THE CHRISTIAN HOPE.
I. "BELOVED, now are we the sons of God; and it does not yet
appear what we shall be, but we know that when he shall appear, we shall
be like him - that we shall see him as he is. And every one that has this
hope in him, purifies himself even as he is pure." - "God has predestinated
us to be conformed to the image off his Son." "I reckon that the sufferings
of this life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed
in us." "He hath begotten us again to a lively hope; to an inheritance
incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away." So testify three Apostles
- John, Paul, and Peter. The whole hope of the Christian may, indeed, be
summed up in one sentence; "If children, then heirs - heirs of God,
JOINT HEIRS WITH CHRIST." Immortality, eternal life, the riches
of Christ, the glory, honor, wealth, and bliss of God's only begotten Son
are to be equally participated with all his saints.
II. The remedial system is, therefore, a moral creation in progress - a new
creation of men unto good works, still advancing; but its termination will
be the stereotyping of individual moral excellence by an instantaneous physical
new creation of men at the resurrection of the just: or a manifestation of
the sons of God in full redemption from the whole entail of sin; raised,
refined, immortalized glorified, and invested with eternal life.
III. Hope differs from faith, in that it looks only forward to future objects.
It looks not back, nor does it contemplate the present: "for," says Paul,
"what a man sees, why does he yet hope for?" Nor looks it on all the future;
but only on future good. It desires and expects good and nothing else.
There is not one dark cloud, not one dark speck, in all the heavens of Christian
hope. Every thing seen in its wide dominions, in the unbounded prospect yet
before us, is bright, cheering, animating, transporting. It is all desirable
and desired. It is all expected. It is all "earnest expectation;" not a doubtful,
but a "confident expectation of things" desirable, and to be "hoped for."
IV. It is not what some in this age call "the hope," i. e., the desirable
expectancy of pardon of their past transgressions: for none but those who
are actually pardoned are the subjects of this hope. "If our heart condemn
us, then indeed, we have no confidence;" so no confident expectation, no
hope of eternal life. The mere possibility of an event is no foundation of
hope. Hope deals not in possibilities, nor indeed much in probabilities -
unless they are very strong probabilities. Conjectures, peradventures,
possibilities, probabilities, are not of the essence of Christian hope. It
rests on covenants, charters, promises, oaths, tendered by the Eternal Source
of almighty truth and love. These are good securities; and produce assurance.
Hence, hope is the assurance of future good in expectation.
V. There are, indeed, various degrees of hope; but in the least degree of
it there is desire combined with expectation. Things expected are not always
desirable, nor are things desirable always to be expected: but hope embraces
promises that are desirable, and also expects the enjoyment of them. Hence,
hope, like faith and love, may grow exceedingly. When based on the promises
of God, and on an habitual patient conformity to his will, it will keep pace
with our growing intelligence of the character of God; of the fulness and
richness of the promises, and in the persuasion of our actual devotion to
the manifestations of that will.
VI. But the things hoped for by the Christian are beyond description.
Eye, indeed, has not seen, ear has not heard, the human heart has not conceived
the glories of the resurrection of the just; - the new bodies, the new heavens,
the new earth, the new Jerusalem, the new society, the new pleasures: for
according to his promise we look for (expect) new heavens and new earth in
which righteous persons alone shall dwell. Thus terminates the remedial system
on all its happy subjects. "It lifts the beggar from the dust, and the wretched
from the dunghill, and sets them among princes, amongst the nobles of the
universe;" the thrones, hierarchies, and lordships of the skies; in the presence
of God, too, "where there is fulness of joy, and at his right hand, where
there are pleasures forever more." Such are the things to be done for those,
for whom such things have already been done as constitute the remedial system:
for with Paul we must say: "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered
him up to the death for us all; how shall he not with him also freely give
us all things?" "All things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas,
or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all
are yours; and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's."