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hath begotten us again unto a lively hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the deads. We have his promise of the blessing who is faithful and true, and cannot lie, and of sufficient grace likewise to help in time of need, in the performance of the condition required in order to it; and this most gracious promise is grounded upon the infinite merit of the death of God's eternally beloved Son, who for that very purpose shed his most precious blood, and God in a most glorious manner declared his acceptance of his dear Son's sufferings, to the great end for which they were designed, by raising him again in triumph from the dead.
So that indeed, and which is a very comfortable truth, no undertaking is so hopeful as that greatest undertaking of all, the working out our salvation. And though we are exhorted, it is true, to work it out with fear and trembling?, that is, with a cautious circumspection and religious awe, considering the great importance of the work; yet if in sincerity we do our part, we are sure of not failing in the conclusion, seeing he is faithful who hath promised, and is both willing and able to be as good as his word, with respect both to the means and the end.
For though it is very true, and we all of us find it to be so, that the object of a Christian's hope, though certainly attainable by the grace of God, and which those shall never want that make good use of it, yet there is some difficulty in the attainment, as there is in every other object of our hope; yet the difficulty is much surpassed by the assistance we have to conquer it, and every sincere Christian may say with St. Paul, I can do all things through Christ y 1 Pet. i. 3.
z Phil. ii. 12.
who strengtheneth me, and whose strength never fails to be assistant to his servants' weakness, who heartily endeavour to cooperate with it.
As the difficulty of the work therefore, and our inability of ourselves to perform it, is an excellent remedy for presumption ; so the so often promised aid of the Almighty is as good a remedy against despair: and it has this excellent influence upon our hope, that it encourages it to a vigorous pursuit of what cannot be attained without it, but with it certainly shall; and likewise causes a cautious distrust of ourselves in the pursuit, and a wise recourse to, and reliance upon him, who can bring what he pleases to pass.
And therefore it is, that notwithstanding the caution above mentioned, of working out our salvation with fear and trembling; we are exhorted to rejoice in hope, to hope to the end, in full assurance of hope b. Because, as I said before, it is upon God alone that we depend in this case, through the merits of the blessed Jesus, all whose gracious promises, both of grace and glory, shall certainly be made good, unless we make all void through our own default. And if we do so, what is required to be done on our part is so reasonable and so practicable, and so directly conducive to our happiness in all respects; that we shall be utterly without excuse, and God will be justified and cleared, when we are judged and condemned.
Having thus shewn that virtue and the recompense of it above, which God has been pleased to assign it, are the prime object of our hope ; it will follow that all our other hopes should be kept in due subserviency to this, or so far checked or indulged, as may best make for the interest of virtue, and best promote our salvation. And in this the holy scriptures, and our own experience and observation, must be our guide.
a Phil. iv. 13
b Rom. xii, 12; 1 Pet. i. 13; Heb. vi. II.
Our hopes of these lower goods should be very moderate, and carried on with great indifference, remembering that the value of them at best is but little; that they are very uncertain to be attained, soon lost, and sometimes unaccountably, and cannot be long enjoyed, and must be certainly left behind us when we die; and how quickly that may be we know not. And more especially should we renounce and abhor all wicked hopes, such as tend to the great dishonour of God, in gratifying our vicious inclinations, or to the great damage and ruin of our brother, or the public injury. And not religion only, but prudence, should regulate our hopes; which should be adapted to our breeding, capacity, genius, interest, credit, and the like; and without doing which, we cannot reasonably promise ourselves success, and must expect the vexation of a constant disappointment.
Above all, trusting in God's good providence, humbly begging his blessing, and entirely resigning ourselves to his disposal, who is the great governor of all things, and will be so, be our fond hopes and expectations as they will.
Wherefore let us say with the Psalmist, Psalm xxxix. 7, And now, Lord, what is my hope ? truly my hope is even in thee! In thee, for every good thing here below, as mine and the world's Creator, and from whose liberal hand are derived all the blessings which every creature enjoys. In thee for my future happiness in heaven, as being my most compassionate Redeemer, and who hast purchased for me a mansion there with thy most precious blood : and in thee for aid and assistance to lead me safely through this dangerous world, to that most happy, glorious place, as being the divine guide and guardian of Christians, the giver of grace, the author of holiness, and the blessed principle of heavenly life.
In thee, therefore, most holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, is all my hope! “ In all time of my “ tribulation, in all time of my wealth, in the hour “ of death, and in the day of judgment,” truly my hope is even in thee!
O stablish me, O Lord, that I may live, and let me not be disappointed of my hope !
And thou, “ O God, who knowest us to be set in “ the midst of so many and great dangers, that by
reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright; grant us such strength and protection, as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations : and do thou mercifully look upon our infirmities; and since
we lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace, “ do thou evermore defend us by thy mighty power,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
c Fourth and Fifth Collects after Epiphany,
OF THE REGULATION OF FEAR.
Of the nature of this passion. THE passion of fear is such an apprehension of an approaching evil, and the difficulty of avoiding it, as in its first surprise, if in any great degree, causes such a tumult, hurry, and confusion in our minds, as either puts us upon sudden flight, and taking the first way that offers to escape; or else such a sinking of our spirits and dejection as makes us lie down under those terrible apprehensions we have, and give ourselves up to suffer what we think we cannot avoid. But when it is less violent and surprising, and we have time and power to recollect ourselves, and have the command of our thoughts, it then puts us upon contriving the most likely means whereby to shun the stroke, or at least to break the force of the evil which we believe to be coming upon us. It makes us very wary and circumspect, and upon our constant watch to prevent surprises, and that we may be ready to slip aside, and get some shelter from the threatening storm; and as hope is the anchor of the soul to keep it firm and steady under the pressure of any evil, so fear is called by St. Ambrose, clavus animæ fluctuantis, the rudder