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SERMON XVII.2020   Preached, June 14, 1691.

Romans, viii. 24.

We are saved by Hope.

BUT now there doth somewhat need to be considered in reference to all that hath been opened, which may, by way of objection, occur and offer itself to the thoughts of many. As,

Objection 1. This may be objected; that it seems not so intelligible how hope should have influence upon conversion; for, can there be any thing good in the soul before conversion r And inasmuch as by conversion itself the first grace is given, can there be any grace before this first? Why, there are several things that may be said to this, which it will be of very great use to us to consider; and which (this being a fit way of introducing them) I choose to introduce this way. As,

Answer 1. That there is always a difficulty in fixing the beginnings of things. The very transitus of any thing from its non esse to its primum esse; from its state of nothingness to its beginning to be, is always a matter of real difficulty, and which cannot but carry somewhat of obscurity and dubiousness along with it. But,

Answer 2. It was upon the foresight of what I tell you now is liable to be objected, that I told you formerly of a two fold hope, which we are to consider in reference to the present case; to wit, of an human and rational hope, and of an holy and gracious hope. The former whereof is leading, and introduced to the latter; and, indeed, to be presupposed to it as a foundation, according as the human rational nature is unto the holy gracious nature; every one must be an human creature before he can be an holy creature; the being of the man precedes the being of the saint, or holy man. So it is in this case too; the very being of an human rational hope must precede that of the gracious and holy hope; and as such, it is not without the influence that hath been mentioned to the mentioned purposes. If any yet cannot hope as a saint, they ought according to the 235grounds they have in view before them, to hope as a man. If you cannot yet hope as an holy creature, you ought to hope as a reasonable creature, according to those grounds that God hath laid in view before you. And,

Answer 3. To hope as an human and reasonable creature is to hope, upon the consideration of such things as have that tendency in themselves to found and raise an hope in us; that is plain and obvious in itself; for consideration is nothing else but the exercise of our reasoning faculty; a communing with ourselves; a discussing matters with our own souls, or in our own minds, according to the concernment that we may apprehend them to be to us. And in that way, (if there be a real ground,) hope ought to be excited and raised up in us. And we ought to be active, in order to its being so. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope; (Lam. iii. 21.) recollecting and calling to mind such things as are proper matter of hope, ought to excite and raise such hope in us. And again,

Answer 4. This God himself doth point out to us as the proper method of conversion; to wit, the engaging and setting on work our own considering power, which, being duly engaged, hath a tendency that hath been noted to raise hope. It is marked out as the great bar and obstruction to conversion, when people will not consider: “the ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; but Israel doth not know, my people will not consider.” Isaiah, i. 3, 4. “Ah, foolish people! a sinful nation; a people laden with iniquity; a seed of evil doers; children that are corrupters; they have forsaken the Lord.” Isaiah, i. 16. And afterwards, he reasons with them to turn; “Wash ye, make ye clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes;” as you find throughout the series of that chapter. He calls upon his apostate people, (when they have revolted and gone back from him, and when therefore the exigency of the case makes their conversion and return necessary,) he calls upon to shew themselves men; “remember this, and shew yourselves men; bring it again to mind, (oh,) ye transgressors!” Isaiah, xlvi. 8. And for that very reason, he discovers himself ready to shew mercy: when he hath at any time the opportunity given him of observing such a temper and disposition of spirit to consider and return. “When the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness which he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.” Ezek. xviii. 27, 28. “Because he considereth, and turneth 236away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die.” “Because he considers and turns;” if he do not consider, he will never turn. If he do consider, he may, especially, when he doth consider such things as tend (as was said) to found and raise an hope for him of mercy in returning. Again,

