By John Angell James, 1859


"Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us. Which hope we have as an ANCHOR of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters into that within the veil." Hebrews 6:17-19

This figure of speech, which is a very instructive and impressive one, is found in a passage of Holy Writ, is as striking, perhaps, in some respects, as any that can be found in the Bible. Such is the cable, if I may so speak, strong and unbreakable, to which the anchor is fixed. This passage is so rich in all that can comfort the heart of the believer, that before we come to the particular portion of it, which is the subject of this chapter, we may glance at its general contents.

The people for whom this wonderful passage is intended, are described by two things—first, as "The heirs of what was promised." This refers to the promise made to Abraham of the Messiah, "in whom all the families of the earth are to be blessed," a promise which comprehends in itself all the blessings of the New Covenant. Of this vast possession every true believer is an heir. Under each and every one of the covenanted blessings, he may write, "Mine!" all those promises which are "exceeding great and precious," which are "yes and amen in Christ Jesus," are his own to be appropriated as occasion may require. How rich, how vast, how inexhaustible a possession! Such a man need not envy the heir to a throne.

But the believer is also described as one who had "fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before him." In this there is an allusion to the man-slayer, who had unintentionally slain a fellow-creature, and had betaken himself to the city of refuge provided by the law of Moses, where he was safe from the avenger of blood. Thus the believer has fled to Christ our hope, and is safe in him from the sword of divine justice. Safe in Christ! Oh—what ineffable peace does that thought afford. Safe as Noah in the ark—when the deluge was rising and roaring around!

And what does the passage say of these happy people! Why that "God is more abundantly willing that they should have"—what? Salvation? Yes—but more than that, "strong consolation!" Not only the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory—but, consolation on the way to it—a happy home at the end of the journey, and a happy journey to it. There is a fullness and richness of expression here which is surprising. The text speaks not only of consolation—but strong consolation. Not only that God is "willing" they should be consoled—but "abundantly willing," yes, "more" abundantly willing.

It is delightful to dwell on this iteration and re-iteration of terms, this heaping of expression upon expression to show how intent God is, not merely upon the happiness of his people in heaven—but their comfort upon earth. He is not willing they should go sorrowing and downcast to glory—but that they should go on their way rejoicing, yes "with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads," that they should go singing to their crown. A gloomy, dejected, depressed believer is acting in opposition to God's intention. Therefore lift up the hands that hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees. Take your harp from the willows, sorrowful men. You may "sing the Lord's song in a strange land," for you are on your way out of it! You have Canaan's goodly country in view. Let the joy of the Lord be your strength.

And what has God done to furnish and promote this consolation? What has he not done? What has he left undone? The apostle tells us of "the immutability of God's counsel." What counsel? His counsel about our salvation. This word "counsel," applied to man, means confidence between different people, deliberation, decision guided by, and based upon, patient consideration. But with whom "did God take counsel, who instructed him and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and showed to him the way of understanding?" If the word means anything more than infallible wisdom and action which is the result of Omniscience, it can refer only to that same mysterious conference of which the historian of man's fall speaks—where God is represented as saying, "Let us make man in our image."

Everything God does is the effect of counsel with himself. Everything in nature, and in providence, and especially in grace, is wisely done—it is all right, good, best—all the effect of counsel. This counsel means his fixed, wise, and benevolent purpose to save all who believe the gospel. What if this purpose, like the plans and purposes of man, could be changed? Why then, the heavens might be clothed in sackcloth, and the earth in mourning. Then we might call on universal nature to become vocal, and utter one loud, deep groan. But what with God? "The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed—but my kindness shall not depart from you, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, says the Lord that has mercy on you."—Isaiah 54:10.

If God changed his plans; if he were controlled by caprice; if he willed one thing today, and another thing tomorrow, who could confide in him, or have any hope of heaven? If he could change in his purpose and his plans, we could, at best, possess only a trembling and uncertain expectation of eternal life. All we could say, is, that it is possible or probable we might be saved—but there could be no certainty. Not only could there be no strong consolation—but no consolation at all. Everything therefore depends upon the divine immutability. Hence his own glorious declaration, "I, the Lord, change not," and hence also the apostle's beautiful description of God, as "The Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, nor shadow of change."—James 1:17.

