By John Angell James, 1859


I heard the sound of a vast crowd in heaven shouting,
"Hallelujah! Salvation is from our God!" Revelation 19:1

Salvation! What a word! And what a blessing! One word—but containing millions of ideas. It is the whole Bible, condensed into a single term. God's eternal councils; Christ's redeeming work; the Spirit's sanctifying power; all the riches of divine grace, and all the blessings of eternal glory, are in substance comprehended in those few syllables. That one word is a boundless, fathomless ocean of blessedness—like the love that originated the wondrous fruit of redeeming mercy, it passes knowledge. All that preachers have said; all that authors have ever written; all that Christians have ever felt, imagined, hoped for, in regard to salvation, leave its full meaning yet to be explained. It can be comprehended only in heaven! It can be developed only in eternity!

Salvation is in one sense a present blessing. We are now regenerated, justified, sanctified. We are now the children of God, and have "passed from death unto life." We who believe "have eternal life." The first-fruits, the foretaste, the pledge—of eternal salvation, are already granted to us! But the consummation, the full possession is to come! Hence says the apostle, "For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?" Romans 8:24. It is obvious, that Paul here intended, that a full salvation cannot be possessed in this present world—but must be hoped for in the next. It is a future object, and must be waited for in holy desire and patient expectation.

Yet, in this seems also included, by necessity, the other idea, that hope keeps the believer steadfast in the pursuit of it, and persevering in the means necessary to its future possession. So that we are saved by hope. And indeed this is true, in even a still wider sense. Hope has much to do from beginning to end—in obtaining our salvation. God's redeeming love, purpose, and plan—have made our world the region of hope. Earth is hope's territory, its only territory. Hope does not exist in heaven—for there all is fruition and possession! There is no hope in hell—for there all is despair!

But here every man by the work of Christ, is placed, humanly speaking, in a salvable state. By his very birth he is introduced into a world where he may hope for salvation through the atonement of Christ. Mercy bids him welcome to earth, smiles upon his cradle, and to his very childhood—holds out her hand to conduct him to salvation. Hence he is to be reminded of this. Preachers are to tell him that he is within the reach of mercy, and urge him to use the means of salvation. We are commissioned to inform him that he is in a world between heaven and hell, and that he may escape from the one, and obtain the other; so that even before he has saving faith or true Christian hope, we may awaken in his soul the desire and expectation of being saved. We are to tell him there is a salvation provided for him. This is necessary before he can be induced to take a step, or put forth an effort to possess himself of it. He must be addressed as a lost sinner, yet not beyond the reach of mercy; as a being going on to eternal existence beyond the grave—and who may be made a partaker of immortal bliss.

It is this general desire and vague expectation, which may be called a rational hope, or rather, the hope of a rational creature—as distinguished from the enlightened hope of the believer—that must be excited in the mind of man, and which can alone induce him to give earnest heed to the salvation of his soul. This vague and general hope cannot save him—but it may lead on to that which can. It has nothing holy in it—but it may end in that which has. It is not the product of saving faith—but it puts its possessor upon obtaining it.

If we can get men—even upon their natural and instinctive regard for their own happiness—to hope for felicity beyond the grave, and prompt them to seek after it, however ignorant they may be at the time of the way of salvation—we have gained something. True, this is only an appeal to their self-love—but to what other principle can we appeal in the first instance? It seems to me the excellence of the gospel that it appeals first of all to man's natural instincts—for he has no spiritual ones before conversion. Is it not thus that God acts in all his invitations to unconverted sinners, and in all his promises and threatenings?

Yes, in the second table of the law we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves. This self-love cannot be wrong, for surely our Lord could not intend to found a duty upon a sin. Self-love is not to be confounded with selfishness. Selfishness means an exclusive regard to our own happiness. Self-love means only a duly regulated one. Selfishness is to be destroyed—self-love only to be directed and controlled. The preacher of the gospel goes through the world as the herald of salvation, proclaiming glad tidings to all men, with the view of awakening, in the first instance, such a general and instinctive hope of salvation, as shall put them upon the means of obtaining it, and lead them to Christ, as its proper and only foundation. Thus the sinner is saved by hope—but only so far as this incipient and vague expectation puts him upon seeking it in earnest—and in God's way of bestowing it.