Answer 5. Such things as ought to be considered in such a case, they do more clearly and distinctly present themselves to view with them that live under the gospel. That gives mighty advantages to such considerations as carry matter of hope with them: and God will deal with all sorts of people according to that measure of light which he affords them. For those that live under the gospel, they must be dealt withal according to what discovery is extant before them of his mind and will by that; for those that have no gospel, they will be dealt with by other measures. But, for those that live under the gospel, to whom that bright, and morning, and pleasant light hath shined, they ought to judge, and make, and estimate of their own state and case accordingly; and think I am not a creature turned loose into the world to wander in it as in a wilderness; but I am by special, peculiar, divine favour placed under the dispensation of an everlasting gospel, in which he speaks his mind distinctly to men about the ways and methods of recovering and saving lost and perishing souls; so that whatsoever hath a tendency to administer any matter of hope, it lies in view with the greatest advantage imaginable, before whom this divine and express revelation of the mind of God about these concernments is come. And,

Answer 6. That hope that shall (upon consideration of the things that have that tendency) arise in the souls of any in order to their conversion, and before that work be as yet done, we must understand it to be greatly improved and assisted by those greater measures of common grace, that are afforded to them that live under the dispensation of the gospel. And so, I told you at first, that human rational hope, assisted by common grace, may have a great and very significant influence towards this blessed change that is to be wrought upon the soul. And though it be very true, therefore, that there can be no special grace before the first special grace, (as the matter speaks itself,) yet there may be common grace before special grace. That grace that goes under the name of common, it is leading, it is preparatory, it is antecedent to that which goes under the notion of special. And so the doubt is answered, what 237grace can there be before the first grace? Before the first grace, there may be other grace,—grace that is not special grace; that is common, and that is in a greater measure afforded to them that live under the gospel. And there upon I add,

Answer 7. That there are sundry obvious considerations that tend to raise hope, which, as common grace falls in with it, (though it be but merely human and rational hope otherwise,) may have a mighty hand in the soul’s first turn to God, or an influence upon it; considerations that tend partly to awaken in the soul a sense of its own case; and that tend thereupon to erect and lift it up towards God in hope. I do not confine the discourse I am upon, nor would I confine your thoughts to such considerations merely, abstractedly, and singly, as tend to beget hope; but such as tend to beget a sense first, and then to beget hope; that is, when the soul is made to feel its own distress, and perceive sensibly its own forlorn wretchedness; this makes it the more susceptible of that hope that must have influence upon this great turn to God through Christ. And those will be such considerations, as they who live under the gospel have their present and constant advantage for. It is for one to sit down with himself, and think; and we may be sure the gospel will never do that soul any good that never thinks, that never considers. But if one under the dispensation of the gospel will set himself to consider, he hath such considerations as these obvious to him:—

“I am an apostate creature; a poor wretch fallen from God, cut off from him by mine own iniquity, who hath been the Author of my life and being to me, and from whom alone I can expect a blessed eternity. I have By apostasy incurred his displeasure, fallen short of his glory, fallen under his wrath; I am, by nature, a child of wrath, as well as others are; I know there is a satisfaction due to divine justice from me, for the injury and wrong I have done to the majesty and authority of his government over me, who gave me breath; I know I am never capable of making that satisfaction myself; if I were to lie everlastingly in consuming flames I should be always satisfying, but I should never have satisfied. But I find with all (and the gospel tells me so) God doth not expect from me that I should satisfy for my own sin; he hath devolved that matter wholly into another hand; and the gospel having declared to me his mind and pleasure herein, it would be the 238greatest presumption imaginable in me to offer at being a satisfier for my own sin; to offer at that were to offer an affront instead of a satisfaction; to suppose I could satisfy, were for me to measure arms with the Almighty; it were to take upon me as if I were a God,—as if I were the man his fellow; as if any thing that could be done or suffered by me could bear proportion to the rights and dignities of the divine government, when they have been invaded, usurped, and violated, as they have been by me. But I find by the same gospel, that though I am not required to make satisfaction to the justice of God for my own sin myself, yet I am required to return to God, and to receive his Son, who hath made that satisfaction; and to receive him with a dependant and subject heart, casting myself upon him for salvation, and subjecting myself for government, even unto eternal life. I find this is required; every one that lives under the gospel may consider so, and ought to consider so. This light shines into every one’s face that lives under the gospel.

