Imatges de pÓgina




Let me not be ashamed of my hope.

HOPE is the expectation of future good. The great object of religious hope is eternal life. This comprises all the good which can be desired; yea, more than can be conceived.

Every godly man, whatever doubts he may feel of his present claim, entertains a hope of his final admission to the happiness of the heavenly world. The apostle says, "We hope for eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, has promised." One who has no such hope, either disbelieves a future state, or is indifferent to it, or despairs of obtaining it. And unbelief, indifference and despair are all inconsistent with religion. The good man, through the influence of temptations, bodily infirmities, speculative errors, or remaining corruptions, may fall into great doubts and perplexities, and may seem to himself to have relinquished his hope of salvation. But in his most disconsolate hours, hope still works in him. His fervent prayers; his tenderness of conscience; his abhorrence of evil; his converse with God's word; his application to pious friends for their counsels and intercessions, are manifest proofs, that hope has not entirely forsaken him.

This general hope, however, is not peculiar to saints. Sinners possess it in some degree. They hope, as well as desire, to die the death of the righteous, even when they dare not pretend to have already attained this character. But the operations of this hope, in the good christian, and in the careless sinner, are widely different. In the former it excites to vigilance against sin and temptations; to activity and diligence in duty, and to improvements in knowledge and holiness. In the latter it emboldens to sin; to the neglect of the means of religion, and to delay in the work of salvation. While the sinner rests in an indeterminate expectation that he shall be happy at last, the humble christian searches his heart, proves his works, and gives diligence to make his calling and election sure. That his general hope of salvation, as attainable, may not make him ashamed, he labors for a more full assurance, that his salvation is already secured. The prayer of David is often in the heart and in the mouth of the real christian; "Let me not be ashamed of my hope."

A hope which maketh ashamed is formed rashly and presumptuously, without sincerity and without knowledge. The hope which will not make ashamed, is founded in the promise of God, and supported by a conscious compliance with the terms of the promise.

This subject I shall further illustrate by shewing, first, the necessity of a deep concern, lest we be ashamed of our hope. And, secondly, the way in which we may obtain a hope, that will not make us ashamed.

I. David in this prayer expresses a deep concern, lest he should be ashamed of his hope. Hence we are naturally led to inquire, what reasons there are for this concern,

1. One reason is the vast importance of the object.

If our solicitude to secure an object should be proportionate to its value, we ought to exercise the greatest diligence in relation to our final salvation; for no other object-no other interest, can justly be compared with this. Were the object in view only a temporal advantage, none would blame our caution not to be deceived and disappointed. But the object of christian hope is more important than all the riches of the world. It is a salvation

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purchased, not with corruptible things, such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Jesus, the Son of God. It is fulness of joy and everlasting pleasure. It is an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, fading not away, reserved in heaven for them, who by the power of God through faith are prepared for it, and kept unto it.

The enjoyments of this world are suited only to the wants of the animal nature. The enjoyments of heaven are adapted to the desires, and adequate to the capacity of the rational and immortal soul, renewed after the image of God. The world, if we possess it, is uncertain and unsatisfying. While it relieves some wants, it creates others; and while it approaches us with flatter. ing smiles, it is preparing a stroke to wound us. Heaven will answer all the desires of the spiritual mind, and far exceed all the hopes that can previously be formed. The world can be enjoyed only while this short and precarious life remains. The enjoyments of heaven will be everlasting and always increasing.

This happiness stands in opposition, not to the loss of existence, but to extreme and permanent misery-misery described in scripture, in language which strikes the serious mind with horror.

If we contemplate the different states of good and bad men in the future world, can we feel indifferent to our final destination? Salvation, considered as a deliverance from extreme and endless misery on the one hand, and as the possession of complete and eternal happiness on the other, must concern us infinitely more than every other interest that can be desired or imagined. In some proportion, if any thing can be in proportion, to its value, should be our solicitude and diligence to secure it, and our concern and vigilance lest we form and entertain those fallacious hopes, which will issue in disappointment and shame.

