For in this hope we were saved; but hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he can already see?
I. HOPE IS EXERCISED ON THE UNSEEN. What we see is here before us; what we hope for is still in the future - the invisible womb of time. Faith and hope are inseparable companions; where the former is, the latter is nigh. Hope is faith in the attitude of looking towards better things to come. It vividly pictures the approaching glory, and is "the present enjoyment of future good." Christian hope is not a mirage that mocks the heart, but is surely grounded on the work of Christ, who has revealed the character of God and his far-reaching purpose of love. Many a man depending on high expectations has found them baseless; the legacy is absent, the coveted post is given to another. When the sceptic talks of a bird in the hand being preferable to two in the bush, we reply that by the very nature of the case Christian anticipation is precluded from being satisfied with the temporal. "We look for new heavens and a new earth."
II. HOPE DRIVES OUT DESPAIR, THE FOE OF PATIENCE. Where despondency grows, there activity ceases. What means that sudden splash, that piercing cry, except that life has been quenched because the light of hope had vanished first? The gospel, by its promise of a free pardon for the penitent sinner, rolls away the burden from the back, enables the criminal to take heart of grace, and to exchange the dungeon of dreary fate for the glad sunlight of a new lease of endeavour after righteousness. There is a danger of succumbing to the weariness of the long Christian journey, but hope grasps the future and draws us thereto. Hopeful, in the 'Pilgrim's Progress,' had much ado to keep his brother's head above the water; but he comforted him saying, "Brother, I see the gate, and men standing by to receive us."
"Hope, like the glimmering taper's light, III. HOPE FITS THE SOUL FOR ITS FUTURE ARENA OF GLORY. For every state certain qualifications are requisite, if we would play a proper part therein. Dr. Johnson would like due notice of Burke's visits, that he might prepare himself for the lofty conversation certain to ensue. The young lady prepares herself for the engagements of society, and to acquit herself gracefully on her presentation at court. It is the hope of after-practice that inspires the labour of the student barristers and doctors. The necessary waiting is a beneficial discipline testing perseverance and fidelity. The disciple of Christ can abstain from worldly indulgences because of more cherished longings. He will not barter away his birthright even though faint with hunger. "Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself." Hope is the great engine of progress and reformation. Israel under Ezra could ratify a covenant of amendment, because "there was hope for Israel concerning this thing." - S.R.A.
III. HOPE FITS THE SOUL FOR ITS FUTURE ARENA OF GLORY. For every state certain qualifications are requisite, if we would play a proper part therein. Dr. Johnson would like due notice of Burke's visits, that he might prepare himself for the lofty conversation certain to ensue. The young lady prepares herself for the engagements of society, and to acquit herself gracefully on her presentation at court. It is the hope of after-practice that inspires the labour of the student barristers and doctors. The necessary waiting is a beneficial discipline testing perseverance and fidelity. The disciple of Christ can abstain from worldly indulgences because of more cherished longings. He will not barter away his birthright even though faint with hunger. "Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself." Hope is the great engine of progress and reformation. Israel under Ezra could ratify a covenant of amendment, because "there was hope for Israel concerning this thing." - S.R.A.
For we are saved by hope.Romans 5:1). The original should be rendered "in hope." Believers are saved by faith and in hope. At this present moment believers are saved, and in a sense completely. They are entirely saved from the guilt of sin, from its defilement, its reigning power, and its penalty. Yet we are conscious that there is something more than this to be had. There is salvation in a larger sense, which as yet we see not; for at the present moment we find ourselves in this tabernacle, groaning because we are burdened. We have not yet attained, but are pressing on.
I. THE OBJECT OF THIS HOPE.
1. Our own absolute perfection. We have set our faces towards holiness, and by God's grace we will never rest till we attain it.
2. The redemption of the body (vers. 10, 11), to consort with our purified spirit.
3. Our eternal inheritance (ver. 17).
4. The glory which shall be revealed in us (ver. 18) tells us which is "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
5. "The glorious liberty of the children of God."
6. "The manifestation of the sons of God." Here we are hidden away in Christ as gems in a casket; by and by we are to be revealed as jewels in a crown.
II. THE NATURE OF THIS HOPE.
1. It consists of three things.(1) Our hope of being delivered from sin as to our soul, and infirmity as to our body, arises out of a solemn assurance that it shall be so. This is our belief because Christ is risen and glorified, and we are one with Him.(2) This also we desire at all times, but especially when we get a glimpse of Christ.(3) This desire is accompanied with confident expectation. Thus our hope is not a hazy, groundless wish that things may turn out all right.
2. It is grounded upon the Word of God, the faithfulness of God, and His power to carry out His own promise, and therefore it is a hope most sure and steadfast, which maketh no man ashamed who hath it.
3. It is wrought in us by the Spirit of God. Ungodly men have no such hope.
4. It operates in us in a holy manner. "He that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself." It makes us feel that it is a shame for princes of the blood imperial of the skies to dabble in the mire like children of the gutter.
III. THE ANTICIPATORY POWER OF THIS HOPE. We obtained the first part of salvation by faith. But, besides this, we have in hope the fuller range of salvation. How is this?