“And then hath every one of us to consider further, but for this mighty turn I find for myself no power; I ought to turn to God through Christ, but I cannot; not through natural impotency, but moral; for this can be resolved only into disinclination of will. My will is disinclined, bent another way; I must tear myself off from those ways of sin that I have run in; I cannot alter the bent of my own heart, no more than a leopard can his spots, or a blackmoor his skin. Here is the great stress and hinge of this case. That must be done, or I am lost, which I myself cannot do. But such an one hath yet further to consider: I find it is charged upon me to return, to come back to God through Christ; to repent towards God, to believe in his Son, I find these things are charged upon me; and my reason and conscience cannot but tell me, that that impotency which only lies in a disaffected disinclined will, can never excuse me from such duty. That is the very sum of all malignity itself; a will against my duty; a will against the good and acceptable will of God; this carries all the malignity of hell in it, to have such a will. Therefore this ill habit and bent of my will can by no means in the world invalidate the obligation of those laws and precepts, that bind me to repentance and faith in the Son of God; they lie upon me as a matter of indispensable duty still. That such an one hath to consider and think that,


Then nothing can be more obvious than to consider further,—

“If I have such things lying upon me as matter of most apparent and indispensable duty, for which I have no present power, nothing remains to me but to offer at my duty; otherwise I lay myself under the manifest guilt of most insolent rebellion: for I cannot but say, that a sinner is righteously enjoined to repent. If it were great iniquity in me first to offend, it is most apparent duty to repent of my having offended; and if God offer to me his own Son to be to me a Saviour and a Ruler both together, surely it is most justly enjoined upon me that I receive him as such, that I rely upon him as a Saviour, and subject myself to him as a Ruler. I have nothing to say against the equity, reasonableness, and obligingness of these laws of his. Why, then, if they do lay actual obligation upon me, and I feel no present power in my own soul to comply with them; but cannot but be sensible of impotency, to wit, a disinclined heart. What? I offer at turning to God? I may as well offer at removing a mountain. Here is a difficulty invincible to me; a power that I can by no means overcome; a carnal, corrupt inclination, carrying me another way, and that strengthened by all the infernal powers of hell and darkness too; for every one that is turned is “turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.” Acts xxvi. 18. And who hath “delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” Coloss. i. 13. A mighty turn this is! And when the law saith tome, Repent; when it saith, Turn, believe, receive Christ; subject thyself to him; rely upon him. If I look into myself I find myself dead; “You hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins;” Eph. ii. 1, 2. where all have naturally their conversations, “according to the course of the world, and the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience.” What shall I do in this case against all the power of my own indwelling corruption, and all combined powers of the hellish infernal kingdom, that labour to the uttermost to keep me off from God, to keep me off from Christ, that I may never come to a closure? What is to be done in this case? Why, the mentioned considerations are most obvious; to wit, those great evangelical precepts requiring nothing but matter of most plain and indispensable duty, from which a disinclined will is no excuse, but rather the highest aggravation imaginable of my iniquity 240and guilt, if I comply not; so as that I am held under a strict tie to do what the evangelical law requires and charges upon me. Nothing is (I say) plainer, and more distinctly in view, than that I am to offer at what I cannot myself effect; otherwise I add insolent rebellion to all my former indisposition. And I find this is the plain meaning of the commands, as they are explicated by superadded promises. “Turn ye at my reproof.” Prov. i. 23. What, I alone? What, I by myself?—No; do you turn; do as much as in you is; put yourselves into a turning posture; and “I will pour out my Spirit upon you; and I will make known my words unto you.”

