The Advantages of a State of Expectation
Lamentations 3:26-36
It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.…

Our incapacity of looking into the future has much to do with the production of disquietude and unhappiness. Under the present dispensation we must calculate on probabilities; and our calculations, when made with the best care and forethought, are often proved faulty by the result. And if we could substitute certainty for probability, and thus define, with a thorough accuracy, the workings of any proposed plan, it is evident that we might be saved a vast amount both of anxiety and of disappointment. Yet when we have admitted that want of acquaintance with the future gives rise to much both of anxiety and of disappointment, we are prepared to argue that the possession of this acquaintance would be incalculably more detrimental. If we could know beforehand whatever is to happen, we should, in all probability, be unmanned and enervated; so that an arrest would be put on the businesses of life by previous acquaintance with their several successes. We shall endeavour to prove, by the simplest reasoning, that it is for our advantage as Christians that salvation, in place of being a thing of certainty and present possession, must be hoped and quietly waited for by believers. We can readily suppose an opposite arrangement. We can imagine that, as soon as a man were justified, he might be translated to blessedness, and that thus the gaining the title, and the entering on possession, might be always contemporary. But the possibility of the arrangement, and its goodness, are quite different questions; and whilst we see that it might have been ordered, that the justified man should at once be translated, we can still believe it good that he "both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord." Our text speaks chiefly of the goodness to the individual himself; but it will be lawful first to consider the arrangement as fraught with advantage to human society. We must all perceive that, if true believers were withdrawn from earth at the instant of their becoming such, the influences of piety, which now make themselves felt through the mass of a population, would be altogether destroyed, and the world be deprived of that salt which alone preserves it from total decomposition. Whilst the contempt and hatred of the wicked follow incessantly the professors of godliness, and the enemies of Christ, if ability were commensurate with malice, would sweep from the globe all knowledge of the Gospel, we venture to assert that the unrighteous owe the righteous a debt of obligation not to be reckoned up; and that it is mainly because the required ten are still found in the cities of the plain that the fire showers are suspended. And time given for the warding off by repentance the doom. Over and above this, it is undeniable that the presence of a pious man in the neighbourhood will tell greatly on its character; and that, in variety of instances, his withdrawment would be followed by wilder outbreakings of profligacy. It is, however, the goodness of the arrangement to the individual himself which seems chiefly contemplated by the prophet. Now, under this point of view, our text is simpler at first sight than when rigidly examined. We can see at once that there is a spiritual discipline in the hoping and waiting, which can scarcely fail to improve greatly the character of the Christian. We take the case, for example, of a man who, at the age of thirty, is enabled, through the operations of grace, to look in faith to the Mediator. By this looking in faith the man is justified: a justified man cannot perish; and if, therefore, the individual died at thirty, he would "sleep in Jesus." But, after being justified, the man is left thirty years upon earth — years of care. and toil, and striving with sin — and during these years he hopes and waits for salvation. At length he obtains salvation; and thus, at the close of thirty years, takes possession of an inheritance to which his title was clear at the beginning. Now, wherein can lie the advantageousness of this arrangement? We think that no fair explanation can be given of our text, unless you bring into the account the difference in the portions to be assigned hereafter to the righteous. We bring before you, therefore, as a comment on our text, words such as these of the apostle: "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." We consider that when you set the passages in juxtaposition, the working power, ascribed by one to affliction, gives satisfactory account of the goodness attributed by the other to the hoping and waiting. We are here, in every sense, on a stage of probation; so that, having once been brought back from the alienations of nature, we are candidates for a prize, and wrestlers for a diadem. It is not the mere entrance into the kingdom for which we contend: the first instant in which we act faith on Christ as our propitiation, sees this entrance secured to us as justified beings. But, when justified, there is opened before us the widest field for a righteous ambition; and portions deepening in majesty, and heightening in brilliancy, rise on our vision, and animate to unwearied endeavour. We count it one of the glorious things of Christianity, that, in place of repressing, it gives full scope to all the ardour of man's spirit. It is common to reckon ambition amongst vices: and a vice it is, under its ordinary developments, with which Christianity wages interminable warfare. But, nevertheless, it is a staunch, and an adventurous, and an eagle-eyed thing: and it is impossible to gaze on the man of ambition, daunted not by disaster, wearied not by repulse, disheartened not by delay, without feeling that he possesses the elements of a noble constitution; and that, however, to be wept over for the prostitution of his energies, for the pouring out this mightiness of soul on the corrupt and the perishable, he is equipped with an apparatus of powers which need nothing but the being rightly directed, in order to the forming the very finest of characters. Christianity deals with ambition as a passion to be abhorred and denounced, whilst urging the warrior to carve his way to a throne, or the courtier to press on in the path of preferment. But it does not cast out the elements of the passion. Why should it? They are the noblest which enter into the human composition, bearing most vividly the impress of man's original formation. Christianity seizes on these elements. She tells her subjects that the rewards of eternity, though all purchased by Christ, and none merited by man, shall be rigidly proportioned to their works. She tells them that there are places of dignity, and stations of eminence, and crowns with more jewellery, and sceptres with more sway, in that glorious Empire which shall finally be set up by the Mediator. And she bids them strive for the loftier recompense. She would not have them contented with the lesser portion, though infinitely outdoing human imagination as well as human desert. And if ambition be the walking with the staunch step, and the single eye, and the untired zeal, and all in pursuit of some longed for superiority, Christianity saith not to the man of ambition, lay aside thine ambition: Christianity hath need of the staunch step, and the single eye, and the unfired zeal; and she therefore sets before the man pyramid rising above pyramid in glory, throne above throne, palace above palace; and she sends him forth into the moral arena to wrestle for the loftiest though unworthy of the lowest. There would seem nothing wanting to the completeness of this argument, unless it be proof of what has been all along assumed, namely, that the being compelled to hope and to wait is a good moral discipline, so that the exercises prescribed are calculated to promote holiness, and, therefore, to insure happiness. We have perhaps only shown the advantageousness of delay; whereas the text asserts the advantageousness of certain acts of the soul Yet this discrepancy between the thing proved, and the thing to be proved, is too slight to require a lengthened correction. It is the delay which makes salvation a thing of hope, and that which I am obliged to hope for, I am, of course, obliged to wait for; and thus, whatever of beneficial result can be ascribed to the delay may, with equal fitness, be ascribed to the hoping and waiting. Besides, hope and patience — for it is not the mere waiting which is asserted to be good; it is the quietly waiting; and this quiet waiting is but another term for patience — hope and patience are two of the most admirable of Christian graces, and he who cultivates them assiduously, cannot well be neglectful of the rest.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.

WEB: It is good that a man should hope and quietly wait for the salvation of Yahweh.

The Advantage of Hoping and Waiting for the Salvation of God
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