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We are saved by Hope.
IT remains now to shew you, that the influence which hope hath to this purpose, it is not merely necessary to a Christian’s better progress in his way and course, but to his progress at all, to any progress which he could make in such a course; to wit, it is not only requisite to the better being, but to the being itself of continued Christianity, so that without hope, there would certainly be a failure; and God; who hath absolutely determined this end, (that his elect shall hold out through the whole of their course,) hath also determined this means, viz. that he will preserve and maintain that hope in them throughout, by which they shall be enabled to hold out to the end: and therefore the certainty of the necessity of the influence of hope to that purpose, is what we have now to make to you. And in order thereunto, we need but to consider in general, 1st. The course of our own operations, such as are internal, and wherein our spirits within us do exert their power and vigour day by day. And then, 2ndly. To consider the special and most natural and proper work of hope. If we do but consider our own nature, and most con-natural operations; and if we do but consider the nature of hope, and what its special and con-natural work is, it will he plain, that such a continued course could not be held, but by the influence of hope.
1. Let us reflect upon the proper con-natural operations of our own spirits. This will be of real use to us, not only as it serves the present purpose, but as it may give us a clearer and more distinct notion of ourselves, which we do need to have our minds furnished with. There are many that do use this body, (for a whole life time that they live in it,) and the several parts and members that belong to it, they do their proper offices with them day by day, and yet seldom, or ever, allow themselves to make a reflection, what a sort of creature is this body of mine? and how, and by 276what means do the several parts of it serve for those several purposes for which I use them daily? Among all those that do use the body, and the several organs and instruments of action that do belong to it, how seldom do the most that do so, ever take notice what a sort of structure this is, and how it comes to be framed for such uses as the several parts of it serve for! That argues a great deal of stupidity among us, that we should move our hands and feet, and eyes, as we do from day to day, and never consider with ourselves how these come to be moving things, or which way, or by what means they are moved; as to think of the many instruments of this body that serve the purposes of motion, with what curiosity all those muscles are contrived and framed, without which there could be no motion, and which if there were not such variety of them, there would not be that variety of motion that we find, so many several muscles, no less than six belonging to each eve, that it may be capable of moving this way, and that way, upward, downward, obliquely, and transversely. There could be no motion, if there were not such instruments lodged and placed on purpose to subserve this end.
And as little do the most consider the movements of their own spirits, of their inward man; what kind of inducements they are that the mind of man is carried by, this way and that; how it is enabled to form designs and to contrive methods for the accomplishment of them, and to take such and such courses to bring them about. We use these noble powers and faculties every day, which we never consider, never contemplate. If we did allow ourselves to reflect and look a little inward upon ourselves, especially upon the powers of our own minds and spirits, and consider how they come to be engaged in action, this way and that, it were impossible but that such contemplation as that would carry up our souls to adore their own Father, the Father of spirits, and the Father of lights: He that had the fashioning of the spirit of man within him, and who doth order the course and current of all its motions, together with the inducements by which it should be made capable of moving this way and that, with so singular and profound wisdom, as that, if we did but more in this respect consider ourselves, we could not but more admire him.
But this is plain and evident, that whether you look upon the spirit of man as rational, or as regenerate and holy, it cannot but move towards an end. There is nothing that a man doth as a man, no human action (as such) but is done 277for an end. And there is no end that any can propose to himself, but under the notion of attainable; and there is nothing that a man can design or project as attainable, but it must be also in as much as it is attainable and hopeful; hopeful, inasmuch as hope hath reference to that which is good, and that which is future; inasmuch as that which one proposeth to himself, under the notion of an end, must be a good. That which is apprehended as an evil, we avert, we shun, we fly from naturally, by the natural constitution of our own souls: and that which we apprehend as good, we pursue and press towards it. Hope having for its object only that which is good, and that which is future, a distant good that I am not possessed of yet. It is impossible I can propose any thing to myself as my end, but at the same time, when I make it my end, I make it the object of my hope; and while I am pursuing it, all the series and course of the actions which I do in the pursuit and prosecution of it, I do continually, as having my mind all along influenced and animated by the hope of attaining it; for if I did hot hope, I would give it over, never make one step more towards it. That whereof I simply despair, I must by the necessity that my own reason lays upon me, (as I am a reasonable creature,) give it over, and do no more towards it.
