« PreviousContinue »
As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.
Unto a lively hope. Now are we the sons of God, saith the apostle, but it doth not yet appear what we shall be. These sons are heirs, but all this life-time is their minority; yet even now, being partakers of this new birth and sonship, they have a right to it, and in the assurance of that right, they have this lively hope ; as an heir hath not only right of inheritance, but may rejoice in the hope he hath of it, and please himself in thinking of it. That therefore, which Alexander said when he dealt liberally about him, that "he left hope to himself,” the children of God may more wisely and happily say, when they leave the hot pursuit of the world to others, and despise it: their portion is Hope. The thread of Alexander's life was cut off in the midst of his victories, and so all his hopes vanished; but their hope cannot die nor disappoint them.
But then it is said to be lively, not only objectively, but effectively ; eulivening and comforting the children of God in all distresses, enabling them to encounter and surmount all difficulties in the way. And then it is for mally so; it cannot fail, it dies not before accomplishment. Worldly hopes often mock men, and so cause them to be ashamed; and men are most of all ashamed of those things that discover weakness of judgment in them. Now worldly bopes put the fool upon a man. When he hath judged himself sure, and laid so much weight and expectation on them, then they break and foil him. They are not living, but lying hopes and dying hopes; they die often before us, and we live to bury them, and see our own folly and infelicity in trusting to them; but, at the utmost, they die with us when we die, and can accompany us no further. But this hope answers expectation to the full, and much beyond it, and deceives in no way but in that happy way of far exceeding it.
A lively or living hope, living in death itself! The world dares say no more for its device, than " while I breathe I hope;" but the children of God can add, by virtue of this living hope-while I die I hope. It is a fearful thing when
a man and all his hopes die togetheri Thys saith Solomon, of the wicked. When he dieth,
then die his hopes, many of them before, but at the utmost then, all of them; but the righteous hath hope in his death. Death, which cuts the sinews of all other hopes and turns men out of all other inheritances, alone fulfils this hope, and ends it in fruition; as a messenger sent to bring the children of God home to the possession of their inheritance.
By the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This refers both to begotten again by his resurrection and having this lively hope by his resurrection; and well suits both, it being the proper cause of both, in this order. First then of the birtb, next of the hope.
The image of God is renewed in us by our upion with him who is the express image of his Father's person. Therefore this new birth is expressed by the forming of Christ in the soul; and his resurrection particularly is assigned as the cause of our new life. This new birth is called our resurrection, and that in conformity to Christ, yea, by the virtue and influence of his. His resurrection is called a birth, he the first begotten from the dead; and that prophecy, Thou art. my Son ; this day have I begotten thee, is applied to his resurrection as fulfilled in it, Acts xiii, 33; God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son ; this day have I begotten thee. Not only is it the exemplar, but the efficient cause of our new birth.
And thus likewise it is the cause of our living hope, that which indeed inspires and maintains life in it. Be cause he hath conquered death, and is risen again, and is set down at the right hand of God, hath entered into possession of that inheritance - this gives us a lively hope, that, according to his own request, where he is, there we may be also. Thus this hope is strongly underset, on the one side by the resurrection of Christ, on the other by the abundant mercy of God the Father. Our hope depends not on our own strength or wisdom, nor on any thing in us, for if it did, it would be short-lived, would die, and die quickly, but on bis resurrection who can die no more: for in that he died, he died unto sin once ; but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. This makes this hope not to imply, in the notion of it, uncertainty, as worldly
hopes do ; but it is a firm, stable, inviolable hope, an anchor fixed within the vail.
According to his abundant mercy. Mercy is the spring of all
this ; yea, great mercy, and manifold mercy : for as St. Bernard saith, “ great sins and great miseries Deed great mercy, and many sins and miseries need many mercies.” And is not this great mercy, to make of Satan's slaves sons of the most High? Well the apostle say, Behold what manner of love, and how great love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God! therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. They that have not seen the Father of a child, cannot know that it resembles him; thus the world knows not God, and therefore discerns not his image in his children so as to esteem them for it. But whatever be their opinion, this we must say ourselves, Behold what manner of love is this—to take firebrands of hell, and to appoint them to be one day brighter than the sun in the firmament; to raise the poor out of the dunghill, and set them with princes !
