me, I hope for great things by persisting in this way. It is a way that leads to a blessed end, an end which the grace of God hath encouraged me to hope I shall in this way attain unto. The Apostle exhorts the Colossians that they continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and not moved from the hope of the gospel. Col. i. 23. Why was this new faith (as it was a new thing in the world at that time) to be so steadfastly stuck unto? why must there be so resolved an adherence to it? Why, there is the highest, and greatest, and most glorious hope held up in. view in that gospel, or by that gospel which is the object of this faith; and which therefore claims and challenges this steadfast adherence to the thing which it represents. Therefore, you are not to be moved from what is contained in the gospel, because it contains the matter of so high an hope.
It is not tempting you by trifles, or shadows, by small or little things; is your hoped advantage, lying in this gospel that is now held up in view before you, which is to keep you unmoved. The object contains in itself the reason of the act, and the frame and disposition of the heart required in reference thereunto. And,256
(3.) Love to God will certainly have a most powerful influence upon a Christian’s love to God. Perseverance;—I cannot leave the ways of God, because I love him; he hath won my heart, I cannot think of departing from those ways in which I have met with him, and an acquaintance hath been brought about between him and me. And nothing can signify more to preserve and keep alive the love of God in the soul, in strength and vigour, than such an hope godward. I hope I shall see him ere long, and be made perfectly like him, and see him as he is. And whence is this to be hoped for, but from gracious communications from himself? I know it must be from his mere kindness, a good will to me, if ever I come to be finally happy in him, and enjoy him. The hope of so high and great things from him, how highly doth it endear him to us? Can I forsake that God, turn aside from following him, or walking with him, from whom I hope for great things? “He that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, as he is pure.” He makes it his business, so to work out that sin, that is, a departing from God; (for that is the notion of sin, aversion from God, turning off from him,) the soul would be rid of that: and hope maintains and keeps alive the love of God in the heart. I still hope for more and more from him, and therefore still love him more and more: this holds the soul to him. “Experience begets hope, and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in the heart, by the Holy Ghost.” Rom. v. 4, 5. We love him. Why? “Because he first loved us.” 1 John iv. 19. What doth that mean? Is the meaning, that no body loves God, till they are assured, or have assurance of his loving them? No, that cannot be, there is many a sincere lover of God that hath no assurance of his love. But what must it mean then? Why, that (at least) they have the hope of it; for it is most certain, that with absolute despair, there must be most conjunct, pure, unmixed hatred. If there be pure despair, there will be pure hatred:—nothing but hatred of God, where there is nothing but despair of his love. As it is in hell, there is despair in perfection, and so there is hatred in perfection (as one may speak) in that horrid kind. The meaning therefore, can only be, “we love him, because he first loved us,” to wit, because we hope so. It is not to be understood, that every one that loves God, hath an assurance that he is beloved of him: but he hath the hope of it, otherwise he could never love him; and if thereupon, the soul doth love him, then it saith, I must 257never leave him, I must cleave to him as long as I live, and for ever, through all time, and to all eternity: nothing shall separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus my Lord; nothing shall break those bonds. And most evident it is, that as that love is drawn out into continual exercise, it still doth, in all its exercises, run on with the exercise, and under the influence, of a continuing hope. I am still expecting greater things from him, and the more I expect, the morel love him; and the more I love him, the more I am resolved to cleave to him, and never to leave him. And,
(4.) Patience is another requisite to perseverance: and hope hath a manifest influence upon that. Patience is nothing else but a suffering power, an ability to suffer; by which our Saviour tells us, we possess our souls, that is, save them. It signifies indeed, both present liberty, and final safety; and mat that possession of our souls in patience preserves them. Possession, in that two-fold sense, signifies liberty and self-dominion. He is subject to another’s power, that can suffer nothing; but he is master of himself that can suffer. If he have an ability to suffer, then he keeps his self-dominion. He can be master of his own mind, of his own reason, of his own conscience, of his own judgment, of his own faith: but if he can suffer nothing, he must resign all, and admit another master, he must enjoy his own thoughts, his” own sentiments, his own reason, and his own conscience no longer. Thence comes apostacy, declension from God, his truths, his ways; I cannot suffer, I have no patience, no ability to suffer: then I must quit truth, holiness, and every thing, which, by my adherence to them, will expose me to the danger of suffering. But if there is patience, therein you possess your souls, you will thereby keep your liberty and self-dominion; so you secure to yourself final and eternal safety: and so keeping and possessing the soul, is in opposition to the final losing, or its being destroyed, and undone for ever.
