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municate to our souls, through endless ages, bliss, in every form that infinite goodness can prompt, or unlimited wisdom can devise, When the christian, then, anticipates the triumph with which he shall hear from Immanual himself, the welcome salutation,
“ Well done, thou good, and faithful “ servant;" and forecasts the raptures of entering “ into the joy of his Lord,”* he may well be not only “ patient in tribulation,” but “ rejoicing in
Fourthly; the eternal duration of the blessings now illustrated, is a gladdening object of the believer's hope.
The eternal duration of bliss, so exquisite and sublime, is an idea so immense, that, when justly apprehended, it must hide from our perception, and so deeply interesting, that it must banish from our recollection, all the temporary pains and inconveniencies, to which we are subject in the present life; and fill our whole souls with “ joy unspeakable, " and full of glory."# God lives for ever; and for ever shall his people live, to be happy in him. The objects of their contemplation shall be infinite in number, diversity, and extent: but their own existence shall be also infinite; and they shall have an eternity to examine and admire them. Thus, to the infinity of the objects of knowledge and enjoyment, corresponds the eternity granted to finite minds, to know and to enjoy them. We shall be eternally inquiring, and always discovering. Each new discovery of the perfections of God, and of the harmonies of his works, shall excite new joy, and communicate new vigour to our minds. Thence,
+ Rom. xii. 12 # 1 Peter i. S.
* Matt. XV. 21.
again, shall be enkindled new desire of searching and of knowing more. So that, our happiness consisting in the knowledge and fruition of an infinite variety of objects, extended through an infinite succession of ages, we shall neither be satiated by their repetition, nor disturbed by the apprehension, that the felicity which they afford shall ever be terminated.
Such are the objects of christian hope: and he, surely, who has this hope, has cause of joy, in every period and circumstance of life.
ts power, indeed, is not always so discernible, in the season of health and prosperity. The believer must then, like others, engage in the affairs of life; and these distract his attention. While by worldly affairs, those, who are destitute of his hope, have their hearts, in such a season, altogether occupied. The power of this hope, therefore, in those who possess it, and the loss of those who have it not, are best seen, when both are about to enter into the world of spirits. The heathen, who knows nothing of the world unseen, but by uncertain guesses, or mutilated tradi. tions, feels a strange darkness and perplexity in his mind, when called to pass over to that country, from whose borders no traveller returns. The sinner, who, through life, has rejected the offer of the gospel-hope, would fain lay hold of it in his dying hour: but, scorned till now, it now flies from him. He, trembling, looks over the precipice before him, and beholds malignant spirits ready to catch his soul,
“who,” he cries, “ can dwell with the devouring fire? who shall dwell with everlasting burn“ings?"* And the infidel, who has not only re
• Isaiah xxiii. 14.
nounced the gospel for himself, but has laboured to subvert the faith of others, feels his soul cursed with the reflection, that his endeavours have been employed to rob misery of its best consolation, and virtue of its most powerful support. While awful forebodings of the truth of these convictions, which he had but too successfully exerted himself to suppress, render every interval of reflection hopeless and horrible. Turn now to the christian, who lives ·and dies in the exercise of his hope. His feelings are those of exultation; his language, that of triumph
-“ I have fought a good fight; I have finished my “course; I have kept the faith; henceforth, there “ is laid up for me a crown of righteousness. O “ death! where is thy sting? O grave! where is thy
We conclude with some reflections, intended to encourage the exercise of hope, especially in the minds of the fearful and disconsolate.-Since, as has been already observed, there may be true faith, where there is much weakness of hope ; while, at the same time, from faith hope must derive all its energy; it becomes you first to examine
yourselves, whether you be in the faith : and of this, the test, by which you judge, ought not to be merely the pleasurable feelings of the divine favour, which you wish to possess, or the ecstacy with which you contemplate the prospects of a heavenly inheritance; but the prevailing tenor of your heart and conduct, your desire to be conformed to the will of God, and your care to avoid every false and
2 Tim. iv, 7, 8; and 1 Cor. xv. 55.
wicked way. If, trying yourselves by this standard, you have the answer of a good conscience, you may be satisfied of your faith; and you will find hope increase in your bosoms, attended by quietness and assurance. I am the more desirous, in the prospect of your participating in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, that you should attend to this; as some, apt to mistake the want of rejoicing in hope, for the want of faith in the Saviour, may not think themselves entitled to join in that refreshing ordinance, and foretaste of heaven, though instituted for their benefit, and intended for their consolation.*
But, alas! says one, I have examined myself; and still I am in doubt whether I have faith at all: for in my heart I can find no traces of grace, and no room for the love of God, so much it is filled
up with grief and fear. How, then, can I cherish hope; or presume to sit down with the children of the kingdom ?
My disconsolate friend, I wish not to lead you to any act of presumption: but attend to the following observations; and, as in the presence of God, apply them to your own condition. Thou art grieved that thou hast so little improved the means of grace; thou complainest of the want of heavenly-mindedness; and thou art tempted to conclude that God hath forgotten thee. This shews that, at the present moment, thou dost not enjoy the light of his countenance; but it does not prove,
This Sermon, and the following, were preached during the interval between the intimation of the purpose of dispensing the sacrament of the Lord's Supper to the author's congregation, and the Sabbath on which that ordiaance was celebrated.
either that thou art destitute of love to him, and excluded from gospel ordinances; or that, even at this moment, thou art without his favour. Does not grief for any thing, which you imagine to be lost, demonstrate your esteem of it, as much as your rejoicing in its possession ? Did the captives of Judah evince no affection for the city of their fathers, when they hung their harps upon the willows, as they sat by Babel's streams, and wept, while they remembered Zion? And does not sorrow for departed friends mark your love as strongly, as delight in their society, while alive? If so, then the reality of your love to God, is proved by the an. guish of your heart in his absence, as much as that of others, by their rejoicing in the sense of his gracious presence. And dost thou love God? thy love is the fruit of faith. Hast thou faith ? fear not the validity of thy title to partake of the children's bread, the symbols of the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ; nor despair of thy right to entertain the hope of the children's inheritance. Come to the sacred table, in the faith that, though thou be a sinner, it was for sinners the Redeemer died: and the Lord may be made known unto thee, in the breaking of bread, as “ the God of hope; “ filling thee with all peace and joy in believing, " that thou mayest abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”*
Now, “ Blessed be the God and father of our " Lord Jesus Christ, which, according to his abund
ant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively “ hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from
* Rom. IV. 13