And to excite and raise hope higher in this case, the poor wretch hath to consider this:

“It is the God of all grace that I am now to apply myself to; the God that is rich in mercy, and that is the Father of mercies: and again, I am to apply myself to him for the concernments of my soul; of an immortal spirit, that he hath put into me, who is himself the Father of Spirits. Why should I not expect he should be kind to his own off spring?—a poor wandering soul; a degenerate, apostate spirit, that is sensible of having apostatized, that is now aiming to return and to come back to him? Why should not I expect him to be merciful, to be helpful to a poor soul that sees itself lost if he do not help,—if he do not put forth his hand and draw me into union with him, and with his Son, in whom he knows only I must live, and without which union I am left still under a necessity of perishing? And here is this to be considered,—he is more nearly related to this spirit of mine than to my flesh, more nearly to this soul of mine than to my outward man. I have found him kind and compassionate to my flesh and outward man. This is fit to be suggested to any man’s soul that begins to awaken and consider his case; and, further, to say within himself, Thou hast nothing to do but to hope in the divine mercy; and thou hast already found the Father of mercies merciful to thy meaner and baser part. How hast thou lived all this while in this world? It was by him that thou didst live, and through him thou wast born; and thou hast hung upon him ever since thou hangedst upon thy mother’s breast. Where hast thou had thy bread for a day, and day by day, but from him? Where hast thou had thy breath every moment? thy breath was continually in his hand. He that hath been so compassionate to that flesh of thine without thy seeking, will he 241not be compassionate to thy soul, if thou dost seek him,—if thou dost crave,—if thou dost cry, and tell him, Here is one of the souls that thou hast made, ready to perish under the tyranny of a carnal inclination, and under the power of the great destroyer of souls? Is there no place for hope in this case? though the case be a distressed case, it plainly speaks itself not to be a desperate case; will not he, who is the God of all grace, shew compassion to a soul that is aiming to come back to him upon his call, and when he calleth him, though he can come but faintly, struggle but weakly; though he can but aim to come?”

And, again, you have this to consider to found and raise hope; that you do him the highest homage that in your case and circumstances you are capable of doing, when you throw yourselves upon his mercy; and it is that which he is most highly pleased with. “He takes pleasure in them that fear him, and in them that hope in his mercy;” a scripture, that any soul which begins to have an awakened sense of the state of his own case, ought to have as a front let before his eyes, and engraven (as it were) upon the palms of his hands. This ought to be considered; Though I cannot comply with him as I should, I cannot do such things as are just and righteous, (which a most unexceptionable, evangelical law, doth ask for, and require, and challenge,) yet I am willing to do him all the homage I am capable of, by casting myself upon his mercy, and by making him my ultimate and last hope. Say you so? (saith God,) Is this your posture? Now you please me beyond all things that you were capable of doing besides, or any other way. “He takes pleasure in them that fear him, and in them that hope in his mercy.” This is to acknowledge the divine mercy to be a bottomless abyss, never to be fathomed; you hope in his mercy, when otherwise you had no hope in any thing else. This is that wherein he takes pleasure; this is to acknowledge him to be God, to give him the proper-glory of his Deity; and own him to be infinite and immense even in goodness, that great excellency and perfection of his nature.

And admit that all considerations, all the actual thoughts you have of all these things, and your revolving them to and fro in your own minds, are all, as yet, but within the compass, enabling you to raise an hope upon so plain grounds as these are, which lie in view before you; yet every one sees that these things have a manifest tendency to the soul’s turning to God through Christ; and so lie in 242your way to that special grace, wherein the great turn itself doth lie. And then I add again, in the last place, that,

Answer 8. That, whenever that great turn is brought about wherein is the great effort of grace, which is most special and peculiar, it is manifest that an holy hope is one of the things that doth first appear and shew forth itself in this great turn. For the soul is to close with God in Christ; but this is impossible to it, but as it hopes for acceptance. This can never be the act of a despairing soul. If the soul look upon God and Christ with absolute despair, it is hardened with a diabolical hatred; and can never close, can never unite with him but when it opens itself to receive Christ, and all the fulness of God. It is hope that opens it, and hath the great influence into the sincere covenanting act, the vital covenanting act, by which the soul takes God in Christ, and surrenders and gives up itself to God, through Christ. And that is sincere and so continues, or doth not continue, according as the soul hopes or hopes not, or hopes truly and fully, or otherwise.

