A Good Hope Through Grace
James Smith, 1856
HOPE is the sweetener of human life. But for hope we would dash down the bitter cup, and rush into desperation and despair! As painful as life often is it would be ten times worse, but for hope.
But hope sometimes is limited to time, and sometimes it rests on a false basis. Then comes disappointment, sorrow and woe. We shall not dwell on hope in general but on the Christian's hope. "A good hope; a good hope through grace."
A good hope is a steady expectation, raised in the soul, of the possession of some future good. Its author is the Holy Spirit, and the means by which it is produced is the everlasting gospel.
For example, a man is convinced of sin, alarmed by the law, and realizes that his desert is Hell. He is afraid of God, he is terrified at the thought of judgment, and at times perhaps, longs for annihilation. He believes in Hell and dreads it. He believes in Heaven but has no hope of it. He is afraid to pray and yet dares not neglect it. The pride of his heart gives way. He is ready to do anything, and willing to be anything if he may but escape the wrath to come!
He now hears the everlasting gospel; it proclaims a full, free, and immediate pardon of all sin. It presents a glorious righteousness, to be placed to the account of all who believe. It opens a fountain which cleanses the foulest sinner, and makes him as white as snow. It reveals the infinite, undeserved, and sovereign love of God. It promises Heaven, with all its blessedness and glory, to every one who believes.
The Holy Spirit now accompanies this gospel with his own sweet and invincible power to the heart. Unbelief gives way. Doubts, fears, and dullness depart. Hope, cheering hope, springs np. The man believes the gospel record, he has confidence in God, he casts himself on Jesus.
This faith is the immediate parent of hope. He almost unconsciously begins to expect good things at the hand of God. His expectation deepens and strengthens. He is persuaded that God is love. He is filled with wonder when he hears that God beseeches him to bo reconciled. He yields at once. His fetters are broken. The yoke of bondage is destroyed. Pardon and peace are enjoyed. The Spirit of adoption whispers, "Abba!" in his heart, and he cries out, "My Father!"
Good hope is now produced. It roots itself in the man's nature. It influences the man's heart and life. It lifts up his head. It brightens his eye. It strengthens his power of vision. It pierces the clouds. It passes through the distance with the velocity of lightning, and fixes on the glory provided in God's Word.
The OBJECT of a good hope is good the greatest good. Guided by the promises, it embraces all the good things which are limited by time. So that the Christian hopes for or expects, strength equal to his day, and that the grace of Jesus will be sufficient for him. He hopes . . .
Faith often looks forward, and leads the mind over the whole journey but hope accompanies it, and whispers, "You will endure that, you will overcome that, you will conquer that." Hope has a sweet voice, and though its strains are sometimes a little melancholy, it cheers the pilgrim as it sits in his bosom, like the nightingale in the thicket, amidst the gloom, and sings, "It shall be well all shall be well and well forever; for all things work together for good to those who love God, and are called according to his purpose. Heaviness may endure for a night but joy comes in ths morning."
But a good hope is not limited to the good things of time; it embraces the invisible eternal world, the residence of God, the dwelling-place of Jesus Christ.
A good hope cheers the dying Christian with the
thought, "Absent from the body present with the Lord." It persuades him
that . . .
every pain will soon cease,
every sorrow will soon end,
every trouble will soon terminate.
A good hope reminds him, that though he may carry his cross to the gates of glory he can carry it no farther! Every cross must be laid down on the threshold of that blissful mansion.
A good hope soothes his fainting heart, and cheers his sinking mind as it speaks of the better land, and his saving interest in it, and holds up the testimony which sparkles like a cabinet of gems: "They will never again be hungry or thirsty; they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun. For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes!"
A good hope even goes beyond this to the coming, the glorious coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to set up his kingdom, fulfill all the glowing predictions of his Word, and make good his largest promises to his people. The coming of Christ is the most desirable, the most glorious event predicted in all the future and, as such, hope fixes upon it. Oh, the flashes of joy that enter through the eye of hope into the soul, as it looks forward to the second advent! Oh, the pleasure that at times thrills the spirit as it anticipates that sublime event! Hope looks, longs, and at times wearies for the coming of Jesus. She rejoices in what is laid up in Heaven, in the priceless inheritancean inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay!