But neither conversion nor justification, when obtained, is the whole of salvation, nor are both together. Faith brings the soul back to the enjoyment of God's favor—but heaven, the final consummation of the work of grace, is also to be obtained; this completion of our salvation is yet to be reached. Hence the beautiful language of the apostle, when he says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy, has begotten us again unto a living hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fades not away."—1 Peter 1:3. We have a pilgrimage to pass through before we reach that city of habitation; a wilderness to traverse, all kinds of privations to endure, difficulties to encounter, dangers to escape, and enemies to vanquish, before we set foot on the celestial Canaan. And how shall we reach that better, that heavenly country? I answer, "We are saved by hope." True it is we walk by faith, and are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation—but then faith is never complete without hope. Faith works by hope, as well as by love. And it will now be my business to show, not only that perseverance to the end is necessary—but how Christian hope enables us to attain it. Hope calls out and sustains every grace and virtue, the exercise of which is necessary for the continuance of our Christian course.

1. Fixed, determined RESOLUTION is essential to our reaching the end of our faith—"the salvation of our souls." The apostle dwells on this with great frequency and fervor in 1 Cor. 15:58. The Christian's mind must be made up to this. His thinking must be somewhat as the following—"My purpose is fixed, and nothing on earth shall shake it, to reach heaven at last. My plan is laid, and nothing shall alter it. I see that all the richest possessions on earth, everything that can gratify taste, ambition, avarice, or appetite, is but the small dust of the balance to me. I am for heaven. God helping me, no sacrifice, no self-denial, no hardship, no suffering, shall hold me back. I am resolutely surrendered, irrevocably committed, indissolubly bound to that object. Ridicule shall not turn me aside; persecution shall not terrify me; wealth shall not seduce me; pleasure shall not allure me. I am for heaven, and none of these things attract or move me. I will forego everything, and sacrifice everything that stands in the way of everlasting glory."

"No, dear friends, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven." Philip. 3:13-14

Ah! This is what is needed in the great bulk of Christian professors—this absolute determination to reach heaven at last! But how few of them have deliberately, determinedly brought their minds to this intelligent, ever-operative purpose! How comparatively rare, is the sight of a man, who seems to have heaven in his eye, his heart, his hope, as the great object of desire, pursuit, and expectation.

Look at the conduct of professing Christians, and see how different it is from this. They have resolutions--but these are of the earth, earthly! They have their fixed purposes --but how far below the skies do they reach! They have their plans--but they appertain to the present world!

Let no man deceive himself here! None will reach heaven--but as the result of fixed, deliberate, practical and persevering determination. It is the view of heaven's glories, the expectation of eternal life alone--which will lead to such a heroic resolution. It must, indeed, be a mighty power and impulse, which will induce a man to surrender his whole life, and all that it contains, for the possession of its object!

2. PATIENCE is another thing required for our perseverance unto the end. Indeed the meaning of the Greek word, rendered "patience," signifies "perseverance"—it is such a fortitude in the endurance of suffering as leads to "continuance in well doing." It has both a passive and an active meaning. Patience is the suffering virtue—a desire, a purpose, and an ability to endure with uncomplaining, unresisting meekness. This is a grace much more frequently called for in some states of the church than in others. Times of persecution, when the endurance of all kinds of painful inflictions is demanded, and bonds, imprisonment and death are likely to wear out the fortitude and steadfastness of the saints—then, in such circumstances as these, what can sustain the soul but patience, and what can sustain patience but hope? Only those who endure to the end, even amid such sufferings as these, can be saved; and only those who are patient, can endure; and only those who are hopeful, can be patient. The apostle states this very appropriately, where he says, "Therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because we have hoped in the living God."—1 Tim. 4:10.

3. CONTINUED SANCTIFICATION is necessary to our entrance into heaven. Neither justification, nor regeneration, nor both together, without sanctification, will take us to everlasting glory. It is true that the connection of this latter with the two former is secured by God's sovereign purpose of mercy towards his people; yet this renders it not at all the less necessary to deal with it as a matter of exhortation. The Christian should therefore be reminded, that it is only those who persevere to the end in a way of faith and holiness who shall be saved. It is at the peril of his soul, carelessly and presumptuously to exclaim, when in a state of declension or backsliding, "Once in a state of grace, always in it." To abuse the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints to the indulgence of a frame of mind incompatible with the Christian profession, is a sure sign of an unconverted state. He who can deliberately wander from the way of holy living, under the idea, and with the expectation that he shall be brought back again in God's time, may be very sure he never was in the way.

We have need to be continually exhorted, and need constantly to attend to the exhortation, to "watch and pray, lest we enter into temptation." The requirements of God's law are so large, the demands of Christ upon his followers so extensive, their own profession is so comprehensive and so strict, and the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil are so constant and so urgent in one way or other, or from one quarter and another—that really it is a difficult matter to maintain that "holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." The Christian life, which is a life of inward and outward holiness, is a continued conflict, mortification, crucifixion. We are sternly called upon to pluck out a right eye, or cut off a right hand, and maintain—even in the most tranquil times, and without any self-invented, self-imposed penances—a rigorous habit of self-denial. Many things which would gratify the flesh, the privation of which not only deprives us of what others enjoy—but exposes us to wonder, reproach, or ridicule—must be abstained from if we would be holy.

