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THE CHRISTIAN'S HOPE.
CHRISTIANS are distinguished by the possession of a peculiar hope: they have a hope in them. It is not the possession of hope generally that distinguishes Christians from the rest of mankind; for it would not be easy to fix on any characteristic that more certainly belongs to the whole race, than the capacity and disposition to anticipate with desire and delight future good. Unbelieving men are, indeed, said to "have no hope;" but it is the same way in which they are said to be "without God." They have hopes many, as they have gods many; though strangers to the true God, and to the hope which "maketh not ashamed." Human suffering would be often intolerable, were it not for the hope of deliverance. There is truth as well as beauty in the adage, If it were not for hope the heart would break; and even when happiest, it will be found that a very considerable portion of man's enjoyment arises, not from what he has, but for what he hopes for.
But as while all men believe as well as the Christian, he has his peculiar belief, which distinguishes him from all other men; so, while all men hope, the Christian has his peculiar hope, which equally distinguishes him from all other men-a hope of which he was once destitute, and of which he became possessed, when, by the faith of the truth, he became a Christian in the only true and proper sense of that word. That hope, thus obtained, is variously described in the New Testament. It is termed, "the hope of salvation""the hope of eternal life"-" the hope of the glory of God"—" the hope of the righteousness, or justification by faith."
Each of these terms is full of meaning. It is "the hope of salvation;" that is, of deliverance from evil, both physical and moral, in all its forms and degrees for ever. It is the hope of eternal life;" that is, not merely of immortal existence, but of an eternity, of what constitutes the life of life, true happiness—a happiness suited to all our various capacities of enjoyment, filling these capacities to an overflow; a happiness pervading their whole nature throughout un-ending duration. It is "the hope of the glory of God." The glory of God, in this expression, seems equivalent to the approbation of God. Men have sinned and lost God's approbation. They are not, they cannot be, the objects of his approbation. They are the objects of his judicial displeasure, of his deep moral disapprobation. Little as sinful men think of it, this is the sum and substance of their misery; and the removal of this, and restoration to his favour, are at once absolutely necessary, and completely sufficient, to make them happy. The Christian's hope is a hope that he shall ultimately be just what God would have him to be, perfectly holy, perfectly happy, in intimate relation, in com
plete conformity to God; that the eye of his Father in heaven shall yet rest on him with entire moral complacency, and his word pronounce him, as a part of his completed new creation, very good. It is "the hope of the righteousness," or justification " by faith;" that is, not that it is the hope of obtaining justification by faith, for that is, as it were, the fundamental blessing of Christianity—not a benefit to be conferred at some future period. Justification by faith is something that the Christian possesses already. It is not one of the blessings of salvation of which the apostle speaks, when he says, "We are saved by hope;" that is, our salvation is yet future-ours, not in possession, though in sure prospect. The hope of the justification by faith, is the hope that grows out of justification by faith; the hope which only the justified by faith can cherish: "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom also we have access to that grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." Such are some of the Scriptural designations of this hope.
Now let us inquire a little more particularly, what are its objects?
The Christian is "confident that He who has begun the good work" in him, "will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ; that he will "preserve him from every evil work, unto his heavenly kingdom;" that he will make his " grace sufficient" for him; "strengthen him with all might, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;" supply all his need according to his glorious riches; that he will "never leave him, never forsake him;" that he will make "all things work together for his good;" and even his afflictions, however severe and long-continued, to "work out for him a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;" he hopes that Christ will be magnified in his body, whether by life or by death. And he has hope in death—hope after death. He hopes that, when his spirit becomes "absent from the body," it will become " present with the Lord;" being with him where he is, and, beholding and sharing his glory, mingling with "the innumerable company of angels, and with the spirits of just men made perfect;" being "before the throne of God, and serving him day and night in his temple," while "He who sits on the throne dwells among them." And they "hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither does the sun light on them, nor any heat: for the Lamb, who is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and lead them to fountains of living waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." And his "flesh also rests in hope." His hope is the hope of the resurrection to life: "the blessed hope of the glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ." He looks for him from heaven, to "change his vile body, and fashion it like unto his own glorious body.' He hopes that "this corruptible shall put on incorruption; this mortal shall put on immortality: that what "is sown in corruption, shall be raised in incorruption;"
what "is sown in dishonour, shall be raised in glory;" what "is sown in weakness, shall be raised in power;" what "is sown a natural body, shall be raised a spiritual body." He is looking for him to come the second time without sin unto salvation;" and his hope is, that "when he shall appear, he shall appear with him in glory;" being "like him, seeing him as he is.' He is hoping for this "manifestation of the sons of God;" this "adoption, the redemption of the body;" and his final hope is, that body and soul "he shall for ever be with the Lord!"
Such is the hope of the Christian with regard to himself; and he cherishes the same hope in reference to all of his brethren in Christ. He hopes that Christ, who loved the Church, will, after having purified her by the washing of water through the Word, "present her to himself, as a bride adorned for her husband, a glorious Church, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing." He hopes for a 66 gathering together" of all the faithful at the coming of the Lord-he hopes, when the Lord descends from heaven, all the dead in Christ will rise; all the living in Christ will be changed; and that they will together be "caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air," and will "together be made perfect."
The Christian, too, has characteristic hopes concerning the cause and kingdom of his Lord. He hopes for its ultimate triumph over all its opposers, all the powers of darkness, all the forms of evil, ignorance, error, superstition, fanaticism, and idolatry, in all their endless diversities of false principles and depraved dispositions, which counter-work its benignant tendencies, and have hitherto rendered its progress so slow, and its influence so limited. He hopes for a period when the idols shall be utterly abolished, when "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord;" when "the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ;" when "men shall be blessed in him, and all nations call him blessed." Such is the Christian's hope.Brown's Expository Discourses, 1 Pet. iii., vol. ii., p. 233.
