Page images
PDF
EPUB

by so much is our hope more lively and vigorous, and they sink and rise together. A full assurance of faith e will cause a full assurance of hopef, (for we read of both in scripture,) and the want of faith will certainly end in despair. And it is observable, that as faith is compared to a shield and breastplate in our spiritual warfare, so hope is called a helmets; as being both of them, like defensive arms, necessary to preserve a Christian from being hurt by the assaults of the enemies of his salvation, and to secure his passage to that great end of his hopes, and encourage him undauntedly to pursue it through the greatest opposition that can be made against him.

So that this passion of hope, considered in its own nature, and as free from those irregularities it is apt to run into, (which we shall take notice of in the sequel,) is a noble, rational, and highly useful passion, and necessary to the best and greatest purposes of living. It is a happy mixture of courage, constancy, and prudence, as exciting us to press after what is beneficial to us, notwithstanding the difficulties we may meet with in the pursuit; under which it supports us in a firm, sedate, steady temper of mind, whereby we are capable of managing any unexpected cross accidents to the best advantage: nothing of which can be done where there is not a lively hope, and all which may be done where there is. In short, it is the great sweetener of the bitterness of life; it mitigates our troubles, increases our joys, and enlargeth our prospect of happiness, even to the gates of the highest heaven: it is the parent of diligence and industry, quickens us on to all commendable, useful, and virtuous undertakings, and is reckoned by St. Paul as one of the three chief graces of Christianity itself b.

e Heb. x. 22.

f Heb. vi. JI.

8 Ephes. vi. 16, 17; 1 Thess. v. 8.

But then, all this is upon supposition of its being placed upon a right object, and in due degree, otherwise it will deserve a quite different character; for our hopes, as the rest of our passions, are regular or irregular, commendable or criminal, useful or injurious to us, as they are well or ill placed, and keep within or transgress the bounds which reason and religion have assigned them: and what the proper object of this passion is we shall shew in the following section.

SECT. II.

Of the proper object of hope. The object of hope is distant good, that is attainable, but with some difficulty.

And first, it is good that is the object of hope, something that we apprehend to be useful and advantageous to us upon some account or other, and which therefore we desire to attain, for no man can hope for evil as such : it must put on the appearance of good, either in itself or in comparison with some greater evil, before it can be hoped for: for evil, as evil, is the object of the direct contrary passions, of fear and hatred and aversion, and cannot but be so. For nature utterly abhors from bringing destruction upon itself, and no man can seriously and deliberately will his own misery, or hope for what he knows is conducive to it. And though he often is deceived with false appearances

i Cor. xiii. 13.

h

of good, and hopes for and earnestly desires and presses after what is really evil and injurious to him, and evidently proves so in the event; yet it is always under the notion of good, and some benefit or other that is expected from it, is that which makes it the object of his hope.

But secondly, it is distant good; which at present we have not, but expect, by some means or other, to have and enjoy hereafter : for what a man seeth, as the apostle argues, why doth he yet hope for? But we hope for what we see not, and with patience wait for it. As if he had said, where there is full possession, there is no room for hope; which must suppose in some degree or other the absence of what we hope for. In the full possession and enjoyment of a good, we actually have what we desired, which, as to that particular, wholly excludes the hope and expectation of it; but a partial possession of a good does raise and increase our hope of the completion of it: it brings it to a nearer distance, and more within our view, and gives us such a relish of it, as causes an earnest longing for still more, till we have and enjoy it in perfection. As a man is affected at the near approach of a longlooked for friend, or as one that is parched with thirst, and has had a little taste of a refreshing draught, is impatiently desirous of still more, and even languishes till he can drink his fill. According to that of Solomon, hope deferred maketh the heart sick : but when the desire cometh, and is accomplished, it is sweet to the soul; and as the tree of lifei: it diffuses new vigour and spirit into the drooping creature, like that great restorative of human nature which God placed in the midst of the garden of Eden.

i Prov. xiii, 12. 19.

And therefore, though hope is excluded from that perfectly happy state which is properly heaven, where the blessed shall enjoy a full felicity, to the utmost that they are capable of, and be in full and everlasting possession of their chief good; though there is no place for hope in heaven, properly so called, yet in that intermediate happy state which the primitive church called paradise, there is. For there the souls of the just, in their state of separation from the body, though happy infinitely beyond what all the enjoyments of this world could make them, and beyond what we at present can conceive, or St. Paul, after he was rapt up thither, could express ; yet their happiness will not be complete till the resurrection, when their bodies shall be reunited to their souls, and all the good that ever lived shall triumphantly attend their Saviour into the regions of eternal bliss and glory, and in the clear, distinct, and sure and certain hope of this immense addition to their happiness, they wait, in most comfortable expectation, till that glorious day shall come ; saying, with the souls of the martyrs in the revelations, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge! To whom, we are told, white robes were given, in token of the certainty of that future triumph; only they were admonished to rest yet for a little season, until the number of their fellow sufferers should be fulfilled, that they might all partake of the same ineffable joys, and be glorified together This was the general doctrine of the primitive church: and the present happiness the blessed then enjoy, being so great, though far from complete, till the day of Christ's appearing; how strong and vigorous must their hopes be of that blessed time, how full of transport and joy! Insomuch, that that separate state of righteous souls is the chief region of hope ; where it exerts itself upon its proper object, without the least danger or fear of any disappointment; which an excellent prelate, now in that happy state, has thus very neatly expressed : “ In “ the world,” says he, “ we live by faith, in the state “ of separation we live by hope, and in the resur“ rection we shall live by an eternal charity. Here “ we see God as in a glass darkly ; in the separation

k Rev. vi: 9, &c.

we shall behold him, but it is afar off; and after “ the resurrection we shall see him face to face, in “ the everlasting comprehensions of an intuitive “ beatitude. In this life we are warriors, in the se

paration we are conquerors, but we shall not triumph till after the resurrection 1.”

And as good departed souls have, in the state of separation, their hope more lively and strong, as they are nearer the completion of it, and more sensible of the excellency of what they hope for; so good men here upon earth, the nearer they approach to that separate state, the more impatient longings have they after their future bliss. They already know so much of the nature of that happiness by their sincere practice of religious duties, and devout contemplation of the rewards that are promised to it in the spiritual world ; that whatever brings them nearer to it adds degrees of strength to their hope,

66

1

Bishop Taylor, in his Sermon at the funeral of Sir George Dalston, at the end of his Worthy Communicant.

« PreviousContinue »