This is the state of things with man as he is a reasonable creature. Look upon his soul as it is rational; thus it is with him: and look upon it as regenerate and holy, that spoils nobody’s intellectuals. A man is not less rational for being regenerate, but the more; it mends his intellectuals. Them that were before foolish, and deceived, and disobedient, and serving divers lusts and pleasures, when by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, they are (as it were) new made; now they recover their understanding, and a rectitude of mind to that degree, that they now act more like men than ever they did before. And therefore, whether you look upon the soul of man as rational, or as regenerate, the influence of hope is of most absolute necessity to his pursuing any end or design whatsoever. But then,
2. If you do also consider the nature of hope, and its most proper and con-natural work, to wit, to bear up the soul in a continual conflict with the difficulties it meets with, or is liable to meet with, in the way to its end. Therefore (as I told you before) as the object of hope is somewhat good and future, so it is also attended with difficulty. 278So moralists usually give the notion of hope, and add that as the proper distinction of it from mere desire; for the object of desire is also somewhat good and future, appearing to be good and at a distance. If it were good, and not future, it would be the object of delight and joy; that is the exercise of the soul towards a present good, and wherewith it hath actual union already. But a distant good, both that which is apprehended to be in itself good and desirable, and good for me, and which is at a distance, the affection that the soul exerciseth towards it, is desire, unto which if you superadd that further character of the object, to wit, an arduousness and difficulty of attaining the thing I propose to myself, then it becomes the object of hope. It is the proper and con-natural work of hope to contend with difficulty in attaining, or in the way towards the attaining that good, which we propose to ourselves to enjoy.
Therefore now, this being the office and work of hope, its proper and specifying work, that by which it is distinguished from mere desire, to cope and contend with difficulties that lie in the way of attaining my end; the many difficulties that do fall into the course of a Christian, do give him that constant exercise through the whole of his course, that if there be not an hope maintained in him, proportionable to those difficulties, and that may enable him to keep on the conflict with them, the whole design of Christianity must needs be laid aside, and given up. It is not possible, that according to the constitution of the human nature, (and especially taking it in its regenerate state, which makes it so much the more reasonable and intelligent thing, than it was before,) I say, it is impossible it could hold on that course, were it not by the influence of this hope.
And that leads me to consider, particularly, the many difficulties that occur in the course of a Christian, which are only superable by that principle of divine hope which God hath planted in him for this very purpose, to keep him in that course which he himself hath prescribed to him, and which leads to that glorious, blessed end, his own salvation.
I shall but mention to you, to this purpose, some of the greater and more observable of those difficulties which a Christian’s hope is to contend with, and must conquer for him, that he may be finally saved. As,
Difficulty 1. The invisibility of those objects, about 279which he is to be principally exercised through the whole of his course. When this is the state of one’s case, that the objects wherewith we must have most of all to do; and wherein the sum of our felicity lies, and from whence all our present vigour and liveliness, and the continued strength of our souls for all the exercises of the Christian life is to be drawn forth; when they are all things that lie quite out of sight with us, what should a man do in this case if it were not for hope? That hope which has a preapprehension of such things, and makes a representation of them to me, though they are unseen things. Herein lies the peculiarity and glory of hope, that it can do so. With that sort of objects doth its chief business lie. As in the remaining part of this verse, “We are saved by hope; but hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?” If there were not such a principle and power in a Christian as hope, referring to things unseen, whereas all his support, and all his vigour, and the liveliness of his spirit, through the whole of his course, must be derived and drawn from such things, what would be come of him, if he had not that principle in him, by which he could converse with things that are out of sight?
