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God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his son. So that to believe in God, according to the terms of the gospel, is to believe in his son Jesus Christ ; who, as the promised seed, the Conqueror of the serpent, and the Redeemer of the world, has been the object of Faith to all believers from the beginning of the world. By virtue of this Faith, Abel offered a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain. Cain brought of the fruits of the earth ; Abel brought a sacrifice, and shed the blood of it; confessing thereby, as a true believer, that without shedding of blood there was no remission of sin. All the saints of old time obtained a good report on the same principle : they believed that man is fallen, and must be redeemed by a saviour; that this life is a pilgrimage; and that there is an heavenly inheritance, which the saints shall possess after the resurrection from the dead. Such was their faith, and such is ours; and, when we have it, it is our defence against all the assaults of our spiritual enemies : “ Above all (saith the
Apostle) taking the shield of faith, wherewith
ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts “ of the wicked.” Faith has an answer to all temptations, a solution of all difficulties; and we may now add farther concerning it, that it
is is now,
is the only introduction to the virtue of Hope. The heart may as well be supposed to have gladness in it without having life, as the Christian can be supposed to have Hope without having Faith. For Faith, as the scripture declares, is the substance of things hoped for : which means literally, that Faith is the groundwork or foundation of Hope. This, therefore,
in its proper place, to be considered. When the root of Faith is once planted in the heart, Hope will naturally grow out of it. The word of God is a seed, which, by the operation and power of divine grace, will be unfolded, and yield its fruits. Of these Hope is the first: for when Faith has received the promises, Hope will rejoice in the expectation of their accomplishment. Faith informs us, that Christ is risen from the dead: Hope learns from thence, that he is the first fruits of an harvest, and that all the sheaves of the field shall follow him. Faith tells us, that he is seated at the right hand of God: Hope infers, that he is gone there to prepare a place for us. Faith knows, that he shall return to judge the world : Hope is assured, that his reward is with him: in a word, Hope expects what Faith promises; and therefore, where there is no faith, there can be no hope: so that it is better not to be born, than
not to be a Christian. Such as the world would be, without the light of the sun, to gild and adorn the objects of the creation, such is the life of man without the hope of a Christian. To the unbeliever all things are dark and dismal: pleasure is worthless, and pain is insupportable. How miserable would be the condition of the sailor, when he is traversing the wide ocean, if he had no hope of reaching the desired haven! It is this expectation, which supports him under the dangers of the storm, and the labours and sufferings of a tedious voyage. And every Christian is supported on the same principle: he looks forward to the end of his faith, even the salvation of his soul; and the faculty, or passion of the mind, with which he looks forward, is no other than Hope. Faith accepts the means of salvation, and Hope looks to the end of it. The object of a Christian's hope is the appearance
of Christ in glory, to dispel the shades of death, and put his disciples in actual possession of the promised inheritance. At present a cloud has received him out of our sight; but we know, that other clouds shall restore him to us; and that, when he
appears the second time, he will appear without sin unto salvation. We see the blessed Apostle St. Paul so animated with this hope, that he
triumphed triumphed over the afflictions and sufferings, under which an ordinary man, with the greatest human fortitude, must have sunk; we hear him even uttering praises to God, that he had the honour to suffer for the name of Christ : and, when the time of his martyrdom was approaching “ I am now, says he, ready to be offered, " and the time of my departure is at hand. I have
sought a good fight, I have finished my course, I “ have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid
up for me a crown of righteousness, which “the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me « at that day.” There is a day approaching, when all they, who suffer from unrighteous judges upon earth, shall be tried and rewarded by a righteous judge from heaven: and this hope is an anchor to the soul, which keeps it steady to its profession in life and in death ; even when the winds rage, and the waves beat, and the deep threatens to swallow it up in destruction. While their body is confined to the objects of sense, and circumscribed by this lower world, their thoughts enter within the veil to survey and enjoy the heavenly things there laid up in store for them. This glorious light, which is presented to the imagination of every believer, was realized to the senses of the blessed St. Stephen.
When the Jews
gnashed upon him with their teeth, and were prepared to stone him to death, he, being full of the holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and said, “ Behold, I see the heavens “opened, and Jesus standing at the right “ hand of God.” This happened for an assurance to that noble army of martyrs, who were afterwards to suffer in the same cause : the very name of Stephen, the first of martyrs, expresses the reward of those who were to suffer after his example: it signifies a crown. From St. Paul and St. Stephen we may understand the nature and efficacy of Christian hope ; which they, who love the appearing of our blessed Saviour as much as these disciples did, may experience in the same degree. But such hope must be founded upon faith: it is never to be attained on any other condition. St. Paul had kept the Faith ; otherwise he would not have rejoiced at the approach of death. The martyr, Stephen, was first full of faith ; without which he had never beheld the heavens opened, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
Through faith and hope, thus depending on