By John Angell James, 1859


A. The NECESSITY of Having Hope Strengthened.

Whatever in us is good, and yet imperfect, should be made better—for in nothing can we pretend to perfection; and whatever is good and weak should be strengthened. Who will say his hope is so lively as not to need quickening, so vigorous as not to need strengthening? It is lamentable to look abroad upon professors of religion, and see how low their expectations are of heaven above—how few affections they have there. But how much more lamentable is it to look in and see how low our own hopes are. Let any Christian glance back through a week, and as far as he can recollect, calculate how many times, with what length of time, and with what earnestness of feeling—he has thought of heaven and eternity. Let him call to recollection his troubles, and think how little consolation he has derived from the prospect of everlasting glory. Let him remember his general conduct, and ask how little of resistance of evil tempers and strong temptation he has maintained by the anticipation of the perfect purity of heaven. Let him think of his enjoyment, and inquire how much of it has really arisen from the idea he is going on to life eternal. He will be astonished to find how little this Christian grace has had to do with the formation of his character, the guidance of his conduct, and the supply of his felicity. He will be humbled to discover his amazing shortcomings in this one branch of Christian duty.

No one knows how prevalent is his earthly-mindedness until he exercises this introspection and retrospection. When we consider what heaven is, it might be expected that a day could no more pass, with those who believe and expect it, without some lively anticipation of it, than a monarch could forget for the same time the near approach of the ceremonial of his coronation. An eternal state of infinite enjoyment ever at hand, and believed to be at hand—and yet that sublime incomprehensible glory so hidden behind thick clouds of 'the petty cares of this world', as to be scarcely seen or thought of for days, perhaps weeks, together—at least with any seriousness and power! O Christian, do you not need to have your flagging desires quickened?—Your languid expectations stimulated? Do you not need to have your earthliness subdued, and to become in thought, feeling, and action, more like the candidate for, and expectant of—a crown of life and glory. For shame, for shame, to have heaven opening its glories above; yes, and eternity spreading out its ages before you—and yet have so few thoughts and feelings in reference to that wondrous state. Professing to believe it to be a reality, and yet treating it as if it were some oriental fable—some mere fantasy of unreal felicity and honor.

You need to have your hope strengthened for yourselves. You are perhaps deeply and heavily afflicted—and need support and consolation. How would you be sustained and comforted—if your eye and your heart were in heaven. The prospect of eternal glory, believed and expected, would lift you above your troubles into the sunshine of holy joy! All God's waves and billows might roll over you—but you would not be drowned; your vessel would float upon the wave, and rise upon the crest of the billow, and with her anchor well cast, would ride out the storm. Have you not often had to say, "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are then disturbed within me?"

And as you need a stronger hope for your consolation, so you equally need it for your sanctification. Why has temptation such power over you? Why is your holiness so imperfect? Why are your corruptions so strong? Why do you make no more progress in the Christian life? Why all this? I tell you again, because your hope is low. Increase hope—and you will increase your holiness. You will grow in grace—if you will grow in heavenliness. I would sound it over a lukewarm professor, over a lukewarm church, over a lukewarm Christendom, "You are feeble in prayer, in righteousness, in watchfulness, in diligence, in everything else—because you are negligent in hope!" Christian, would you have been vanquished in that conflict; would you have succumbed to that temptation; would you have yielded to that foe—had the eye of your soul been fixed at the time on the excellent glory?

And it should be a matter of consideration with you, that as you need this grace now, so you know not how much greater need you may yet stand in need of hope—for its supporting and sanctifying powers. It is not wise, I know, nor good, to anticipate afflictions, and by painful forebodings to go out and meet troubles half-way. Our kind and merciful Lord has forbidden this—but it is prudent to recollect that such things may happen to us, and it is well to be prepared for them. The mariner does not torment himself beforehand with the dread of storms—but he prepares for them. A weak hope is an poor preparation for heavy trials—and we ought not to have a strong hope to seek, when we need it to use. We should not have to make the anchor when the storm rages. It is a blessed thing, when both sore troubles and fierce temptations find us rejoicing with strong consolation in hope of the glory of God. Neither will do us much harm then. But how sad to be overtaken with dangerous tempests and a weak anchor.

And as there is need that your hope should be strengthened on your own account, so also is it for the sake of others. You have influence upon them, and they upon you. One lively spiritual Christian will enkindle a flame of sacred love in others. Warmth is diffusive, and so is cold—hence the lukewarm as well as the lively tend to make others like themselves. Few examples have more power than that of a believer going on his way rejoicing. His song, as he soars to heaven, like that of the lark—attracts attention and gives delight.

And then how important is it to have your hope strengthened, and its joy increased, for the sake of the worldly-minded around you who are strangers to true religion. If they see the professor of religion as earthly as themselves, as soon cast down in trouble, no more intent upon spiritual discipline for an immortal state than themselves; if they see no sparkle of joy in your eye, hear no note of praise upon your tongue, observe no stamp of heaven on your character and conduct; if eternal life appears to have no more reality in you than it has in them; if you are as little drawn towards its glories as they are; if it has no more power to support and comfort you than it has to comfort them—what will their conclusion be—but that it is all a 'mere empty profession'?

But on the other hand, what an effect would be produced, if all who profess true religion were to be seen ever enjoying and feasting on the anticipated pleasures of immortality. So firm in the faith, so strong in the desire, and so confident in the expectations of eternal glory—as to be preserved holy by it amid surrounding corruption, cheerful under the pressure of affliction, resolute by it against fiercest temptations—and thus to make it apparent that they have a mighty and blessed something which the worldly do not possess. Did professors live up to their duty and privileges; did they appear to consider heaven as a grand reality; were they seen with the rays of the hidden glory irradiating their countenances, and sparkling in their tears, what an effect would be produced.

"O Christians, show the unbelieving world, by your rejoicing, how they are mistaken in their choice. Be ashamed that an empty drunkard, and one that must be forever a firebrand in hell—should live a more joyful life than you. O, do not so wrong your Lord, your faith, your endless joys—as to walk in heaviness, and cast away the joy of the Lord, which is your strength. Does it become a companion of angels, a member of Christ, a child of God, an heir of heaven—to be grieved at every petty cross, and to lay by all the sense of his felicity, because some trifle of the world falls cross to his desires. Is it befitting for one that must be everlastingly as full of joy as the sun is of light—to live in such a self-troubling, drooping state, as to disgrace true religion, and frighten away the ungodly from the doors of grace—that by your joyful lives might be induced to enter? For the Lord's sake, Christians, and for your own sake, and in pity to the ungodly—yield not to the tempter that would trouble you, when he cannot devour you.

"Is God your Father, and Christ your Savior, and the Spirit your Sanctifier, and heaven your home? O, Christians, make conscience then of this command, 'Rejoice that your names are written in heaven!' Did you but know how God approves such rejoicing, and how much it pleases him above your pining sorrow, and how it strengthens the soul, and sweetens duty, and eases suffering, and honors true religion, and encourages others, and how suitable it is to gospel grace, and to your high relation and ends, and how much better it seems to subdue the very sins that trouble you, than your fruitless, self-weakening complainings do—I say, did you well consider all these things, it would sure revive your drooping spirits!" (Richard Baxter)

Who then can doubt the necessity of having hope strengthened. Let us now go on to consider the MEANS of strengthening it. Let the reader here pause for a moment, and lift up his heart to God in prayer for the ability to understand these means and the disposition to adopt them, and a blessing upon the perusal of what follows.

B. The MEANS of Having Hope Strengthened.

1. There must be a real, earnest, intelligent DESIRE for Christian hope. We shall seek nothing without wishing to possess it, and our efforts will be in exact proportion to our desires. And do we not desire it, if indeed we are real Christians, and are already partakers of the pledge of our heavenly inheritance? Can anything be more desirable in itself? Think what it means, this hope, so great, so glorious, so well founded, so sublime in its object, so purifying, so consoling, so beatifying—in its influence! Christian, give loose to your desire, foster your most intense longings after it. Can you be satisfied with those faint wishes, those languid expectations you now possess? Must you not say, "Dear Lord, shall I always live, at this poor dying rate?"

Do you not feel ashamed to think of the lukewarm and heartless manner in which you are treating such a subject, as the heaven of the eternal God? Is heaven worth so little that you can be satisfied with a few mere probabilities and maybes, that you may reach it? Were you to lose a pin from your dress, or a button from your coat, and one should come and tell you he had found it, you would care nothing whether the thing were true or not. But if your life or fortune were in peril, and one should come and inform you it was probable that they were all safe, how you would long to have your belief that this blessed news was true—confirmed and made more strong. And will you not intensely desire to have your expectation of heaven strengthened?

2. With this connect a determination that you will LIVE after a different fashion. Recollect, this grace, like every other—is a duty as well as a privilege. "We desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end." Observe, the apostle speaks of a full assurance, and speaks of it in the way of command; and a command delivered not only to a few more eminent Christians—but to all. It is every one's duty. And he speaks of it as if it were within every one's reach. What is matter of duty—should be matter of determination. You must rouse yourself, professor, to this great work, and resolve to do it. Resolve by an intelligent, deliberate, and firm purpose—to be a more heavenly-minded man. Come under the bond of your own promise to God, to act as one may be expected to do, whose citizenship is in heaven.

3. There must be a more habitual, devout, and prayerful perusal and study of the WORD OF GOD. Let the reader mark each and all of the words I have here used. This reading of the Scripture must be habitual—not only occasional; the exercise of every day—and not merely of the Sabbath-day. It must be done devoutly—with a mind solemn, serious, and reverential—recollecting that the Bible is God's silent, but impressive voice—and not lightly, carelessly, and perfunctorily. If it be devoutly done, it will also be prayerfully done. We should not only open the Bible ourselves—but ask God to open our eyes that we might behold wondrous things out of his law. And then the Scripture must be studied as well as perused. There must be an anxious desire to penetrate its meaning. We must use it as we would a direction given to us to regain our lost health or property, the writing of which was in some places a little illegible, and the meaning of which was a little obscure. How we would pore over such a document. How minutely we would examine it. How anxiously we would peruse it. We would not trust to anybody's eyes, however we might ask their assistance—but would read for ourselves. So let us search the Scriptures, for this is the way to have our desire and expectations strengthened.

There is a passage on this subject which well deserves our attention—"For whatever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." Romans 15:4. The apostle had just quoted from the sixty-ninth Psalm an expression which referred to the coming Messiah. The Gentile churches were in danger of regarding these holy writings as relating, if not exclusively, yet chiefly, to the Jews—and referring to a state of things which had passed away. To correct this mistake, he says that the Old Testament Scriptures were written for Christians as well as for Jews. These were the inspired writings which Timothy had known from a child as able to make men wise unto salvation, and which are now "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." 2 Timothy 3:16. This stamps a value and an importance upon the Old Testament, in opposition to modern tendencies to disparage the writings of Moses and the prophets.

But what I now wish to show by the quotation is the importance, in order to the maintenance of heavenly-mindedness, of a devout study of the Word of God, for the apostle says that "we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." To have hope must here mean not to obtain it in the first instance, for that is done by faith, and not by patience—but to hold it fast, as the word often signifies. So of the other expression, "comfort," the consolations of the gospel do not originate our desire and expectation of heaven—but they sweetly and wonderfully sustain them. ("The religion of the Old Testament is essentially the same, as well as from the same Divine source, with that of the gospel—its forms alone being temporary, and its doctrines eternally true. The Christian Church is historically and vitally one with the Jewish Church (the outward form of voluntary local societies being substituted for that of a national and political body); Christianity is in fact Judaism developed and perfected, freed from its national trammels, and laying aside its gorgeous robes of symbolism, and addressing itself no longer to a portion of mankind—but to the whole race. And therefore, we maintain that you cannot get rid of the Old Testament without cutting away the roots of the New.")

The important lesson then taught by this passage, as well as by very many others, is that the vitality of the soul is maintained, and all the roots of piety strengthened, by the devout use of the Scriptures. The Bible is, if I may change the metaphor, the medicine that cures a sickly state of the soul; the elixir that stimulates a flagging one; and the food that nourishes a feeble one. We know nothing about the future object of our supreme desire—but what we get from the Bible. To produce this expectation, to sustain it, to strengthen it, is one great design of the divine record. No wonder then that people's desires and expectations of heaven are so low, and the prevalence of earthliness so great; that professors complain of their doubts and fears, their small consolation and their meager joy; that heaven is little more than a name, and eternal glory only a thing to be heard of in sermons—but not realized in their experience—while the Bible is a neglected book!

Nothing can be a substitute for the habitual, devout, and prayerful perusal and study of the Word of God—neither sabbaths, sermons, nor sacraments; neither hymns nor good books; in addition to all these, it is the Bible that must sustain and invigorate the spiritual life. This is not only the unadulterated milk for newborn babes—but the strong meat for those who are of full age. A professor who is to any great extent a stranger to his Bible must be but a feeble, though he may be a sincere, Christian. The crumbs of Scripture which are contained in "Daily Portions," furnish but a scanty morsel of the bread of life, altogether undeserving their designation—a portion.

Why is the life of the church in this age so feeble? Why are spirituality of mind, and heavenliness of affection so low? Why have we such a race of worldly-minded professors? Why? The private reading and study of the Scriptures are sadly neglected. Men are strangers to their Bibles. The Bible was never more widely circulated—but at the same time, never by great numbers of professors less devoutly read. Where are now the men and the women to whom the Bible is a book of daily study and delight in the closet—to whom its words are "sweeter than honey or the honeycomb, and more desired than their necessary food?" The magazine, the review, and the newspaper, and the last new novel or tale, have so far pushed out the Bible, that what they hear on the Sabbath day read from the pulpit, or the chapter at family prayer, if perhaps family prayer be kept up, is all the converse multitudes of the members of our churches have with the Word of God. No wonder that they have to sing that doleful hymn—

"Long have I sat beneath the sound
Of your salvation, Lord,
But still how weak my faith is found,
And knowledge of your word.

"How cold and feeble is my love,
How negligent my fear;
How low my hopes of heaven above,
How few affections there!"

4. If we would have our hope strengthened, we must have our FAITH strengthened, for faith is to hope—as cause to effect. We may desire a good thing even where we have no ground to believe it—but we cannot expect it if we do not believe it. We have made this clear in an earlier part of this treatise—but because of its importance and the prevailing ignorance in reference to it, I dwell upon it to reiteration. Let us, therefore, if we would raise higher the superstructure of our hopes—proportionably strengthen our faith, which is the basis on which they rest. If we present the prayer, "Lord, increase our hope," we must precede it by that other petition, "Lord, increase our faith."

Let anyone watch the operations of his own mind, and he will soon see how intimately these two graces are connected. Let him observe how, when a future good object is before him, his desires are influenced and his expectations are raised just in proportion as he believes that it may be his. When at first his belief is very feeble, he has but a languid desire and a faint expectation. But as his convictions of the reality of the object deepen, and his persuasions strengthen that it is within his reach—his anticipations brighten that he shall possess and enjoy it. We must seek then to have our faith in Christ made more intelligent and more firm. We should make ourselves acquainted with the historical and internal evidences of Christianity, especially those of miracles, prophecy, the resurrection of Christ, the history of the Jews, the power and victories of the gospel itself against opposition; and especially the experimental evidence, or its divine might over our own souls in converting, sanctifying, and sustaining them.

The expectation of eternal life is so grand, so lofty, and so immense; the prospect is so sublime, that we should be thoroughly well-grounded in all the proofs that it is not the baseless fabric of an imaginary vision. The faith of very many professors is little more than a traditional one. They can, if asked, give no reason for the hope that is in them. This is not as it should be—God has not left himself without a witness, in the word he has given us. He has given us his signature, in the word of his grace, and it is both a disrespect to him, as well as a disparagement to our own reason—to disregard the evidences of Christianity as a divine revelation.

How satisfactory and delightful is it to see the New Jerusalem, the Paradise of God, the Heavenly City, with its foundations of precious stones, its streets of gold, its gates of pearl—standing out before us in all the light of Christian evidence. It is the conviction of its truth and reality, that quickens our desires, and enlarges our expectations. "No, no!" says the intelligent believer, who is in the pursuit and expectation of glory, honor, immortality, and eternal life, "I am not following cunningly devised fables; I am not gazing at, and chasing, a brilliant meteor of deception and delusion. I cannot be deceived. I have evidence not to be resisted, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and the Savior of the world, who has abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light by the gospel. I feel that in the belief of this gospel my feet are standing, not upon a quicksand or a morass—but upon a rock!" "Being justified by faith, I have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God; and, knowing in whom I have believed, I am persuaded he is able to keep that which I have committed to him until that day." From that faith as a natural consequence, hope must spring up.

5. Connected with this is the too much-neglected duty of MEDITATION. "And this is a very great cause," says Jeremy Taylor, "of the dryness and expiration of men's devotion, because our souls are so little refreshed with the waters and dews of meditation. We draw our water from standing pools, which never are filled but with sudden showers, and therefore we are so often dry; whereas, if we would draw water from the fountains of our Savior, and derive them through the channels of diligent and prudent meditation, our devotion would be a continual current, and safe against the barrenness of continual droughts."

In this busy age men say they have no leisure time for this sacred duty of meditation. They should rather say they have no inclination. The world is ever encroaching upon the time of devotion—stealing away first the morning season, then the evening, and it is to be feared in many cases, a part of the Sabbath. There was a time when the professing Christian would have thought his soul robbed of its treasure, if he could not be alone with God and his Bible in his closet, in "the sweet hour of devotion." If no other time could be commanded for thoughtful reflection, how many of these hours of each Sabbath might be employed for this, which are now spent in idleness over the table or round the fire. Ought there not to be times when every Christian should not only pray—but think, meditate, and contemplate? when he should look up, look in, look back, look forward? Can our souls be in a good condition, if we never, or rarely, practice this duty? Is it possible our hope can be strengthened without it?

And in order to this invigoration, what should be the object of our contemplation? I answer—the heavenly state. Of course all divine subjects should be matters of devout thought—God, Christ, Salvation, Providence—indeed the whole range of divine truth in the Bible. But to inflame our desires after heaven, and to quicken our expectations of it, heaven itself should be the subject of meditation. Does the traveler, away from home, and going to it, need to be admonished to meditate upon his house, his wife, his family? Does the heir of a title and a large possession need to be exhorted to meditate upon his coming fortune? Yet the Christian, who is the heir of God and glory, can scarcely be induced to give an hour, at any time, to think of the heaven to which he is going. Oh, amazing insensibility! Humiliating earthly-mindedness! Professor, blush over your stupidity, and determine to give more time to the consideration of your glorious and eternal destiny. Now and then select, and devoutly read, all the passages of Scripture which speak of heaven, especially 1 Cor. 15; 2 Cor. 5:1-4; 1 Thes. 4; 1 Peter, 1:1-7; 2 Peter 3; Rev. 4, 5, 7, 11, 12. To this telescope apply the eye of faith, and look up into heaven; bring its glory nearer, and endeavor to realize its stupendous felicities.

And as another means of increasing your desire after heaven, meditate also upon your own state, and the real condition of the globe on which you dwell. Enkindle, raise, and strengthen your longing after heaven, by a deep sense of the various, numerous, and complicated evils of earth. Think of yourselves—your ignorance, corruption, and sorrow; your distrust, unbelief, and waywardness; your anxious cares, foreboding fears, and distressing perplexities; your privations, losses, and disappointments; your personal and relative afflictions; your wearisome labor and ceaseless toil—and should not the experience of these things make you desire that better world, where all this will be removed forever? Is not this the way to improve your present circumstances—by making them the means of lifting you up, and helping you on to heaven? This is to gather grapes from thorns, and figs from thistles.

In the same way let the condition of the world, without, around, and before you—invigorate your expectations, and increase your desires of heaven. I will admit that the face of nature is lovely, and that we live in a beautiful world. Yes—we are surrounded with fascinations, where "only man is vile." But behind and beneath that veil of material splendor, what a mass of moral corruption lies half manifested and half concealed. Earth is inhabited by a population of which, until subdued by divine grace, every one is an enemy and a rebel against God. Think of the loathsome crimes of idolatry; the delusions of Mohammedanism; the stubborn unbelief of Judaism; the corruptions of Popery; the blasphemies of infidelity; the bloody wars; the cruel oppressions of slavery; the tyranny of despots; the conspiracies of traitors; the filthy adulteries; the horrid murders; the multitudes to whom the apostle's awful description in the first chapter of the Romans will apply.

Then add to these crimes, the various and complicated forms of human wretchedness that are to be found on earth—the inconceivable horrors of famine, pestilence, and earthquake; the hundreds of loathsome and agonizing diseases and accidents to which the human frame is subject; the rigors of poverty; the hearts bruised, broken, crushed by ingratitude, marital infidelity, filial disobedience, disappointed hopes, defeated schemes. Nor is this all—our world is the domain of death; the slaughterhouse of the saints; the territory of Satan; and at times, apparently the very suburbs of hell. Such is this world—a valley of tears, where "the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now." What a black and dreadful contrast to heaven. Surely, surely, there is infinitely more than enough, in the contemplation of such a picture—to wean us from earth, and lead us to set our hope upon heaven.

Nor must we stop here; for if we come from the world to the church, we shall find abundant matter to cause us to lift up our longing eyes to the state—"Where all the air is love—and all the region peace."

"I am," said a Christian man, "almost as weary of the church as I am of the world." No wonder. Look at her broken unity; her blighted peace; her enfeebled strength; her tarnished beauty; her prostrate honors. See her various sects—and their bitter sectarianism. Hear her angry controversies, and her strife. Notice the ignorance or indolence, the inconsistencies and falls of many of her ministers, and the imperfections of all her members. How partially sanctified, how wrinkled and how blemished does she appear! Alas, how unlike the beautiful vision of the New Jerusalem in the apocalypse, coming down out of heaven, having the glory of God, and adorned as a bride prepared for her husband. Is there not sufficient in all this, did we but consider it, to quicken our desires and strengthen our expectations of the church triumphant—when she shall be seen without blemish, wrinkle, spot, or any such thing?

6. Gurnall pithily and pointedly says, "Would you have your hope strong, keep your CONSCIENCE clear. You can not defile your conscience—without weakening your hope. Living godly in this present world, and looking for the blessed hope, are both conjoined. A soul wholly void of godliness must needs be destitute of all true hope; and the godly person that is loose and careless in his holy walking, will soon find his hope languishing. All sin is 'anguish food'; it disposes the soul which tampers with it, to trembling fears, and shakings of heart." This is as important and impressive as it is quaint and true. The man who can expect heaven, and sin at the same time, is in the last stage of delusion. Even the little imperfections of the real Christian—which are not incompatible with a state of grace—if not resisted, mortified, and removed—will rise like a mist to dim the luster of heaven's glorious sun. While presumptuous, deliberate transgression will throw it into total eclipse. Keep conscience then, as clear as the noontide.

7. The way to have hope strengthened, is to keep it in constant EXERCISE. Bodily strength is thus increased by exercise. Indolence and inactivity, when indulged as a habit, and not used for repose after labor, and for recovering from fatigue—enervates the muscular frame—while well regulated exertion invigorates the body. So it is with the soul, both as regards its natural faculties and moral powers. One act prompts another; and 'acts repeated' settle into habits. The way to have stronger faith, is to exercise what we have; and so it is with regard to its sister grace, hope. Christian, if it is desirable to have a stronger desire, a more confident expectation, of eternal glory—let not what you have lie dormant in your soul, like some old recipe for health in your drawer, which is never read and never used—but call it out into real continuous application.

Never, if possible, let a day pass without at least one steady glance at the heavenly skies. Let not earth have such a complete ascendancy over your soul, over all its thoughts, feelings, desires, and pursuits—as to engross one whole day to itself. Even in the hurry, and eagerness, and heat of the battle of life, and the absorbing power of business—endeavor to lower the feverish pulse of worldliness by a frequent thought of glory to come. Even when pressed with secular anxieties, and panting in the career of commercial competition, dart one thought into eternity; catch one glimpse of those treasures laid up in heaven. Go forth each day to your industry with a devout recollection that you are also to trade for another world, to lay up treasures in heaven, and are to grow wealthy in the unsearchable riches of Christ.

When tempted to dishonest or dishonorable gain, think of heaven. When disappointed, think of heaven. When called to suffer losses, think of heaven. When injured and oppressed, think of heaven. And then, when returning from the strife of competition to your own habitation, weary and worn with labor, dispirited and discouraged by an unsuccessful day, and this to be followed by a restless and sleepless night, think of heaven. In all other troubles and perplexities adopt this same practice. Yes, and in your more prosperous seasons do the same. You should make this practice run like a golden thread through all your states of mind, in all the varying circumstances of life, uniting all in one holy habit of heavenly-mindedness, until by daily exercise, to hope becomes as natural and as easy to you as to live.

8. But all this is not enough without believing, earnest, and persevering PRAYER. This is the way the apostle took to help the saints of his day to obtain this precious blessing. "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." He who would have a life of hope, must live a life of prayer. If hope is the ladder by which we ascend to heaven, prayer is the ladder by which we ascend to hope. In conversion God implants the seed of this grace of hope; in sanctification he causes it to grow; in full assurance he brings it out in all its full-blown beauty and fragrance. It is all his work. But then he will not do it, if he is not asked to do it. We cannot have it without his grace, and he will not give his grace but in answer to our prayers.