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here, lastly, we see it stirs up the apostle to praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the style of the gospel, as formerly, under the law, it was The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and, The God that brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, &c. This now is the order of the government of grace, that it holds first with Christ our Head, and in him with
Thus ought we, in our consideration of the mercies of God, still to take in Christ, for in him they are conveyed to us : thus, Eph.i, 3, With all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus.
Blessed.] He blesseth us really. We bless him, by acknowledging bis goodness. And this we ought to do at all times; Psal. xxxiv, 1, I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. All this is far below him and his mercies. · What are our lame praises in comparison of his love ? Nothing, and less than nothing; but love will stammer, rather than be dumb. They who are ainongst his children, begotten again, have, in the resurrection of Christ, a lively hope of glory; Christ in you, the hope of glory. This leads them to .
observe and adhiite that rich mercy whence it flows; and this consideration awakes them, and constrains them to break forth into praises to
To an inheritance incorruptible. As he that takethe away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to a heavy heart, Prova XIV, 20. Worldly mirth is so far from curing spiritual grief, that even worldly grief where it is great and takes deep root, is not allayed but increased byit. A man who is. full of inward heaviness, the more heis encompassed about with mirth, it exasperates and enrages his grief the more; but spiritual joy is seasonable for all estates. In prosperity, it is pertinent to crown and sanctify all other enjoyments, with this which so far surpasses them; and in distress, it is the only Nepenthe, the cordial of fainting spirits. This mirth makes way for itself, which other mirth cannot do. These songs are sweetest in the night of distress. Therefore the apostle, writing to his scattered afflicted brethren, begins his Epistle with this song of praise, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The matter of this joy is, the joyful remembrance of the happiness laid up for them under the name of inheritance.
Now this inheritance is described by the singular qualities of it. The excellency of its nature the certainty of its attainment. The former is conveyed in these three expressions, incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away; the latter, in the last words of this verse and in the verse following: Reserved in heaven for you, &c.
While the children of God are childish and weak in faith, they are like some great heirs before they come to years of understanding; they consider not their inheritance, and what they are to come to, have not their spi. nits elevated to thoughts worthy of their estate, nor their behaviour conformed to it; but as they grow up in years, they come, by little and little, to be sensible of those things, and the nearer they come to possession, the more apprehensive they are of their quality, and of what doth auswerably become them to do. And this is the duty of such as are indeed heirs of glory, to grow in the understanding and consideration of that which is prepared for them, and to suit theniselves, as they are able to those great hopes. This is what the apostle St. Paul prays for, on behalf of bis Ephesians, i, 18, The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. This would make them boly and heavenly, to have their conversation in heaven, from whence they look for a Saviour. That we may then the better know, somewhat of the dignity and riches of this inheritance, let us consider the description which is here given us of it. And, first, it is
Incorruptible. Although this seems to be much the same with the third quality, that fadeth not away, yet I conceive that there is some difference, and that in these three qualities there is a gradation. Thus it is called in corruptible; - that is, it perisheth not, cannot come to nothing, is an estate that cannot be spent then, Up defiled; it is not stained with the least spot: this signifies the purity and perfection of it, as that the perper tuity of it: it doth not only abide, and is pure, but both togetber, it abideth always in its integrity and lastly, it fadeth not away ; it doth not fade nor wither at all; dis not sometimes more, sometimes less pleasant, but ever the same, still like itself; and this constitutes the immun tability of it.
As it is incorruptible, it carries away the palm from all earthly possessions and inheritances; for all these epithets are intended to signify its opposition to the things of this world, and to show how far it. excels them all ; and in this comparative light we are to consider its for as divines say of the knowledge of God which we have here, that the negative notion makes up a great part of it We know rather what he is not than what he is so it is of this happiness, this inheritance; and indeed it is no other than God. We cannot tell you what it is, but we can say so far what it is not, as declares it is unspeakably above all the most excellent things of the inferior world and this present life. It is by privatives, by removing imperfections from it, that we describe it, and we can go no further, than this, Incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.
All things that we see, being compounded, may be dissolved again. The very visible heavens, which are the