And how shall we be able to adhere, in such circumstances, to the way of godliness? The fear of destruction may do something towards this. Our Lord bids his disciples "fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell," and in many other places the appeal is to our fear, in the way of warning. It is a perversion of the gospel system of love and mercy—to say it excludes all fear. We know that the apostle has said, "Perfect love casts out fear, for fear has torment." This latter expression explains and limits the former, and indicates that the only fear which love casts out, is that which has torment, and that even this is not cast out but by perfect love. Still, I admit it is the hope of heaven, and the love of God, which are chiefly dwelt upon in the Scriptures of the New Testament, as the means and motives of sanctification. This will be explained at large when we come to the chapter on hope as a purifier.

4. Akin to this, and necessary for it, is WATCHFULNESS. If we would not be led into temptation, we must watch against it. There is scarcely any duty more frequently or more urgently enjoined upon us than this holy vigilance—and therefore none is more necessary! How impressively did our Lord enjoin this upon his disciples in Matthew 24 through 26. As we are ever surrounded by temptation, this follows, of course. What soldier who is in an enemy's country, where every tree, every hedge, every wall may conceal a foe—who is at that moment taking aim, and about to send the fatal bullet to his heart—would not keep constant watch on every object? This is precisely our situation and our duty. In one hour, and when not thinking of danger, much less apprehending it to be near, we may be brought into a trial of our faith and steadfastness which may seem to imperil our whole salvation.

An unwatchful security may be our ruin. This was the cause of all the scandals we read of in Scripture. Eve was unwatchful when she listened to the tempter's wiles—and Adam was unwatchful when he hearkened to the persuasions of his wife, and lost Paradise for themselves and their posterity. Noah was unwatchful when he drank the fruit of the vine and became intoxicated. Abraham was unwatchful when he lied to defend the chastity of his wife. David was unwatchful when he was walking on the housetop, saw Bathsheba, and fell into the crimes of adultery and murder. Peter was unwatchful when he denied his Master with oaths and curses. Yes, and the failings of God's people in every age since are to be traced to the same negligence. Satan knows when we are off our watchtower, or asleep upon it, and takes instant advantage of our lack of vigilance. He never slumbers—though we do.

And what is so likely to keep our eyes open, our vigilance eager, as hope? This is the ever wakeful sentinel of the soul. Hope, when vigorous and lively, is all eye, all ear, all hand, all foot. It sees the least object, hears the least noise, feels the least touch, snatches up its weapons and hastens to the point of danger or advantage. It is ever waiting, ever-watchful, ever prepared for defense or assault. Intent thus upon the glorious object of our Christian desire and expectation, we shall walk circumspectly, looking all around to see if any foe be near.

5. Can any rational creature, who reads the Word of God, expect to reach heaven without UNWEARIED DILIGENCE? In how many pages of the New Testament is this enjoined upon us? One only need here be cited—"And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue," etc. This is also repeated a few verses after—"Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall." 2 Peter 1:5-10. Let the reader be attentive to the words of this exhortation. It not only enjoins diligence—but all diligence; and for what a purpose! to practice a whole chain of virtues, each one of which requires the strength of Omnipotence to enable us to exercise it, and thus to make our calling and election sure; sure to our entire conviction, so that we may walk onward in our Christian career, with the blissful consciousness that we are elected and called to salvation.

If diligence is necessary for anything, it is to obtain salvation. If diligence can be justified in reference to anything it is for salvation. If diligence is successful in anything, it is in salvation. If diligence is rewarded in anything, it is in salvation. The difficulties of the divine life are so great, so numerous, and so constant, that of all the vain hopes of success in any undertaking, the vainest is that indulged by the man who expects to get to heaven without diligence. A tradesman who is surrounded with eager, skillful, industrious competitors—but who lies in bed until midday, may much more rationally expect to succeed than he who anticipates the possession of heaven without constant, indomitable, and unwearied diligence.

Let any one consider what are the promises to be believed, the duties to be performed, the sacrifices to be made, the difficulties to be surmounted, the mortification to be exercised, the enemies to be encountered, the battles to be fought, the victories to be achieved—before salvation can be obtained—and then say if all this can be done without diligence.