And very plain it is, that hope is of most constant use and necessity, to the preserving and continuing this ability to suffer, this power of patience, or this passive power; nothing doth so much maintain it as hope. The occasion will not last always: I have the prospect of an end, and the hopeful prospect of a comfortable and good end. There fore we both labour, and suffer reproach, because we trust, or have trusted, (so we read it, but it is in the original, because we have hoped,) in the living God. 1 Tim. iv. 10.258
What a strange sort of men are these, that will endure to be so exposed, so scorned, so trampled upon, as they that bear the Christian name commonly are? What is the reason of it? What account will a reasonable man give, why he will so expose himself? I will tell you the reason; therefore we labour and suffer reproach, because we hope in God, in the living God, and we are pretty well persuaded we shall not finally be losers; we shall not have an ill bargain of it at last. As the same Apostle, when he writes himself “an Apostle and servant of Jesus Christ,” seems to allow, that he was to doom himself to all the sufferings and calamities, that the enemies of the Christian cause could load him with, and lay upon him, for his assuming to himself such names of an Apostle and servant of Jesus Christ. But why should Paul, that wise and prudent man, that learned man, that man of so considerable reputation among his own countrymen, why should he come to be written among the Apostles and servants of Jesus Christ? Why, saith he, it is in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, hath promised. Titus i. 1, 2. I avow myself an Apostle and servant of Jesus Christ upon this inducement, and for this reason, and so I mean to continue unto the end. It is the hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, hath promised to me. He whose nature doth not allow him to deceive, to whom it is impossible to lie, I firmly and securely hope in him; and therefore I will readily dispose myself to encounter all the difficulties and hardships, which the service of Jesus Christ can lay me open to. Again,
(5.) Contentment with that portion and allotment which God affords us in this world, is another great preservative from apostacy, or requisite to perseverance. And this is very much maintained by hope. If persons decline, and turn off from the holy way of the Lord, it is generally this world that tempts them. “Demas hath forsaken us, having loved this present world.” 2 Tim. iv. 8. But if a man be well enough satisfied with the portion (whether it be more or less) which God hath allotted him of the good things of this world, then he is safe from temptation. But now shall he come to be satisfied with a lesser portion of the things of this world? Why, it is the hope of enough here after that satisfied him:—I have no great things now, nor do I matter that, I am not solicitous about it, I hope for greater, and a better state.