This good hope places the espoused spirit on the tip-toe of expectation for the coming of the beloved Bridegroom, openly to celebrate his nuptials. Hence, the believer is described by the apostle as "looking for that blessed hope, even the glorious appearing of the great God our Savor Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous for good works."
This good hope is of GRACE entirely of grace. It owes its existence to the free, sovereign, and unmerited favor of God. It originates in grace not in works; in what is in God not in anything in man.
It has cheered the hearts of the vilest.
It has visited the abode of the most wretched.
It has brightened the eye of the most unworthy.
This good hope . . .
flows from the God of all grace,
is generated by the Spirit of grace,
by the instrumentality of the gospel of grace, and
is intended to reflect the praise of God's glorious grace forever!
You friend of man,
you brightest emanation of the glory of God,
you source of all good,
you center of all excellence
I admire, I adore, I love you!
But for you good hope would have never visited my poor, polluted, miserable bosom!
But for you I would have been languishing in gloom, sitting in despondency, or sinking in despair!
But for you I would have never . . .
wept over sin,
fled to Jesus,
embraced his cross, or
felt the sweets of pardon, peace, and liberty!
But for you I would have been a felon in chains, a criminal in prison, a malefactor doomed to eternal death!
Oh, Grace, how much I owe you!
Oh, Grace, how shall I sufficiently extol you!
Yes, good hope is through free grace and free grace alone!
Grace devised it,
grace made provision for it,
grace produced it,
grace sustains it, and
grace shall have all the glory of it!
This hope is a good hope. It is good in its author which is God, who is called the God of hope. Sweet is that prayer of the apostle, "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, by the power of the Holy Spirit." Whatever God produces must be good; whatever God gives must be excellent. Hope is his gift, one of those favors referred to by James, "Every good gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, in whom is no variableness, nor shadow of turning."
This hope is good in its nature. It is an
expectation, founded on the goodness of God, generated by the good Spirit of
God, of receiving good things from God. It is an expectation which does
honor to . . .
the benevolence of the Divine Nature,
the veracity of the Divine Word, and
the glorious atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This hope is good in its effects. It . . .
banishes sullen gloom,
dissipates dreary fears,
scatters distressing doubt, and
conquers accursed unbelief!
It lights up a candle in the prisoner's dark cell.
It opens a door to the traveler in Achor's dreary valley.
It kindles a fire in the sinner's icy heart.
This hope gives . . .
luster to the eye,
color to the lip, and
bloom to the cheek.
This hope purifies the heart from . . .
prejudice against God,
enmity to man, and
It sets the idle to work,
sends the sick soul to the Physician, and
stimulates the disheartened to run the race set before him.
It is good, for it gives . . .
its possessor comfort,
and benefits all around.
It is good, for it rests on a good foundation. A
foundation . . .
broader than time,
firmer than earth, and
as durable as the throne of God.
It rests . . .
on the infinite love of Father, Son, and Spirit;
on the everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure;
on the meritorious blood and perfect righteousness of Incarnate Deity;
on the many exceeding great and precious promises of the sacred Word;
on the oath of God, that he will not be angry with his people;
and on the immutable faithfulness of a God who cannot lie.
Glorious foundation of our hope!
What can shake it!
What disturb it!
My soul, let your hope rest, not on anything within
you, or on anything done by you but on . . .
what God is,
what God has said,
what God has done, and
what God is pledged to do.
This is the rock on which to cast your anchor it will keep you steady amidst all the storms of life and in the great earthquake of death. As the anchor grasping the rock holds fast the vessel, causing it to outride the storm so your hope, grasping this glorious rock, will keep you safe and steady. It moors you to the eternal throne. Others may make shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience but you never shall. Other vessels may be dashed to pieces by the fury of the storm but your never can.
The metal of which this anchor is made is so strong, and so well welded that all the powers of earth and Hell may try in vain to break it.
The cable by which this anchor is held the faith of the operation of God is so powerful that no weight can ever snap it, or even strain it.
