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of your best understanding) to be temptations, and reject them accordingly.
7. It is a prudent course, that in our health and best advantages, we lay up particular arguments and instruments of persuasion and confidence, to be brought forth and used in the great day of expense ; and that especially, in such things, in which we use to be most tempted, and in which we are least confident, and which are most necessary, and which commonly the devil uses to assault us withal, in the days of our visitation.
8. The wisdom of the church of God is very remarkable in appointing festivals or holy days, whose solemnity and offices have no other special business but to record the article of the day; such as Trinity Sunday, Ascension, Easter, Christmas day; and to those persons, who can only believe, not prove or dispute, there is no better instrument to cause the remembrance and plain notion, and to endear the affection and hearty assent to the article, than the proclaiming and recommending it by the festivity and joy of a holy day.
Of the Hope of a Christian.
Faith differs from hope, in the extension of its object, and in the intention of degree. St. Austin thus accounts their differences ?. Faith is of all things revealed, good and bad, rewards and punishments, of things past, present, and to come, of things that concern us, of things that concern us not; but hope hath, for its object, things only, that are good, and fit to be hoped for, future, and concerning ourselves: and. because these things are offered to us upon conditions of which we may so fail, as we may change our will, therefore our certainty is less than the adherences of faith ; which (because faith relies only upon one proposition, that is, the truth of the word of God) cannot be made uncertain in themselves, though the object of our hope may become uncertain to us, and to our possession. For it is infallibly certain, that
f Enchirid. C. 8.
there is heaven for all the godly, and for me amongst them all, if I do my duty. But that I shall enter into heaven, is the object of my hope, not of my faith; and is so sure, as it is certain I shall persevere in the ways of God.
The Acts of Hope are,
1. To rely upon God with a confident expectation of his promises; ever esteeming, that every promise of God is a magazine of all that grace and relief, which we can need in that instance, for which the promise is made. Every degree of hope is a degree of confidence.
2. To esteem all the danger of an action, and the possibilities of miscarriage, and every cross accident, that can intervene, to be no defect on God's part, but either a mercy on his part, or a fault on ours : for then we shall be sure to trust in God, when we see him to be our confidence, and ourselves the cause of all mischances. The hope of a Christian is prudent and religious.
3. To rejoice in the midst of a misfortune or seeming sadness, knowing, that this may work for good, and will, if we be not wanting to our souls. This is a direct act of hope, to look through the cloud, and look for a beam of the light from God: and this is called in Scripture, “ rejoicing in tribulation, when the God of hope fills us with all joy in believing." Every degree of hope brings a degree of joy.
4. To desire, to pray, and to long for, the great object of our hope, the mighty price of our high calling; and to desire the other things of this life, as they are promised ; that is, so far as they are made necessary and useful to us, in order to God's glory and the great end of souls. Hope and fasting are said to be the two wings of prayer. Fasting is but as the wing of a bird; but hope is like the wing of an angel, soaring up to heaven, and bears our prayers to the throne of grace. Without hope, it is impossible to pray; but hope makes our prayers reasonable, passionate, and religious ; for it relies upon God's promise, or experience, or providence, and story. Prayer is always in proportion to our hope, zealous and affectionate.
5. Perseverance is the perfection of the duty of hope, and its last act: and so long as our hope continues, so long we go on in duty and diligence : but he, that is to raise a castle in an hour, sits down and does nothing towards it : and Herod, the sophister, left off to teach his son, when he saw that twenty-four pages, appointed to wait on him, and called by the several letters of the alphabet, could never make him to understand his letters perfectly..
Rules to govern our Hope. 1. Let your hope be moderate; proportioned to your state, person, and condition, whether it be for gifts or graces, or temporal favours. It is an ambitious hope for persons, whose diligence is like them, that are least in the kingdom of heaven, to believe themselves endeared to God as the greatest saints : or that they shall have a throne equal to St. Paul, or the blessed Virgin Mary. A stammerer cannot, with moderation, hope for the gift of tongues; or a peasant to become learned as Origen; or if a beggar desires, or hopes, to become a king, or asks for a thousand pound a year, we call him impudent, not passionate, much less reasonable. Hope, that God will crown your endeavours with equal measures of that reward, which he indeed freely gives, but yet gives, according to our proportions. Hope for good success according to, or not much beyond, the efficacy of the causes and the instrument; and let the husbandman hope for a good harvest, not for a rich kingdom, or a victorious army.