Everything incites to this. The conduct of God himself sets the example. The Pagan philosophers used to argue that the world must be eternal, or otherwise, they said, the Deity would have been idle. They did not consider the incomprehensible delight, nor the infinite business of rest—and rest of business—which he had in himself. Inactivity is not incident to God; and if God be diligent, should not man? and if the chief diligence of God be about man's salvation, how much more should man be about it also? It has been quaintly said, by an old author, "that God built his temple on a threshing floor, to teach men industry and diligence," alluding to the ground on Mount Moriah, which David purchased of Araunah, for the erection of an altar, after the pestilence was stayed.

We cannot obtain anything earthly that is good without labor—and can we expect to gain heaven without it? Alas, alas, how are even professors slackened in their pursuit of heavenly things by such as are earthly. Oh, that we could see Christians working out their salvation with the same diligence which they are working at their worldly calling. We are told by the fable that when Jupiter had invited all living creatures to a banquet, the tortoise came in at the end of the feast; and upon being reproved for his dilatoriness, excused himself on the ground of the house which he carried upon his back, whereupon Jove adjudged him forever to keep in his shell. Let us take care that when God calls us to the celestial banquet we do not allow a house, or some personal, domestic, earthly concern—to hinder us lest all our happiness be confined to it. In the case of the poor tortoise, his impediment was put upon him by nature; ours is self-imposed.

More than once we are exhorted by the apostle not to be slothful. Sloth is the opposite of diligence—an inactive, drowsy, slumbering state of soul. Such a disposition is hateful in everything—but most hateful and most surprising in regard to salvation. There is an animal in the zoological world called the sloth, whose habits render him the picture of all that is lazy, inert and torpid. He will occupy three days in climbing a tree, and fall asleep in the act. He scarcely ever moves but when compelled by hunger, and then rarely traverses more than fifty paces in a day. He utters a piteous cry, as if movement were a distress; and is held in such detestation that even beasts of prey retire from him in disgust. With such an illustration of the nature of slothfulness, how forcibly comes to us the warning of the apostle against it—"Be not slothful."

Instead of the sloth, as his emblem, the professing Christian should select the eagle, which, with unblinking eye, and unwearied wing, soars with rapid and upward flight towards the sun! Or rather, should seek to resemble the angelic figures, concentrating in himself, and exhibiting in his conduct, in reference to salvation—the patient industry of the ox, the speed of the eagle, the courage of the lion, and all this directed by the intelligence of the man.

And what can, or will, keep up such a diligent regard to heavenly realities? There is but one thing that will do it, and that is HOPE—and this will do it. The power of this to inflame the human mind will be in exact proportion to the importance of its object, the probability of obtaining it, and the intensity of desire to possess it. Apply this to salvation, and you will then perceive its meaning, its truth, and its force, as a motive power.

6. SPIRITUAL JOY has considerable power in maintaining our perseverance in the pursuit of salvation. "The joy of the Lord is his people's strength," to sustain them under, and carry them through, the trials, difficulties and duties of the Christian state. The more we have of joy and peace, the more we have of manly strength, and robustness and vigor. Dejection, despondency and gloom enfeeble the mind in ordinary matters, and so they do in sacred ones. Distress paralyzes the arm of industry by eating out the power of the nerve of action. Hence the prayer of the apostle for the Christian Romans—"The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit." It is of vast importance, not only for the believer's comfort—but for his safety, that this should be his case. He needs peace and joy, not only to make his duties delightful—but to retain his hold on true religion altogether.

The faith, if it can be called by such a word, that yields no comfort to the soul, will soon be cast away as a worthless thing. A religion that does not bring bliss with it will soon be likely to be found a hindrance to enjoyment. Professors neither feel nor exhibit the excellence of true religion, if they do not "serve the Lord with gladness." We tell the world, in sermons and books, that the springs of happiness lie in true piety, and we should be careful to sustain the assertion by our appearance. We are commanded to let our light shine before men. To do this we must let our holiness be irradiated by the sunshine of joy. A Christian is never giving to his religion its full credit, until he shows that it not only makes him a holy man, or an useful man—but also a happy one. The multitude all around him are saying, "Who will show us any good?" He should be able to say "I will." "Lord, you have lifted upon me the light of your countenance, and put gladness into my heart." Now it is hope that feeds joy. Hence the apostle's language, "Rejoicing in hope." "We rejoice in hope of the glory of God." The pleasures of hope have been, as we have already observed, the theme of poetry and song. It is, and must be, a happy state of mind. It is one of the passions which, in their very exercise, are bliss. They not only bring it—but are it. A child desiring and expecting his toy, is, in so far as that goes, happy; happier, of course, when joy is turned into fruition—but pleased even with his hopes. If the salvation which is in Christ Jesus does not give joy, nothing can; and he who talks of heaven without "rejoicing in hope" of it, does but talk.

