On Christian Hope.
REV. DAVID TAPPA , d. d.
1 John iii. 3. Every man that hath this hope in him^ purifieth him' self^ even as he is pure. THE apostle in this chapter endeavours to comfort and inflame his fellow Christians, by setting before them the transcendent greatness of God's love, and the excellency of those privileges, which accrue to them from it. ' ' Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God !" -This wonderful privilege of being the children of God, is granted to, and enjoyed by the saints, even in the present life ; " Beloved, now are Vv^e the sons of God. '^ But still greater privileges are reserved for their future enjoyment ; "for we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him ; for we shall see him as he is.'' What a sublime and comforting prospect ! A prospect which, though its object be future and distant, conveys a good degree of present animation and fruition, through the anticipating influence of Christian hope. Even the remote view or expectation of such a felicity gives more delight and satisfaction, than the present enjoyment of the highest sublunary good. At the same time, this hope of heavenly glory, far from lulling its possessor into indolent security, or encouraging him to carnal and forbidden indulgence, is the most powerful and constraining incentive to dutv. EC
180 O CHRISTIA HOPE. [Ssr. Ht.
** He that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as He is pure." While his supreme desire and expectation centre in the future fceatific vision and likeness of his Lord, he feels himself incited to resemble him as much as possible, and thus to make the nearest approaches to, and the best preparation for his expected felicity. When the Christian is said to purify himself^ the idea is, tliat he acts in this affair as a dependent, subordinate agent ; that he is a worker with and under God ; that havin,^ received an habitual principle of holiness Srom the Spirit of grace, he, by the concurring aid of the same Spirit, diligently exerts this principle, or improves this talent, in a steady course of virtuous and useful conduct. When the believer is further described as purifying himself, e^uen as Christ is pure ; the phrase eijen as denotes a resemblance in kind,, not an equality in degree. It imports that the expectant of future glory possesses, and studiously cultivates, the same love and meekness, the same pure and heavenly dispositions, the same spirit of submission, conformity, and obedience to God, Vrhich were perfectly exemplified in Jesus his master ; though he never does nor can reach that ardour and strength of virtue, which appeai'ed in this divine Exemplar. Thus, in the natural body, the same vital fluid, in kind, which dv^ells and flows in the head, pervades all the inferior members ; though in the former it may be accompanied with more refined and vigorous spirits. Though we should grant that the Christian hope prompts an earnest pursuit of the same degree of purity, which the Saviour possesses ; yet this would not infer the complete success of such pursuit ; for the best imitation of tiie feeble copyist can never equal the absolute perfection of the origiucd.
sbr. xv.3 on christian hope. ISl The great object of the ensuing discourse will be, to ilhistrate and confirm the purifying efficacy of the Cluistian hope. In order to which, it may be useful, in the first place, to state more pai^ticularly, what is included in the work of self purification, here ascribed to the hoping believer. ow as all purification imports the removal of defilement ; so this expression, in the moral or evangelical sense, signifies deliverance from the pollution of sin. With regard to the defiling power of sin in the heart, this must be gradually destroyed by repeated exercises of penitential sorrow for it ; by a vigilant prevention of the overt acts, and., as far as possible, of the invrai'd motions of it in future ; by frequent and strict inquiry into the state of our minds with respect to sin and holi" ness; by planting our strongest guard against constitutional or favourite vices ; by keeping our bodily senses and appetites under a constant and severe regulation ; by cherishing habitual regards to Christ and the peculiar discoveries of his gospel ; and finally, by calling down succours from above by earnest and continual prayer. As the prayer of a sincere and contrite heart is the appointed medium of obtaining sanctifying influences from Heaven, so it has an efl^cacy in its ver}^ nature to purify and exalt the soul. For it awakens and increases in our minds a sense of the majesty and goodness, the purity and presence of God ; and dius strengthens our impression of the evil of sin, and of the beauty and obligation of holiness. It multiplies and enhances our engagements and motives to avoLd iniquity, to resist temptation, and to practise dut}^ Thus it extinguishes vicious inclinations, increases the tenderness and force of conscience, improves our relish for devout and spiritual exercises and entertainments, our zeal and vigour
182 6K CHRISTIA HOPE. [S^R. XV. in the cause of virtue, and our endeavours to obtain a temper and behaviour corresponding to our prayers. Having thus viewed the Christian purifying himself as God is pure, let us now attend to the happy efficacy of his hope in promoting this moral purity. That the hope of the gospel believer must have this salutary influence appears. First, From the nature of its object* The gi*eat object of the Christbn's hope is eternal happiness in the perfect vision, likeness, and consequent fruition of his God and Redeemer. He expects, when his Lord shall appear, to be like him both in holiness and blessedness ; because he shall then see him, as he is. ow the hope of such a pure and elevated happiness directly implies, and promotes a temper of heart, corresponding with the object in view. It implies such a temper, because the very nature of hope involves love to jsome absent good, joined to the cordial, pleasing desire and expectation of ere long possessing it. It therefore supposes a disposition of mind conformed or attempered to this good : otherwise the mind could not expect it with pleasing emotions, but would regard it with indifference or aversion ; that is, instead of hoping, it would rather dread its arrival. Consequently, the hope of completely resembling God hereafter implies a sincere love and conformity to him at present, producing an ardent, expecting, joyful desire of shordy awaking in his perfect likeness. The hope of seeing Christ, as he isy at his second coming, implies some affectionate, assimilating, and delightful views of his glory and love, in the present state, inspiring fervent aspirations after the future beatific vision.