MAN THE OBJECT OF DIVINE SOLICITUDE
"The Lord thinketh upon me," PSA. xl. 17.
with his very thoughts:
"God's kindest thoughts are here express'd,
THE Bible is full of sublime and gra- | condescends to make us acquainted cious disclosures respecting God. It tells us of his boundless empire; of his attributes and perfections; of his purposes and intentions; of the threatenings he has pronounced upon the wicked; and of the promises he has addressed to those who fear his name. But the Bible goes still further even than this. In its inspired pages God
Able to make us wise and bless'd." We learn hence what are God's thoughts on some of the most interesting and solemn of all subjects. His thoughts about angels and about evil spirits; about life and death;
about the body and the soul; about sin and holiness; about heaven and hell; his thoughts about ourselves. The passage at the head of this article appears to set this interesting truth clearly before our minds-namely, that man is one of the subjects on which God thinks: "The Lord thinketh upon me."
Others have been oppressed with poverty, we have had food to eat, and raiment to put on; others have been neglected by their friends, and abandoned to the wintry blasts of this "cold world," we have had "all things richly to enjoy."
And if it be true that God has thought of us, it is equally true that
1st. God thinks of us as his dependant he thinks of us still. By day he procreatures. vides for the sustenance of our bodies, by night he sends his angels to watch around our beds: "He holds our souls
hour, every fleeting moment, the Lord thinketh upon us.
2nd. God thinks of us as his rebellious subjects.
All our life long we have been the objects of his unwearied care. He has "nourished and brought us up as chil-in life." Through every day, every dren." He thought of us in the tender years of infancy, when we lay upon a mother's knee, or slept in her arms. He supplied the nourishment which sustained our life. He gave strength to our feeble limbs, and the power of utterance to our infant lips, and light to our opening minds. He thought of us in the days of childhood. In the slippery paths of youth his hand upheld us. From all the diseases that threatened, and all the dangers that surrounded, he delivered us: "He redeemed our life from destruction." He thought of us in the maturer years of manhood. He surrounded us with those influences which were favourable to our securing station and character in life. He gave that degree of success which may have attended our schemes of business and of trade. He overruled and directed the formation of our friendships, and of those connections which have imparted so much sweetness to our earthly cup, and strewn so many delights on our path through this land of change and of death: "The lines have fallen to us in pleasant places," through his appointment; and because he has thought of us, "we have a goodly heritage."
If we have right views of ourselves, we must confess that we did not deserve to be thought of by God at all. For although we are indebted for every blessing to his love, and for our existence itself to his care, we have forgotten him; we have not acknowledged him in all our ways; he has not been in all our thoughts; we have withheld from him our affection and services, and have bestowed them upon other and worthless objects; nay, we have ourselves become the enemies of God by wicked works. If, therefore, we deserved to be remembered at all, it was not in a way of mercy, but of wrath; nevertheless "to the Lord belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him." He not only heals our diseases, but forgives our iniquities. In our low estate we were not forgotten by him who alone could effectually relieve us: "He remembered us." He had thoughts respecting us: Thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to bring us to the expected end." He thought of us, and
resolved to afford us at least the oppor tunity of escape and recovery; he thought of us, and gave up his only Son, that he might "suffer for sins, EX the just for the unjust, to bring us to God;" he thought of us, and communicated his Spirit, to "work in us to will and to do of his good pleasure;" he thought of us, and inspired his servants to write his Word, or commissioned them to preach his gospel. Thus we are pointed to his tender concern for our welfare, and urged to return to his service and to repose in his love. Oh! who can contemplate the plan of salvation as it is set before us in the volume of Divine grace, and not be convinced of the truth, and feel the applicability of the Psalmist's language: "The Lord thinketh upon
"His hand preserved us safely through, And made us more than conquerors too."
In the exercise of these thoughts towards his children God delights. He loves to remember and to bless those who put their trust in him. If the father, in the parable of the prodigal, could so remember and forgive the son who had disobeyed and dishonoured him, as to recognise him when he was yet a great way of, and with all a father's eager affection hasten towards him, throw himself into his arms, and fold him to his heart; if an apostle could cherish such regard towards those who, through his ministry, had been brought to the fold of Christ, as to affirm, "I have no greater joy than to see my children walking in the truth;" and if angels take so deep an
3rd. God thinks of us as his confiding interest in the welfare of man that children.
Not only as those who are dependent for life on his bounty and care; not only as those who have rebelled against his authority, and deserved his wrath: but as those who have returned to him, reposing our confidence and fixing our love upon him. What ample illustration does every Christian's experience afford of this delightful truth! In our blindness and ignorance; in our helplessness and exposure to temptation; with our foolish and sinful preferences; how certainly and irrecoverably must we have fallen, if God had not remembered us! When temptations have assailed, when perplexities have embarrassed, when cares have distressed, he has thought of us, and communicated those supplies of grace, wisdom, and consolation, which enabled us to "stand in the evil day :"
their benevolent natures rejoice over their conversion to God, so that there is new joy in their presence, and new melody in their songs, when they see a sinner repenting; what must be the holy satisfaction with which our Father, who is in heaven, beholds his plans fulfilled and his pleasure prospering in the hands of Christ, when he sees those for whom he gave up his Son to suffering and death, restored, indeed, to his likeness, and cleaving to him with full purpose of heart! It is then that God loves most especially to think of us, when he sees in us the result of Christ's agency, and the fruit of the Spirit's work.
What a source of encouragement is opened in these words! How animating the assurance that God is always thinking of us-thinking of us to do us good; to help, to comfort, to bless us with all spiritual blessings. Does it