7. Hope gives a foretaste of heaven; and therefore we are saved by it. Salvation, as we have already shown, is a present blessing—"we are saved," and not merely "shall be." What was said to Zaccheus may be said to every repenting and believing sinner, "This day has salvation come to your house." He who is not saved now will not be hereafter. We know very well that salvation begun on earth will be completed in heaven. But heaven itself does begin on earth—

The men of grace have found
Glory begun below;
Celestial fruits on earthly ground,
From faith and hope may grow—

And do grow. Grace is glory in the bud—glory is grace in full bloom. Grace is glory militant—glory is grace triumphant. What other honors and felicities heaven will contain, than those we read of in the Bible as now promised to the Christian, we cannot even conjecture—but there are none, can be none greater in kind than those we now possess, either of a relative or a personal nature. We can rise no higher in relationship, than to be a child of God—no higher in moral state, than to be like God—no higher in principles of action, than to love God and our neighbor—and no higher in happiness, than to enjoy God. Now all these we have on earth. True, we have them here only in such small proportions, in such glimpses, in such sips, and amid so many interruptions—that we can form but a very inadequate idea from them of the heavenly glory. But they are the pledge of our redemption. And we might have a much richer pledge than we have. Others have had it.

What a foretaste must John Howe have had when one night he was in such a holy ecstasy in the view of heaven, that he said to his wife, "Though I love you as much as it is fit for one creature to love another, yet, if it were put to my choice, whether to die this moment or live this night, and by living this night I could secure to myself the continuance of this life for seven years longer, I should choose to die this moment." What a foretaste of heaven must Halyburton have enjoyed, when he had such a view and sense of the excellent glory, that he entreated God to cover that glory with his hand, lest it should overcome his power of endurance. What a prelude of the celestial banquet must Payson have had, when he wrote the following letter—

Dear Sister,
"Were I to adopt the figurative language of Bunyan I might date this letter from the land of Beulah, of which I have been for some weeks a happy inhabitant. The celestial city is full in my view. Its glories beam upon me, its breezes fan me, its odors are wafted to me, its sounds strike upon my ears, and its spirit is breathed into my heart. Nothing separates me from it but the river of death, which now appears but as an insignificant rill, that may be crossed at a single step, whenever God shall give permission. The Sun of Righteousness has been gradually drawing nearer and nearer, appearing larger and brighter as he approached; and now he fills the whole hemisphere, pouring forth a flood of glory, in which I seem to float like an insect in the beams of the sun, exulting, yet almost trembling, while I gaze on this excessive brightness, and wondering, with unutterable wonder, why God should deign thus to shine upon a sinful worm. A single heart and a single tongue seem altogether inadequate to my desires—I need a whole heart for every separate emotion, and a whole tongue to express that emotion.

"But why do I speak thus of myself and my feelings; why not speak only of our God and Redeemer? It is because I know not what to say. When I would speak of them my words are all swallowed up. I can only tell you what effects their presence produces, and even of these I can tell you but very little. O, my sister, my sister! could you but know what awaits the Christian; could you know only so much as I know, you could not refrain from rejoicing, and even leaping for joy. Labors, trials, troubles, would be nothing—you would rejoice in afflictions, and glory in tribulations; and, like Paul and Silas, sing God's praises in the darkest night, and in the deepest dungeon. You have known a little of my trials and conflicts, and know that they have been neither few nor small; and I hope this glorious termination of them will serve to strengthen your faith, and elevate your hope.

"And now, my dear, dear sister, farewell. Hold on your Christian course—but a few days longer, and you will meet in heaven,

Your happy and affectionate brother,
Edward Payson."

In these instances we see how much of heaven has been enjoyed on earth by some of God's saints. And do not the biographies of others teach us the same fact? Yes, have there not been seasons, alas too few and too short, when we ourselves have known something of all this? When we too, have had such joy and peace in believing; such an impression of God's presence; such a sense of his love; such ardent affection for the Savior, and such communion with him; such a holy serenity of mind; such an elevation above the world—as to lead us to say, "Now I know something about heaven; what it is, and what it must be, when this frame of mind and heart is carried on to absolute perfection."

It is hope that produces this. This passion, when intensely engaged, seems to give a present existence to its object, which stands before the mind with almost the vividness of reality. Hope, in its highest exercises, is a kind of fruition. How important then is its exercise. How desirable to send it across the Jordan, like the spies into the promised land, to fetch the grapes of Eshcol, and thus to be encouraged to go on and take full possession of the heavenly country.