You have been formerly told, that hope, in all its exercises with reference to the final felicity of a saint, it grounds upon faith. I first believe the divine word, and that word becomes to me a clear and vivid representation of all things whereby the soul goes forth, in all the power of hope, to contend forwards towards them. It reaches forth to them by hope, when once it hath believed the reality and truth of them by faith. And so you come to have these two twisted together. Their object is the same, and their exercises conjunct, though they are distinct. “Faith is the substance (the hypostasis) of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.” Heb. xi. 1.
To tell a Christian that hath engaged in a new and distinct way from that which is held by the universality of men besides, “You are now launched out upon a peculiar bottom of your own, pray what are the things that you design to entertain yourself with from day to day through the whole of your course? Why, they are things (saith he) that lie quite above this sphere,—things quite out of sight to you, and things that are quite out of sight to myself, as to any such eye as is common to me and to you. But, then, how will you come at these things?—What commerce have you with them? Why, I have that hope within me, 280grounded upon a steadfast belief of the divine revelation of such things as I am sure cannot deceive me, by which my view of these is as clear as the things that are seen are clear to your view. And I should disdain to have my principal converse with them, or that they should be the chief object of the exercise of this soul of mine, now by divine grace renewed, filled with new light, and with new inclinations, if they were not things of that peculiar and distinct kind that they are of, that is, invisible. If they were things that could be seen; if they were things that lay obvious to the notice of so mean a principle as your sense is, they would be too base things for me, I could not tell how to warrant myself, to justify myself; I could not answer it to myself, much less to him that hath given me the new law that I am to be governed by, if I should longer confine myself to so mean things: but because they are things not to be seen, quite out of sight, therefore doth my soul choose that noble employment, to be taken up about these things peculiarly from day to day. If they were not so high as to be quite out of sight; they were too low, and too mean for me.” So saith the renewed soul.
But here is a difficulty not superable by any thing but a divine hope; that the best of the things which the soul is to be conversant about, and taken up with every day, lie quite out of sight; what could we do in such a case, if it were not for such an hope as can see, and discern, and anticipate, and give a preventive enjoyment of things that can not be seen? And,
Difficulty 2. The suitableness and gratefulness of things of sense, of sensible things, is another great difficulty, that our hope is continually to conflict with, and to carry the Christian over. Things that are more suitable to an animal life and the sensible nature; they are things that lie under view continually; they are present and obvious; they are pleasing and entertaining to the sensitive nature that we carry about with us. And yet the soul must be under continual restraint as to whatsoever complacential relishes it can ever take in such things. Here lies the difficulty; here are things suitable and pleasing to sense, to flesh, and blood; and in reference to these things the soul can exert no desire, no delight; can take no grateful complacency in them, but is under continual restraint. The regenerate soul cannot wallow in sensual pleasures; it may not do so; it hath a law laid upon it, and a law put into it, by which it finds itself to be under a prohibition. 281And therefore is this sort of men a wonder to the rest of the world; they think it strange they do not run with them “into the same excess of riot.” 1 Pet. iv. 4. They cannot allow themselves to be sensual with the fleshly, worldly with the worldly, covetous with the covetous. If they do, they call their own state and standing in Christ under dreadful suspicions. If they can be ambitious and covetous, and voluptuous, men grossly voluptuous, they draw their state into question. But what is it that restrains them, and composes them to an holy kind of severity in this respect, but the power of divine nope? “Gird up the loins of your minds, be sober, and hope to the end.” 1 Pet. i. 13. Here appears the necessary influence of this hope to preserve a just restraint on the soul through the whole of our course, while our way lies amidst so many sensible things, that are so entertaining and tempting to our natures. We are to “live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for the blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” Tit. ii. 11, 12.