Believer, is not this "strong consolation?" You have scarcely anything certain but your salvation, and that is certain. God has purposed it, planned it, promised it; and God cannot change. Lift up your eyes to yon snow-crowned mountain; lift them higher still to that blazing sun; higher still to those fixed stars, and you may sooner expect all these to change, and to sink again into the nothing from which the Creator called them forth, than God's purpose to change, and your salvation, if you are a true Christian, to fail. Let us luxuriate in the idea that amid all the mutabilities of earth and time, all the vicissitudes of human affairs—and, indeed, what is humanity in all its range of events but one endless series of change—still there is one Being who is unchangeable, and that is God; one event that is certain, and that is salvation.

The immutability of God is the crowning glory of his character; for what would be all the other glories, if it were possible they could change? This is equally the bliss of angels and of men; is no less the guarantee of the hopes of the former than of the latter. Christian, hear, then, with rapture, what God says, "I, the Lord, change not," and let that one attribute of Deity be the joy of your heart, and make a separate song of that glorious word, IMMUTABILITY.

But this is not all, for the passage we are considering speaks of our "strong consolation" established two immutable things. And what are those? The promise and the oath of God.

His very Word of grace is strong,
As that which built the skies;
The voice that rolls the stars along
Spoke all the promises.

"Give me your word of promise," we say to a man of known and tried veracity, "and it is as good as your bond." But still his falsehood is possible, though improbable. But it is "impossible for God to lie." His infinite holiness places lying beyond his capability; under every promise we can write, "True, eternally, unalterably true." Why, then, has he added his OATH? This is a surprising view of God and God's doings. Jehovah is brought before us, in the solemn act of making oath. But to whom shall HE appeal; whom shall he call to witness the truth of his affirmation? "Because he can swear by no greater, he swears by himself." But why, I repeat, this wondrous transaction? Why treat his promise, as if it required for its credibility, the guarantee of an oath? Why thus add immutability to immutability? The apostle answers the question—"An oath for confirmation is the end of all strife."

In the communion of society, and in the transactions of business, an oath is considered, on account of its solemn appeal to heaven, and its implied imprecation of divine vengeance upon falsehood, an additional ground of confidence, because an additional pledge of veracity. And it is in allusion to this, that God, with infinite condescension to our weakness, adopts our own forms, and adds his oath to his promise, that" by two immutable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us." He knows what suspicious, timid, fearful, and desponding creatures we are; how powerful our unbelief is, and how weak is our faith—how apt we are to carry our doubts of the veracity of our fellow creatures into our communion with Him—and with a stoop of pity to our weakness, he adopts our own customs, takes up the very bonds by which we guard our veracity, and "swears" as well as "promises," that he will save all who believe in Christ. Oh, Christian, stand amazed at God's condescension and kindness, and blush for your unbelief and your cheerlessness, and come into the enjoyment of a strong consolation; and in order to that, come into the exercise of a strong faith.

We now take up the subject of this chapter, which is, hope considered as the anchor of the soul. Some have thought there is an appearance of unnaturalness in the apostle's representation of an anchor, "entering within the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus." But in fact he does not so represent it. It is only the hope that enters heaven, not the anchor. True, this affection is compared to an anchor—but the metaphor is immediately dropped, and is not intended to be carried to the end of the sentence.

(A similar criticism may be made upon another figurative passage, I mean Heb. 4:12—"For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Now, it is asked, is there not a confused metaphor here? or, how can it be conceived that the word of God can act upon the body, and sever its parts? The apostle supposes no such thing. His design is to represent the sharp and penetrating power of Christian truth, and he likens it to the power of a sword, which in its operation, when thrust into the body, separates the soul, that is, the physical life, from the spirit, or immaterial part of our nature, and reaches the very bones and the marrow they contain. There are the adjuncts of the metaphor—but not the thing signified. The Word is like a sharp sword, which this operates in the hand of him that holds it.)