1. Hope saw it all secured by the promise of grace. Knowing that the whole of the promise is of equal certainty, hope expected the future mercy as surely as faith enjoyed the present blessing.
2. Hope saw the full harvest in the firstfruits. When the Holy Spirit came to dwell in the body, hope concluded that the body would be delivered as surely as the soul.
3. Hope is so sure about this coming favour that she reckons it as obtained. You get an advice from a merchant beyond sea: he says, "I have procured the goods you have ordered, and will send them by the next vessel." The deed is done that makes them yours. So it is with heaven. I have advices from One whom I cannot doubt that He has gone to heaven to prepare a place for me, and that He will come again and receive me to Himself. The apostle is so sure of it that he even triumphs in it (ver. 37).
IV. THE PROPER SPHERE OF HOPE. "Hope that is seen is not hope, for what a man seeth why doth he yet hope for?"
1. A Christian's real possession is not what he sees. Suppose God prospers him and he has riches: let him be grateful, but let him confess that these are not his treasures. One hour with the Lord Jesus Christ will bring more satisfaction to the believer than the largest measure of wealth.
2. But it is clear that we do not at present enjoy these glorious things for which we hope. The worldling cries, "Where is your hope?" and we confess that we do not see the objects of our hope. For instance, we could not claim to be altogether perfect, but we believe that we shall be perfected. By no means is our body free from infirmity, yet our firm conviction is that we shall bear the image of the heavenly.
3. Away, then, with judging by what you do, or see, or feel, or are. Rise into the sphere of the things which shall be. When there is no joy in the present, there is an infinite joy in the future.
V. THE EFFECT OF THIS HOPE. "Then do we with patience wait for it." We wait, but not as criminals for execution, but as a bride for the wedding. The joy is sure to come, therefore do not complain and murmur, as though God had missed His appointment.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. IT REVIVES.
1. While despondency benumbs, hope sends a thrill of life through every fibre of our being. If, e.g., you tell a sick man that he has no chance of recovery, how rapidly he sinks; but if you tell him there is hope, he revives, the blood circulates through his veins with a vigour which all the medicines in the world cannot inspire. Take the case of Hezekiah (Isaiah 38.).
2. Transfer this to the spiritual. Look at a man who is struggling with evil around and within him. If you make him believe that it can never be subdued, paralysis and death settle upon his energies. But if, in moments of depression, you meet him with instances of success, and show him that the work must succeed, you inspire him with life. How often hope revived St. Paul we know. The hope of his calling, the hope of salvation, the hope of Israel, the hope of the glory of God, the hope that his work would yet bear fruit, that blessed hope, the glorious reappearing of Christ, in his moments of depression, came to him like inspirations from heaven. Had they had no power, the world would have borne a very different look. It is the same with ourselves. Take the hope of forgiveness, the hope of heaven breathes life into the dullest. And when sorrowing for those we have lost, that which reconciles us to the will of God and sends us back to duty is the hope that they are as the angels.
II. IT SUSTAINS. It is the principal cause of success. In those who watch by the sick this is evident. How it sustains through long nights of weary watching, and enables them to make sacrifice after sacrifice! Without hope, again, who could endure the myriad anxieties of life? Or look at the advocates of an unpopular cause. How hope sustains them! That of St. Paul and his companions is a case in point. To their heart and hand hope gave courage, labour, patience.
III. IT INCITES TO ACTIVE ENDEAVOUR. If we wish to incite children to diligence, we use hope. It incites the student, the workman, the merchant, the soldier, the sailor, the artist, the statesman. Hope, in fact, is the great mover of the human mind. The hope of doing good is the inspiration of our noblest deeds. The hope of subduing our evils, and of being transformed into the image of Christ, incites us to struggle against them.
IV. IT PURIFIES. "Every man that hath this hope purifies himself even as He is pure." Conclusion:
1. This hope is Divine, God is the God of hope — its object, its source. The hopes by which men are revived, sustained, or incited, are not their own. They are inspired by the Holy Ghost. And what solidity is here given to our hopes as believers, as citizens of heaven! Their mere existence is a pledge of their reality and truth.
2. The gospel of Christ is a gospel of hope. It does not contradict the soul. Men have always believed that their parentage is Divine. The gospel confirms this: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God." They have always believed in immortality. The gospel says, "In My Father's house are many mansions." They have always believed in the Divine nearness. The message of the gospel is, "Lo, I am with you alway."
3. See the necessity for preaching it. Tell men they are the children of the devil, and you do the best you can to make them such. But tell them they are the children of God, and you give them hope.
(W. M. Metcalfe.)
1. In the first place, the Christian hope is not limited and bounded, like all worldly, irreligious, infidel hopes, by what men can do. Unless we recognise the being, and trust in the presence and agency of a Higher Power, the hour is coming when the soul will be without hope. Despair will take the place of hope. Here also it is of importance to observe that, with persons of reflection and forethought, whatever is seen to end in despair, begins in despair.
2. Another distinction of the Christian hope consists in its not being limited and bounded, as all worldly, irreligious, and infidel hopes must be, by the present life. Almost the entire language of condolence under grief, hardship, and oppression is borrowed from the Bible, and owes its force to the Christian doctrine that "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."
