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our state ; it can be nothing but an outward work and self-deceit. We are the same unconverted men and women, whatever we may think of ourselves, or however we may appear to the world, till Christ is all in all to us, and life by him the great hope and ruling desire of our hearts.
Let me advise and exhort you to bring your religion to this test, and to consider whether your minds are indeed possessed and governed by this blessed hope, “which God, who cannot lie, hath promised since the world began.” For it is the hope of our high calling in Christ Jesus; the cordial of life, and the anchor of the soul; what he died to purchase for us ; what all Scripture was written to teach us ; what the ministers of the Gospel are ordained to publish, and the Holy Spirit is given to work in us. Happy is the man who can rejoice in it, and say continually in his heart, “ Blessed be the
• God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead :” who, as a son of God and joint heir with Christ, can with an humble confidence look up to him in heaven, as having taken possession of it in our names, and gone thither to prepare a place for us: who, whenever he takes the Bible into his hands, can say, “ Here is my estate, my treasure, enough for me to live and die with !”
Blessed God! is there such a hope as it tells us. of, salvation and life for a world of ruined, undone creatures, dead in trespasses and sins ? And is heaven again open for sinners, for me? Yes, here is the promise and assurance of it from the unchangeable God of truth, confirmed to me by his oath, and sealed to me in the blood of his Son. May I never be so foolish as to sell my Christian birthright for one mossel of meat; a lust,
a world! I am here told that, as a believer, “ I am come to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and the blood of sprinkling.” This is my faith ; as a member of Christ, and a child of God, I am an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven ; and to come to the full possession and everlasting enjoyment of it shall be my hope : and may He who hath given it to me, the God of all grače,
enable me to hold it fast; to fight manfully against sin, the world, and the devil, in the strength of it; and to say to every thing that would take it from me, as Naboth did to Ahab when he coveted his vineyard, “ The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee.”
Let us therefore, my brethren, give due attention to what the apostle here says of the great end for which the Scriptures were written, “ It was for our learning ; it was that we might have hope.” And if the thing hoped for is. exceeding great, and the attainment of it certain; if we have no other hope, and if it is the best we can have, since it includes Christ and all his blessings; we shall not think much to wait for it with patience, in patient faith, patient continuance in well-doing, and patient study of all Scripture, which brings us the glad tidings of the forgiveness of our sins, peace with God, and a right to eternal life by Jesus Christ. And as sure as we have this hope, we shall think it our best comfort in all states and conditions, our joy in prosperity, our support in trouble; nay, our great aim in the world will be to take care that we do not come short of it.
But as we could not so much as know either what this hope is, or how we are to be partakers of it without the Scripture, it appears at once to be a matter of the utmost necessity that we should read it diligently, value it as our greatest treasure, in comparison of it despise all other knowledge, and pray devoutly for the Spirit's help to open it to us, and set it home upon our hearts. No vain excuses, no lazy, heathenish complaints of want of time, learning, capacity, or memory, can be allowed in a matter of such unspeakable consequence to the present peace and everlasting happiness of our souls. If the Scripture taught an infallible way of thriving and growing rich, or was your title-deed to an estate in this world, not one of you would be ignorant of its contents. There are at all times many persons who live by their labour, and yet can find time every day to read the Scripture, and make good their profession of having their portion in it. So would every one of you, if you loved it for the hope it sets before you. Consider what I say. You know it is the conveyance of an heavenly inheritance; and God, who knows it to be his best gift to mankind, and your guide to heaven, has therefore, in great mercy, put it into your hands, that you may rejoice in its light, and be enriched by it in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. He tells you that “ all Șcripture is given by divine inspiration, and able to make you wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus :" He commands you to search it, that you may come to the knowledge of the Saviour; and he has appointed an order of men to assist you in the understanding of it, to explain and enforce it, to keep you close to it, and beseech you
in his name to open your hearts to the glorious, pleasing hope of being reconciled to him now, that you may enjoy him for ever. I know this to be my duty and office among you; and beseech God, for your sakes, to make me more and more sensible of it, that I
you up by all the ways I can think of to study and prize the word of God, and be your fellow-helper in the hope of the Gospel. To which purpose. I shall conclude with an observation concerning the word Scriptures, and the sense in which it is here used in the text.
Now, it is evident, that by the word Scriptures in this place, we are chiefly, if not solely, to understand the Scriptures of the Old Testament ; because but a very small part of the New was then written; and because it is here said, whatsoever things were written aforetime; meaning, as it should seem, a long time before the writing of this epistle to the Romans, and pointing for the hope here spoken of to the books of the Old Testament; the last of which, the prophecy of Malachi, was written some hundreds of years (four hundred, if not more) before the coming of our blessed Saviour. So that St. Paul hereby intended to affirm, that Christ, our hope, and the hope of all the ends of the earth, was declared and revealed in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, as the Saviour of mankind from the curse of sin, death, and hell. And a very comfortable thing it is to every serious, patient reader of all Scripture, to observe the mercy of God to a lost world; that, the great design of man's redemption was set on foot from the beginning, and runs through the whole Old Testament, as the marrow and kernel, the sum and substance of it, and the chief end for which it was written: that the promise of a Redeemer was given to Adam in Paradise, to be conveyed by him to his children as their birthright and best inheritance, and by them to their posterity; that it was renewed to Abraham, Moses, and David; 'preached to the Jews in their sacrifices and ceremonies, and more fully opened by the prophets, as the salvation both of Jew and Gentile. I say, this shows the great importance of the Old Testament, and points out to us what we should chiefly look for in it, and the excellent use we may make of it for the confirmation of our faith.
The improvement. I would make of this observation is, to put you upon considering what great cause we have to bless God that our lot is fallen to us in the happier times of full Gospel light; when “the day-spring from on high hath visited us,” and we have, the Scriptures both of the Old Testament and the New, to confirm our faith, and raise our hopes; the latter being to the former as noonday to the glimmering light of a taper. For“ in these last days God hath spoken unto us by his Son;" and the hope of mankind, the Saviour of the world, which lay hid in the Old Testament, as it were in its seed, is now fully opened in the New, and presented to our view in its state of perfection. But to what purpose have we this advantage, if we do not read and study the blessed book put into our hands, to receive the comfort it brings us, to be enriched with its treasures, and made happy by its hope? What can it signify to us that the Sun of righteousness hath long since risen upon the world in the person and grace of Jesus Christ, and that his glorious light shines all around us, if it does not shine into our hearts, and scatter the darkness from our souls? the darkness of sin, the darkness of unbelief, the darkness of ignorance, the darkness of a worldly life?
The blessed apostle tells us in this chapter that all God's promises of grace and mercy to mankind were confirmed in Jesus Christ. And at the 13th verse he prayed for you and me, that “the God of hope," - so called for ,
, the hope he hath given to sinners -O glorious title for us, who otherwise must have been without hope !- that “the God of hope would fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye mày. abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost.” Surely these promises are nothing to us, our belief is vain, and we read the Scriptures without effect, if we do not make this prayer our own ; if God's
peace, .and the sense of our reconciliation to him, is not the joy of our lives; if we do not so “ abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost," as to treasure it up in our hearts, despise every thing in