The apostle, in the former expression, "The hope set before us," speaks of hope objectively; in the latter, subjectively. As the language is a metaphor, shall I be thought lacking in good taste, if I now carry on the figure? I am not prone to this species of composition, and severely condemn it, when applied to Scripture in the way of fanciful interpretation, and when introduced to the pulpit as a means of popularity. Still, we have Scriptural authority for its occasional use. Where the apostle represents the Christian life as a conflict, he carries out the first metaphor by an allegory, or, at any rate, a consecutive series of metaphors, into all the details of offensive and defensive warfare. And now, when he speaks of an anchor, may I not innocently, yet briefly, advert to all that is implied by such a figure?

An anchor supposes a ship, a ship a voyage, a voyage an ocean, an ocean a haven of destination, and several other particulars. Is not human life often called a VOYAGE, and do we not often speak of embarking on the troubled ocean of human affairs? Upon that ocean, viewed now as lying between earth and heaven, the believer launches his noble ship to pursue her heaven-bound course. This ocean, like every other, is subject to restless and ever-changing tides, and is exposed to storms above, and to rocks and quicksands below. Amid winds and waves the Christian's vessel ploughs the deep.

Precious beyond all estimate is the FREIGHT it bears. What was the wealth of the ancient galleon ships bearing home the treasures of the east, or of our modern steamers laden with precious freight, compared with that which is contained in one human soul? Were all the jewels yet hidden in the veins of the earth, as well as all that are in the possession of men above it, with all the gold Omnipotence ever created, embarked on board the mammoth vessel now preparing, and that ship, with its incalculable cargo, were to sink to the bottom of the ocean, it would be a trifling calamity compared with the loss of one human soul! For, said he who made the soul and the world too, and knows well the comparative value of both, "What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?" Such is the treasure on board each vessel that sails on the ocean lying between earth and heaven, time and eternity. What a shipwreck is the loss of a soul! Is there not danger of this? Is not the shore strewed with wrecks, and are not fragments of the broken vessels ever to be seen floating on the surface of the waves?

And what is the CHART by which the mariner is to be guided in his course? The Word of God. This chart is well drawn by the pen of inspiration. There can be no false directions here; no omissions of rocks, and shoals, and quicksands; no lack of landmarks and beacons. All that is necessary to ensure a safe voyage is explicitly indicated. None that consult and follow this can run upon an unknown peril.

Do you ask for the COMPASS? It is the cross of Christ. He who keeps his eye of faith steadily fixed on that, and steers by it, will never go out of his course. Does the wise mariner approaching a dangerous coast, and entering upon a difficult navigation, trust to his own knowledge, and his own soundings? No! He signals for a pilot, and gives up to him the helm and guidance of the ship. And will not the Christian mariner trust to the pilotage and guidance of him who calmed the winds and the waves of the sea of Tiberius? Will he not, should he not, give up his whole soul into the hauls of Jehovah Jesus? Yes, and in the storm and tempest sing, as well as say, with, the poet—

"Begone, unbelief, my Savior is near,
And for my relief will surely appear;
By prayer let me wrestle, and he will perform;
With Christ in the vessel, I smile at the storm.

And what is the HAVEN, the destined port, the wished-for home? The Paradise of God—yes, that is the peaceful haven to which the holy voyager to eternity is directing his course, and steering his vessel; that which is viewed by faith, and longed for by hope, is ever seen inviting us to retire from the tossings and perils of this unquiet ocean to a sacred enclosure—a sequestered spot, which the storms and tempests of the world are not permitted to invade.

But let us now consider the ANCHOR and its uses, and see how far these apply to the grace of Christian hope.

1. An anchor is of use in a time of CALM, to prevent the ship from DRIFTING. When a captain intends and desires his ship to remain near the shore, and especially in a bay, or any exposed situation where the tide runs strong, he takes great care to secure, if possible, a good anchorage, and the anchor is immediately dropped to prevent the ship from being drifted ashore by the tide, which, without this precaution, would inevitably be the case when the tide is flowing. Vessels, therefore, without the anchor, would be stranded in a calm as well as wrecked in a storm.

So is it in the Christian life. There also is the tide setting in, and oh, how strongly, upon the shores of earth. The world is, indeed, a very dangerous foe to the believer. To very, very many it is the most destructive one. They are not so likely to be subdued by open vice as by worldly-mindedness. It would not, I know, be safe to say of any who are yet in the flesh, however strong in virtue, that immorality is impossible with them—but we may say of multitudes, that it is in the last degree improbable. All may see just reason to say, "Keep back your servant from presumptuous sins," for Satan, the tempter, has no respect for age, experience, office, rank, or sex, and would be glad to catch in the coils of vice the old and saintly, as well as the young, professor. Yet it is not thus that he attempts to ruin the great majority of souls—it is by worldly-mindedness, by which I mean a predominant and all but supreme and exclusive regard to "things seen and temporal."

There are two or three things which, in setting forth this subject, must be taken into consideration, such as that God in Christ is the supreme object of a true Christian's love, the chief source of his felicity, the highest end of life. The salvation of his soul is the first object of his desire, pursuit and expectation. The chief end of man, and man's abode on earth, is to glorify God here, and enjoy him forever. Our great business on earth is to fit for heaven, and our main concern in time is to prepare for eternity. Can any of these postulates be denied? If not, let them be well pondered. Let the judgment, heart, will, and conscience be all summoned to the devout meditation upon them, and then let us say how, in what manner, and to what degree, the world ought to be regarded by us.

No object, however lawful in itself, however pure, innocent, or commendable, must be regarded in a way that is incompatible with these acknowledged principles. "If any man loves the world," says the apostle, in a passage which ought to ring through all Christendom, and make the ears of millions tingle, and their hearts to palpitate with fear and alarm—"If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." What is the world? Not merely open sin and vice, profligacy, idolatry, infidelity, heresy! Oh no, the world contains many things besides the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life—things more decent, more innocent, more rational, more commendable than these vile objects. Everything on earth, however fair, laudable and excellent in itself, everything besides God, is the world. Your business is the world, your family is the world; your house and comfortable home are the world, the wife of your bosom, the children whom God has given you, are the world. "What! then," you exclaim, "are we not to love these?" Yes, in proper degrees—but not more than God. You are not to seek from them your highest happiness. You are not to be more solicitous to secure them than heaven. It is of a 'supreme love' the apostle speaks.

How plain is this from our Lord's exposition and summary of the law, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your mind, and soul, and strength." How still more explicit from the other words of Christ, "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." Matthew 10:37. Christian professors, there is need to have these solemn, yet righteous, demands sent with a voice of thunder into your places of business and scenes of domestic comfort. You have need to be told that all this engrossing solicitude about business; all this eager haste to be rich; all this ambition to add house to house, and field to field; all this taste for elegance, show and fashion; all this competition for name and fame, which leads to a neglect of salvation, to departure from God, to indifference to heaven, is the love of the world, which is incompatible with the love of the Father; and not less so that supreme and exclusive concern about domestic enjoyment, that taste for fashionable amusements, or even that more refined and simple love of home-bred delights, which still leaves out God, salvation, heaven and eternity. Here, here, I repeat, is your peril. Here is the enemy with which you have to do battle. It is not vice, I say, it is not profligacy, it is worldly-mindedness.

"They mind earthly things," said the apostle, when speaking of the enemies of the cross of Christ. On the other hand, when speaking of the temper of his friends and followers, he says, "We look not at the things which are seen—but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal—but the things which are not seen are eternal." The Christians of early days appear to have done all things with an eye to heaven and eternity; "their buying and selling, marrying and giving in marriage; their weepings and rejoicings—were all measured, and checked, and subdued by the remembrance that the time is short, and that "this world is fading away, along with everything it craves." They had subdued the world by faith, and so lived as they would desire to be found by him, at his coming.

There was a two-fold process ever going on within them—the energy of a daily life, and the fixed contemplation of Christ's advent. The ever-present consciousness of their Master's nearness was like some deep undertone which runs through a strain of music, and gives it a serious and solemn spirit. Ah, how different is it with professors now. Do we not see mere professors throwing themselves wholly—body, soul, and spirit into their trade, into the cherished objects of their ambition, into their entire devotedness to a worldly life. In these things, and for them, they live! These things bind round and overgrow their heart, stifle all serious thoughts, smother all heavenly desires. They have no other energy of hope and fear, and neither look nor wait for anything beyond. The great future has no power over them, the high heaven no fascinations to attract them; these are too far off, too dimly seen, and too unsubstantial, to counterpoise the gain of today, or the pleasures of tomorrow.

The road that leads to destruction is broad enough to comprise many parallel paths. And there is one path crowded with professors of religion, walking in company, with cheerful appearance, and elegant attire, and elastic step—but still walking to perdition! Oh, yes, there is a way through the church, a decent, flowery, down-hill way to eternal destruction—and there are many who take that road!

And even where worldliness is not so predominant and exclusive as all this, yet it is in a multitude of professors, far too prevailing. It is the sin of the age, and has deeply infected the church of Christ. While many are sunk in the mire, and are sure to perish in their worldly sins, multitudes more are sadly bespattered and have their feet so laden with the 'thick clay of earth', as to render their progress slow and their perseverance doubtful. The watchmen on the walls and towers of Zion had need to sound their loudest voice of alarm against this destructive foe, and tell the luxurious and slumbering inhabitants of the city that a mighty foe is at the gates, and has already made an entrance into the place! This soft extravagant, luxurious slothfulness—this ease-loving disposition—is the bane of the present generation of professing Christians. The robustness of spiritual strength, the hardihood of Christian courage, the self-sacrificing disposition of ardent love, the cross-bearing temper of ever-enduring self-denial, where are they? The church is reposing too much in the lap of the world, or drowsily reclining on her bosom.

I do not forget that at the very time I am penning these lines, the armies of the Lord are marshalling for conflict with the powers of darkness on the area of Exeter Hall. This is true, and I rejoice over it with exceeding joy. But what is all this compared with what the church of Christ could do, and ought to do; with what professors are doing for themselves, and with that style of self-indulgence in which the great bulk of them are living? Of how many of these may it be said, that to get and enjoy the good and the great things of this life, seems to be far more their aim than to secure eternal life, and fit for its enjoyment. How few really make a business of true religion, and how much fewer make it their great business?

To come back to the subject and metaphor of this chapter, how strong and rapid is the tide of worldly thoughts, feelings, and actions—setting in upon the shores of earth and time. The language of the poet is what every Christian ought to use and feel—

"Still more the treacherous calm I dread,
than tempests raging o'er my head."

And what shall preserve us from drifting on the shore, and being stranded there? The anchor! Drop down your anchor, believer. You need it, I repeat, even more than in the storm raging on the broad ocean. Why are Christians so worldly? Why have the scenes and circumstances of earth, so powerful an influence over us? Why? Just because our desires and expectations of the eternal realities and infinite possessions of heaven are so little thought of—and so little cherished! Were the mind kept in contemplation of these realities, and the soul more frequently regaled with foretastes of the heavenly food and feast—it could not be content to feed on the ashes and husks of this world!

It must feed on something; and in the absence of the former, it will take up with the latter. Did we but consider what heaven is—and how near; did we but really let our contemplation more steadily fix upon it; did we but redeem a little more time from secular pursuits and domestic or social pleasures, to meditate upon it; did we really and firmly believe all that is told us of it; did we but inflame our desires after it, and enlarge our expectations of it; did we but get a foresight and foretaste of its vast, rich, and imperishable delights—how much would our regard to this world be diminished! How would the 'lights of earth' twinkle and pale, and all but go out before the beams of the excellent glory! What we have to do, then, is to get a more lively hope of our eternal home! "For God has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children. It is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay!" 1 Peter 1:4

Have there not been seasons in the history of every believer, when not only sinful—but 'lawful sweets' were all forgotten, and when earth dwindled in his view to its own insignificance? When even in sight of his possessions, he wondered by what power they had cast such a spell over him. Let us then go into our closet, as into a spiritual observatory, and adjusting the telescope of God's blessed Word to the heavenly object, fix the eye of faith to the lens, and bring eternity and eternal glory near—until our desires after it are kindled to the highest pitch, and our expectations of it are firmly grounded and settled on the basis of divine revelation.