3. A third circumstance distinguishing the Christian hope is that, unlike all worldly, irreligious, infidel hopes, it does not profess to measure itself by the real or supposed deserts of the individual, but by the boundless goodness and mercy of the Supreme Disposer. Under the Christian dispensation it is impiety to despair of God's mercy on account of our past sins: for this would be to suppose these sins to be greater than His mercy. Of course, when we compare what we are and what we can do with what we hope to receive, we cannot fail to be struck with the infinite disparity; but neither is this just ground for misgivings. What is promised is to be regarded, not as being of the nature of wages for work done, but as being of the nature of a gift on condition of obedience; and in this character as a gift, it takes its proportions, not from our poor earnings, but from the munificence of the Giver.
4. Who, it may be asked in conclusion, does not feel his need of this hope?
5. Again, who would not cultivate this hope? As religious dispositions are not of this world they are not likely to spring up spontaneously under worldly appliances amidst worldly avocations. Religion, religion at least in its highest forms, is a delicate exotic, which must not be expected to grow wild in the fields; it must be nurtured with effort and care; it must be sheltered from all ungenial influences, and surrounded, as far as may be, with the atmosphere, so to speak, of its native heaven.
6. Finally, who would knowingly and willingly disappoint or frustrate this hope? Because a man has hope in Christ it does not follow that this hope is well founded in his case. Our very hope may perish; nay, it will do so, unless we establish it in righteousness, and unless "we show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end.
(Jas. Walker.)I. WE CAN TRACE SOME ILLUSTRATION OF THIS GREAT GENERAL LAW IN OUR OWN LIVES. "Saved by hope." Upon how many lives, how many works, might that be written!
1. One man is saved by hope from indolence: a poor form of hope it may have been, but it kept the life in him till the worthier motive claimed him.
2. Another is saved by hope from the insanity of self-satisfaction: hope startled him with the challenge of a hero's life or the pathos of a hero's death, and the snare was broken and he was delivered.
3. Another may have been drifting towards the utter loss of self-respect: drunkenness or impurity may have been quenching all the light out of his soul, but hope came to him — the hope of a noble love — and his chains fell off. Yes, hope is the spur of every effort — the strength of every enterprise — the stay of all endurance. As one may go round a garden after winter and there mark the signs of lingering life, and say, "Ah! that may come right after all": so may God look into unnumbered hearts, wintry and dull as death itself, and see the half-conscious germ of hope, and know that there is that whereby they may be saved. Aye, and as in the individual life, so also in the whole race of man, hope wields its saving energy. It is the great impulse of all onward movement: the mainspring of progressive civilisation: the instinct of mankind towards the amendment of every circumstance of life. Any hope that is not sinful is better than no hope at all. St. Paul puts terribly near to one another "having no hope" and "without God in the world.". Even a hope which could never call out all the power that is in a man may yet serve to keep his head above water till better help comes.
II. IF HOPE IS TO HAVE ITS PERFECT WORK, THEN IT MUST FULFIL AT LEAST TWO CONDITIONS — it must rest on a sufficient ground, and it must point to a sufficient object.
1. The hope that leads us on must not be like a will-o'-the-wisp, hovering over dangerous ground, and vanishing altogether where we thought we must come up with it. Many such hopes there are: e.g., of a startling career, of brilliant originality, of large but vague philanthropy; hopes, hazy and delusive, corresponding to no solid reality, marking out for us no clear course.
2. Other hopes there are which will direct us definitely enough: the hope of money, of success, of power; we may follow them with confidence, but it is like walking down a street that leads us nowhere; we may reach the end, but only to find it as dull and disappointing as a blank wall. In regard to one such hope, the commonest perhaps of all, the hope of wealth, a working-man said to me once, "I suppose no one is rich till the day when he's got a little more than he has." His paradox exactly told the truth: the clearest of worldly hopes are at the same time most disappointing.
3. The hope that really saves, and maketh not ashamed, is a hope which points with clearness to an aim which cannot prove inadequate; a hope which will not halt till every power and energy of our life has found its rest, its joy, its perfect and unwearied work. To such a hope hath God begotten us by the resurrection of Christ. It is an infinite enrichment of all human life that we commemorate at Easter; even the gift of one steadfast, serious, sufficient hope.
III. THERE IS NO DEPARTMENT OF LIFE WHICH MAY NOT BE LIBERATED AND UPLIFTED BY THE HOPE WHICH THE RISEN LORD REVEALS. Some seem to shrink from laying stress upon the future life lest it should be used to disparage or obscure the duties of the present. But was it so when the living hope was freshest and strongest? Who, for instance, in those first Christian days, really made the most of the great trust of this life? The heathen poet, laughing at the idea of being serious when you have but a few years in which to enjoy yourself? The philosopher, inculcating suicide whenever the pains of life outweighed its pleasures? The heathen emperor, leaving the vast duties of his position to plunge more freely into every phase of vice? Or Paul, the slave of Christ? In all the change that came with the faith of Christ few things are more remarkable than the advancement of hope from the place of a weaknes to the power of a great motive for a good life. And we need never fear that a man will grow careless or halfhearted about the concerns of time, because in and through them all he seeks those things which are above. Much rather does the saving hope that firmly rests on Christ's resurrection avail, as nothing else avails, to give steadiness and calmness and confidence to every worldly hope which can be pursued in this life.
1. What a change, e.g., passes over the hope of the student when, beside the empty tomb, he begins to discern the true vocation of the intellect, the range, the use it may hereafter have. In Christ the human intellect has passed to the sphere of its perfect and unending exercise.
2. But what shall we say about that other sphere of effort where the real crisis of our life must find its issue; how can we measure the moral life the saving power of the Easter hope? Here we renew the experience of the Psalmist, "I should utterly have fainted; but that I believe verily to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."
3. Let us see whether the words have not a bearing also upon the life of nations. Is it not to be feared that many cherish less reverently than of old the salutary grace of a true hope? Hope, as we have seen, is essential to the vigour, the harmony, the welfare and happiness of each separate human life. If we were to give up hoping, how would for us the sun be darkened, and desire would fail and purpose falter, and all joy and courage and helpfulness fade out of our life. Must it not be so, in some degree, if the temper, the character, the current literature of a nation begins to discard or trifle with the duty and the strength of hope? Oh! if this be so, then there are two things at least that we can do for England now. Let us see to it that, by the grace of God, we stand sure and steadfast in that only hope which maketh not ashamed, which is nothing else than faith in the omnipotence and in the love of God. And then let us humbly and constantly pray to Him who spanned with an unfailing hope the interval of earth and heaven that He may renew and purify with the knowledge of His truth the heart and thought of England.
(Dean Paget.)Acts 24:15). This hath divers grounds whereupon it is raised. First, the promise and covenant of God (Isaiah 55:3). Secondly, the oath of God (Hebrews 6:18). Thirdly, Christ Himself in the performance of all His offices. That is another ground of our hope. Christ, He is called the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). Lastly, the firstfruits of the Spirit, and the beginnings of glory here in this world, which Christians have in their own hearts and consciences, they are great assurances of this hope unto them. But secondly, not only so, but further, we are to strengthen ourselves in our own hope for our particular condition. That as there is such a hope as this is for the thing itself, so that we also have hope of this hope. Forasmuch as we are saved by hope, it concerns us very much to keep up hope alive in ourselves, not only to have it in the ground of it, but also in the discovery. How may we come to do so? First, by conscionable walking and watchfulness over ourselves. The more holiness, still the more hope. These things they run in a circle. Hope, it provokes to holiness, and makes us to walk more warily; and holiness, it encourages hope, and makes us to walk more comfortably (Proverbs 14:32). To this I may add sincerity, and uprightness, and fruitfulness, in our places. "The hope of the hypocrite shall perish" (Job 8:13). Thirdly, by meditation on the promises, and often looking over our evidences and grounds of hope. And lastly, by frequent prayer. The more that we are acquainted with God, the more shall we hope from Him (Psalm 62:8). Thus should we confirm our hope for our own particular. Yea, further, we should not only nourish and strengthen this hope in ourselves, but be ready likewise to give a reason and an account of it to others (1 Peter 3:15). Lastly, seeing we are saved by hope, as is here in this present Scripture declared unto us. This serves for the just reproof of three sorts of persons: First, desperate, which do exclude them. selves from all hope at all. Secondly, presumptuous, which do hope there where there is no ground of hope for them. Thirdly, carnal, which do place their hope in things of the world. First, such persons do plainly offend against this doctrine who are absolutely desperate and hopeless. Forasmuch as we are saved by hope, in what a sad condition are they which do cast themselves out of hope, and do shut up the grace of God against themselves! We see from hence the great aggravation of the sin of despair. It is a trespassing upon the blood of Christ, who hath purchased salvation for us; and it is also a disparagement to the Holy Ghost, whose office is to comfort and to persuade us to come up to Christ's terms and conditions. In a word, we overthrow the whole scope and tenour of the gospel, and the rule of God's grace in it. Secondly, presumptuous persons, they are also from hence condemned, because we are saved by hope; for as despair is a trespass upon hope on one hand, so is presumption likewise on another. Those therefore that take up a hope of their own making, who, though they walk in sinful courses, yet hope for all that they may come to heaven, do exceedingly deceive themselves. Presumption is one thing, and hope is another. Thirdly, carnal and worldly persons, they come under this censure likewise, from the consideration of this point in hand, that we are saved by hope, which is not such a hope as is founded in the things of the world, but in matters of a higher nature (1 Peter 1:3; Colossians 1:5). It is the condition of many people "that their portion is only in this world," as the Psalmist speaks of them (Psalm 17:14). All their happiness it lies here below, and they rest themselves satisfied with it. Give them but their desires here, and take heaven who will. For hope, etc. The second is the particular description of this hope, what it is; which is laid down negatively, by denying it to be of such things as are seen; but does include the affirmative also in it as being of such things as are not seen. The hope of a believer, it is the constant expectation of good things to come. Let us take notice of that. It is not of things visible, but of things invisible (2 Corinthians 4:18; Hebrews 11:1; 2 Corinthians 5:7; Colossians 3:3; 1 John 3:2). The ground hereof is not only the nature of hope itself, which is so in all other things, as looking at things which are future for the object of it; but when we speak of Divine hope, as it is considered under the notion of a grace, and proper to a Christian, so there is a further reason why it should be (to choose) of things not seen. And that is that by this means it may bring the greater glory to God by trusting Him on His bare word. Thus do we by hoping for things invisible. We honour Him so much the more in His power, goodness, and all His attributes. And so likewise it shows us the reason why God's children are so much scorned and contemned by men of the world. It is because they are such persons as have their good things only in reversion. Lastly, seeing hope is of things which are not seen. We may here, by the way, take notice of the difference of these two saving graces — faith and hope. While the former is of those things which are present, the latter of those things which are to come; and though the same things happen to be the object of each, yet under a different notion and consideration. As, for example, eternal life: hope looks upon it as a thing which is future, in regard to its remoteness; but faith looks upon it as a thing which is present, in regard to its sureness. The third and last is the adjunct and concomitant of this hope, which follows in these words, "But if we hope for," etc., where we may observe and note thus much, that true and right hope indeed, it is accompanied still with patience, and waiting, and quiet resting, and dependence upon God for the things hoped for (Hebrews 10:36). Hope, if it be such as it should be, it hath still patience annexed unto it. This is requisite upon divers grounds. First, the ground which is intimated here in the text, because we hope for that which we see not. Forasmuch as the object of hope is invisible, the companion of hope must be patience. Especially if we shall add, moreover, that they are things of special worth, and which do move the appetite to them. Here, now, there is required patience so much the more, for men to be some time without those things which they have no need of, nor no great desire towards them, this is no patience or forbearance at all. Secondly, this hope of a Christian had need have patience to be joined with it, not only from the distance of the object, not only for that the time is long, but also for that the way is troublesome and dangerous and full of annoyance. If a man have never so brave a palace or stately dwelling which he is to come unto, yet if he have a great way before be comes thither, his patience will be exercised about it. But now, further, if as the way is long, so it be also dirty and subject to thieves, here the life will be still so much the worse, and the greater patience required in it (Acts 14:22). Thirdly, things contrary to our hope, these likewise do call for our patience. And those are our own corruptions, and the assaults and temptations of Satan, whereby he labours to discourage us. Soldiers had need of patience, that they may go through those several hardships and encounters which they shall meet withal. The contradictions of sinners and the discouragements which arise from wicked men. These made up another consideration for the necessity of this patience likewise. Lastly, patience is very justly and properly required as an attendant upon hope, because hope in the nature of it breeds patience. The more we hope, the more patient we either are, or at least have cause to be, in that regard. Those that have nothing to sustain them, it is no wonder that they should be impatient (Hebrews 6:19). Now, the application of this point to ourselves may be reduced to these two improvements: First, as a just censure of many people for their defect in this particular, who are many times out of patience when any evil does at any time befal them, or that anything does fall cross to them, from whence they are ready to complain and murmur even against God Himself. This impatience of Christians not walking worthy of their hope does discover itself upon sundry occasions. First, in ease of wants, when they have not presently that which others have or which themselves have a mind to. Secondly, in ease of delays and procrastinations. Thirdly, in ease of distress or any particular trouble and affliction. This is another discovery of this impatience. This impatience, besides that disparagement which it casts upon our Christian hope and profession, is very prejudicial to us in sundry regards. First, it increases our misery and adds to the affliction which is upon us. This it does two manner of ways. In respect of the condition itself, as it provokes God oftentimes to multiply afflictions upon us. Impatience under loss provokes God to the sending of greater. A burden in our condition from the affliction, and a burden upon our spirit from the distemper, and both together do very much press upon us. Secondly, impatience, it puts men upon the taking of indirect courses and the use of unlawful means. Thirdly, this impatience it does disturb all good performances in any way or kind whatsoever. No man can serve God so cheerfully who has this distemper prevailing upon him. Therefore, for a second use of this point, let this serve to stir us up, as a proof of our faith, and the hope which is in us, to labour for this spirit of patience, which is here commended unto us. First, for the encouragements, take notice of them, as, namely, first of all, that here in the text, "The earnest expectation of the creature, waiting," etc. The creature, though it groans, yet it waits; let not us be worse than that. Secondly, the practice of the saints, and of such persons as have received the firstfruits of the spirit, who are said here also to practise this patience (James 5:10). Thirdly, the practice of all other men besides in other things as to their particular concernments: the merchant in his way, the soldier in his, the husbandman in his, as it is also there expressed in James 5:7. Fourthly, the practice of God Himself. How patient is He towards us, and waiting for us! These and the like are arguments, and encouragements, and inducements for it. There are also helps and conducements to it for the obtaining of it. As — First, prayer and supplication. Secondly, study the promises, and dwell more upon the attributes of God. Thirdly, reflect upon former experiences. "Experience breeds patience" (Romans 5:4). Fourthly, let us set before us future glory, and therein imitate Christ Himself upon the like occasions (Hebrews 12:2).
(Thomas Horton, D.D.)1. This is a very strong expression. But not more so than some others. It is described as one of three cardinal virtues of the Christian character (1 Corinthians 13:13); as the great object of God's gift to us of His Holy Word (chap. Romans 14:4); as an attribute to God Himself as its Author, and as the end of prayer for other graces (chap. Romans 15:13).
2. Such is the place of hope in the Christian system. Its real place in ours is one widely different. Who ever speaks or thinks of the duty of hope? Who ever prays for hope as a necessary part of the Christian character? Who is ever ashamed of being without hope? To be desponding, to be filled with religious fears and doubtings, is by some regarded as almost a sign of grace. And by most Christians hope is regarded rather as one of those late and precarious attainments, or even as a matter of temperament, which belongs only to those to whom it comes naturally.
I. WHAT IS HOPE?
1. In general it is the anticipation of a pleasant future.(1) It admits of degrees. Like fear, its opposite, like faith, its next of kin, hope is capable of every shade of variety, from the first faint glimmering of a possibility, to fulness of persuasion and conviction.(2) It is progressive. The cherishing of the thought that a certain thing is possible, tends to form the idea that the possible is probable, and that the probable is certain,
2. And now what is Christian hope? It, too, is the expectation of a pleasant future. But the Christian's pleasant future has to do mainly with things inward, and with the time after death. But do not suppose that it is therefore less real, less sensible, or less practical. Nothing surely is so real as that which is absolutely imperishable. Nothing is so sensible as to see things as they are, refusing to be put off with things as they seem. Nothing is so practical as the making a vigorous daily effort to be that which we shall certainly one day rejoice to be, or else vainly wish that we had been. The pleasant future of the Christian is a time when he will be quite holy, when he will so have the mastery over his own rebellious will, as to be entirely in harmony with the will of God. No more struggles therefore, but quietness, peace, and rest for him in God, with Christ, with all the good, for ever. This is a faint glimpse of his far future. And his near future is like it; pleasant in proportion as it is like it.
II. ITS DIFFICULTIES.
1. One of these arises from the observation of the world around us. The Christian sees vast tracks of land still heathen or Mahometan; worst of all, some in which Christ was once known, but which have relapsed into darkness. He sees, too, that superstition has laid its hand upon a large portion of Christendom itself, and that even a perfectly pure faith is no safeguard against a predominantly worldly or sinful life. Now all this is deeply discouraging.
2. Then he turns within. Alas, there chiefly he finds hope difficult. His individual life is by no means all sunshine. How often does he pray, and no answer seems to come! Nay, how often does he pray without praying, striving in vain to summon his own heart to the offices of praise and devotion! How often, yet again, has he heartily prayed, and risen from it refreshed and hopeful, and then, almost before the heavenly radiance has faded from his heart and brow, some little trifling temptation comes across him, and he has fallen! These things sadly overcloud hope.
III. ITS ENCOURAGEMENTS. In general it must rest entirely on God; His character, His revealed intentions and relations. Some of the most elementary of all His revelations are felt in times of despondency to be the most available. Such is the thought of —
1. His holiness; a holy God must desire that we should be holy; and that is what we wish to be, though so far from it.
2. His power; what the holiness of God desires His power can effect.
3. His mercy; a God of love cannot but, if holiness and happiness be one, design to help through their difficulties, and save from their sins, those who in His name and strength are facing them like men.
4. Creation. Do we suppose that a God of infinite knowledge created and endowed man with such gifts only to discard him?
IV. ITS USES.
1. It stimulates exertion. I know nothing in the world so indolent as despondency, nothing so paralysing as discouragement. But what can we not do with a prize in view? One victory, ever so small, gained over self contains within it the germ not of a second victory only, but of all victory. "Experience worketh hope, and hope maketh not ashamed."
2. It inspires charity. "Charity hopeth all things." He who hopes for himself, in spite of many discouragements about himself, may well hope also for another, in spite of many discouragements about another. He who knows in detail what God's forbearance and longsuffering have been towards himself, will not limit God's forbearance and longsuffering in cases of which he knows not the details. We hope, and therefore we labour. Conclusion:
1. Hope itself has limits. We are in a day of grace; but every day has its night. When that night comes hope ends; either perfected in enjoyment, or annihilated in despair.
2. The way to hope is through humility. It does not come from ignorance of ourselves, but from that deep self-knowledge which drives us for refuge to God only.
3. It has Christ Himself, not only for its basis, but for its object. "The Lord Jesus Christ, who is our hope."
(Dean Vaughan.)1. Hope is not simple foresight or expectation, because the foresight and the expectation may be of mischief. We never hope for misery, for mistakes, but for victory, coronation, love, and joy. So hope has this peculiarity, that it is sweet-minded and sweet-eyed. It draws pictures. It fills the future with delights. And then, having created them, it brings them near, and appropriates them. The greatest and most needed architect is Hope; and it builds with the flimsiest material — the fancy.
2. The Christian religion stands contrasted with all others by the hope that is in it. He who represents the Christian faith in any other light than that of joyous hopefulness, misrepresents it. In the Old Testament day there was a certain element of hope; but it was undeveloped. The Jews lived mostly in the present. They said, "This do, and live." They pointed to the round of duties which belonged to each day, saying, "Perform these, and God shall be well pleased." The Christian faith is for ever looking forward, and cheering men, by the perpetual vision of the future. The contrast of the Christian faith with the faiths of the heathen is still greater. They were mostly religions of fear.
