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XV. THE ANCHORAGE OF THE SOUL.

 

 

"Be followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the 1)promises."

HEBREWS vi. 12.

 

 

THE PROMISES OF GOD! That is a key-word here. Inherit the promises (ver. 12); God made promise (ver. 13); he obtained the promise (ver. 15); the heirs of promise (ver. 17). But perhaps the reiteration of the word does not awaken the interest or stir the heart of those who read it. We are so familiar with it; and, above all, we are not in circumstances which make the divine promises specially precious. The night of sorrow must obscure our sky, or we can never descry or appreciate the stars of promise that sparkle as gems in the firmament of Scripture. Those who are rich and increased in goods and have need of nothing cannot realize what the promises of God really mean.

Possessed of a good income, guaranteeing the supply of every need, it is of little moment that God has pledged himself to provide all needful things for those who seek his kingdom first. Environed by troops of faithful friends, like so many successive lines of defense intrenched in the strong fortress of position and rank, there is less interest in the assurance that God will be the shield and buckler, the munition of rocks, the refuge from the storm for his saints. But when riches dwindle, and friends fail, and health declines, and difficulty, persecution, and trial threaten, then the soul betakes itself to the promises of God, and cons them over, studying them by the hour together, until it wakes up to find mines of treasure under pages which were blank as the moorlands beneath which coal-beds lie. It would be well for some of us if God would strip us of all those things in which we place such confidence; so that we might be compelled, perhaps for the first time in our lives, to seek in himself all that we are now wont to seek in his gifts. Oh, blessed loss, which should teach us our true wealth! Oh, happy deprivation, which should reveal our inexhaustible resources! Oh, loving discipline, which should break the cisterns that hold the brackish rain-water, and compel us to betake ourselves to the river of God, which proceeds from the throne of God and the Lamb!

The lax and cursory manner in which we read pages begemmed with divine promise is largely due to the fact that we have never been put into such straits of sorrow and privation as to appreciate their value. One crushing trial would open up whole tracts of promise, which are now like the shut doors of a corridor in a royal palace. This is one reason why such a man as the Christian hero, Gordon, would spend hours over the Word of God, counting his Father's promises, holding them up as jewels in the sunshine, and rejoicing over them as great spoil; such men as he have had little else; they have had no other resources to fall back upon; they were driven to lay hold on them for very existence. And thus they fulfilled the enigma of the Apostle, "Having nothing, yet possessing all things." Those who are conscious of their poverty are they who become rich in faith, and heirs of the Kingdom.

It was in precisely such a condition that the Hebrews here addressed were found. Their goods had been spoiled; they had endured a great fight of affliction; they had been made a gazing stock both by reproaches and afflictions; all on which men are accustomed to rely had been swept from them; and therefore the Holy Ghost, in these pages, directs their minds to the exceeding great and precious promises, in which God pledged himself to supply all their need; and to furnish from his own treasuries all, and more than all, that they had lost; not giving them these things in visible possession, but supplying them as they were needed, and in proportion to their faith. It was surely a good exchange, to lose all, and to recover all in God!

 

GOD'S PROMISES ARE RELIABLE. A good man's word is his bond. And when such a one has given a promise our anxiety is allayed, our fears are quieted, we have strong consolation. But if, in addition to the promise, our friend has solemnly bound himself by an oath, calling heaven and earth to witness, and God to ratify, the asseveration is so momentous, the appeal so awful, the impression made on the mind so deep, that, whatever happens, the soul shelters itself in the immutability of his decision. It is doubly impossible for him to change or deceive. And this is the bond by which God has bound himself.

When dealing with Abraham, God gave him repeated promises, first of the land, then of the seed, also of the blessing which should accrue to all generations of men through him. On one occasion he went through the form of covenant making in vogue among the surrounding peoples (Gen. xv. 17). But, on Mount Moriah, when the faithful patriarch had given the one stupendous evidence of faith and obedience, even unto death, God sware, and "because he could sware by no greater, he sware by himself." "By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord', (Gen. xxii. 16).