The expressions to this purpose are worthy to be written in letters of gold, which we find in Psalm lxxviii. 7, 8. Where we have the very root of sincerity, and the very root of apostacy pointed out to us both together, even with manifest reference to the truth of the thing I am now inculcating to you: “That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God; but keep his commandments; and might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that set not their heart aright: and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.” The design of all this is to signify, that God would have a people to succeed from that root and stock that should be better than their fathers; but wherein should they be better? or should they come to be better? Why, their fathers were stubborn and rebellious; they were false and unsteadfast in the covenant of God; they did covenant, but it was on terms: “They did but flatter him with their mouths, (as is afterwards expressed,) and lied to him with their tongues.” Their hearts were not sincere; there was no fixedness and stability in the covenant of God. And wherein should their children be better? Why, I will have them be taught and instructed, and to learn, from all the methods of the dispensations of God towards their forefathers, to set their hope in God. This was the great thing their fathers did not; and therefore continued rebels still; and when they seemed to covenant were false and treacherous, and unstedfast 243in their covenant with God. But if ever there come to be sincere covenanting, it must come from their setting of their hope in God as the “God of all grace;” as the God “rich in mercy;” to whom, as such, (each must say,) “I do, through his Christ, adjoin my soul, and tell him, Here I will live; here I will die; I am come to this point, brought to thee by the invitation of thine own word and gospel. It hath bid me repent and believe, and required me to yield myself to God, and to take God for mine. I do all this upon the warrant of, and in obedience to, the authority of the law of grace, that supreme, that benign law.” This is that which makes the soul stedfast; brings it to a point; now it finds this is a work that will hold, when the soul is setting its hope in God, and unites itself by covenant with him.

And so much with reference to that first objection, which served me to introduce these sundry things, which I hope will be of use to those that consider them.

Objection 2. But, in the second place, it may be further objected: If hope,—the hope of being saved, will have such an influence upon conversion in order thereunto, how comes it to pass, that when the most do so generally profess an hope of being saved, yet so few are converted hereby? Is hope like to have such an influence upon conversion in order to salvation, when we find that men do very gene rally hope to be saved, and have very great hope of being saved; yet many of them (the greater part of them it may be) are never converted?

Answer. To that there are some things to be said, also, that it may be of equal use to us, to understand and consider. As,

1. Therefore it is, that many hope to be saved who are never converted by their hope, because they do maim the object of their hope; that is, whereas they should hope first to be converted, and then, secondly, so to be saved, they hope to be saved without being converted. And so one great part of the object of their nope is left out; and their hope, therefore, is not only not subservient, but is obstructive to their conversion; and so, consequently, to their salvation too. It doth (I say) not only subserve it, but hinders it. They hope they shall be saved,—that they make the abstract and separate object of their hope, excluding and shutting out from that salvation all considerations of the sanctity, the purity, the holiness, which the conversion, that they should conjoin therewith, carries in 244it. And this doth not only not help, but hinders both their conversion and salvation. It doth not help it, because the hope of being saved without it is never likely to make them look after being converted. And it hinders it, because it cannot but provoke God to keep at a distance from them, and move his displeasure to the highest against them; for they do in this kind 6f hope, not only not hope according to his word, but they hope against it, so as that their very hope is the giving him and his word the lie; the worst and most provoking thing that can be thought. Their very hope is saying to themselves, “Peace, peace,” though they walk after the imaginations of their own hearts; though they never alter their course, and though their hearts be never changed, yet they shall have peace. This (I say) is to give the lie to the divine truth, and the word of his truth; and so carries in it matter of the highest provocation; as that scripture expresseth it, “If any man think” and speak, though it be but in his own heart, though he do but mutter it inwardly, though he do but whisper it to himself, “I shall have peace though I walk in me way of my own heart, and after the imagination of my own heart, to add drunkenness to thirst;” to add the act of sin to the desire of sinning. Deut. xxix. 18, 19. My jealousy shall smoke against that man, (though he doth not speak out, though he doth but say it in heart,) for he doth me the greatest injury in his heart imaginable; his conceptions of me are ignominious; he makes me an impure deity, that will give peace to him that walketh on in his wicked ways; so that I should not only be reconciled to him in his wicked way, but I am supposed to be reconcileable to his wickedness, to that wicked way in which he walketh. I am supposed untrue to myself; he makes me a foolish deity, that all the threats and menaces that are in my word against daring, insolent sinners, are only indeed terrica lamenta, bug-bears, to frighten children and fools with; therefore (saith he) my jealousy shall smoke against that man; I will not spare him, I mean to paradigmatize such a man as this, and to let all the world know, by the severity of my vengeance against such an one, that I am what he did not think me to be, a true, a holy, a just, and jealous God. That hope that men have of being saved without ever being converted, or turned to God through Christ, and breaking off from the way of sin, it is of this import, as you have heard. It carries this secret aspect and language in it, so detracting, so reproaching and ignominious to the true, and holy, and 245jealous God. And therefore it is not to be thought strange, if men have such an hope as this, and it never doth them good. They will never be the better for it; it never makes them good men in this world, nor happy in the other. And then,