3. Hope is a distinct and peculiar faculty, and exists in different degrees in different persons. Some live by the power of conscience. Duty is their watchword. Some live by the power of caution, constant anxiety. Others are cheerful and expectant. There are many who, if you bend them down to the ground, break short off at the stump. There are others who, like the young hickory, the moment the pressure is removed, spring back again. Yesterday was disastrous; but to-day has come. To-day is dark; but it will clear off before tomorrow. This has miscarried; but no matter, begin again. Hope is a charming trait in men. There is something very admirable in conscientiousness; in the acceptance of unwelcome duty which it carries with it. There is also in fear much that is to be admired. It carries with it great activity and intense provocation. But, after all, commend me to the sweetness and the inspiration of hope.
4. Hope has its own peculiar dangers.(1) The whole generation of what are called schemers are children of hope. They are not balanced by suitable caution, but they are pioneers of success. If you are starting in an unknown channel, you are not glad of any mishap to him that goes ahead of you; but if he run upon a sandbank he is a buoy for you, and you do not go there. The men who go ahead, however, often scheme, laying the foundation for valuable results, though they do not reap them. The inventor, in his day, received nothing from his invention; but that invention bore fruit in another man's hand a little later. Let me, therefore, speak an encouraging word for the men who drift through society, and are said to be "rolling stones that gather no moss." Fortunate are we in the hopefulness of these precursors of society. Blessed is the society that is full of hopeful men.(2) But there is a disease of hope; there is such a thing as perverted hopefulness. It is hope, in one or other of its perverted forms, that leads men into all manner of gambling. Unperverted hopefulness is specially needed —
I. BY ALL THOSE WHO ENDEAVOUR TO CREATE THE FABRIC OF CHRISTIAN CHARACTER. Yon are called, not to a toilsome and burdensome life, unalleviated by promise or cheer. You are called to a higher manhood, to a nobler spiritual ideal, and you find your way beset and obstructed on every side — hope. But God will wait for you, and be gentle with you. Ply, therefore, every instrumentality, and do not give up in despair, saying, "There is no use in attempting to be a Christian."
II. By those who are appointed to POVERTY. When a man is poor, having been rich, or without having tasted of riches, and finds himself perpetually at variance with his circumstances, he needs indeed the light of hope. Now, in ten thousand ways, if men have poverty, they may rise above it by the sense of hope. You are not poor, except among men. Is not your Father infinitely rich? This is not your home. Do you suppose a traveller at a caravansary thinks the cold, desolate building in which he rests is his home?
III. By those who are in THE STRUGGLES OF DAILY DUTY. This man is thrown out of business. Sickness befalls another man, and destroys his prospects. What to do they do not know. Some are overthrown by their own mistakes; but they are quite as likely to be overthrown by their connection with friends and neighbours. But, whatever the cause, if it comes to them in mid-life, or late in life, it is most unfortunate, unless they are versatile, fruitful of resources, and hopeful in disposition. If despondency be superinduced upon disaster, in the case of any man, woe be to that man! When you are checked in your career, begin again. Do not let go of manhood and courage. The inward man is better than the outward man. Hold on. Many and many a man carries himself over the critical point by hopefulness. But do you say, "I am too old to hope"? Do you say, "I have, constitutionally, too little hope"? Then open your heart to God. Draw near to Him in His great providential relations. "I will not let a sparrow fall to the ground without My notice, and are not you of much more value than many sparrows? If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children," etc..
IV. By those whose MIND BECOMES GLOOMY THROUGH MORBID CONDITIONS OF THE BODY; as where men find themselves entirely shut up from all the sources of ordinary enjoyment. While there are kinds of sickness that are quite compatible with the exercise of Christian feeling, there are other kinds which carry such distemperature that it is very difficult for a man under their influence to maintain hopefulness. But whatever your condition may be, do the best you can; and do not think that it is a part of the prerogative of sickness to bemoan one's state, and pity one's self. As much as possible, look away from yourself toward God. I have never seen insects that, if they fell into the water, did not attempt to fly out again as soon as possible.
V. BY THE AGED. It is a very painful thing to see a matron who has lived in toil go back over her experience. One has died; another has died; another remains. Would to God he had died also! Poverty comes in, with disappointment. She is seventy. This woman, whose life has been a heroism, goes, it may be, to the poor-house. And it is sad enough. But cheer up. It may be that you have laid up more than you think. You have built no house; there are thousands of things that men rejoice in here that you have not; but you do not know how many comfortable words you have dropped as you have gone along; how your kindness has thrown radiance on the paths of others; how much good you have done with your faith; how much you have lightened the burdens of your fellow-men by the example of your life. When you go hence, one, and another, and another, whom you have directly or indirectly helped in their trouble, will throng the gate of heaven with gratitude. You will be surprised to learn how many know you that you do not know. There is a life not far beyond where the silver cords broken here shall be brought together again.
(H. W. Beecher.)
I. IN ITS RELATION TO HOME AND PRESSING WORK.
1. The nurse and loving friend who watch by the sick say, "While there is life there is hope." It is curious to see how God, who puts us here as mere strangers and pilgrims, mere grubs, about to burst into the beauty of the heavenly life, should implant in us a keen and obstinate love of life such as we see it here. But so it is. We cannot bear the idea of being dead, and fly for medical help directly there is danger to health. No doubt this is right. Jesus raised bodies to toil a few years more, to die a few years later.