The timber to which it is fastened in the vessel the work of the Spirit of God in the soul is firmer than any old English oak, or Lebanon's far-famed cedars.
Therefore it is that every vessel of mercy is enabled to sail over the stormy and troubled ocean of time, and notwithstanding its dangerous eddies and tides, its rocks and quicksands, its whirlpools and waterfalls not one ever perished yet. Perished! Forgive ths thought, alike dishonorable to God and injurious to man! Perished! Utterly impossible, since He who holds the winds in his fists, and the waters in the hollow of his hand, has said, "They shall never perish ever!"
Perished! if so, then . . .
the promise must fail,
the oath of God must be violated,
the blood of the cross must be dishonored,
the everlasting covenant must be broken,
the word of Jesus must prove a falsehood,
and Satan would triumph over the Savior!
Perished! No, never one! Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice, my soul, in this! Hold this fast, and never give it up; for if one has perished, more may; and if anyone is likely you are the man. Yes, my feeble, fickle, foolish soul would be sure to be found among the lost! But no, that hope that originated with God, is sustained by God, and will be consummated in the presence and glory of God. "The hope of the righteous shall be gladness." A good "hope makes not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit."
But if I hope for victory and lose the battle; if I hope for the prize and lose the race; if I hope for Heaven but am doomed to Hell would I not be ashamed? And when tormented by devils and fellow-sufferers in Hell would not my hope make me ashamed?
But we are saved by hope. Saved from distraction, desperation, and despair now; and saved from the horrors of Hell forever.
Hope, eldest daughter of a living faith you have cheered, solaced, and comforted me hitherto; will you not comfort me to the end? Yes, yes! And when, on my dying pillow, when heart and flesh is failing, when earth is receding, and the unseen world is approaching you will whisper to me, "Grace reigns! Glory approaches! Heaven opens! Jesus calls you. Farewell; go realize forever what I have taught you to expect, and assured you of enjoying!"
Thrice blessed hope! You have been my helmet when
fighting on land and my anchor in the storm at sea;
you have opened a door of escape in the valley of trouble and sorrow;
you have moderated my grief under losses and bereavements;
you have stimulated me to activity when dejected and discouraged;
you have saved me from despair many a time, bidding me look out for better days, assuring me that there was a good time coming.
Comfortable hope! companion of my wintry seasons and darkest nights you shall accompany me to the gates of the celestial city, and only expire in the blaze of its glory and inconceivable splendor! God of hope, I bless you for this grace, this fruit of your Spirit; strengthen it in my soul, and confirm it unto the end, for Jesus' sake!
Reader, have you a good hope? A hope you have, I doubt not; but is it a good hope?
Was it preceded by conviction of sin, despair of help in self, and submission to the righteousness of God?
Was it begotten at the cross?
Is it nourished at the throne of grace?
Does it rest on the faithful Word of God?
These are serious and important questions; for a false
hope will deceive you. It may delude you in health and strength but it
will fail you in the hour of trial, and in the article of death. See to it .
that your hope rests on Jesus,
that it purifies your heart,
that it bears the stamp of Heaven upon it.
All the productions of that blessed Spirit bear his
stamp his private mark upon them; that mark, is holiness. If
your hope is good . . .
it centers in Christ,
it consecrates you to God, and
looks forward to a Heaven that is holy, as well as happy.
A good hope always leads its possessor to sigh, cry, and pray for holiness more than happiness. By this one mark you may prove the nature of your hope.
Are you a hopeless sinner? You may become a hopeful, happy believer. Flee to Jesus from your sins, your guilt, your desert; he will receive you, and his Spirit will give you a good hope through grace.
Are you a poor doubting soul? Jesus asks you, "Why do you doubt?" Mercy is free. His blood is infinitely efficacious. His righteousness is for every one that is willing to have it, and wear it. Doubt not, my friend but hope in God, for you shall yet praise him.
Are you just going to give up your hope? What, has it come to that? Well, then, even give it up. Give it up! You startle at this advice, I know, and something within you says, "Never!" No, no, you never will give up your hope, for hope will never give up you, or, rather, the God of hope will not. Hope on, hope ever, and never talk of giving up then!