What made Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, expose themselves to continued wandering, and to dwell intents; 259when God had given them a country (one of the best in the world) by special grant, to have it as their inheritance, yet they lived as strangers, even in their own country, dwelling intents; so as that they declared themselves pilgrims and strangers upon earth? What doth this signify and mean? Why, this declares plainly, that they seek a country, they hope and seek for a better country, than all the world can afford them; Heb. xi. 13. therefore they tell the world, and tell it plainly, while we are upon earth, we are but pilgrims and strangers here; the world can tempt us with none of its baits: let the things it presents to our view, and makes us an offer of, be never so great, never so special, they signify nothing with us, for every thing we can touch, that we can handle, or have to do with, smells of earth, and we are strangers and pilgrims here upon earth. And this was a plain declaration, their minds were higher, carried to some what in an higher region. They declare plainly, they are seeking a country. And what country is that? Why, a better and an heavenly country; And therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God. Heb. xi. 16. It was the hope of those high and great things above, that drew up their hearts, and therefore this world could not entangle them.—Their way was above, (as the way of the wise is,) to escape from hell and death beneath. But it was hope that carried them up into those higher regions, so far out of the reach of deadly snares; the snares of death, as the wise man calls them. And again,
(6.) As contentment is a great preservative from the danger of apostacy, or a great requisite to perseverance; so is the desire of the better things of the better world, that better country, a very good preservative too. We must know that the spirit of man must of course, when it is drawn off from one sort of objects, apply, and turn itself to another sort. It hath not its good within itself, it cannot be a deity, a god to itself; it must have a good to satisfy itself, aliunde out of itself. If it be not from this world that it looks for this good, it must find elsewhere, that which may be more suitable, and more grateful to it. Its desires, when they are confined, limited, and moderated by contentment, in reference to this world, are then removed and transferred to the things of the other world; and so it is kept in a steady, composed state. When it sees that the things of this world are not suitable, will not satisfy, it is not at a loss what it shall do next. A superior good presents and offers itself, and the new nature in it, doth attemper and suit its 260desires to that. And if it do desire things of that higher and upper region, it is in no danger of being drawn off from God, while that desire remains, lives, and flourisheth, and is in any power with it.
But now it so much the more desires, by how much the more it hopes; desire languisheth, if hope fails, as it is in reference to any thing else, whereby as to the first appearance of good, it comes to its object. Is there any drawing forth of desire towards it, and we come to consider, and contemplate the matter, and we find it to be an unattainable thing, a thing to be despaired of, then we desert, desire fails, and grows flat of course. It is a thing rarely to be found, that desire remains in any vigour, to any object, in reference whereunto there is no hope, or in reference whereunto there is nothing but simple despair. Indeed, the first appearance, or view of goodness, or amiableness, in the object, may draw forth that which we call simple desire, so far as to put us upon the inquiry, is such a thing to be gained, yea or nay? And if we find it is not, desire fails, the hopelessness of the thing makes us lay aside the thoughts of it, and accordingly there is no more desire. If the desires of heavenly felicity live in our souls, this earth will never pluck us oft from God; but that desire will last no longer than hope lasts, that such a state is not unattainable. We shall, by the grace of God, be enabled to reach the felicity of that state, we shall not be frustrated, or disappointed at length:—then saith the soul, I will hold on my course. And then again,
(7.) Watchfulness is requisite to a Christian’s continued progress in his course to final salvation. But there can be no such thing as watchfulness without hope. Watching imports a continual design, and of self-preservation: but when the hope of that fails, then all subordinate and subservient means are laid aside. But this is a thing enjoined us, in order to preservation, to watch always. And to this I might add,
(8.) Pray always too. This is requisite, as most conjunct with the other. And sure we are, as there can be no watching, so there can be no praying without hope; this is most evident. And,
(9.) A complacential doing of good, or a disposition of doing good with complacency. This makes the ways of God pleasant to men, so as they will never leave them, nor turn aside from them: but it is hope that induceth them hereunto. It is a sowing to the Spirit, when we are doing 261good. The Apostle calls it so. “They that sow to the pint, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Gal. vi. 8. Then immediately follows, “As ye have opportunity, do good unto all, especially to them that are of the household of faith.” This is sowing to the Spirit suitably, or subserviently to the kindness, and goodness, and benignity of the Divine Spirit. But whosoever sows, soweth in hope, that he may be partaker of his hope. That course of well-doing is continued, and the soul is held on in it, by the power and influence of a continued hope. “It is by patient continuance in well-doing, that we are to seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, unto eternal life.” Rom. ii. 7. I add again,