2. Let your hope be well founded, relying upon just confidences; that is, upon God, according to his revelations and promises. For it is possible for a man, to have a vain hope upon God : and, in matters of religion, it is presumption to hope, that God's mercies will be poured forth upon lazy persons, that do nothing towards holy and strict walking, nothing (I say) but trust, and long for an event besides, and against, all disposition of the means. Every false principle, in religion, is a reed of Egypt, false and dangerous. Rely not in temporal things upon uncertain prophecies and astrology, not upon our own wit or industry, not upon gold or friends, not upon armies and princes; expect not health from physicians, that cannot cure their own breath, much less their mortality : use all lawful instruments, but expect nothing from them above their natural or ordinary efficacy, and, in the use of them, from God expect a blessing. A hope, that
iş easy and credulous, is an arm of flesh, an ill supporter without a bone
3. Let your hope be without vanity, or garishness of spirit; but sober, grave, and silent, fixed in the heart, not borne upon the lip, apt to support our spirits within, but not to provoke envy abroad.
4. Let your hope be of things possible, safe, and useful ”. He that hopes for an opportunity of acting his revenge, or lust, or rapine, watches to do himself a mischief. All evils of ourselves, or brethren, are objects of our fear, not hope ; and, when it is truly understood, things useless and unsafe can no more be wished for, than things impossible can be obtained.
5. Let your hope be patient, without tediousness of spirit, or hastiness of prefixing time. Make no limits or prescriptions to God; but let your prayers and endeavours go on still with a constant attendance on the periods of God's providence. The men of Bethulia resolved to wait upon God but five days longer : but deliverance stayed seven days, and yet came at last. And take not every accident for an argument of despair: but go on still in hoping; and begin again to work, if any ill accident have interrupted you.
Means of Hope, and Remedies against Despair. · The means to cure despair, and to continue or increase hope, are, partly by consideration, partly by exercise.
1. Apply your mind to the cure of all the proper causes of despair : and they are, weakness of spirit, or violence of passion. He, that greedily covets, is impatient of delay, and desperate in contrary accidents; and he, that is little of heart, is also of little hope, and apt to sorrow and suspicioni,
2. Despise the things of the world, and be indifferent to all changes and events of Providence: and, for the things of God, the promises are certain to be performed in kind; and, where there is less variety of chance, there is less possibility of being mocked k: but he that creates to himself thousands
of little hopes, uncertain in the promise, fallible in the event, and depending upon ten thousand circumstances (as are all the things of this world), shall often fail in his expectations, and be used to arguments of distrust in such hopes.
3. So long as your hopes are regular and reasonable, though in temporal affairs, such as are deliverance from enemies, escaping a storm or shipwreck, recovery from a sickness, ability to pay your debts, &c. remember that there are some things ordinary, and some things extraordinary, to prevent despair. In ordinary, remember, that the very hoping in God is an endearment of him, and a means to obtain the blessing; “I will deliver him, because he hath put his trust in me.” 2. There are in God, all those glorious attributes and excellences, which, in the nature of things, can possibly create or confirm hope. God is, 1. strong; 2. wise; 3. true; 4. loving. There cannot be added another capacity to create a confidence; for, upon these premises, we cannot fail of receiving, what is fit for us. 3. God hath obliged himself, by promise, that we shall have the good of every thing we desire: for even losses and denials shall work for the good of them, that fear God. And, if we will trust the truth of God for performance of the general, we may well trust his wisdom to choose for us the particular. But the extraordinaries of God are apt to supply the defect of all natural and human possibilities. 1. God hath, in many instances, given extraordinary virtue to the active causes and instruments: to a jaw-bone, to kill a multitude; to three hnndred men, to destroy a great army; to Jonathan and his armour-bearer, to rout a whole garrison. 2. He hath given excellent sufferance and vigorousness to the sufferers, arming them with strange courage, heroical fortitude, invincible resolution, and glorious patience: and thus he lays no more upon us than we are able to bear; for when he increases our sufferings, he lessens them, by increasing our patience. 3. His providence is extra-regular, and produces strange things beyond common rules : and he, that led Israel throngh a sea, and made a rock pour forth
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Pallad. Brunck. Anthol. t. ii. p. 437.