“Saved by Hope.”
At the beginning of a new year, we take the liberty of expressing our hearty good wishes for the future well-being and happiness of our readers. May this year upon which we are entering prove a year of the Lord’s right hand to many souls! The signs of the times are dark and foreboding. But we would do well to be encouraged by the promise that the Lord will not cast off His own inheritance; He will continue to fulfil in their experience the words, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” There is also Scripture warrant to pray for and expect the conversion of the sheep who are still outside the fold. The Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save, nor His ear heavy that it cannot hear, and while our iniquities testify against us, it has been His gracious way to remember His covenant, and save poor sinners from going down into the pit.
The subject of our remarks on this occasion, we think, is highly suitable to the present time. If we judge of things by the sight of our eyes, and the hearing of our ears, we shall, without fail, become discouraged, and allow our hands to hang down in despair. But such ought not to be the frame of mind of the people of God in the darkest days. They must seek, by divine grace, to look above the floods and behold the King eternal sitting there, one who is mightier than the noise of many waters and great sea billows.
“Saved by hope.” This seemed the motto of the Apostle Paul amid the sufferings of the time in which he lived. Hope was to him “the anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast” throughout all the storms and tempests of his earthly course. It has been the same to the people of God in every age.
First, let us look at hope in a natural sense. What is it that enables many to struggle on in spite of all the disappointments of life? It is hope: the expectation based upon natural grounds of better things to come. Hope saves the young man from folding his arms in heartless inactivity. Hope stimulates him to put forth all his energies in the business in which he is engaged. Hope leads him on through mighty obstacles to eventual victory. If it were not that there was something of this spirit of hope in the heart of mankind, the world would be a morass of stagnation and a hell of despair and misery. Hope then, in the natural sense, performs a useful function in society.
This, however, is at best but a temporal hope; it has no spiritual value, it does not stretch into eternity. Men do often mistake it for a spiritual thing, and imagine it will carry them safely through the swellings of Jordan to the better land. But this is a sad delusion that will cost many poor souls an eternity of woe. Natural hope flows merely from a natural faith common to unregenerate men, a faith that is concerned solely with the things of sense and sight, a faith, which, if it happens to touch the things of eternity, only drags them down to the low level of carnal objects. The hope, therefore, that has this parent never rises for satisfaction and blessedness into the sublime and spiritual heights of eternity.
What, then, is the real character of the hope of which the Apostle speaks? It is a spiritual hope. It is born not of the flesh, but of the Spirit of God. The Spirit teaches the sinner that he lost all hope of life in the first Adam by sin, and that he is “without hope and without God in the world.” The sinner is led to see that he is utterly hopeless as far as the help of man is concerned, and that he must perish in this hopeless condition unless some way of salvation is opened up by his offended God. It is then the Spirit reveals to him Jesus Christ as the Hope of Israel and the Saviour thereof, and leads the poor hopeless soul to cast anchor upon Christ for time and eternity. He now begins to “fight the good fight of faith” and “lay hold of eternal life.” Hope – the hope of eternal life – sustains him in this conflict, and enables him to come off more than conqueror. The Scriptures compare the Christian course to a wilderness journey, a passage across the ocean, the running of a race, and the fighting of a battle. In all these views of the life of faith, hope is necessary to the soul’s final success.
Let us further observe that this is no vain hope based upon groundless imaginations and visionary fancies; it rests by faith upon God in Christ Jesus. It draws its life and sustenance from the character, the word, and the promises of God. It is therefore able to triumph over all obstacles whatsoever. The powers of darkness may marshal their hosts against it, the world and the flesh may unite to crush and destroy it, but all that these combined enemies can do is to make hope’s victory all the more glorious. Hope looks not to itself or any created object, but leans upon the arm of a faithful omnipotent God, and fixes its eye with triumphant expectation on the Forerunner within the veil, even Jesus, who ascended up on high, having overcome principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly in His cross. Thus the people of God may expect that one day through the grace that is in Christ Jesus they shall, poor and destitute though they be, share in the rest and glory of their exalted Redeemer. Thus, also, they may say even now, “We are saved by hope.”
Lastly, we notice the function of hope in one’s survey of the times in which we live. These times are dark and perilous indeed, more so, we believe, than any since the beginning of the Christian era, and according to the testimony of prophecy they will, for years to come, as far as the world at large is concerned, get worse and worse. But are the people of God on this account to hang down their hands in despair? Are they to speak and act as if the cause of God were a failure in the earth, and as if His purposes were being frustrated by the designs of men? Verily, not.
The Lord Jesus said on one occasion to the Jews, “Ye have seen Me, and believe not;” but did He leave them to think that on that account His work was a failure? No; far from it. He said, “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me, and him that cometh to Me, I will in nowise cast out.” Every soul that God has chosen from eternity shall be saved, and not one of them shall be lost. Christ shall lose nothing of all that the Father gave Him. Here we must rest with acquiescence and satisfaction. Not but we weep over a world perishing in their sins, and stretch out our hands in warning and entreaty towards them, beseeching them to turn and live. At the same time, let not the wide-spread rejection of the Gospel, by any subtle device of the devil, prove a snare to the believer in the pew or the true preacher in the pulpit; let it not weaken their hands in active efforts for the advance of Christ’s kingdom, or lessen their rejoicing in God their Saviour.
There are two extremes into which erring creatures are ready to fall. On the one hand, we are liable to contemplate the low state of the times in a frame of mind that would seem to convey the impression that the Lord had wholly forsaken the earth. On the other, we are apt to misunderstand the depth and malignity of prevailing declensions, and to take a superficial and confident view of their speedy rectification. Both extremes are dangerous. The latter is the more common, and the more dangerous. We would do well also to beware of the former. The only way we can be delivered from it is by getting through the teaching of the Holy Ghost a spiritual grasp of the words, “We are saved by hope” (Romans 8:24).