Or keeping by the metaphor, let us cast out the anchor, and ride in safety against the strongest tide that has set in upon us. Did we not by experience know the contrary—we would be ready to think that with such an object of hope as heaven—we would find it difficult to be earthly! And yet sad experience teaches us, that surrounded as we are with earthly things—it is difficult to be heavenly! Keep up the power of hope, believer—and that will keep down the power and love of the world. And nothing else will do it!

2. But there is another use of an anchor than that which we have just considered, and that is to prevent the ship from being wrecked in a storm. Luke tells us, in his description of Paul's shipwreck, that "fearing lest they should have fallen upon rocks, they cast their anchors out of the stern, and waited for day." It is an interesting spectacle to see a noble vessel, when the hurricane is hurling winds and waves upon her with a force and fury that threaten every moment to dash her upon the rocks, or cast her upon the shore—held fast by an anchor; and however tossed about by the billow, riding out the tempest. And when the storm is hushed, pursuing her voyage with her masts all standing, her sails set, her pennant flying, and her crew rejoicing.

And is not that the emblem of Christians overtaken by one of those 'storms which so often sweep over the ocean of human life', and which cause so many and such fatal wrecks? I will advert to some of these storms.

The most violent and dreadful, and those to which Scripture most frequently alludes, are those which are occasioned by PERSECUTION. These sometimes rise into a great hurricane, resembling the typhoon of eastern seas, or the tornadoes of the West Indian islands. What a page, blackened with crime, and crimsoned with blood, has the pen of the Christian historian written. The history of the whole world scarcely furnishes a recital of such horrible sufferings as have been inflicted—first by pagans upon Christians—and then by professing Christians upon one another, not indeed for crimes—but for opinions! In this career of blood, POPERY sustains an unenviable notoriety. It is conjectured that not less than fifty million Protestants have been slaughtered by Papists!—with every variety of horrible deaths, and every ingenuity of inventive torture. What mind can conceive the amount of agony which must have been endured by this noble army of martyrs? And what, on the part of their persecutors, is the moving principle of their cruelty? Intense selfishness.

And what on the part of their victims, is the principle of their endurance? Christian hope. But for the hope of eternity, we would have never heard of a martyr! And with hope, were the ages of bloody persecution to come again—we would hear of millions more. Ancient pagans, who looked upon the sufferers in the amphitheater, when offering themselves to be torn to pieces by lions. And more modern observers, who have seen the sublime fortitude with which even women have passed through the iron gates of the Catholic Inquisition, never to return, or have yielded themselves up to the tortures of the rack or the stake—have wondered what principle was strong enough to sustain these 'victims of intolerance' amid terrors and torments so unutterable.

Our subject explains the whole—the patience of HOPE. It is not merely faith—but hope. Faith may believe in the reality, the glory, the eternity of a heaven for others—but hope expects it for the individual's own self. The key to the mystery of endurance in times of persecution—the secret of all this invincible courage, which leads on Christ's heroes to the fearful conflict, and makes them more than conquerors on the scaffold and at the stake—is the desire and expectation of the crown of life! "They consider that the sufferings of this present life—are not worthy to be compared with the glory to be revealed in them." They know "that their light afflictions, which are but for a moment—work out for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Yes, it is this single expectation, which not only makes them willing to endure one death—but would bring them to endure, if possible, a thousand! So glorious does heaven appear, that they count not their lives dear to them, that they might at last wear its honors, and enjoy its felicities!

But let any one imagine—if indeed it be possible to imagine, in his circumstances of liberty, ease, and quiet—what a 'tempest' the martyr has to endure. He is a husband and a father; he has a pleasant home, and a happy circle to share and enjoy it with him. While in the midst of all this pure delight, the calm is disturbed by gathering clouds, and portents of a coming storm appear in the horizon; the sky is soon overcast, the air is murky, and the rumblings of distant thunders are heard; on comes the tempest roaring and pouring out all its fury; the winds and the waves threaten him with immediate destruction—and what is to save him from being swallowed up by apostasy, or dashed upon the rocks of unbelief? His anchor! His anchor of hope!