Answer 2. Besides this horrid maim and flaw, which is in the object of their hope, (separating therefrom what should be conjoined therewith,) there is an equally great defect in their very hope itself, which makes it not strange, that it should not have an influence into their conversion: for, if the matter should be examined, what are these men’s hopes? It resolves into this; to wit, it is nothing else, but only no fear; it is a negative hope, and no positive thing; an hope that consists in nothing else, but only not fearing. They find they do not fear their being miserable, and that is all. It is very true, indeed, there is nothing that is more common language in the profanest mouths, than that form of asseveration, as they hope to be saved. But let the meaning of those very words be examined and inquired into, and it dwindles into nothing:—Hope to be saved? What do you mean by this hoping to be saved? Let the matter be but grasped, do but grasp at it, and you find this hope signifies nothing but only no fear. There is many an one with whom, in reference to many things there is neither fear nor hope; and it is so here: as from a country that is either merely imaginary, or that you know nothing of, you never hope for good, or fear any evil from thence. You are equally void of any hope, or of any fear, who doth either hope any good, or fear any evil from an Utopian land? This is the case with most of these confident persons, that will briskly say, upon all occasions, As I hoped to be saved, it is so and so. And what is this hope to be saved? It is only their no fear to be damned. It is true they have no fear of being damned; and this no fear they call hope, as if nothing must signify something. This is the plain state of the case; that hope that is to influence salvation, and, in order thereunto, conversion must be a real, active, vigorous principle in the soul; not a mere nullity, not a nonentity,—as no fear is,—never to fear is.

But you will say, Where lies the difference between these things? I answer, it is manifold and vast. As,

1. As to the positive hope that there should be, it is grounded in faith; but this (no fear) is grounded in infidelity; that is grounded in religion, this is grounded in atheism and irreligion,. A vast difference! He that seriously 246hopes, hopes because he believes the word of God is true, and that such and such things have a real foundation there; and because he hath an inward reverence and adoration of God; and therefore, upon such and such discoveries of him as he is pleased to make of himself, and the impression on his heart suitably, there is a temperament in the soul towards him, made up of reverence and love, with some kind of dependence and trust. This is all founded in faith, and in religious sentiments; but this same [no fear] is founded in nothing but atheism and irreligion; they have no fear of that which they really believe is nothing, or they think will never be. And then again,

2. This [no fear] is nothing, whereas this hope that is required is a most positive thing, a principle of great liveliness, vigour, and activity, in its own sphere. That which is nothing can work nothing, effect nothing, in order to conversion or salvation. And again,

