A Purifying Hope
James Smith, 1865
"And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself — just as He is pure." 1 John 3:3
HOPE is made up of desire and expectation. We may desire what we do not expect — but we never expect what we do not desire. I desire something good: the gospel reveals it; God promises it; I believe the promise; therefore, I expect it. Thus, hope is the offspring of faith.
I cannot expect what I do not believe to exist, or what there is no possibility of obtaining; but if I believe in the existence of a future good, and perceive that it is attainable, I take the way pointed out, expecting to enjoy it. No faith — no hope. Strong faith — vigorous hope; for our hope is always as our faith is.
This is the effect of adoption. It is the expectation of a child. We perceive that God is our Father, that as such He loves us, delights to bless us, and is willing to confer all good things upon us; therefore, we expect good and great things from Him. It is an expectation of seeing Jesus as He is, in all His glory; of being like Him in holiness, happiness, and spirituality; and being forever with Him in peace, activity, and satisfaction. This principle is called "A lively hope," by the apostle; it is operative, therefore we are said to be "saved by hope;" it abides with us all through our wilderness journeys, and never leaves us, until it is lost in the full blaze of everlasting glory.
A good hope purifies the heart. There is a purification which only the blood of Christ could effect; and there is a purification, which is exclusively the work of the Holy Spirit — but here the child of God is said to purify himself. He knows he must be holy. He longs to be holy. He prays to be made holy. He strives to be holy.
The hope of seeing Jesus, being with Him, and like Him — stirs him up to purify himself, especially from selfishness. He sees that selfishness is directly opposed to God's glory, the Savior's honor, the Spirit's work, the good of society, and his own well-being; therefore he endeavors to detect it, he mourns over it, he seeks the pardon of it, and endeavors to conquer it. He wishes to live for God, to live to Jesus, to benefit His generation. Instead of making self his great object and end — he desires to love God supremely, and his neighbor as himself.
He endeavors to purify himself from worldly lusts — as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life; and to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts.
He endeavors to purify himself from erroneous notions — he brings his creed to God's Word to correct it, to perfect it, to give up whatever is contrary to the inspired volume; and to add to it whatever has been omitted, which is recorded there.
He endeavors to purify himself from mental filthiness — the heart pours out floods of filthiness into the imagination, which the carnal man relishes and indulges — but the believer loathes it, hates himself for it, and seeks to be freed from it. As one possessed of great and glorious privileges, of exceeding great and precious promises — he endeavors to carry out the apostle's admonition, "Having therefore, dearly beloved, these promises — let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord."
He endeavors to purify himself from whatever is impure or unholy, for the prayer of the apostle for the Thessalonians carries his heart with it to heaven as he utters it, "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." His heart is set upon perfect holiness, and just in proportion as he is under the influence of a lively hope — he labors to purify himself even as Christ is pure.
This hope purifies — by raising the mind from carnal — to spiritual things; from earthly — to heavenly joys.
This hope purifies — by fixing the eye on the holy, harmless, and undefiled Jesus; on a holy heaven, and a holy God.
This hope purifies — by attaching the affections to things which are above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God. By nature the affections are detached from the divine, and attached to the carnal and depraved. But grace produces a separation, proclaims a divorce, and brings them back to their proper and legitimate objects.
This hope purifies — by awakening the conscience — making and keeping it tender. The conscience of the sinner slumbers or sleeps soundly — so that it regards not the voice of God's law, the calls of Christ's gospel, nor the intimations of a wise and holy Providence. But grace arouses it, gives it sensibility — and it becomes a judge, reprover, and guard.
This hope purifies — by using the Word and blood of Jesus. Which Word detects, directs, and encourages; while the blood purges away guilt, slavish fear, and dreary gloom. The Word feeds hope — and the blood of Jesus encourages it in all its actings.
This hope purifies — by crucifying the old man, and mortifying the deeds of the body, instead of indulging its passions, or being led by its propensities.
So that with . . .
the mind elevated from earth to heaven,
the eye fixed on Jesus,
the affections set on things above,
the conscience kept wakeful and tender,
the Word and blood of Jesus being in constant use,
the old man being crucified, and
our members which are earthly being mortified
— the work of purification goes on, our adoption is proved, the nature of our hope is manifested, and our title to everlasting life becomes indisputable.
The MODEL after which the hopeful believer works, is Jesus — "even as He is pure." Jesus is presented as . . .
our pattern which we are to copy,
our example which we are to imitate,
our copy after which we are to write, and
the standard which we are to endeavor to reach.
No believer can look at the life of Jesus — without approving that life in his judgment. Nor can he be under the influence of grace — without admiring that life, and desiring to be conformed to it.
He would never ask, "What do others do?" But he asks himself, "What would Jesus do? How would Jesus act in this case? What would Jesus say under such circumstances?" And then he earnestly desires, heartily prays, and energetically endeavors to do — as he believes Jesus would do. This course corrects many evils, prevents many failures, stimulates him constantly to deny himself, and raises him to a pitch of purity and spirituality, which he would not otherwise attain.
Beloved reader, have you this hope? Do you live expecting Jesus to appear, to see Him, be made like Him, and be forever with Him? If so, what is your daily desire and business? Are you panting for holiness? Are you "diligent that you may be found of Him in peace, without spot and blameless?" Are your loins girt, your lamps burning, your garments white, and you yourself like a servant watching for his Lord's coming?
What is your model, or pattern? Is it Jesus? His holy life, His blameless conduct, His gracious conversation, His habitual aim to glorify His Father?
Are you purifying yourself in the fountain of His blood, in the laver of His Word, and by separation from ungodly people, principles, and practices? Could it be said of you with truth, as of saints in Peter's day, "You have purified your souls, in obeying the truth through the Spirit, unto sincere love of the brethren." Or would the language of James be more applicable to you, "Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded!"
A faith that does not work by love — is spurious!
A hope that does not purify the heart — is carnal!
A religion that does not make us holy — is a delusion!
Holiness, or likeness to Jesus, is the end God has in view in all He has done, or is doing for His people; and if we are not holy, we have not the Spirit of Christ, and are therefore do not belong to Him.