2. But God reverses the saw of the nurse and says, "While there is hope there is life." When we can look onward in our work, and believe in progress, then we work with life. Even the sluggard is inspired by results. Thorwaldsen was once found deeply dejected, if not in tears. On being asked why, he confessed that he was satisfied with the work he had in hand; that he accepted this satisfaction, which he had never felt before, as a sign that his powers were decreasing, that he had no higher aim, that the turning moment of his decline had come. So it is in the commonest handicraft. He who hopes to see shoes made better will always work with a reserve of energy and enjoyment. But the moment a man loses heart, i.e., hope, his value is diminished in the labour market; he is merely writhing in the clutch of death, and unless rekindled by the fire of God, will before long disappear vauquished. Hope is the sun, and when it sets the night creeps on from place to place in the soul.
II. IN ITS HIGHER ASPECTS. The constant looking forward to victory is the secret of the Christian life.
1. Life in the Psalms is the confidence of help, David rises before us inspired, irresistible, when he looks beyond the years of guilt and persecution. When he had eaten and was full, when his course was nearly done, there was much in his history we do not like to dwell on.
2. When we turn to the New Testament our eyes are drawn at once to Jesus. In the judgment hall He looks beyond the mob, the scourge, the shame, and thinks aloud, "Hereafter ye shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of God." More or less this spirit inspires all true disciples. Hope is the true elixir which confers perpetual renovation.
III. A MYSTERIOUS INCOMING SPIRIT IS THE GIVER OF THIS HOPE. "We have received the firstfruits of the Spirit... for we are saved by hope." Have we realised the existence of such a Spirit? or do we look for mere spiritual luxuries which will help us to say a "Nunc dimittis"? Do we look merely to a calm, comfortable ending of all desires, or to a growing power to take in the things of God?
(Harry Jones, M.A.)
1. By the mother of it — faith.
2. By the daughter of it — patience.
3. By the companion of it — love.
(Elnathan Parr, B.D.)
1. There is a foggy side morally over which broods "blackness of darkness"; where hope refuses to take root; where all happiness is evanescent or imaginary. This foggy side is owing to sin. Upon it, we admit, there are clouds which promise much, but they have no water; trees, but they bear no fruit — "having no hope, and without God in the world."
2. From this fog there is a way of escape. Just as your lungs were not framed for fogs, so your spirits were not framed for moral gloom. God is light, and coming to Him, instead of darkness earth shall smile with the foretastes of heaven.
3. Let us, then, turn to the sunny side. The hope of the Christian respects —
I. THAT WHICH IS GOOD. And this in common with the world. No man hopes for sickness, failure, misery, death, but the opposite. All men hope good for themselves, even the worst, which shows that God has lodged in the common heart a buoyant hope. Hence hope is opposed to fear. But all hope and no fear would not do. We fear evil while we hope for good. Noah feared as well as hoped when he built the ark. nevertheless, excessive fear kills hope, and unfits man for duty. How delightful to feel that we hope for nothing but good for ourselves and others! This is to be in sympathy with the mind of God.
II. THAT WHICH IS FUTURE. "Hope that is seen is not hope." Here is a vast difference between the good and the godless man, who is all for the present. Well may our hope respect the future when we consider the promises relating thereto. There may be hope in heaven. How do we know that God will not give us another revelation and roll of promises, and enter more fully into the details of eternity. Anyhow, if we have hope only in this life, if it do not carry us beyond, we are of all men the most miserable.
III. THAT WHICH IS POSSIBLE. Worldlings often hope for the impossible — without any foundation for what they wish. Hence their "expectation is cut off." But the Christian says, "All things are possible to God," and therefore to him that believeth in God. If God has said a thing we may confidently expect it.
IV. TRIALS AND TRIUMPHS. Every grace is tried in this world of trials; so hope. David, looking at the foggy side, said, "I shall one day perish." Looking on the sunny side he exclaimed, "Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise Him." So Abraham, "in hope believed against hope, and became the father of many nations." "Experience worketh hope," for having gone through six trials we may confidently expect victory in the seventh. Consequently "hope maketh not ashamed." The worldling is often ashamed because of the failure of his hopes; but the Christian's hope moderated by the Divine promises cannot fail.
V. THE SUPPLY OF ALL TEMPORAL NEEDS: light in darkness, strength in weakness, sufficiency in indigence, ballast in pros. perfidy.
VI. A GLORIOUS RESURRECTION. When the wicked man comes to die there is an end of all his hopes, but "the righteous hath hope in his death," because Christ hath abolished death, etc. Hence, when bereaved, "we sorrow not as those who have no hope."
VII. EVERLASTING LIFE.
(C. Neil, M.A.)
(Thomas Carlyle.)I. THE OBJECTS IT CONTEMPLATES.
1. The raised body.
2. A perfectly holy nature.
3. Blessed society.
4. The vision of God.
II. FROM WHAT IT SAVES US.
1. Immoderate sorrow in affliction.
III. BY WHAT IT IS SUSTAINED.
1. Meditation on God.
2. Communion with Him.
3. Union with Christ.
4. The exercise of itself.
(J. Leifchild, D.D.)
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