Old Paths, Chapter Four
“We are saved by hope.” (Romans 8:24.) Let us, then, make sure that our hope is sound. Have we a hope that our sins are pardoned, our hearts renewed, and our souls at peace with God? Then let us see to it that our hope is “good,” and “lively,” and one “that maketh not ashamed.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16; 1 Peter 1:3; Romans 5:5.)
1. A good hope is a hope that a man can explain. I do say that a man must know what his hope is, and be able to tell us its nature. I cannot believe that a man has got possession of a thing if he knows nothing about it.
I do not say that a power of talking well is necessary to salvation. There may be many fine words on a man’s lips, and not a whir of grace in his heart; there may be few and stammering words, and yet deep feeling within, planted there by the Holy Ghost. If he can tell us no more than this, that “he feels himself a sinner, and has no hope but in Christ,” it is something. But if he can tell us nothing at all, I must suspect that he has got no real hope.
2. A good hope is a hope that is drawn, from Scripture. In the second place, a good hope is a hope that is drawn from Scripture. What says David? “I hope in Thy word.”--“Remember the word unto Thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused me to hope.” What says St. Paul? “Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” (Psalm 119:31-49. Romans 15:4.) If our hope is sound we ought to be able to turn to some text, or fact, or doctrine of God’s Word, as the source of it. Our confidence must arise from something which God has caused to be written in the Bible for our learning, and which our heart has received and believed.
It is not enough to have good feelings about the state of our souls. We may flatter ourselves that all is right, and that we are going to heaven when we die, and yet have nothing to show for our expectations but mere fancy and imagination.
Good feelings without some warrant of Scripture do not make up a good hope.
It is not enough to have the good opinion of others about the state of our souls. We may be told by others on our death beds, to “keep up our spirits,” and “not to be afraid.” We may be reminded that we have “lived good lives, or had a good heart,--or done nobody any harm,--or not been so bad as many;” and all this time our friends may not bring forward a word of Scripture, and may be feeding us on poison.
I warn every one to beware of a hope not drawn from Scripture. It is a false hope, and many will find out this to their cost. That glorious and perfect book, the Bible, however men despise it, is the only fountain out of which man’s soul can derive peace.
There is not on earth a scrap of solid hope for the other side of the grave which is not drawn out of the Word.
3. A good hope rests entirely on Jesus Christ. In the third place, a good hope is a hope that rests entirely on Jesus Christ. What says St. Paul to Timothy? He says that Jesus Christ “is our hope.” What says he to the Colossians? He speaks of “Christ in you the hope of glory.” (1 Timothy 1:1;Colossians 1:27.) If we have nothing better than Church-membership to rest upon we are in a poor plight: we have nothing solid beneath our feet. Reception of the sacraments is no foundation of hope. We may be washed in the waters of baptism, and yet know nothing of the water of life. We may go to the Lord’s table every Sunday of our lives, and yet never eat Christ’s body and drink Christ’s blood by faith.
4. A good hope is felt inwardly in the heart. In the fourth place, a good hope is a hope that is felt inwardly in the heart. What says St. Paul? He speaks of “hope that maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts.” He speaks of “rejoicing in hope.” (Romans 5:5; Romans 12:12.)
But the abuse and perversion of a truth must never be allowed to rob us of the use of it. When all has been said that can be said against fanaticism and enthusiasm, it is still undeniable that religious feelings are plainly spoken of and described in Scripture.
Let us beware of a hope that is not felt, and a Christianity that is destitute of any inward experience. They are idols of the present day, and idols before which thousands are bowing down. Thousands are trying to persuade themselves that people may be born again, and have the Spirit, and yet not be sensible of it,--or that people may be members of Christ, and receive benefit from Him, who have neither faith nor love towards His name.
5. A good hope is manifested outwardly in the life. In the last place, a good hope is a hope that is manifested outwardly in the life. Once more, what saith the Scripture? “Every one that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.” (1 John 3:8.) The man that has a good hope will show it in all his ways. It will influence his life, his character, and his daily conduct; it will make him strive to be a holy, godly, conscientious, spiritual man. He will feel under a constant obligation to serve and please Him from whom his hope comes.