(10.) Fervency in a course of duty is a very great requisite to continuance in it. We shall soon grow weary of that course of duty, wherein we have no fervour in our own spirits. It is a wearisome thing to pray continually, without any fervour; and for such work as this we are now engaged in, to preach or hear, if there be nothing of fervour in us in these exercises, it is very dull work, and such as we shall not be well pleased to hold on long in; now it is plain, that hope maintains the fervour of the spirit in duty. “Be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord,” Rom. xii. 11, 12. and “rejoicing in hope,” are words immediately connected. And,
(11.) Christian temperance is a great thing to preserve us from apostacy. There is nothing that doth more effectually betray a soul into, and ingulf it in final ruin, than the letting loose sensual inclinations. And you find it is the great design of the gospel under which we live, and of the grace that appeareth in it, bringing salvation, “To teach us to deny ungodliness and worldly lust, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” Titus ii. 11, 12, 13. And how are we induced hereunto? “Looking for the blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour, Jesus Christ.” There is nothing that in common experience proves so fatal to many, that had begun well in a course of religion. Some hopeful young ones, that have been struck with convictions, God hath begun to awaken them, to take hold of their spirits; and they have had some tastes and relishes of the word of God, and of divine and heavenly things: but we have found them recede, and go off again. And how came it to pass? Why, they lost all in a debauch, that extinguished the convictions of conscience, and the desires of 262heart, that began to be stirred in them god-ward, and heaven-ward.
Now it is the hope of a soul, which is its safety in this case. What! Shall I lose so great an hope, for the pleasure of an hour, or a moment? It is because that I have great hope concerning this soul of mine, and concerning that vast, immense eternity, that is in view before me, and whereof I have the prospect that I will not do so; I am born to great hopes, and therefore I will not destroy them by so mad a folly as this, to throw away a soul, and to throw away so great hopes, to please two or three fools, that would only have me go to hell in company with them, or to keep them company there. No, if persons have any apprehension, that God hath been at work with them, about the affairs of their souls, in reference to eternity, this may be the beginning of a new birth, of a divine birth; and if so, whatsoever parentage one is born of, his hopes are suitable to his parentage. If I am under the regenerating, divine influence, born, or shall be born, (if things come to a good issue,) a son of the greatest of fathers, a child of God: then if a child, an heir, an heir of God, and joint heir of Christ. Then how high and great are my hopes f How glorious expectancies are those that I have in prospect before me? And what? To lose all this for the pleasure of a debauch? It is hope that makes the mind sober, (as was before hinted,) “Gird up the loins of your minds, be sober, and hope to the end.” That you may be sober, that you may have sobriety of mind, of thinking, and of judging reasonably of things, keep hope in exercise; do but consider what you hope for, and you will be safe. And lastly,
(12.) Joy is a great requisite to perseverance, and will be of great use to us, in order thereunto. “The joy of the Lord is his people’s strength,” Neh. viii. 10. to carry them through the duties and difficulties of the Christian state. And how is that joy to be maintained? “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God;” Rom. v. 2. and our rejoicing is to be in hope. Rom. xii. 12. It is hope that feeds joy in reference to things, while we are in this present state, which doth not afford much of immediate enjoyment, otherwise than that we have by anticipation. It is hope that directs to that which is within the vail; Heb. vi. 19. takes hold of invisible things, and so is as “an anchor to the soul, both sure and steadfast.” The soul rejoiceth to find itself upon sure terms, rejoiceth in hope, in the strength 263and power of that hope, which, as its anchor, is thrown within the vail, and takes hold of the unseen things there. The God of peace fill you with all joy and peace in believing,” Rom. xv. 13. as the Apostle prays for the Christian Romans. The more joy, the more vigour in your course: the joy of the Lord will be your strength, and the more hope, the more joy.
You see these many ways, hope cannot but have an influence unto Christians perseverance in the way and course, into which regeneration and converting grace hath brought them.
The next thing will be to shew you, what encouragements a Christian hath thus to hope for, while his hope is to be sufficient for him all along in his course, something or other must be sufficient unto it, something or other must sustain it, that doth sustain him.
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