And so it is with us. We who by faith are the spiritual seed of Abraham are blessed with him. "The promise is sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all" (Rom. iv. 16). All the promises of God are Yea and Amen. He is not a man that he should lie, nor the son of man that he should repent. He has well calculated his resources, before he has pledged himself; and when once he has done so it is impossible that he should fail. Fall flat on the divine promises; cling to them as a shipwrecked sailor to the floating spar; venture all on them; their fulfillment is guaranteed by covenant and oath; by blood and agony and death; by the light of the resurrection morning and the glory of the ascension mount; by the experience of myriads, who have never found them fail. If any man living has found one promise untrustworthy, let him publish it to the world; and the heavens will clothe themselves in sackcloth, and the sun and moon and stars will reel from their seats, the universe will rock, and a hollow wind moan through creation, bearing the tidings that God is mutable, that God can lie. And that voice will be the herald of universal dissolution. But it can never, never be. Heirs of promise! God's power Is eternal, his counsel is immutable. Heaven and earth may pass away, but his word shall never pass away. Ye therefore may have strong consolation; though ye lose all else, your heritage in the word and oath of God shall be unimpaired, world without end.

 

GOD'S PROMISES, THUS ASSURED, MAKE AN ANCHORAGE FOR THE SOUL. Few things are more important for the mariner than to secure a good anchorage ground, where the soil will not give before the weight of the vessel and the strain of the storm. And with all those inclinations toward drifting which we have already considered, we urgently need to discover something permanent, unchanging, and satisfying, with which we may grapple by the anchor of our hope.

The faculty of hope in a Christian is not different to that of a worldly man. It is the same faculty or quality in each. But there is a vast difference in the ground in which the anchor is fixed. In the case of the worldly man, it is the loose, light, unreliable soil of peradventures and speculations. In the case of the Christian, it is the unyielding, immutable promise and oath of the Eternal God. Therefore the former is often darkened with mis-giving and fear; while the latter cries, without a shadow of doubt, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded."

 

Hope is something more than faith.  Faith accepts and credits testimony; hope anticipates. Faith says the fruit is good; hope picks and eats. Faith is bud; hope blossom. Faith presents the check; hope lays out the amount received. And such hope is the anchor of the soul. The comparison between hope and an anchor is familiar even to heathen writers, and it is easy to see how fit it is. It steadies the soul. Take an illustration from common life. A young man pledges his troth to a poor but noble girl. He is drafted for foreign service, and says farewell for long years. Meanwhile she is left to do as well as she can to maintain herself. Work is scanty, wages low, she is sometimes severely tempted and tried. But, amidst all, she is kept true to her absent lover, and to her nobler self, by the little strand of hope which links her to a happy and united future. So, when suffering or tempted or discouraged, our hope goes forward into the blessed future, depicted on the page of Scripture in glowing colors, and promised by the word of him who cannot lie; and the anticipation of it fills the soul with courage and patience, so as to endure the trials of time, in view of the certain blessedness of eternity.

 

THE ANCHORAGE IN THE PROMISES HAS A THREEFOLD VALUE. It is sure, there is no fear of its failing; sure as the sure mercies of David; sure as the "everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure"; sure as God can make it. It is steadfast, its influence on the soul is to keep it steady: "Steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord." It entereth into that within the veil. In the ancient world, when there was not water enough to float a ship into the harbor, a man would carry the anchor over the shoals, and fix it in the calm waters of the inner basin. In some such way as this, our Lord Jesus, when, like the high-priest in the Jewish Tabernacle, he passed through the blue veil that hides the celestial world from ours, took our hope with him, and holds it there. The Lord Jesus is our hope (1 Tim. i.1 ; 1 John iii. 3). He is our forerunner. He has preceded us into his Father's presence, the first fruits of them that slept. He has gone thither as our Representative and Priest. When he majestically passed from the sight of his disciples, and was hidden from the eyes that longingly followed him, he entered within the veil. There he ever liveth; and because of it our hopes follow him, center in him, and connect us already with that bright home of which he is the radiant center.

 

THERE ARE CERTAIN QUALITIES WHICH WE MUST LEARN TO EXERCISE. Faith and patience can alone inherit the promises (ver. 12). Abraham had patiently to endure before he received the promise (ver. 15). It is not easy to wait, or to let patience have her perfect work; and it is only possible to faith. There is no sublimer instance of long waiting than the history of Abraham, for which his faith nerved him, and to whom the promise was literally fulfilled. And so shall it be again. Patience weary, eager hearts. The time shall come when you shall lay hands on your capital; but be content in the meanwhile to enjoy the interest. The auspicious moment hastens when you shall know and taste all the blessedness of Paradise regained; but feast in the interim on the grapes of Eshcol, the pomegranates and other produce of the land. Claim the patience of Christ, of which the last of the apostles, who had need of it to sustain him in the long delay, so sweetly speaks (Rev. i. 9). "Be ye patient; stablish your hearts; for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh." "Let us run with patience the race set before us, looking unto Jesus." Thus shall we manifest "the patience of the saints"; and thus shall we, like those who have preceded us, finally inherit the promises.

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