« ForrigeFortsæt »
SAVED BY HOPE.
“For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it."-ROMANS viii., 24, 25.
We are said, sometimes, to be saved by faith. It is said sometimes, as here, that we are saved by hope. It may at first seem as though there were contrariety because there is variety. There is in the action of every mind never any one element working alone. There is a combination of elements or of faculties that lead or guide; and when they are all congenial and co-operative, and stand connected with the certainty of men's right living and right dying, then you may say, indifferently, of them all, that you are guided and saved either by one or by another, since they all are present in this blessed partnership of salvation.
One thing is sure, that of all books which ever were written, there is none that tends to project a man's thoughts into the future, and to thrust a man forward, so much as the New Testament. Never was there a book that, directly or indirectly, opened elements which belonged to the future as it does. Never was there a book which laid down a schedule for conduct and character which of itself necessitated forward action of the mind and feeling so much as the New Testament. Never was there a book whose latent and undisclosed philosophy implied so strongly as does the New Testament the on-going of men, or their opening and development, which is always a work toward the future.
Now, hope covers all that ground which the mind occu
SUNDAY MORNING, March 22, 1874, LESSON: Rom. viii., 15-39. HYMNS: (Ply. mouth Collection). Nos. 130. 1,230, 660
pies in looking into the future for certain great values or results-not merely in forelooking, but in looking forward with special and concurrent joy.
Hope is distinctively and universally recognized as a pleasure-bearing faculty; and when men are said to be "saved by hope," it is meant that they are saved by a generic exercise or conduct of the mind by which it works forward for itself toward its destiny-toward all the things which it esteems most highly, and which it most desires. And it works not bitterly, nor with acerbity, nor with any sense or feeling except that of cheer, and happiness; and peculiar happiness-happiness that, although it stands in a certain. relation to our past experience, looks at the future as a sort of escape from the present, as a realization of our ideal, and as something which is higher and better, and which removes us further from trouble and vexation in this world. It is a mood of mind which, while it does not refuse the past as a source of knowledge and guidance, and as a sphere in which lie great duties that are incumbent upon us, yet furnishes men with spirit and aptitude for present living by opening in them such a sense of their future as shall bring upon them new joys; joys from fresh sources; joys not tainted with evil; joys springing from ideal conceptions; joys as pure to the soul as the dews are to the flowers in summer.
This saying that we are "saved by hope" is only, as I have already intimated, a conformity of the spiritual philosophy of the New Testament to the actual facts of man's existence, and to the problem of life. For men here are never born at their full. They never grow up in any assignable number of years to a perfect condition. There is a side. (and that is the side on which they are almost always looked at) where men are imperfect and sinful; and they mourn their imperfection and sinfulness: but there is another side which men ought to bear in mind, which is fully recognized in the New Testament, and which God certainly bears in mind-namely, the side on which, out of limitation and imperfection and even sinfulness, is growing a constitution of things which is developing better and better ends, better and better characters, better and better conditions.
