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every sorrow, and to perfect for ever our happiness.
We are surely in the highest exercise of hope, when we can regard an Almighty Being as engaged for our welfare, when his grace and mercy are in the strongest manner assured to us, and when infinite and eternal bliss is the glorious prospect to which we may look forward. The illustration, therefore, of the foregoing particulars, will serve to prove that the Scriptures are the ground of the most exalted hope, the animating source of patience and consolation. Briefly to exhibit these views of the sacred writings, agreeably to the design of the apostle, for the day in which my text occurs, and not to enter into a general consideration of their numerous excellencies, is the object of this dis
The Scriptures are the ground of hope, the source of patience and consolation
1. Because they present to us the Maker and Lord of heaven and of earth as our almighty Guardian, our tender and compassionate Father and Benefactor.
Frail and helpless as man is, dependent on the uncertain and capricious course of human events, unable to ward off the shock of disappointment which demolishes his best concerted plans, and exposed to cares, to sorrows, and afflictions, which alloy and blast his enjoyments, how wretched would be his condition, if he could not solace himself with the belief that he is under the discipline, guidance, and protection of an almighty and compassionate Being, whose providence orders and controls all the events of life to subserve some
infinitely wise and gracious purposes! This is the animating and consolatory truth which the sacred Scriptures present to our faith-" The Lord God omnipotent reigneth; and of him, and through him, and to him are all things;" and he reigns in righteousness and mercy. Remove from the world the agency and providence of the Lord who made it, and whose goodness is as unbounded as his power is almighty-what a cloud do you cast over the condition of man! The victim of blind and unpitying chance, when sinking under care and sorrow, there is no Almighty Guardian whose protection he can implore, and on whose goodness he can rely. In his best estate, he would only flutter a while in the sunshine of prosperity, and then, sinking under the embrace of death, would descend into the darkness of the grave, into the tomb of oblivion: no gleam of consolation would enlighten his passage through the world, and fearful despair would rest upon futurity. Well may the Scriptures be styled the source of hope and consolation; for they unfold to us, sitting on the throne of the universe, an Almighty Being, the Guide of our ways, the superintending Disposer of all that befalls us, our everlasting Father and Friend: of his mercy and favour towards us, they indeed afford us the most animating assurances.
This was the second reason why the Scriptures are the ground of hope
2. Because they assure us of the mercy and favour of our Almighty Guardian and Father, by the most affecting promises and impressive examples.
There is not a page of the sacred writings which
is not rich in the expressions of God's goodness and mercy: the most tender and interesting comparisons, the most splendid and lively imagery, are used to set forth his infinite compassion and love. Consider his gracious and comforting declarations to the patriarchs; hear his affecting expostulations with his people Israel; listen to the flowing and sublime strains in which the psalmist celebrates the mercy and loving-kindness of the Lord; attend to the exhibitions of his infinite grace and compassion which the apostles make the animating theme of their exhortations; and you will not hesitate to acknowledge that the sacred writings are calculated to inspire a strong and unfailing hope in that Almighty Being who is "a strength and refuge, a very present help in time of trouble," and who "makes all things work together for good to those who love him." Even of his judgments it is the gracious purpose to bring us to repentance, and the rod of his anger is guided by the arm of mercy.
The example of holy men recorded in Scripture, who have experienced his merciful blessing and protection, powerfully tends to strengthen our hope and to administer to our consolation. Was Noah saved from the destruction which overwhelmed an ungodly world? Was Abraham guided and protected while he sojourned in a strange country? Were the machinations by which the envious brethren of Joseph sought his destruction defeated, and made the means of his advancement and prosperity? Was the whole life of the king of Israel a series of deliverances and mercies? Was the suffering Job, when the hand of God was upon him, inspired with a faith and hope that no sophistry nor taunts could shake, and blessed in his latter
end more than in his beginning? God is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; their example, therefore, and the example of all the holy saints recorded in Scripture, serve to support us under the ills of life, to strengthen our faith and patience, to animate our hope in God: he is still the strength of his people. These "things were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope."
In the Scriptures of truth, then, we thus find God revealed as our Almighty Guardian and Father; and our hope in him is strengthened by the most affecting promises and animating examples. If the sacred writings advanced no further, the pious reader of them might still find consolation and hope. But it is their principal aim to delineate and unfold the spiritual and everlasting salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ; and in this respect especially they raise the exercise of hope to its highest fervour and enjoyment.
This was the third particular which I proposed to illustrate:
3. In the sacred writings we find God exhibited to our lively faith as ready to confer on us the blessings of that salvation in his Son Jesus Christ, which is calculated to gratify every virtuous desire, to alleviate every sorrow, and to perfect for ever our bliss.
The salvation of Christ, commencing with the gracious promise of God to the fallen parents of our race, is the subject of all the succeeding revelations of the sacred Scriptures, till it was gloriously fulfilled and developed in the writings of the New Testament. Open any page even of the Old Tes
tament, and you will find this salvation displayed by express delineation, by eminent types, or luminous prophecies.
And in this salvation are contained all that man as a fallen creature can need, all to which man as panting for immortality can aspire. Is he oppressed with a sense of guilt? The Scriptures point to the meritorious sacrifice and death of Christ, which was a propitiation for the sins of the whole world, and record the gracious invitation of him who still liveth, and is still mighty to save, to come unto him and receive rest. Does the stain of iniquity rest on his soul? The Scriptures lead him to the fountain which is opened for sin and for uncleanness, and command him-" Wash, and be clean." Is he swayed by the passions of his corrupt nature? The Scriptures unfold to him that divine grace by which he may destroy their dominion, which in every conflict with his spiritual foes can make him conqueror. Contemplating the divine law, are we dismayed at its strictness and purity? The Scriptures assure us that a strength shall be vouchsafed to our diligent use of the appointed means, by which we may fulfil the highest demands of duty. Having experienced the uncertain and unsatisfying nature of terrestrial enjoyments, do our disappointed, but still eager desires, pant after an enduring and satisfying good? The Scriptures display the perfections of the supreme Lord of all, and invite us, wearied and disappointed, to seek, in the favour of him who is the source of infinite goodness and felicity, rest, and peace, and bliss to our souls. Have we to contend with poverty, with persecution, with affliction? The Scriptures, while they hold out to us an Almighty Protector and VOL. II.