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life; as perseverance therein to the end, notwithlanding all the difficulties that are in the way: Rom. viii. 38. “ And we know, that all things work together for good to them that love God, and are the called according to his purpose.” Though the grace of God in him be like a spark of fire in an ocean, he ought firmly to hope, that the same heavenly breath that kindled it will keep it in to the end. (3.) The mercy of all other good things, so far as God shall see the bestowing them on us for his own glory, and our good. There are many particular things good in themselves, which we know not whether they will be fo to us or not; for example, deliverance from such a trouble; therefore it is not to be absolutely hoped for, but under this qualification, that God sees it to be good for us.
(3.) For the antecedent of this hope ; that is faith, which is the evidence of things hoped for, Heb. xi. 1. There can be no true hope without faith ; where faith does not open the door, hope cannot enter. Faith embraces the mercy in the promise of God, and hope waits for the accomplishment of the promise ; fo that one cannot truly hope for that which God has not promised, neither can one hope for the accomplishment of that promise which faith does not believe.
Lastly, The ground of this hope is God's free grace in Christ and his faithfulness: 1 Pet. i. 13. « Wherefore, gird up the loins of your mind, and hope to the end, for the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The mercy promised is quite above the finner's deserving ; but he considers the fulness and freedom of God's grace, and withal how unalterably he is to his word, and therefore hopes upon having that word made good to him.
A second question is, How may the hope of mero cy be knowu to be presumptuous ? Anf. Prefumption is the foul-ruining plague, whereby a person afsumes to himself what God has, by no testimony of his word, declared to be his, and which alters the beautiful order of mercy established by God, joining together what God has separated, and feparated what he has joined.Upon this I observe,
1. That hope is presumptuous, which is not founded on the Lord's word. Such hope is brisk in the dark, but loses all its lustre by the light of God's word brought in 'upon-it : John, iii. 20. 21. « For every one that doth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, left his deedsshould be reproved; but he that doth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” God's word is a friend unto his grace, but an enemy to delufion; it is the touch-stone that discovers the true metal and also the counterfeit. You hope for salvation, in what word of God is your hope founded ? Does the Lord's word, searchingly applied, strengthen or weaken your hope ? Say you, The general invitations are the ground of my hope? These may be grounds of hope that ye may get eternal life, if you will take God's way: But do you not hope that you shall get it, without a due confideration of this ? Now, these can never be the grounds of a folid hope, for all that hear the gospel are comprehended in these, as well as you.
(2.) That hope is presumptuous, which overlooks and neglects the means appointed by God for the attaining of his mercy unto eternal life :1 Pet. i. 3. “ We are begotten by God to a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Chrift from the dead.” The way thou art to be happy for ever is, that thou be united to Christ by a true faith,
Laftly, It is a great friend to holiness, and perfeverance in the ways of God, i Cor. xv. 58.As it honours God's grace and goodness, so it strengthens the soul, and animates it to all duties, to fight against corruption and temptation, and to pursue holiness.
III. Let all be exhorted to entertain a holy fear of God, together with a holy hope for his mercy. Mix these, and balance your souls with them, whatever your case be. While you are going through the world, keep your course in the middle between the two rocks of Presumption and Defa pair. For this purpose,
1. Beware of desponding or despairing of the mercy of God in Christ. There is an allowable despair, which all ought to entertain, in order to their getting their hope fixed on God, viz. a quitting of all hope in our own sufficiency, or ability to make ourselves happy by ourselves, or that ever - we shall be well, while we continue in a state of black nature. But what we call despair is a giving over all hope in God, which is a horrible fin. There is a threefold despair you should beware of, as ye would not ruin your own souls. . (1.) A sensual despair, which ariseth from an excessive love of the profits and pleasures of this world, with a secure contempt of spiritual and external good in another world, i Cor. xv. 32. “ Let us," say they, “ eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.” Alas! how many are there plagued with this? Their souls are festered with the desire of present good, which is their all, and, having no hope of better after this life, they give the swing to their lusts after these. (2.) A sluggish despair, Prov.xxji. 13. « The Noth