It must be considered, that regeneration and the participation of the new nature (as I have told you before) did not spoil any man’s reason, nor his intellectuals; so, nor doth it spoil his sensitive faculties neither. Such an one you must understand still to have as good senses as other men have, and senses as apt to entertain and please themselves, on proper suitable objects, as other men. Do you think they cannot taste the relishes of meats and drinks, as well as others can, or what else may be pleasing and grateful to the bodily sense? But they may not, they are under a restraint; they must converse shyly and cautiously, and with great circumspection, with all such kind of objects. And what doth enable them to do so? They are enabled to be sober, because they “hope continually,”—hope on to the end “for the grace that is to be brought unto them at the revelation of Jesus Christ;” and their ft looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” And in the power of that hope they live, not only righteously and godly, but soberly, in this present world.
Though that is an argument, indeed, of the general languor of Christianity at this day, and particularly of Christian hope, that greater latitudes are commonly taken among those that profess religion, in these our days, than have been heretofore. And it is sad to think it should be 282so as to meats and drinks, and apparel, and whatsoever borders upon luxury. Truly reformed Christendom is not itself; England is not itself; London is not itself; the families of persons professing godliness are not what they were in these respects. And certain it is, by how much, more sensual inclination doth prevail, Christian hope doth proportionably so much the more languish. And,
Difficulty 3. Another difficulty, that the hope of a Christian has to contend with, is, his foregoing all that he hath in this world for Christ’s sake, whensoever he is thereunto called, by the concurrence of Christian precepts with present providences. When those so state his case to him, as that it comes to this present posture; things stand thus with him, and towards him, as they lie under his present view in such a juncture. “I must now disobey Christ, or I must lose and forego what is most desirable and delectable to me in this world, it may be, this very life itself. So hath the divine rule, and the divine providence, taken together, stated my case, as to bring matters to this pinch, this necessity. I must forsake all, abandon whatsoever is most pleasing to me in all this world, even life itself, if that be required and called for upon the same terms.”
There is a mighty difficulty in this case upon persons that dwell in human flesh, and that have faculties about them which do contemper and suit them to this sensible world in which they live. They have not only the difficulty upon them, that, while they enjoy such things they must enjoy them under a restraint, (as you heard before,) but whensoever they are called for; they must part with them without regret; willingly part with, and forego all. They cannot enjoy them, but under restraint; and they must part with them, and that without regret, if they be called for. As it is not more the commendation than it was the duty of those of whom the apostle speaks: “They took joyfully the spoiling of their goods.” Heb. x. 34. And why did they so? They did it in the power of this same Christian hope, as knowing they had in heaven “a better and more enduring substance.” It was the hope of that which made them, willingly part with, and forego, all that they had and enjoyed here.
And this is the tenor of the Christian law that lies upon them, as you have it from the mouth of our blessed Lord himself: “If any man doth not forsake all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple;” Luke xiv. 33. he cannot be a 283Christian, unless (suppositis supponendis) supposing such things as may be supposed, he doth forsake all, when the particular juncture happens; he doth now discover that he hath not the root of the matter in him, if he be not content to forsake all for my sake. But it is a Christian hope that enables him to do so; because that hope possesseth him with a persuasion that he shall gain by it more than all he looseth. “We have forsaken all and followed thee,” say the disciples unto Christ; and you shall be no losers, saith he to them. Take but my word, and you will have ground enough for that hope, that it shall not turn to your final loss. None that forsake houses, or lands, or father, or mother, or brother, or sister, for my sake, and for the gospel, but shall have in this world an hundred-fold, and hereafter eternal life. And it is the hope of this that makes a Christian willing to say, Then I can be content to let all go; aye, even let all go; he hath not deceived me that hath told me, and he will never deceive me that hath told me, that I shall not be a final loser by it at length. And,
Difficulty 4. There is this further difficulty in it, that he must, in some cases, not only lose all that he enjoys, but he must suffer all that it can be in the power of men to inflict, as to positive miseries and evils, that are of the greatest pungency unto the flesh and the sense that we carry about with us. All must be willingly undergone that is evil to our flesh, as all must be foregone that is good and grateful to it. And what shall enable any to do so, but the power of this hope?
