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is the Highest and most Desirable Blessing, and, Therefore the Principal Object: of our Hope; which St. Paul speaks of, Rom. v. 2. By whom we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Thofe Directions and Assistances, which are the Means of attaining Eternal Happiness, though they be Divine Vouchsafements which we can never sufficiently value, are yet Inseriour to that Happiness it self, and are therefore a Secundary object of our Hope. So we find the Apostle expressing his Hope of Divine Grace, whereby he might be enabled to Persevere in his Duty, howsoever Difficult or Hazardous it might be; Phil. i. 20.
The PrincipalHope of a Christian, or, the firm Expectation of Everlasting Felicity, is a Conditional Duty, and properly found in Thofe alone, who sincerely Observe the Divine Commands. And in such persons 'tis a Duty, as of Necessary Obligation, so likewise highly Excellent and Acceptable upon Two accounts; First, because 'tis an intire Reliance upon God's Power, Goodness and Fidelity, for Favours Future and Unseen,
M and and Those such, as are in pure Humane appearance scarce to be expected, and no otherwise to be Firmly Depended, on, than from an Asturance of the Power, and Goodness, and Faithfulness of God. Thus those Full measures of Hope, which crowned Abrahams Faith, were in the most Signal manner Approved and Accepted: * For against hope he believed m hope,• And therefore it was Imputed to him for Righteousness. And the Excellency of this Divine Grace is still Further Evident from the Blessed Influence, which it is Apt to have, in concurrence with the Operations of the Holy Spirt, upon mens Lives and Actions: -f For every man that hath this hope in him, purisieth himself, even as he is pure; Does not only consider the Necessity of mens leading Holy Lives, in order to Proper Hope, but is instigated and excited by it, to Fulfil the conditions of it; and is strengthens and -supported % by it under all
* Rom. iv. 18, 22. f ' John. iii. 3.
% St. Paul speaks of Hope as the Anchor of the Soul, and an Helmet. Accordingly St. Chryfostom, Expos. in Ps. ix. and bis most Piius and Excellent Disciple, Isidor. Peleus. lib. ii.
the Difficulties and Conflicts of the Christian Life.
But, though the Virtue be represented in General, as a Conditional Duty; yet that Limitation is to be looked upon, in a Different View, with regard to the Different Circumstances of Good and Bad men. For when those Conditions, which are the Ground of it, are Actually performed, as they are by all Sincere Christians, the Obligation of the Duty upon them becomes Absolute. But the relation, which it bears to Disobedient men, is purely Conditional; and it cannot be either Necessary, or Allowable in Them, to hope for Salvation, but upon Condition that they shall attain a State of Sincere Obedience, which they have not already attain'd. And yet even this Conditional and Distant Hope should, in all Reason, be very conducive to their Reformation; for what Reasonable man would not be very Strongly inclined to
ep. 17. have inmost significant words expressed the Mighty Power of Hope, as rendring Men Steddy and Impregnable, under the mojl violent Assaults of Temptation. Vide etiam S. Chrysost. in Ps. xlv. & Homil. ad Pop. Antioch. 2.
.Mi ;ObeObedience, since his Obedience will lead him, first, into the Comfortable and Certain ExpeBation of Eternal Bliss, and afterwards into the Enjoyment of it.
The same thing is observable of Hope, in respect of its Secundary Object, the Influences of the Holy Spirit, enabling men to work out their Salvation. For though the Constant Aids of the Spirit are not otherwise to be Hoped for, than upon Condition, that they be duly Applied and Used; yet every Faithful Servant of God, having already Answer'd that condition, may, under his Present State, depend Absolutely upon them: And such a Dependence is in him a Necesiary Duty. But the Hope of such measures of Grace, as are Sufficient to the Accomplishment of the Spiritual Life, can no otherwise appertain to an Impenitent Sinner, who hath all along Resisted the Holy Spirit, than in a way strictly Conditional: He cannot Justly take up a Firm Expectation of such Full and Effectual measures of Grace, without Supposing himself to become Sincere and Faithful in a Future Use and Improvement ment of those means, which he hath hitherto Neglected and Abused. And even This Hope, Remote as it is, must needs be a Weighty and Forcible Inducement to Repentance and a Holy Life: For what man, in his Sound mind, would not sincerely endeavour to become Holy and Happy, when the Sincerity of his Endeavours is the Only thing required, on His Part, in order to the Sufficiency and Success of them?
Those who are Faithful in the Use of their Talents, the Abilities which God gives them, whatever those Abilities are, may Justly Hope, that the Holy Spirit will Abundantly support them under all the Difficulties of Duty: But whilst that Fidelity is wanting, an Absolute and Firm Expectation of Effectual aids from the Spirit, is not Hope, but P'resumption, as properly, as the charge of Presumption falls upon Those also, who flatter themselves .with the Hopes of Heaven, whilst they are under the Dominion of Sin. They may possibly Desire Happiness; but Hope . implies Just ExpeBation, as well as Desire; and That is Peculiar to the Sin
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