It pleases me to see my oak-trees growing. I wish they would grow faster and become larger. I should be very glad if I could make them grow a hundred years in one, so that I could sit under them as I sat under the great live-oaks in the South. But they will not grow in any such way as that; I see that they are little things; and when I think of big oaks, I say to mine, "What poor little sniveling things you are! How insufficient you are as trees!" Nevertheless, I do not despise them because they have not yet grown. I say to them, "Grow on. You will come to it by and by. You have it in you." And from year to year they grow more and more; and in time they shall become large trees, with widespreading branches, underneath which men shall sit, in the boughs of which birds shall rest, and which shall be crowned with beauty and majesty; for the summer shall caress them, ind the winter shall make them strong by its storms, and in every way nature is engaged working upon them to develop them. I should be a poor dendrologist if I walked every day along the border of my littl paradise on the hill, and douted my trees. "Oh! this 1 an onus arboris. What an pology for a tree it is! This is an Austrian pine; now I have seen the Austrian pine on Austrian mountains, and this is hardly even an apology for it." If then I said of my ashtree, "Well, that is a poor ash. Why, I could almost jump over it; whereas the true ash of the field is so high that the birds can scarcely fly to the top of it;" if I thus went on calling my trees to nought because they were so thin in stem, so narrow in spread, so low in height, so imperfect and crude, how unfair and unreasonable I should be. I do not do so at all. I go around among my trees, and say, "Ah! how much larger you are than you used to be! How you are growing!" And I imagine how much they will have grown when they are five years old. They almost touch each other now; and I say to myself, "The time will come when some of these trees will have to come out in order to give the others a chance to spread, and when those that remain will have to be pruned." I take as much pleasure with my quarter-ways as I should if they were half-ways; and I shall take as much pleasure with my half-ways as I should if they
were whole-growths-and more; for if they were full-grown, I should enjoy the comfort of them, but I should not have the pleasure of seeing them grow, or of cultivating them; for when a tree is finished the satisfaction of tending it and nursing it is gone. You can get some other satisfaction from it, but not that. Now, I look upon men as starting in growth and developing toward purity. That is the divine idea. There is nothing that requires so much to bring it to its own nature as man—for man's nature lies not at the beginning, but at the end. It is not what he is in the seed form that is his true nature, but what he is when he is carried to the utmost extension that belongs to the mind. That which men call nature in a man is not his true nature. Grace is trying to bring men back, or to carry them forward, to their real nature. In such an economy as that which prevails in this world, the philosophical problem of human life is, how to unfold mankind, and bring them to their true perfected nature; and in the solution of that problem, as the fundamental and governing element, hope is precisely that which men want. Faith is of the same nature. Trust, also, is of the same nature. All of them are, as it were, golden cords which lead up to the Throne; and by them men draw themselves into the future. So that if it be faith, faith takes us out of the present and the visible to the invisible and the future; or, if it be trust, trust takes us from the region of the past and advances us upward and forward; and if we are saved by hope, it will be because hope is pleasure-bearing, and has in it encouragement, sweetness, and enjoyment. It is that which carries us away from the past, and lifts us out of the present, and brings us to the glowing and glorious future. The apostle says, "We are saved by hope; but hope that is seen is not hope." When you look upon the attainments that you have made, upon that which you have achieved, you cannot properly say, "That is hope." Sometimes, however, the expression is conventionally used in that way. Sometimes persons say, "I have a hope," meaning that they have gone through a certain experience. Men may with propriety say, "I shall be saved by hope," meaning that
they have a hope that through God they will be saved by and by; but sometimes they use that expression, meaning that they have accomplished or wrought out that which is in the nature of a hope to them; and yet Paul says that what you already have is not hope. He says that hope is something which lies in the future. Hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for ?" What futurity is there in that which is perfected, and which stands in the present? "But if we hope for that we see noï [that which is not yet developed; that which is to be grown into and reached forward to; that which lies beyond], then do we with patience wait for it." Why? Because hope is of such a nature that it gives impetus and courage by which we are rendered willing to abide delay until the time for realization or achievement comes.
A boy would be regarded as very foolish, who, trying to learn to carve, should be so discontented and so dissatisfied with his hand that he would, as it were, throw the clumsy thing away, and say, "It can't learn its trade! it can't do anything!" The master would say to the pupil, under such circumstances, "My foolish boy, you will come to it by-and-by. Work and wait. My hand was clumsy as yours when I began."
An eminent painter goes into his studio, and finds the young man who has been apprenticed to him in a state of towering indignation, and beating his hand; and he says to him, "What is the matter with your hand?" The young man replies, "I have been trying to paint with it, but it smeared the canvass with the colors; all goes wrong, and I am tired of trying." What would you think of a person who was bo ginning to learn to paint, if he became vexed with his hand, and abused it because it committed blunders, and could not do its work perfectly? And yet, persons think they are doing God's service when they abuse their faculties, and call themselves names, saying, "I am such a sinner! Oh, I never do anything right. I have no gracious affections. This old filthy soul of mine, this mean conscience of mine, is rring disposition of minc-what shall I do with it ?" by would like to kick it out and crucify it.
But if it is wrong to do so by the hand or the foot be