How full is the scripture and history of these instances! As full as it is of instances of the continual persecutions of Christians and Christianity itself, from age to age, ever since there came to be any such thing obtaining in the world. And it is proportionably full of instances of the power of this hope, carrying them whose hearts it did animate, through whatsoever difficulties they had to encounter in this case. That “cloud of witnesses,” (which the apostle sets before our eyes in that 11th chapter of the Hebrews, and that we referred to but now,) so he calls those many witnesses, a cloud, a mighty cloud of such witnesses, all testifying to this one thing, to wit, to the power of that faith, and consequently to that hope, by which, these mentioned were carried through such sufferings, calumnies, as there you read of: “They were tempted, they were slain with the sword, they were sawn asunder, they wandered up and down in sheep-skins and goat-skins, 284being destitute, afflicted, tormented;” men “of whom the world was not worthy.” And amidst all these things they despised deliverance. And why? Because they hoped for “a better resurrection.” It was that faith which carried them through all, which is described at the first verse, to be “the substance of the things not seen, and the evidence of the things hoped for.” Heb. xi. 1. The great things we hope for are made substantial to us; we have that clear and substantiating representation of them before our eyes. And therefore, how many thousand deaths can we go through by the power of this hope;—that hope itself being upheld and maintained all along by an immediate divine power?
And therefore is it that we read of such joy, and triumph, and exultation, in the midst of all these sufferings, which it was possible for human wit to invent, and human power to execute. It was not yet more than what they have been, enabled to bear, and bear with a great deal of triumph many times; so as that it appeared that they had all under their feet; they could trample upon dangers and deaths, and were superior to them; they could not fasten upon them, they could take no hold of their spirits.. If one should lead you through the sufferings of Christians in the ten persecutions by Pagans; their sufferings afterward by the Arians, who were not less bloody and cruel than the former; their sufferings more lately by the Papists, which after followed, from age to age, for twelve hundred years together; sufferings in this kind in this land, and sufferings in several adjoining countries. How numerous instances have we of the power of this hope in carrying the poor sufferers through, so as that not only have they not been removed from their Christian profession by all that they have suffered and endured; but not from their alacrity and cheer fulness of spirit: yea, that hath not only continued, but in creased, and grown higher, more and more vigorous and glorious in them, by how much the more the approaches of trouble and danger were nearer. The speeches that have been uttered by many of them, even in the midst of their sufferings, have shewn a triumphant glorying joy in their hearts, which is the continual issue of this nope: “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God;” and thereupon “we glory in tribulation.” Rom. v. 3, 4. They gloried in tribulation, because they did rejoice in hope of the divine glory.
And therefore have they been enabled to brow-beat their 285enemies, their tormentors, the executioners of all those tragical things upon them which they suffered; as when one should be able to tell the tyrant, after he had received so many wounds in his body, I thank thee, (oh tyrant,) that thou hast made me so many mouths wherewith to preach Christ; for I take every wound thou hast given me to be a new mouth wherewith to utter the divine praises, and wherewith to preach and magnify my Redeemer. With multitudes of instances that one might give of the like kind; which shew that the hope that lived in their souls, whilst they were even dying, did not only keep them from denying Christ,—did not only maintain religion, and keep that alive in them; but made it triumph in an high degree of liveliness, vigour, and joy, that shewed itself more exalted amidst those exercises, than when there were no trials, no danger in view. And again,
Difficulty 5. The many temptations and buffetings in their spirits, which Christians do more ordinarily experience in their course through the world. Nothing could carry through the vexation of this, (which cometh nearer, a great deal nearer, than what men can do when they only torture the outward man,) but only this hope: “God shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” Though we be vexed with his suggestions, and very vexatious ones some times they are, when blasphemous thoughts are injected and cast in; there is an endeavour to fence against them, but they cannot keep them off; the tempter indeed cannot make the soul close or comply with the design of his temptations, but he doth vex by tempting; and mat temptation cannot but be vexing, when the soul is solicited to think all the evil thoughts that the wicked one can be author or parent of to him, concerning God, and Christ, and religion, and many false ones concerning himself. All the continual vexing temptations that the soul is followed with from day to day, it is only the hope of final victory that carries it through. I hope it will not be so always; I hope God will give me a complete victory at last; he will bruise Satan under my feet ere long. And,