3. This [no fear] may signify nothing at all more than only the soul’s unconcernedness for any such matter; whereas, real hope signifies its great concernedness, its deep intention of mind and thought about such things. There is nothing does more intend a man’s thoughts towards any thing than real hope doth; but this [no fear] may signify his not minding any such concernments at all; his being totally unconcerned about them. So it may in many things, in which one apprehends himself to have no real interest one way or other, and so, accordingly, is in the temper of his mind indifferent in reference to such things. There are many such concernments of which we are totally ignorant, have no real knowledge or thought; the concernments of some remote countries, at the utter most ends of the earth, which we know nothing of, under stand nothing of their affairs; we are accordingly altogether unconcerned what is done there, and utterly without the exercise of hope or fear, as to the events of things among them. But it is not so with us in reference to the concernments that are under our notice. There is nobody so indifferent m reference to France, Germany, Flanders, and Savoy, as to the occurrences there, and in the conclave, and nearer home in Ireland. There is nobody that useth thought in those things that is so unconcerned about them, but that there will be various agitations of hope and fear this way; and that, according to the aspect of things among us, nobody can be supposed so indifferent among us, mat there should be, in reference to these 247things, neither hope nor fear. But every one, according to the wish and inclination of his own mind, hath his hope or his fear variously stirring in him thereunto. But it is possible there may be a total vacancy of fear where there is no concern at all. And as there is no fear, so there is no hope; that is, the things are never minded, never thought of.

And this is the true state of the case with the most in reference to the concernments of another world, as if it were a mere Utopia. They have, in reference thereunto, nothing of hope or of fear, but lie all their days in a stupid dream. And these are the persons, I confess, about whom I have the least hope, and the most fear; to wit, they who in reference to the concerns of their own souls, have neither hope nor fear; but lie in a drowsy sleep all their time, and dream away all their days; and whereas they talk of hoping to be saved, that hope is nothing else but only a not being afraid to perish, because they apprehend no danger, because they have nullified to themselves the great objects of hope and fear.

This, therefore, doth not signify the no influence of hope, but it signifies only the inefficacy, or no influence of no hope; for that hope is no hope which they miscall by that name. The most that they can make of it is, that it is no fear; but, as it is no fear, so it is no hope neither; that is, there is a vacancy equal both of hope and fear; and nothing makes their case more deplorable than this, that they are likely to perish even while there is hope, for want of hope. And this is the forlorn, dismal state of many that live under the gospel; they cannot hope without the intention of hope; there can be no rational or human hope, much less that hope that reaches to the pitch of common grace; without the intention of thought, their thoughts will not be engaged; and one day passeth with them after another, and not a serious thought taken up, Shall I be saved, or shall I perish? What will become of me when I die?

But I hope it is not generally so with you. It would be very sad if it were; when you hear so many Lord’s days together, one after another, so much of salvation; one comes and preacheth to you upon that great question, “Are there few that shall be saved?” and another comes and preacheth to you upon that expostulatory passage, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” and a third, he comes and preacheth to you upon this assertion, “We are saved by hope:” nothing but being saved, 248nothing but salvation, rings in your ears from one Lord’s day to another. And it will be an amazing thing, if, after all this, we have no concernment about being saved; so that we find no room, no place for the exercise of hope or fear; hope of being saved, or fear of perishing by not being saved.

But if the true import of the word salvation were under stood, and received into our souls, it would make work among us; it would find us exercise either for hope or fear; when we have so much spoken of salvation as we find in scripture; and when the name of the Son of God is signalized to us, and celebrated among us as a Saviour, (he shall be called Jesus, for he shall be a Saviour to save his people from their sins,) why, every one that would but use his understanding, would say, What doth this word signify? What is the meaning of all this talk of salvation? of a Saviour, and of being saved; what doth it signify? It plainly signifies that all this world is likely to be shortly in a great flame, and that the Judge is at the door; that hell will shortly swallow up all a whole world of ungodly men, except that residue that shall be caught up in the clouds, to meet their Redeemer in the air, and so to be for ever with the Lord. And if we would but allow the word salvation its true import and significancy, it would be far from us to be without hope, in reference to being saved. And then we should come to understand somewhat of the significancy and of the influence of this hope, the hope of salvation, in order to our conversion first, and then to our salvation itself in the final state.

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