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With Isaiah we must lament, while casting our eyes over the moral world, that, “darkness covers the earth, and gross darkness the people.”
With what fervency then should true believers supplicate for the promised out-pouring of the Holy Spirit, who alone can enlighten the understanding, and guide the wretched slave to Jesus Christ for spiritual redemption.
Too many, it is to be feared, seek their knowledge from human sources, rather than from the fountain of divine wisdom. The writings of good men may be lawfully used as little rills flowing from the sacred fountain of inspiration ; but woe be to that church or people, who substitute them for the blessed spring itself. It is a never-failing mark of a fallen church, when human traditions or human systems are raised above, made equal with, or set in opposition to, the revealed word of God.
The Bible is the grand depository of every truth that is necessary to be known, believed, and practised in order to eternal salvation. But even the Holy Bible itself is but a dead letter without a spiritual discernment of its doctrines, and a spiritual relish for its precepts.
“The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him ; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
But, says the apostle, “God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”
How affectionately did St. Paul pray for the Ephesian converts, that God "would give unto them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; that the eyes of their understanding being enlightened, they might know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.
Many professing Christians would be at a loss to give a reason of the hope that is in them. They tell us indeed that God is merciful; that they trust to Jesus Christ; that they do the best they can, and want to injure no one; and therefore hope that all will end well at the last; though they do not pretend to so much religion as some people, who are perhaps no better than others, notwithstanding their preciseness and apparent sanctity of character.
This is a creed which satisfies the consciences of thousands, while their affections are glued to the world, and the love of Christ is a stranger to their hearts. Such persons have no sublime views of the Christian hope. A mist of ignorance rests upon it, which obscures its glory and damps its joy:
Lord, give me, through the teaching of thy Spirit, a sweet realizing view of this blessed hope, which bears up thy people under all their trials, and enables them to glorify thee, even in the fires.
The hope of the believer in Jesus, flows from the free, sovereign love of Almighty God; therefore it is called “a good hope through grace;" “good," because it issues from the fountain of goodness : " through grace," because it originates solely in unmerited mercy.
This hope rests upon an immoveable foundation, even on the divinity and atonement of Jesus Christ, who is called by the Spirit of Truth, 66 our hope;" because all our hope of salvation is treasured up in him, and flows from him. All who possess this hope, have Christ dwelling in their hearts by faith ; therefore, says the apostle, “Christ in you, the hope of glory." The Spirit of Christ is the earnest and seal of future glory, and abides in the hearts of all the faithful in Christ Jesus.
But how are we to know when we truly possess this hope of glory? St. John informs us: “Every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself,
even as God is pure."
It is therefore a holy principle, sanctifying and cleansing the soul. He, who has the hope of dwelling with Christ in glory, cannot delight in the service of Satan, or in the pleasures of sin. They are an offence unto him. Το live in sin, whilst professing to enjoy the hope of glory, forms an indisputable mark of hypocrisy, or self-delusion.
Oh! with what jealous care should real Christians watch against those destructive tenets, which under the cloak of evangelical doctrines would break down the barrier of Gospel holiness, and let in the wild boar of the wood, to trample under foot the sacred ground of Zion. “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him."
The believer who is taught from above, well knows that sin separates between him and his God; and prevents the communication of his gracious beamings on the soul.
He therefore hates and loathes this infinite evil. He lorgs for more of his Saviour's presence and love; and mourns over every corruption of his nature, and every contracted defilement, of which his heart is made conscious.
Knowing what numberless deviations from the holy law of God, his Saviour's eye beholds continually in his daily walk and conversation : he lifts up the prayer of David with self-abasement: “cleanse thou me from my secret faults.”
He pants after that blessed period, when sin shall no longer rebel against the Spirit dwelling within him; and therefore, the “hope of glory," is to him a glorious hope, and makes him long to be dissolved, that he may be with Christ.
The Christian's hope is “a lively hope. It gives the believer vigour in running the race that is set before him. It animates him in his arduous
warfare. It enables him to endure with patience and fortitude, the rugged path through which he has to travel Zionward.
The Christian's hope is “full of immortality.” It traverses the valley of the shadow of death, and opens to his view the boundless prospect of eternal glory. It gathers by delightful anticipation, many a precious cluster of the grapes of Eshcol, and thus gives a foretaste of the joys of heaven.
The Christian's hope "maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in his heart, by the Holy Ghost which is given unto him.” It forms a divine evidence of his union to Christ. He can now say with St. Paul: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” He is not ashamed to confess Christ before men, as his only hope of glory. He can declare with humble confidence and heart-felt sincerity: “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”
The Christian's hope is “a helmet of salvation,” which covers his head in the day of battle, when the fiery darts of Satan are levelled against him. It is "an anchor of the soul,” both sure and stedfast, which preserves the tempest-tossed soul from being driven into the ocean of doubts and despondencies, or dashed against the rocks of presumption or despair.
Surely then it is a blessed hope." All who possess it are blessed. This made the apostle pray so sweetly for the Roman converts: “Now the God of hope, fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost."
Diligence and privilege are inseparately united by the wisdom of God. Hence St. Paul thus exhorts the Hebrews: “God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have
shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister; and we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end ; that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises."
Examine well, O! my soul, what is the hope of thy calling. Thou hast been, and art continually called by the outward preaching of the word; but here is the turning point; hast thou been drawn to Christ by the inward, effectual call of the Holy Spirit?
To ascertain this important fact, enquire what is the nature of thy hope? Is it a good hope? a blessed hope ? a hope full of immortality ? Hast thou cast the anchor of hope within the veil? Hast thou put on the helmet of salvation ? Dost thou find thy hope to be a lively hope, animating and invigorating thy endeavours after the attainment of everlasting life? Does the hope which thou possessest, purify all thy affections? Is Jesus really dwelling in thee as the hope of glory? Art thou resting on him as the only foundation of hope? And, in the full assurance of this Christian hope, dost thou enjoy that peace which passeth understanding: that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory? If this be thy experience, then rejoice and be exceeding glad; for happy, unspeakably happy will be thy lot through the countless ages of eternity.
But oh! hast thou not reason to mourn over the little progress which thou hast made in the divine life, since the bright beams of grace first dawned upon thee? Thou knowest, blessed Lord, that I want to love thee more than I have ever yet done; yea, I want those unerring marks of real love, which never fail to prove it to be genuine. I want to feel a greater delight in prayer, to pour out my heart before thee with more childlike simplicity; to tell