This hope likewise directly promotes moral purity as w^ell, as implies it. For while the expecting Christian
S«K. XV.l O CHRItlA HOPE- 1^3 beholds and anticipates the approaching glorj- of Christ and heaven, he will insensibly catch the image of that glory ; his heart will receive a more full impression of its admired object ; and thus \\ ill become more pure and heavenly, in proportion to the vigour and frequent exercise of its Christian hope. His desire and expectation of such a holy felicity will likewise engage his assiduous culture of those moral quaUties, which must prepare him for it ; which alone can dispose, invigorate, and exalt his mind for the sublime employment and bliss of heaven. A previous and confirmed habit of moral purity must qualify us to enjoy, and even to support the future presence and glory of God ; to relish and delight in the moral beauty and harmony of his perfections, and to behold the smiles of liis approving lace. The subject of an earthly sovereign, who desires and expects to be advanced into his master's palace, to converse and live in the royal presence, will studiously adorn and fit himself for such an elevation. David, in the twenty-fourth psalm, proposes and answers this momentous question ; " Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord ? Who shall stand in his holy place ? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart." Were it possible for us to enter heaven without holiness, instead of being a seat of happiness, it would be to us a state of disgust, mortification, and torment ; because nothing in it would suit our vicious and carnal propensities. one but the pure in heart can derive any blessedness from seeing God. To those of an opposite character, the sight and presence of infinite purity
must be a source of painful aversion, confusion, and horror. A genuine hope, therefore, of so refined a felicity must stir up its possessor to purify himself, as
ISi O CHRISTIA HOPE. [Ser. XV. Christ is pure ; that in this way he may be qualified for the expected joys of his immediate presence. Again. Christian hohness here is the appointed conditto?! or mean of future blessedness. It is indispensably required by the positive constitution of God as well, as by the very nature of the thing. ow the reasonable hope of a desired end is ever grounded upon, and leads J to, a vigorous use of the means, which are necessar}% * or conducive to the attainment of it. one but ^ madman will hope to reap without sowing, or will sow one kind of seed, and expect a harvest of another. If we sow tares, we cannot, without the greatest absurdity, expect to reap tlie finest of the wheat. In like manner, if we sow the seeds of vanity and sin in this life, which is the spring of our existence, we must expect a corresponding harvest of confirmed depravit}^, disappointment, and iiiin in the next. There is no reaping life everlasting, without previously sowing to the Spirit, or living a spiritual and holy life ; and therefore a scriptural hope of everlasting happiness is ever connected with such a life, and powerfully quickens its subjects to persevere and improve in it. Which suggests another idea, viz. that as Christian purity is the great and only evidence of our title to heaven, the hope of it must not only depend upon our having this evidence, but must engage us to preserve it in a clear, satisfying, and advancing state. As we should esteem that man a presumptuous fool, who hoped to inherit an estate, to ^vhich he could show no title ; so it is equally foolish to hope for the heavenly inheritance, unless we can support our claim to it by the grand charter of the gospel. But we cannot prove this, either
in the court of conscience or of heaven, but by the pu^ rity of our hearts and lives. o one can rationally satisfy himself, that he is an heir of God and joint heir
Ser. XV.] O CHRISTIA HOPE. 185 with Jesus Christ to future glory, unless he can prove himself a child of God ; for if children., then heirs. But he cannot prove himself a child, unless he exhibit in his temper and conduct the image and spirit of his heavenly Father, or the peculiar dispositions which become his children ; that is, unless he manifest a spirit of filial love and reverence, submission and imitation. A good hope, then, must be founded on satisfactory evidence of real holiness, and must awaken earnest and unceasing endeavours after still higher measures of it. Again, this hope constrains the soul to purify itself from motives of pious gratitude. For surely if I expect so great and free a gift as eternal life from a Being, who might justly have doomed me to eternal death ; every principle of ingenuity, equity, and honour, must engage me thankfully to devote my short life to his service ! Shall I, can I go on to affront and defy him, by whose grace I hope to be saved ? Can I expect the accomplishment of all his exceeding great and precious promises to such a vile worm as myself, and yet continue to trample upon the righteous laws and infinite benefits of so great and merciful a Sovereign ? Can I insult that goodness, from which I expect everlasting blessedness ? Can I hope to live and reign in glory with my exalted Redeemer, who was crucified on earth, that I might be glorified with him in heaven ? Can I hope for this, and yet crucify this Redeemer afresh, by indulging those sins, which nailed him to the cross ? Does he demand no other return from me for his expensive love, than the constant study and practice of holiness, which is as much my privilege, as my duty ; and can I refuse