Difficulty 6. The complication of bodily and spiritual distempers together, so incident even to the generality of Christians; a great deal of lassitude, and dullness upon the outward man; the prevalence of melancholy fumes and vapours, which fall in with a dark mind and dead heart; and for those continual outcries, “Oh, wretched man, that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death!” 286Rom. vii. 24. It is only deliverance in hope that carries through all this difficulty: “Thanks be to God, who hath given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Cor. xv. 57. I have conquest and victory in Christ, that hath loved me; I am many times in myself overcome, but in him many times I do overcome, and shall finally over come. And,
Difficulty 7. Divine desertions: when all these happen to meet together upon a poor creature, and God is with drawn over and besides,—what a difficulty is here? The withdrawing of such a presence as even that wicked Saul was capable of, how distressing was it to him when he was sensible of it! There was a presence of God, whereof he had experience; but far beneath the excellency and delectableness of that gracious divine presence that he affords to his own, those that are peculiar to him: yet when Saul had lost that more exterior divine presence, saith he to Samuel, (when he had procured him to be raised from the dead, as that text doth please to express,) “I am greatly distressed; the Philistines make war upon me, and God is departed from me.” 1 Sam. xxviii. 15.
And it is so with a poor Christian; many times men are let loose upon him; the devil is let loose upon him; there is a great deal of distemperature and deadness within; and at the same time God is gone and withdrawn from him; in his sense and apprehension gone; to appearance gone. And in that case, as to actual comfort, idemest esse et apparere; idem non esse, et non apparere; to seem and to be, as to comfort in such a case. Here is nothing to bear up now but hope. I hope all this darkness will be over; all these clouds will vanish and flee away: “I will hope in God, that I shall yet praise him; for he is the health of my countenance, and my God;—why art thou cast down, O my soul? Trust in God, for I shall yet praise him.” Psalm xlii. and xliii. I shall yet see a morning after so black and tempestuous a night. And,
Difficulty 8. The wearisomeness of duty and exercises of religion, in the midst of all this, is yet a further difficulty to a poor awakened soul. That is, he finds this to be the state of his case, that, in all the mentioned respects, let it be as ill with him as it can be supposed, yet he must not turn aside from following the Lord. I am in the way wherein I must persist; I must pray still, and hear still, and approach his table still. To go on in such a course of duty as this, when the mind is dark, and the heart is dead, and 287there is a great weight and pressure lying upon the soul, and God is withdrawn, and I come to one duty after another, and one ordinance after another, and get nothing; this is hard and heavy work; still to be (as the case is represented with the disciples) fishing all the night, and nothing taken. Now it is nothing but hope that can support and bear up in this case; this is the way of the Lord in which I am, and this way, I hope will have a good end. Though I walk heavily, and the chariot wheels seem to be taken off; though my soul is not the chariot of a willing people, as sometimes it hath been; yet I must hold on my course; I must persist in it. There is that in him all this while, that will not let him desist, will not let him give over; no, by no means; he hath that sense of duty, that conscience towards God, that light concerning the equity and reasonableness of the thing that keeps him to it. God must have his homage, however it is with me, whether it be better or worse; I must not defraud God; I must do such and such acts, as acts of duty and obedience to the Lord of my life and being, whatever becomes of me. He hath a secret hope, that all will issue well; and therefore holds on in his course. Fear will not let him go back; and hope draws him forward; for we are not to suppose that the asserting the necessity of the one of these is a diminution of, or detraction from, the necessary influence of the other. We need all God’s means and methods to help and urge us on in our way and course. And I might add to all this,
Difficulty 9. The continual view of prevailing wickedness; a most afflicting and discouraging thing! When a Christian’s way towards the end God hath set in view before him lies in a world over-run with wickedness, and wherein they that curse God are secure; he can turn his eye no way but he sees a world full of atheism, full of infidelity, full of contempt of God, and full of rebellion against him. I hope (saith he) truth, and righteousness, and religion, and the love and fear of God, will triumph over all this at last. And because he so hopes, he persists and goes on in his well-chosen way. And in the last place, which I will close with,
Difficulty 10. The slow progress of the Christian interest, and the diffusion of the knowledge of Christ in the world; a most afflictive discouraging thing to all that are lovers of “our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.” Indeed, it is that which would have a more particular aspect upon the condition 288of the faithful ministers of the gospel to see that the most part of their labours is labour in vain.