2. The deceitfulness of the heart is another reason for caution and attention in this most important business.

"The heart is deceitful above all things-who can know it?" "Who can understand his errors ?" "He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool." There are some, "who feed on ashes, and whom a deceived heart has turned aside." There are some, who


seem to themselves to be religious, when all their religion is vain, and who think themselves to be something, when they are nothing."

This deceitfulness arises from the corruption of the natural principle of self-love. By nature we are formed to love ourselves, or to desire and seek our own happiness. This self-love, guided by unblinded reason, would direct us to take into view our whole existence; to look forward beyond this world to another, and to deny ourselves every present gratification, which is inconsistent with our greater happiness in future. But this principle, perverted by worldly affections, operates in a different manner. It consults present satisfaction at the expense of future happiness. For a morsel of meat it will sell an inheritance. Hence men labor to acquire and maintain a favorable opinion of themselves. They seldom look into their hearts, or review their lives. If at any time, awakened by adversity, they apply themselves to the work of self-examination, they conduct it with great partiality. They attend chiefly to the brighter parts of their character, and, as far as possible, overlook whatever is exceptionable. If their consciences reprove them for gross faults in practice, or palpable corruptions in temper, they are studious to find, and forward to admit any excuses, which will pacify their minds, and preserve their hopes. They treat themselves as we usually treat those particular friends, to whose interest we are strongly attached. We palliate their faults, magnify their virtues, reject ill reports, and believe only such as we wish to be true.

Since there is such a predilection and partiality for ourselves we should form our judgment of our own' character with fear an caution. If our judgment be erroneous, the hope grounded on it, will ultimately make us ashamed. No man loves to think himself under the wrath of God, and exposed to the misery of the world to come. Rather than entertain so awful an apprehension, he will rest on a slender hope. Convinced that he is a sinner, he sees that repentance, or punishment is the alternative. He dreads the latter, and is averse to the former. He therefore chooses to prevent or suppress this conviction, and to enjoy a more favorable opinion of himself. It concerns us, then, to form

our hopes on fair and impartial views, and in all our self-examinations to exclude the blinding influence of this corrupt self-love. Since every man is exposed to self-deception, every man, who entertains a hope of salvation, should beware lest his hope make him ashamed. “I judge not mine own self," says St. Paul, “for though I know nothing of myself, yet am I not hereby justified, for he who judgeth me is the Lord.”

3. Not only is there danger of a false hope, but some have actually entertained such a hope to their own confusion.

There is "the hope of the hypocrite, which will fail, when God takes away his soul." Many, whom Christ has not known, will confidently claim admission into his kingdom. Let every one, therefore, take heed lest his hope deceive him.

No man, in this imperfect state, has so full an assurance of hope, but that there may be still occasion to examine its foundation. The apostle Paul "kept under his body to bring it into subjection, lest by any means, when he had preached to others, he himself should be a castaway." He recommends it as a duty common to all christians, "to examine themselves whether they be in the faith; and to fear, lest a promise being left them of entering into rest, they should seem to come short of it.”

There may be too much confidence even in good men. Peter, too little acquainted with himself, thought too highly of his own fortitude. When, in his hearing, Christ warned the disciples, that they would all be offended because of him, this disciple replied, "Though all should be offended, yet will not I." When Jesus foretold to Peter expressly, that he would soon deny him, he answered with confidence; "Though I should die with thee, I will not deny thee." Yet, in a few hours, while his master's premonition and his own resolution, one would think, must be fresh in his mind, he solemnly and repeatedly denied his Lord, on a much smaller temptation than that, of which he had just before spoken so lightly. Hence Jesus, after his resurrection, put to him this question again and again, "Lovest thou me ?" Thus intimating, that since he had been so sadly deceived in himself, he should ever be cautious, how he trusted his own heart.

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