him so small a requital ; a service so easy, so proper, and so happy for myself? Surely they, who can act so base a part, have not the generous spirit and hope of
ISO O CHRISTIA HOPE. [Ser. Xt^, Chi'istians, but are lost to common ingenuity. Every true friend of Christ and heir of his salvation is constrained by his redeeming love, and by that affectionate hope and consequent gratitude, vvhich are enkindled by it, to live, not to himself, but to him who died for him, and rose again. I might add, that beside the moral or argumentative inSuence of Christian hope, in the respects now mentioned, upon the character of its subject, it has likewise a natural efficacy to sanctify the heart and life. For it is one of the gi'aces of that Holy Spirit, and of that heavenly religion, v.hose whole design and tendency are to purify and exalt our degenerate nature. Consequently, the hope of the gospel as well, as all its other virtues, is essentially holy, both in its nature and effect, and therefore must gradually root out the remains of sin, and carry forward the opposite interest in its happy possessor. Christian hope is also immediately connected with^ evangelical faith, both as it direcdy springs from it, and bears a striking resemblance to it ; and of course the same pure and noble fruits, w^hich Scripture and experience ascribe to the latter, may with equal reason be predicated of the former. Our subject leads us to reflect on the excellency of the Christian religion, not only in bringing life and immortality to light, but in giving such a rational and sublime view of future happiness, and rendering the hope of it such an eminent instrument and support as well, as fruit and solace of virtue. Thus tlie very privileges and comforts as well, as requirements, of the
gospel, directly tend to sanctify our hearts, and raise them to their true perfection and felicity. How worthy is such a system of a holy and benevolent Deity ! How friendly to the present and final \^ elfare of man !
Ser.XV.] on christian hope. 187 Our subject presents a certain criterion, by which to try our hopes of heaven. We all, I suppose, profess to be candidates and ex; Tctants of future glory. But what are the grounds, properties, and effects of our hope? Is it built upon, and productive of, inward and practical holiness ? Or is it accompanied with security, sloth, and sinful gratification ? If the latter, our hope and our pretended religion, are mere absurdity, mocker}', and delusion. For is it not repu gnant to sober reason to hope for salvation, when our very hope is of such a nature and influence, as to prove us heirs of destruction ? Can that hope originate from, and lead yoa to heaven, which has nothing heavenly in its nature- and operation, but every thing the reverse ? How inexpressibly foolish is it, to expect a holy happiness without a holy disposition ! To expect to be finally glorious in tlie eyes of the Lord, when our prevailing character is unlike and contrary to his ! To look for complete and endless satisfaction in the presence, service, and enjoyment of a Being, whom we habitually dislike, and whose laws of fellowship are our greatest burden and aversion ! To expect to find our eternal happiness and delight in those spiritual exercises and entertainments, which are entirely opposite to our present determined pursuits and established increasing propensities ! Is it not equally absurd and impious to hope for divine forgiveness and acceptance, w ithout a heart-purifying faith in, and vital union to, Christ ? To expect to be spai'ed by that patience, which we continue to provoke, and to be finally embraced by that mercy, which we re-
solve to abuse ? To propose to live the life of the wicked, and yet die the death of the righteous ? To live in a worldly, proud, unchristian manner, and then die like holy, humble, heavenly Christians ? To hope for victory rf
188 0]^f CHRISTIAIVJ HOPE. t^ER-^Vover sin and temptation by lazy wishes, without earnest struggles against it ? And to enter in at the strait gate, without striving and agonizing for it ! How absurd to profess a belief of the Bible, and yet hope for happiness without, yea, contrary to scriptural grounds ! to expect the end without the appointed means ! Yea, in the use of methods, which contradict and defeat it I Such hopes as these, not only imply the liiad expectation of absolute impossibilities, but also the impious presumption, that God will prove false to himself, to his own essential attributes and declared constitution, for the sake of honouring, and saving us in our perverse and rebellious dispositions ! Let those, who have hitherto cherished such infatuated, Vvicked, and ruinous hopes, be entreated immediately to abandon them ; or else they, and their delusive expectations will soon perish together in the pit of destruction ; for what is the hope of the hypocrite, when God shall take away his soul ! But if we possess the purifying^ hope above described, let us rejoice in it, bless God for it, walk worthy of it, hold it fast unto the end, and under its enlivening influence press forward to still higher degrees of Christian purity, confidence, and joy. Dearly beloved, having such precious promises as the ground and object of our elevated hopes, ** Let lis cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holmess in the fear of God*'*
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