And you know how far the temptation as to this hath prevailed: I said, I will speak no more in his name, (saith the prophet,) “but thy word was as fire in my bones;” Jer. xx. 9. that was not to be restrained. It is a very uncomfortable thing to labour in this kind, with the souls of men, which we apply ourselves to as reasonable, as intelligent, as capable of understanding us, and understanding the value of souls, and the differences of time and eternity, of present and everlasting things; to deal with such upon agreed principles between them and us; so as that they say, whatsoever we speak to them in the name of the Lord, it is all true. They grant as much as we would have them grant, and acknowledge whatsoever, as to every thing we propound to them, especially in the greatest and most important things, which are also things of the greatest evidence and clearness, so as to force an acknowledgment; and so as that, when we deal with men about these things, (as you heard from that scripture lately,) we have nothing to do but to commend ourselves to the consciences of men in the sight of God. We appeal to you, whether these things be not true that we say to you, in the name of the Lord, yea or no. And they are generally acknowledged to be so. It is acknowledged that there is a world to come; that there is a state of retribution; that there is a judgment day, when men are to receive “the things done in the body, whether they be good or evil;” and wherein only a spiritual holy life, begun here in this world, will end in eternal life; and prevailing wickedness, continued in, will end in eternal death.
These things we represent and lay before men in the name of the Lord, and they say it is all true. And yet they are the same men, Non persuadebis etiamsi persuaseris; though we have convinced men, we have not conquered them; we have persuaded, and all signifies nothing; and it is because they have no hope. It is an observable expression, that, in the 18th of Jeremiah, (I have formerly told you of another like it, chap. ii. 25. and it is worth our notice,) “Return ye, now, every one from his evil ways, and make your ways and your doings good.” Jer. xviii. 11, 12. So God bespeaks them by the prophet, or the prophet bespeaks them in the name of God: “But they said there is no hope, but we will walk after our own devices, 289and will every one do the imagination of his evil heart.” Because there is no hope; we have no hope that ever we shall be able to alter our course, or that ever we shall be able to do good of it in an attempt of reformation; and therefore, we will go on as we have done.
Truly then, this is the sense and posture of them that we have to deal with in the name of the Lord; they will not turn, because there is no hope; the case would be the same with us now, who so deal with men; that is, we should give over treating with them if we had no hope; we would speak to them no more in that name, nor open a Bible in our solemn assemblies, if we had no hope; but, because we have this hope, we use great freedom of speech, we hope we shall prevail at length; and we hope, however, that, our blessed Lord Jesus shall have a glorious body out of this world before he hath done; a glorious community, that shall be associated to “the general assembly and church of the first-born, written in heaven; the innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect;” whether men we speak to now in his name do hear or for bear, he shall have a glorious assembly above. “He will be glorified in all them that believe,” because the gospel testimony was received. That will be a triumphant day; and our hope of bearing a share and part in the triumphs of that day carries us through; and we go on, notwithstanding this great difficulty; a principal difficulty it is to us. But it is a common difficulty to “all that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity;” according as it is the common desire to have the Christian religion, in the power, life, and vigour of it, spread; and that more souls may be proselyted and brought in: all that love Christ, and ail that love the souls of men, cannot but have this desire; and accordingly the difficulty and trouble is great that they have continually to conflict with, that so little is done in this case, and that they see so little done in their day. But the hope of a glorious issue must carry you through all these difficulties. This will have a glorious end at last.290
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