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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 enter
1 ing 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.
4. A false confidence in this world, will aggravate the misery of the next.
The troubles of the present life, accompanied with the disappointment of high expectation, fall on us with accumulated weight. In like manner the vain hopes of presumptuous hypocrites will plunge them into deeper misery. Thus our Saviour has warned
“When once the master of the house has risen up and shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us ; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are ; then shall
begin to say, we have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not; depart from me, ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.” The hypocrite may derive some present comfort from his false hope ; but this temporary comfort will be bitterness in the end.
5. A false hope obstructs the influence of the gospel, and thus hinders men's salvation.
The hypocrite, flattering himself that he is safe already, repels the convictions of his conscience. The terrors of God's word reach not his heart, because it is guarded by a confidence in his own righteousness. He knows not that he is poor and blind and naked, but imagines himself to be full and in need of nothing; and therefore despises the counsel of Christ to receive from his hand true riches, white raiment and eye-salve. His false confidence quiets his soul in his guilty state, and prevents his seeking pardon by repentance. Well may he be ashamed of a hope, which not only fails of bringing him to the object, but proves the very cause of his fatal miscarriage. How carefully should we guard against a hope so baleful in its nature and tendency. Many a hypocrite might probably have escaped destruction, if he had only been willing to be undeceived.
6. There will be no opportunity, after death, to correct the errors and revoke the mischiefs of a false hope.
If when we become ashamed of our hope, we could establish a better one in its place, the present indulgence of it would be far less dangerous. But this remedy cannot be admitted. This is the time, the only time to make our calling and election sure.
If inattentive to our own hearts, we live on our delusions, we shall soon be ashamed of them; and our shame will continue forever. Eternity is before us. In a few days we must begin a new manner of existence; and this will be determined, not by our previous hope, but by our real character. God will judge us, not by the opinion which we have formed of ourselves, but by the works which we have done in the body. Can we live regardless of the nature and permanence of our hope, when the term of our probation is so short and uncertain, and the issue of it so vastly important? “Walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Our passage is critical a fall tremendous. Let us tread with caution. Alas! where are we? Whither are we going? What is before us? We are like men walking on a plank laid across a gulf ten thousand fathoms ; deep, the sight of which would almost turn the brain, and the possibility of a fall would make the frame to tremble. What delirium has seized us, that we tread so heedlessly in so perilous a passage? Well may we adopt the Psalmist's prayer; “ Uphold us according to thy word, that we may live: Let us not be ashamed of our hope. Hold us up, and we shall be safe. Order our steps by thy word.”
Such is the importance of a hope, which will not make us ashamed. We proceed,
Secondly, to shew how such a hope may be obtained.
To this branch of our subject I may certainly expect your attention.
1. You must gain a good acquaintance with the gospel ; not only be persuaded of its truth in general, but understand the nature of that religion which it teaches, the way of salvation which it has marked out, and the terms on which it has promised this inestimable blessing. Without this knowledge your hope can have no basis.
In the gospel you find that salvation is purchased by the blood of a divine Saviour, and, through his atonement, is promised to all who submit to the terms required. These terms are repentance toward God, and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ. These qualifications are wrought in the soul by the Spirit of God; and his gracious operations you are to seek by earnest prayer and a diligent attendance on instituted means.
A hope of eternal life must be founded on the promise of God, which is made, not in consideration of the worthiness of our future works, but in consideration of the virtue of the Redeemer's righteousness. The purchase of Christ and the promise of God are the basis on which our hope must rest, and the ground on which we must view our salvation as attainable. But then, in order to a good hope of a present interest in this salvation, we must be able to discern in ourselves, those qualifications to which this benefit is promised, or those characters which the gospel makes evidential of a title to this blessing. Though the promise of God gives us the assurance of faiih, that there is a salvation to be obtained; yet nothing can give us the assurance of hope, that this salvation is already ours, but the discernment of those qualifications, to which the promise is made; such as faith in Christ, repentance of sin, a new creature, a heart and life devoted to God in the love and practice of religion. Therefore,
2. That we may not be ashamed of our hope, we must heartily subject ourselves to the government of the gospel. We must have not only a doctrinal acquaintance with it, but such a sensible
persuasion of the great things contained in it, as shall give them a practical influence-such a persuasion as shall bring us to renounce sin and the world, and to serve God in newness of spirit and life. In a word, we must find ourselves fashioned into the
of the gospel, before we can ascertain our claim to the blessings of it.
3. That we may maintain this hope, we must live in the exercise of those graces, and in the practice of those duties, which the gospel requires. Whenever we grow remiss and negligent in religion, we have cause to call in question the sincerity of our hearts and the soundness of our hope. Let us then be steadfast and unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for thus we
shall know, that our labour is not in vain in the Lord. Let us see, that our repentance be followed with carefulness in duty, and our faith with increasing holiness, and that our new obedience be constant, animated and unreserved, guided by God's word as its rule, flowing from love to him as its principle, directed to his glory as its end, and relying on the blood of the Redeemer as the ground of its acceptance. Thus we shall have peace in repenting and joy in believing. The Apostle says, “Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world.”
4. That we may not be ashamed of our hope, we must aim at religious improvements.
This is St. Peter's advice; "giving all diligence add to your faith virtue,” and all the graces of the christian character; " for if these things be in you and abound, they make that ye shall neither be barren, nor unfruitful in the knowledge of Christ. If ye do these things, ye shall never fall; for so an entrance shall be ministered to you abundantly into the kingdom of Christ.”
If we were perfect in holiness, we should need no other evidence to support our hope. But since perfection is unattainable, growth in holiness is our best evidence. Though we are conscious of great deficiencies, yet if we find that we are making some advances, that we more and more subdue our unruly passions, improve in our love to God, and enlarge our charity to men, conquer temptations more easily, perform duty more cheerfully, and govern ourselves more steadily, we shall then have no cause to be ashamed of our hope.
5. To the enjoyment of steady hope there is need of frequent and intimate converse with ourselves. Without this we cannot know what we are, nor what we do; whether we are attempered or opposed to the gospel ; whether we live in the practice, or in the neglect of duty; whether we grow, or decline in grace. Selfexamination, being a gospel duty, is necessary as an evidence of religion in the heart, as well as to the discernment of other evidences. The habitual neglect of it indicates such an indifference