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or even exercise the least hope in God until the Spirit enables him. It is not with him, whether he will hope and trust in the Lord, but the great question is whether he may. He can see no foundation to hope on till God discovers it, nor any object to hope in till manifested to him; nor feel the least hope or expectation in himself, nor ever would, unless produced in him by a divine agent. This he is sensible of, for the burden of sin and sense of wrath sink him; and he would debase himse f to a level with the brute creation, and sit in sackcloth and ashes, could he obtain but the least degree of hope in a dear Redeemer. « He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him. He putteth his mouth in the dust, if so be there may be hope," Lam. iii. 28, 29.
Hope is not employed about things in us, but about things before us; not about things present, but things future; not about what we have, but what we want. For, if I am in full possession of a thing, there is no room for hope or expectation about it; for how can I hope for what I have got? or expect what is already my own? The self-lost and self-despairing sinner, that is favoured with the least degree of hope, hopes for the manifestation of Christ to his soul; but, when Christ is revealed to him, then he is the hope of glory in him. The guilty sinner hopes for pardon, or the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of sins, through Christ; and, if God gives him an expec
tation of it, he shall surely have it, even though he sees it not accomplished. “For we are saved by hope; but hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.”
Hope is a grace bestowed upon a helpless, self-despairing, miserable sinner; and performs wonders in desperate cases. On which account it is called a helmet, which is an iron cap to screen the head in the day of battle; and an anchor, which is the mariner's chief dependence in a storm, and when in want of sea room. Hope, therefore, is employed about things hard and difficult, and yet possible. For instance, God sorely threatened the children of Israel, who had married heathen wives. The children of God had married the daughters of Satan. “ Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel, and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the Lord, which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god. The Lord will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob.” The hope of a sinner, involved in this profanity, and against whom the word of God is so explicit and pointed, must have hard and difficult work; and yet, even in this desperate case, through Jesus Christ and his great atonement, salvation is possible, or else there could be no ground for hope; and there was a possible ground
for hope in this case. “And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land; yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing.”
Hope is an internal hanging of the mind upon a distant object, attended with expectation of help from the object on which the mind hangs. But then there must be some way opened for the troubled mind, with her expectations, to enter in at. The broken law reveals God in terrible majesty: darkness is his secret pavilion, and dreadful wrath is revealed. The curse of the law, the sword of justice, are point blank against the sinner; and he sees it, and feels it: and, as the sinner knows that he is guilty before God, and under the curse, law and conscience both condemn him, and he cannot plead innocent. Sins bar him from God; and terrible majesty forbids his approach, keeps him at a distance, yea, makes the soul fly from before him: but he knows not whither to go from his Spirit, nor where to fly from his terrible presence. The awakened sinner sees no way of access to an angry God in a broken law; nor can he hope or expect that God will change his mind, repeal his law, or prove false to his word, in order to gratify him who is an enemy to him. There is no access without a mediator, no pardon without atonement, no cancelling infinite debts without a surety, no gaoldelivery without satisfaction, nor justification without perfect obedi
ence. And Jesus Christ is all these; but while he is hid there is no opening appears, through which hope and expectation can possibly pass to God; but in the valley of Achor he opens a door of hope, Hos. ii. 15.
Christ is the only door; and he that rejects him, and whose hope enters not in by this -door, has something vile and damnable even in his very hope. He hopes that God will not deal with him according to his sins, nor according to his absolute threatenings; he hopes that God will change his mind, be perjured in his oath, and lie to his word. Which is making God just such a one as himself, but God is true, and every man a liar. “God is not a man that he should lie; neither the son of man that he should repent.” Set aside the Lord Jesus Christ, and there is neither refuge nor anchorage for a poor sinner. We have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us, Heb. vi. 18.
Hope can only be exercised in this world; for, though in general it is of things future, things to cume, and things in heaven, yet it is only in this world that hope is employed about them. There is no work for hope in heaven, nor any foundation for it in hell. In heaven they see, enjoy, and possess, all that they formerly hoped for; and, as they see and enjoy these heavenly glories, there is no room nor exercise for hope about them; for that which is seen is not hope. Nor is there any
foundation laid for hope in hell. “They that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.”
The word of God confines all hope entirely to this world, and to men in this present state. If a man dies in his sins, where Christ is he cannot come; therefore there can be no hope for him. “To him that is joined to all the living there is hope;" but there is no hope to them that are in hell, for they shall remain in the congregation of the dead.
However perilous a man's case may be, to our appearance, in this life, and however dreadful his state according to our view of things, yet, as God only is the searcher of hearts, and whose power is infinite, “To him that is joined to all the living there is hope; for a living dog is better than a dead lion.” By a living dog is meant a dumb dog that cannot bark, or a greedy dog that can never have enough, or a divider of the Lord's flock; beware of dogs; or an opposer of Christ; give not that which is holy to dogs; or an apostate who returns to his filth, like the dog to his vomit; or a damnable heretic; for without are dogs; or a Sodomite; bring not the hire of a whore, nor the price of a dog, into the house of the Lord thy God. Yet a living dog is better than a dead devil; better than the lion of the bottomless pit, and better than a damned sinner: and for this reason only, because to him that is joined to all the living there is hope, but in hell there is none. The mariner's