If there is light in a house it will shine through the windows: if there is any real hope in a man’s soul it will be seen in his ways. Show me your hope in your life and daily behaviour. Where is it? Wherein does it appear? If you cannot show it, you may be sure it is nothing better than a delusion and a snare.
My first word of application shall be a question. I offer it to all who read this paper, and I entreat each reader to give it an answer. That question is, “What is your own hope about your soul?”
The account of God will not be taken by towns, or by parishes, or by families: each must stand forth separately and answer for himself. “Every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:12.)
My second word of application shall be a request. I make it to all readers of this paper who feel they have no hope and desire to have it. It is a short simple request. I entreat them to seek “a good hope” while it can be found.
Our past lives do not make it impossible to obtain it, however bad they may have been; our present weaknesses and infirmities do not shut us out, however great they may be. The same grace which provided mankind with a hope, makes a free, full, and unlimited invitation:--“Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely;”--“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find.” (Revelation 22:17; Matthew 7:7.)
If you have a good hope, keep it always ready. Have it at your right hand, prepared for immediate use: look at it often, and take care that it is in good order. Trials often break in upon us suddenly, like an armed man. Sicknesses and injuries to our mortal frame sometimes lay us low on our beds without any warning. Happy is he who keeps his lamp well trimmed, and lives in the daily sense of communion with Christ!
The hope of many a believer is like that fire-engine, and that ship. It exists,--it lives,--it is real.--it is true, it is sound,--it is good: it came down from heaven: it was implanted by the Holy Ghost. But, alas, it is not ready for use! Its possessor will find that out, by his own want of joy and sensible comfort, when he comes to his death-bed. Beware that your hope be not a hope of this kind. If you have a hope keep it ready for use, and within reach of your hand.
If you have a good hope, seek and pray that it may grow more and more strong every year. Do not be content with a “day of small things;” covet the best gifts: desire to enjoy full assurance.
If you have a good hope, be thankful, for it, and give God daily praise. Who has made you to differ? Why have you been taught to feel your sins, and nothingness, while others are ignorant and self-righteous? Why have you been taught to look to Jesus, while others are looking to their own goodness, or resting on some mere form of religion? Why are you longing and striving to be holy, while others are caring for nothing but this world? Why are these things so? There is but one answer,--Grace, grace, free grace, has done it all. For that grace praise God. For that grace be thankful.
Morning and Evening
Whenever a man is about to stab true religion, he usually professes very great reverence for it.
Out of slavery of sin and Satan—the redeemed must come. In every cell of the dungeons of Despair, the sound is echoed, “Let these go their way!” and forth come Despondency and Much-afraid. Satan hears the well-known voice, and lifts his foot from the neck of the fallen; and Death hears it, and the grave opens her gates to let the dead arise.
Great thoughts of your sin alone—will drive you to despair; but great thoughts of Christ—will pilot you into the haven of peace. “My sins are many—but oh! it is nothing to Jesus to take them all away. The weight of my guilt presses me down as a giant’s foot would crush a worm—but it is no more than a grain of dust to Him, because He has already borne its curse on the cruel tree. It will be but a small thing for Him to give me full remission, although it will be an infinite blessing for me to receive.
The love of Christ in its sweetness, its fullness, its greatness, its faithfulness, surpasses all human comprehension. Where shall language be found—which shall describe His matchless, His unparalleled love towards His people?
Before we can have any right idea of the love of Jesus, we must understand His previous glory in its height of majesty, and His humiliation upon the earth in all its depths of shame.
You cannot be accepted without Christ; but, when you have received His merit, you cannot be unaccepted.
Remember that, to suffer is an honorable thing — to suffer for Christ is glory. The apostles rejoiced that they were counted worthy to do this.
Tried believer, your Lord has a tear-bottle in which the costly drops of sacred grief are stored away—and a book in which your holy groanings are numbered. By-and-by, your prayer shall be answered. Can you not be content to wait a little? Will not your Lord’s time—be better than your time?
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible