By John Angell James, 1859


"It is a fearful thing," says a distinguished writer, "for an immortal being to have no hope for eternity. But it is scarcely less dreadful to have a false hope—though it is a confident hope—which must make him who cherishes it ashamed and confounded, world without end." Hence the necessity and tremendous importance of looking well to the foundation on which we rest our expectations of everlasting happiness. Every wise builder will take especial care, when he is about to erect an edifice, that the foundation is good, and his solicitude will be in exact proportion to the magnitude, height, and importance of the intended structure. Our Lord closes his Sermon upon the Mount with an allusion to this, where he speaks of the different results of building upon the sand or upon a rock. What deep concern, then, should be felt by him whose superstructure of hope is to rise as high as heaven, to stand against all the assaults of time, and to last through eternity. What is a palace, a pyramid, a castle, or a temple, compared with this?

The cloud-capped towers—the gorgeous palaces—
The solemn temples—Yes, the great globe itself,
With all which it inherits, shall dissolve;
And—like the baseless fabric of a vision—
Leave not a wreck behind!

But the superstructure of a believer's hope, if well based, shall outlive this whole material frame, and at length converted into full and blessed fruition, shall exist forever! But how dreadful the consideration that, if ill-placed—he will see all his expectations vanish in a moment, and will sink to the depths of despair—just when he looked for ineffable and eternal enjoyment!

Every hope must rest upon something. To desire and expect a future good without some ground for it, is a folly men are very rarely guilty of. Though very common is the folly, very near akin to it, of indulging in anticipations which rest upon the sand.

When we consider the object of Christian hope—its immeasurable vastness, its infinite glory, and its eternal duration—and consider also that this is an expectation cherished by a creature so base and so sinful as man—it seems indeed, at first sight, a high presumption to anticipate such an eternal destiny. To see a man guilty of a thousand sins, and depraved in his nature, pointing up to heaven, and on to eternal glory, and hear him say, "I am looking for all that"—is something very surprising. Surely such a man ought to look well to the basis on which rest such high expectations.

In searching for this basis, we must be guided exclusively by Scripture. It is not what man says—but what God says. It is not by the teaching of philosophy—but by the revelations of Scripture, that we can come to a knowledge of this. Speculation will not do here. Conjecture is worthless here. We know nothing about heaven itself, and can know nothing about the way to it—but what the Bible tells us. Woe, eternal woe, to the man who sets aside the testimony of inspiration, and ventures forward into the darkness of the invisible world with no better light than the glimmering candle of his own reason! While blessed is the man who, in his progress to eternity, says, "Your word is a light unto my feet, and a lamp unto my path," and who is guided by the light of this heaven-kindled lamp, to his everlasting home.

And what does this inspired and infallible record say? In one short, simple, beautiful passage, which he who runs may read, the whole matter is summarily expressed. The apostle thus commences his first epistle to Timothy—"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our hope." The same view is presented in another much misunderstood passage—I mean Col. 1:27—"Christ in you, the hope of glory." It is usual to consider the Apostle as referring to the indwelling of Christ in the heart, forming his image there, and new-creating the soul by his Spirit. But is the work of Christ in us, or the work of Christ for us, the foundation of our hope? Is it Christ, subjectively or objectively, on which we found our hope? If it be Christ in us, then our dependence is upon something of our own. The true translation is "Christ among you," set forth before you, exhibited to you in the preaching of the word. This rendering is given in those Bibles which have marginal references.

The Lord Jesus Christ our hope! These few precious words deserve to be written in letters of gold, to be engraved on every rock where mortals could read them, to have monumental pillars erected in every abode of lost sinners and mortal men, to bear the glorious inscription—yes, to be printed in starry characters in the sky, that men may look upward from the sins and sorrows of time, the ravages of death, and the extinction of their earthly expectations, and read them with raptures of delight! Yet, since they are written on the imperishable page of Scripture, this is unnecessary; for there they are presented in legible characters to the eye of every man that has a Bible. The Lord Jesus Christ our hope! It is blissful to repeat it. Yes, there is hope for lost, sinful man—and Christ is that hope. Hear it, you children of mortality, who all your life, "through fear of death, are subject to bondage." Hear it, you tribes of the earth, "groaning and travailing in pain together until now." Hear it, you subjects of incurable disease, casting longing, lingering looks behind, as you bend your steps, weak and weary, yet reluctant, towards the gloomy valley from which none return—there is hope of immortality—and Christ alone is that hope! This is plainly told us in another place, "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ,"—1 Cor. 3:11. So again even in the prophetic scriptures it is said, "Behold, I lay in Zion, for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation," Isaiah 28:16. This is quoted by the apostle Peter, "To whom coming, as to a living stone, disallowed indeed of men—but chosen of God, and precious."

But it will be necessary here to explain in what sense Christ is the foundation of hope. "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God"—and thus heaven is forfeited by us all. "There is none righteous, no, not one." No man can now hope for eternal happiness on the ground of his own obedience. Everyone has not only forfeited heaven, by his personal transgression—but deserved hell. The fall, so far as what man can do for himself, extinguished hope forever. The gate of Paradise above is as truly closed and barred against him, as regards his own ability to open it, as was the gate of Paradise on earth to Adam after his apostasy. If it be ever opened again to the children of men, it must be done by God's own hand. If ever the hope of immortality be kindled in the bosom of man, it must be by God himself. His infinite benignity desired to open the closed gates, and render heaven accessible to guilty men.

But how can he do it consistently with his truth, which declared that death should be the punishment of sin? How can he do it consistently with his holiness, which must demonstrate itself before the universe, as opposed to sin, and infinitely hating it? How can he do it consistently with his justice, which must manifest itself, by inflicting the threatened and deserved punishment? How can he do it in harmony with the wisdom and authority of his law? How can he do it and uphold the principles of his moral government, and the majesty of his throne be maintained? Can he open heaven to the aspirations, the pursuit, and the possession of the apostate race of Adam? Will not the holy angels in heaven stand aghast when they see such rebels entering? Will not the moral universe be perplexed by such a seeming eclipse of God's infinite holiness and justice—and feel as if his mercy had demolished the throne of his majesty, and raised her seat upon the ruins of righteousness?

And yet it is a fact that God has opened the kingdom of heaven to the children of men. How shall harmony then be restored to the seemingly jarring attributes of justice and of mercy? The apostle explains the mystery in that wondrous language—"and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus." Romans 3:24-26. Glorious passage! Wondrous language! Divine light is here seen throwing its splendor back upon the dark shadows of the Levitical law, and all the dispensations of grace since the fall of man; extending its illumination to the shadowy terms of the revelation to our first parents in the garden; explaining the words of the prophet, as well as the symbols of the priest; exhibiting the moral law given in thunder from Sinai, in all its unviolated authority; covering with a flood of radiance the throne of the eternal Governor of the universe; and yet at the same time proclaiming the mercy of God in all its fullness and freeness—and thus laying the foundation of hope for the vilest sinner upon earth.

Yes, the atonement of Christ—the real, all-sufficient, and complete atonement of Christ—the atonement, in its true sacrificial intent, was a means of manifesting the glory, by satisfying the claims of divine justice. This is the only doctrine which can give meaning to Scripture, glory to God, and hope to man—without which Judaism is an insoluble enigma—and Christianity a contradiction. This, this is the foundation, the only foundation of a sinner's hope, and a sinner's consolation. This is expressed in innumerable passages of both the Old Testament and the New. Isaiah declared it in the verse already quoted, and in another no less clear and explicit, where he says, "The chastisement of our peace was upon him—the Lord has laid upon him the iniquity of us all, and by his stripes we are healed." Jeremiah declared it where he calls him "the Lord our Righteousness." Daniel declared it where he speaks of Messiah as "finishing transgression, making an end of sins, making reconciliation for iniquity, and bringing in everlasting righteousness." And Zechariah declared it where he speaks of "a fountain opened for sin and uncleanness." In all these passages, and very many others, is Christ set forth as the foundation of our hope—the ground on which we are to rest all our expectations of eternal salvation!

A more extended and minute consideration of one of these passages may now with propriety be introduced, as furnishing us with a most instructive, encouraging, and consolatory view of the foundation of the Christian's hope. I mean the language of Isaiah 28:16, "So this is what the Sovereign Lord says—See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation—the one who trusts will never be dismayed." That this applies to Christ is certain, by its being so used by the apostle Peter. There may be also an allusion by the apostle, in this passage, to Psalm 118:22—"The stone rejected by the builders has now become the cornerstone."* The force of the metaphors in all these passages is much enhanced by the statements of modern travelers in relation to the immense stones which the ancients were accustomed to place in the foundations of their temples and walls, some of which are remaining to the present day. In Robinson's 'Palestine', mention is made of this in reference to the walls of Jerusalem, in which he conjectures is still found some of the masonry of the very temple built by Solomon, consisting of vast blocks—and in the foundations of the temple at Balbec, now for ages in ruins, stones have been found measuring seventy feet long by fifteen thick.

* The English readers will perceive in this case, as in many others, a verbal difference between the quotation in the New Testament and the original passage in the Old Testament, in explanation of which it may be observed that the writers of the former generally quote the Septuagint or Greek version of the Jewish Scriptures, and sometimes they give neither the Hebrew nor Greek in exact words—but in the way of substance or paraphrase.

John Howe, one of the greatest of the Nonconformist divines, published a wonderful treatise under the title of "The Living Temple." His design is to represent the soul of man as originally created to be a temple for an indwelling deity—by the fall reduced to ruins—and restored by the mediation of Christ. A long passage from this extraordinary production of sanctified genius will be acceptable to every reader, and manifest the intellectual majesty of its author. Speaking of the original temples, he says—"The stately ruins are visible to every eye, that bear on their front, yet extant, this doleful inscription, 'HERE GOD ONCE DWELT.' Enough appears of the admirable frame and structure of the soul of man to show the divine presence did reside in it at one time. But there is more than enough of vicious deformity to proclaim that God is now withdrawn and gone. The lamps are extinct, the altar overturned, the light and love are now vanished—the one of which did once shine with so heavenly brightness, the other burn with so pious fervor. The golden candlestick is displaced and thrown away as an useless thing, to make room for the throne of the Prince of darkness. The sacred incense, which sent rolling up in clouds its rich perfumes, is exchanged for a poisonous, hellish vapor—and instead of a sweet savor there is a stench. The lovely order of the house is turned into confusion; the beauties of holiness into reeking impurities; the house of prayer into a den of thieves—and that of the worst and most horrid kind, for every lust is a thief, and every theft sacrilege. Continual rapine and robbery are committed upon holy things. The noble powers of the soul, which were designed and dedicated to divine contemplations and delight, are alienated to the service of the most despicable idols, and employed unto vile imaginations and embraces—to behold and admire lying vanities, to indulge and cherish lust and wickedness. What, have not the enemies done wickedly in the sanctuary? How have they broken down the carved work thereof, and that too, with axes and hammers, the noise whereof was not to be heard in the building? Look upon the fragments of that beauteous sculpture which once adorned the palace of the great king; the relics of holy notions; the lively prints of some undefaced truth; the lovely ideas of things, the yet legible precepts that relate to practice. Behold, with what accuracy the broken pieces show themselves to have been engraved by the finger of God, and how now they lie torn and scattered—one in this dark corner, another in that, buried in heaps of dirt and rubbish! You come amid all this confusion as into the ruined palace of some great prince, in which you see here the fragments of a noble pillar, there the shattered pieces of some beauteous imagery—all lying useless and neglected among heaps of dirt. He who invites you to take a view of the soul of man, says to you, 'Behold the desolation'—all things filthy and destroyed. Why is it thus? The faded glory, the darkness, the disorder, the impurity, the decayed state in all respects of this temple too plainly show the great Inhabitant is gone."

But let us now glance at a few of the beauties of the apostle's vivid description of this basis of our immortal hopes.

Behold, says God, "I lay in Zion a stone." This declaration is worth worlds, since it imports that the whole work of man's redemption is of God's planning, executing, and proposing! It is no matter of human device or angelic suggestion; the wondrous conception sprang up in the intellect and heart of God, or rather was there from all eternity. "God so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son, that whoever believes on him, should not perish—but have eternal life." "He who spared not his own Son—but freely gave him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" In building our hope on Christ, we are resting it where God has directed us to place it. It was God who sent Christ. It was God who qualified him for his work. It was God who sustained him through it. It was God who raised him from the dead. It was God who set him at his own right hand. All, all is divine—and therefore all is secure. None can be lost who place themselves on that foundation, which God himself has laid. Let the believer rejoice in his security. Noah was not more safe in the ark which was built under divine direction, when God shut him in, than the Christian is who has trusted his eternal all to Christ. God guarantees his safety. He may boldly say, "Lord, I am where you have directed me to place my foot. I have laid hold of your hand, and I cannot perish, unless you let me go—which you have promised never to do."

And then dwell upon that word, "a stone"—not sand, which may shift; not earth, which may sink; not wood, which may rot—but a stone, and not a small, inconsiderable stone, which may be crushed—but a rock. So Christ said to Peter, "On this rock will I build my church."* In Christ there is everything to constitute an all-sufficiency to bear the hopes of his universal church. A man resting his weary limbs, and building his hope of repose and safety on the mightiest mountain in our globe, may as rationally fear that the granite mass would sink beneath his weight, as the man who is building upon Christ may fear that the basis of his expectations would fail him. This, and this only, is rock, and all besides is sand, or mud, clay, or stubble.

* That it was not Peter's person—but Peter's confession, that is—the truth of Christ's Messiahship, that our Lord meant—is evident from his singularly striking change of words. Peter is from the Greek word petros, which signifies merely a stone—but petra, which is the term our Lord uses in reference to the foundation his church, signifies a rock. As if he had said, "I build it not on you, Peter, for you are but a stone—but upon the rock of my divine mission."

This stone is elect, chosen by infinite wisdom for the purpose, and altogether suitable for it. The wise master-builder is careful not only to choose a good kind of stone for his foundation—but the best of its kind. This word is evidently intended as a translation of the Hebrew phrase, a "tested stone." All things among men are chosen after trial. Experiments are made, when great weights are to be suspended, or great pressure endured, whether the material employed will be sufficiently strong for the purpose. In the present case there needed no tentative process. The Lord Jesus was accurately known to his Divine Father to be every way suitble for his work. As man, he was perfect, and had no sins of his own to atone for, and had a body given to him to offer up in sacrifice; while as God, he gave to this act of sacrifice an infinite value. Millions upon millions have ventured to build their hopes on this foundation; and have ever found it sufficient! All the hosts of hell, all the powers of darkness, infidels, heretics, and philosophers—have endeavored to subvert it—but it has defied their efforts. Not the slightest chip of this indestructible basis have they detached from the mighty mass. Let the enlightened Christian say if he has not tried it and found it sufficient. Let the dying believer testify and say if he does not find enough in the prospect of eternity. Let the palm-bearing multitude, which no man can number round the throne, bear witness, if it has not been found upon trial, enough for their safety.

It is a chief corner stone; it is the stone in the angle of the building, on which the two walls meet and unite, and which, therefore, gives compactness and strength to the edifice. It is in Christ that Jew and Gentile are associated; it is in him that all meet and become a building fitly framed and compacted together.

Another quality mentioned is, that this stone is "precious." How true! Yes, inestimably precious. "The Deity filling his human nature with all manner of grace in its highest perfection, made him infinitely precious and excellent. Not only was he thus precious and excellent in himself—but he is of precious virtue, which he lets forth and imparts to others; of such virtue that a touch of him is the only cure of spiritual diseases. Men tell of strange virtues of some stones—but it is certain that this precious stone has not only virtue to heal the sick—but even to raise the dead!" Dead bodies he raised during his abode upon earth, and dead souls he does still raise, by the power of his word. Precious is Christ to his Heavenly Father; precious to all angels in glory; and who can better tell of his infinite value than those who have built upon it their immortal hopes, and find continually how happy those are, who believe in him.

And shall I forget the other property, so strange, so seemingly unnatural, "a living stone?" What a conspicuous place in the Scripture does that word LIFE sustain—and especially in connection with our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ and life seem to be almost equivalent terms—"I am the life," he said, more than once; he is the living vine, the living head, living bread, and living water, and here is a living stone—than which nothing seemed farther from vitality. Had there been discovered a stone of such mysterious power, that whatever dead substances were placed upon it should immediately be made alive—what a wonder it would be in God's universe! Here, in a figurative sense, is the very thing. Here is a living stone, which not only has life itself—but imparts life to all brought into contact with it!

Our translators have unnecessarily and unwisely interpreted the original, in application to Christ, by a participle, and in application to believers, by an adverb, calling Christ the living stone, and Christians lively stones; whereas it is the same word in the original in both places. They have thus marred the beauty, and weakened the force of the passage. It is the Spirit's design to represent believers not only as lively—but as living—and deriving all vitality from their connection with Christ.

Now after this description of, and enthusiastic praise upon, the foundation of his hope—let the believer exult, as he well may, in his security. Let him see the force of the apostle's exhortation, "Rejoice in hope." Let him take the lamp and go down and survey the basis of his high and glorious expectations, and repose with confidence on the foundation which God has laid in Zion.

If this be, as we know it is, the only ground on which we can depend for everlasting life—how vain and ruinous are all those refuges of lies to which so many betake themselves against the wrath to come. It is a dreadful thing to be deceiving ourselves in a matter of such tremendous importance as that of eternal life. I will, therefore, with the intention of guarding men against this fatal error, point out some of the PREVAILING MISTAKES on this subject.

Some are buoying up their expectations with a vague reliance on the GOODNESS of God. They have taken up false, because partial, views of the character of God; and abusing the apostle's declaration "that God is love," misinterpret this sublime description of deity, as if it implied that pure and infinite benevolence could never consign his creatures to eternal misery. We might fairly ask how they know that God is merciful; and if they answer that Scripture declares it, they should recollect that the same Scripture tells them "he will by no means clear the guilty," that if there be a thousand promises to the penitent believer—there are a thousand threatenings against the impenitent unbeliever. We know nothing of God's goodness—but from the same source as we know of his justice.

If we look to God's Providence we see, indeed, in our own comforts many proofs and displays of his kindness—but we see also in our discomforts many displays of his justice. If criminals, why so many enjoyments; if favorites, why so many sufferings? Justice, if God is a perfect moral being, must be as essential an attribute of his nature as mercy. And "as no perfection of the divine character can be manifested in a manner incompatible with any other perfection, even though no revelation had been given on the subject, it must have been, to say the least of it, so exceedingly doubtful whether such an exercise of benignity as the pardon and salvation of a sinner, be reconcilable with righteousness, as to make it, in the highest degree, irrational to rest a hope of final happiness on such an unsound supposition." (John Brown)

Such people merge all God's other attributes in his mercy. They cannot claim originality for this idea. Its authorship belongs to the "father of lies." Satan said so before them. It is the identical doctrine that damned the world. The serpent said to the woman, "You shall not surely die." Do not rest your hope on such a baseless speculation!

Others go still further in their presumption, and rest their hopes even upon the JUSTICE of God. They may possibly be not only free from vice—but living in the practice of many virtues. They may present a striking contrast to the infidels and profligates around them, by all the moralities and decorum of conventional goodness. But having altogether incorrect notions of the spirituality, extent and obligations of the moral law, as the rule of human conduct—and false notions of themselves as regards the state of their hearts—they imagine that their good deeds so far counterbalance their bad ones, that it would be unjust for God to destroy them. Their expectations of salvation rest, then, upon their own doings, and they seek to be justified by their works. Instead of resting exclusively upon the righteousness of Christ—they go about to establish their own righteousness. With the fig-leaf apron of their own good deeds, and, as they suppose, better intentions—they seek to cover their moral nakedness, and avert the stroke of divine justice.

Not a few, and especially those who are called to endure the privations of poverty, and the various ills often connected with it, are indulging the vain idea that having SUFFERED so much in this life, they shall be exempted from all suffering in the eternal world, and shall, like Lazarus, be carried by a convoy of angels to heaven. What inadequate views does such a mistake evince of the evil nature of sin, the justice of God and the multitude of their transgressions. No! A life as long as that of Methuselah, spent in all the destitution and disease of Job upon the ash-heap, would be no atonement for sin, and afford no ground to depend upon for salvation.

Church relationships and privileges, ever since the time of the Jews, who cried, "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are we," have constituted a false basis of hope to multitudes. They have been much more anxious to find the true church, than the true Savior—and have made, in fact, the church their savior! This is the pernicious and destructive error of the followers of Anti-Christ. Theirs is, in their opinion, the true church—and all that are in the true church are safe. The church guarantees the safety of her children, and the poor deluded creatures are satisfied with her promise. And are there not multitudes in other churches, besides that of Rome, who are indulging in the same fatal delusion? They have been made Christians, they suppose, by baptismal regeneration—have been acknowledged such by confirmation—have been sealed by the Sacrament, and are thus brought within the 'true church'—so they falsely think.

And how many, in voluntary unestablished churches, are relying upon their public profession and union with the church. Alas, alas! in how many cases is a hollow and inconsistent profession, the sole ground of dependence for eternity! How many have no other evidence that they are true Christians, than their profession that they are such, backed by the admission of those who have received them to fellowship and the table of the Lord. This admission is considered and used by them as a certificate of saving religion, the badge of discipleship, which, as it has received the seal of the minister of the church on earth, will not be disputed as a passport to the church in heaven! I pen these lines with a deep and sorrowful conviction that I am describing the melancholy condition of large numbers in all our churches, who find their counterpart in those of whom our Lord speaks, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" Matthew 7:21-23.

These dreadful words should sound through the whole church with the solemnity and impressiveness of an alarm bell. What a salutary fear and trembling they should awaken! To what a close and anxious examination they should lead! Mistaken professors are going by myriads to the bottomless pit! Myriads and myriads are walking to eternity over the rotten plank of a 'formal and insincere profession', which will break beneath their feet and let them fall into the burning gulf below! I will never cease to sound the note of warning to these deluded professors. For not only is it a dreadful thing to go down to the pit with a lying profession, but a possible thing! Not only is it a possible case, but a common one! "MANY will say to Me on that day!"

Perhaps there is a still more subtle, if not more dangerous deception than even this, and that is, the case of those who are relying upon the religious exercises of their own minds for their salvation. They renounce all dependence upon their external works—but are relying upon their internal state. Some are laying hold of their orthodoxy, the clearness of their views, the correctness of their knowledge, the scripturalness of their opinions. Sound doctrine we know is important, it is the source of all pious feeling, and all holy conduct—but apart from pious feeling and holy conduct, will no more save us than correct notions of astronomy or geography. It is not the 'doctrine about Christ' we are to depend upon—but Christ himself! Then there is with some, a reliance upon 'their act of faith'. It is a faith in their own belief, rather than a belief in Christ, they look to. Their object of faith is their own faith. Their faith does not lead them to Christ—but stands between them and Christ. They forget that we are not saved for our faith—but by it.

Perhaps this is the most subtle working of unbelief of all. People of an imaginative, sensitive, or emotional character, are prone to rest their hope on their feelings. Their feelings are the barometer that indicates their confidence, which rises and falls with emotional pressure. If lively in prayer, if rapturous in joy, if profuse in tears, if strong in impression—they are full of hope. But, with the least variation of feeling—they are all doubt, fear, and despondency. They little consider, for they little know, how much all this depends upon the state of another barometer than that which they hang up in their own variable feelings. This is a very insidious and seductive method of keeping our soul from the true foundation. There is no more merit in our emotions, than in our actions; and we have no more warrant to depend upon the former than we have upon the latter.

Christ outside of ourselves, and apart from ourselves—is the ONLY foundation. And we must go out of ourselves, and away from ourselves, to depend upon him. It is for lack of seeing this in the early stages of religious concern, that so many are kept so long in a state, in some cases, of delusive peace—and in others, of unrelieved anxiety. And it is to this also, that real believers, true Christians, are to trace those perturbations of mind, those alternations of hope and fear, elevations and depressions, to which, to their great distress, they are so liable. Did they but keep their eye steadily fixed on Christ, and less microscopically upon their own feelings—their peace would be less disturbed, and their joy far more settled and abundant!

And let it here be distinctly understood, and ever remembered, that nothing can alter, add to, or diminish this foundation. Could the believer live on earth to the age of Methuselah, could he fill these nine centuries with the most unblemished holiness, the richest Christian experience, the most zealous labors, and the most diffusive charities—all this would not add a single stone, or a particle of strength, to Christ, the sure foundation. Even then, his dependence for salvation must be as exclusive and entire upon Christ as at the first moment when he came to him for pardon; or as that of the dying thief upon the cross, who had not a single good action on which to place any dependence. And the real Christian knows and feels this. As he is closing the long series of holy actions which have filled up his life, as he looks back upon the past now about to be lost in the eternal future, and is standing upon the threshold of his "Father's house," and expects every moment the door to open, he exclaims with gratitude and humility, "Lord Jesus, into your hands I commit my spirit, for you have redeemed me. My hope—my only hope—is in you"

But there is another thing to be taken into account when speaking of the foundation of Christian hope, and that is THE PROMISE OF GOD. How is it we are able to assure ourselves that we can build upon this basis of the Savior's infinite merits? If I know that an individual has done something for my future benefit in common with the welfare of many others, I still want his assurance that I shall reap the advantage of what he has done. Hence though we believe that Christ died as a ransom for all, and is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, yet I need his positive assurance that I shall reap the advantage of this wondrous work of mediation. I have it—"He who believes, and whoever believes, shall be saved." It is not a probability or a 'perhaps'—but a positive certainty. God has said it. A thousand promises declare it. The skies of the New Testament are studded with them. They come out upon our view thick and shining like the stars of heaven on a clear and cloudless night. The design of the death of Christ was to make an atonement for sin; and God's promise is that each individual believer, shall partake of the blessed result of these sufferings of Christ. Here is the ground of our expectation; and in speaking of this expectation, the promises of God must always be united with the merits of the Savior.

And even this is not all, for we must have an entire faith in the power, and unchangeableness, and faithfulness of God to fulfill his promise. Notwithstanding the atoning death of Christ, notwithstanding the promise of God, if we could doubt the divine power, fidelity, and immutability, we would still find we had no solid base on which to rest our expectations of eternal life. Now again we say—look at your foundation, the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God, the promise of God, who cannot lie, and the infinite attributes of the divine nature, and "Rejoice in hope of the glory of God."