In a way of sovereign mercy he often bestows the grace of conversion unasked, and is thus "found by those who sought him not." But in subsequent blessings, the Lord seems very much to regulate his conduct by the rule of bestowing his richest favors where he knows they are most coveted, and will be most prized. The principle whence divine blessings flow, is free, unmerited benignity. But in the mode of bestowing its fruits, it is worthy of the Supreme Ruler to consult his majesty, by withholding a copious supply until he has excited in the heart a profound estimation of his gifts. Now surely the least consideration must convince you of the infinite desirableness of such a blessing as a living, vigorous, and assured expectation of heaven—and of the imperative necessity of intensely earnest prayer to obtain it.

Oh! Christian, let there be ineffable longings after this great blessing; stretch every sail, launch forth into the deep of the divine perfections and promises, by importunate prayer—that you may be brought into this holy, happy, expecting frame. Give yourself to prayer—feel as if you must have the blessing, and that God alone can give it. Set your heart upon it. Be contented with nothing less than a full assurance. Use a reverent freedom, a humble familiarity with God. Tell him that you cannot do without this confident expectation of things hoped for; that it is not only heaven hereafter, you want—but hope of it now. And let it be the prayer of faith, as well as of fervency. This is one of the blessings he has promised to give. It must accord with his will to bestow it. He will answer if you have faith, the very letter of your request. It honors him to bestow it; it honors him to be asked to bestow it, and it honors him to expect it. He loves to see his children rejoicing in hope, and he loves to hear them ask to be enabled to do so. By all the comfort this would bring to yourselves; by all the credit it would give to true religion; by all the beneficial influence it would exert on others—I entreat you to seek after a livelier expectation of a glorious immortality, and to cultivate a spirit of fervent and believing prayer, in order to obtain it.

And now, pious reader, in finishing this volume, I would say that if it shall contribute in any degree to the removal of your doubts and fears, and to the strengthening of your faith and hope—my end in writing it will be accomplished. However much it is below its great theme, and even vastly mightier minds than mine, must of necessity fall below such a subject, it may, by God's blessing, be of some little service to the members of God's chosen and redeemed family. No one can be more sensible than I am of its defects, and had another pen undertaken the task, mine would not have been taken up. Still, with all its defects, I can adopt the language of the pious Bishop Horne, in the preface to his Exposition of the Psalms, "Could the author flatter himself that any one would take half the pleasure in reading the following exposition, which he has taken in writing it, he would not fear the loss of his labor. Happier hours than those which have been spent on these meditations on the songs of Zion, he never expects to see in this world. Very pleasantly did they pass, and moved swiftly and smoothly along; for when thus engaged, he counted no time. They are gone—but have left a relish and a fragrance upon the mind, and the remembrance is sweet."

The end, at any rate, of my own life approaches—and so indeed does the end of the world—when hope with all mankind will cease, consummated with some in eternal fruition, and terminating with others in everlasting despair. Oh, what scenes of ineffable glory or of inconceivable horror are before us. How all that is glorious or terrible on earth, dwindles into insignificance before the scenes of eternity, which by the pen of inspiration are presented to our view. The advent of Christ, when he shall come a second time without sin unto salvation, is the grand object to which believers, under the Christian dispensation, should be looking forward, with a still livelier and more joyful expectation, than did the pious Israelites under Judaism, to his coming in the flesh.

"O Christians, let us wake up from our slumbers and rise from our prostration in the dust—and live as ever waiting for that hour. What matter though we be poor, slighted, slandered, forgotten, moving in the shadows of this world—so long as we attain unto a glorious resurrection. O most glad hour, when it shall dawn towards the first day of the everlasting week; when there shall be a making ready in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; when legions of angels shall gather round the Sun of Righteousness, and all orders and hosts of heaven shall know that the time for 'the manifestation of the sons of God' has come! What joy shall there be at that hour in the world unseen! and what a thrill, as of a penetrating light, shall run through the dust where the saints are sleeping! When was there such a day-spring since the time when 'God said, let there be light, and there was light'? He shall come, and all his shining ones; ten thousand times ten thousand, whose countenances are 'like lightning,' and their 'clothing white as snow;' all the heavenly court, angels, archangels, cherubim and seraphim—clad in unimaginable splendors; and the righteous shall arise from the grave, and the earth shall be lightened with their glory—they shall stretch forth their hands to meet Him, and bow themselves before the brightness of His coming. O blessed hour, after all the sorrows, and wrongs, and falsehoods, and darkness, and burdens of life—to see Him face to face; to be made sinless; to shine with an exceeding strength—to be as the light, in which there 'is no darkness at all!' May this be our hope, our chief toil, our almost only prayer!"