Severely is he tried. He looks upon the wife of his bosom and the children of his love; he surveys his quiet home and his ample fortune. Oh, to be torn from these, to be immersed in a dungeon, to be tortured upon a rack, to be consumed to ashes. How can he endure it? What a tumult of thought is in his soul. How his flesh pleads! How the man recoils from suffering! How the 'husband and father' shrink from separation! May he not concede a little? May he not for awhile conceal—if he does not deny his principles? The conflict is terrible between nature and grace. The vessel is driving upon the rocks! 'Fear' is at the helm, and with a weak and trembling hand is guiding the wheel! 'Faith', like a good pilot, springs to the helm, snatches the handle from the feeble grasp of fear, and cries with a voice of strong authority, "Hoist the anchor!" It is done—the anchor drops into the ocean—lays hold of the 'ground of promise', and the vessel is safe!

The noble-minded believer sends up one piercing cry to heaven for help—that cry is heard! His fainting courage revives—his fears of death are subdued—his love of all that is dear to him on earth sinks below his love to Christ—he recovers from his sadness—his dark desponding thoughts leave him—his wavering purpose is fixed! Heaven appears to him in all its glories—eternity in all its dread importance—and he exclaims, with the exultation of a hero, "who shall separate me from the love of Christ! shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution? No! in all these things I am more than conqueror, through him that has loved me!"

But persecution is not the only storm that arises on the voyage to eternity. There are the ORDINARY CALAMITIES OF HUMAN LIFE, which are indeed neither few nor small—such as the loss of health, or property, of friends, of domestic comfort. "MANY are the afflictions of the righteous." There is no exemption for them, from the sorrows of earth and time. God's devout children—his most devoted servants—travel home to their Father's house through the valley of tears! There is no other way to heaven—even for them. Yes, tears are often wrung out to them—they seem often marked out for suffering, and, like the man after God's own heart, exclaim, "All your waves and your billows have gone over me!"

Their soul is sometimes so astonished and shaken with the variety, weight, continuance, and peculiarity of their trials—that they are thrown into the greatest perplexity of mind. Distressing and troublous thoughts come into their minds—suggestions of carnal reason—fiery darts of Satan—movements and stirrings of the flesh—until the poor soul, like Bunyan's Pilgrim when walking through the valley of the shadow of death, is assailed with all kinds of horrid specters—and seems ready to perish!

Or, to return again to the figure of this chapter—the soul is tempest-tost upon this troubled ocean—and ready to dash on the rocks of unbelief and despair—and to give up all for lost! Now is the time for the anchor which the believer is at length, after some difficulty, enabled to hoist. It is then that the promise, the prospect, and the expectation of eternal glory—come with the greatest power to his soul. Hope stills and composes those clamorous and disturbing thoughts, which in affliction are apt, like the tempest birds in a storm, to flap their wings and scream over the shattered vessel. This was David's remedy, "Why are you cast down, oh my soul, and why are you disturbed within me. Hope in God! For I shall yet praise him."

It is a mercy in affliction, to be preserved from the delirium of the intellect. And is it not also a mercy, to be kept from the delirium of the heart—from the disquieting, distressing, misjudging surmises of unbelief? Now what ice is to the brows of the former—cooling the blood, lowering the fever, and tranquilizing the mind—that is hope to the latter. But this is not all it does, for in the place of these distempered thoughts, so full of bitterness and venom, and inflicting such pain—it fills the soul with the calm of peace and the notes of joy—it helps the Christian to smile through his tears, and paints the many-colored rainbow upon the dark clouds of grief. Hence the beautiful expression of the apostle, "Rejoicing in hope of the glory of God" And what is next? "We glory in tribulation also." No glorying in tribulation—if there is no rejoicing in hope. This hope—when earth is a dry and barren desert, without one drop of water, or one blade of verdure—fetches a cooling draught from the crystal river of life, and fruit from the tree which grows on its banks!

Now all Christians, whether hopeful or despondent, are sometimes like the disciples on the Sea of Galilee—driven here and there by contrary winds. They toil all the night upon the sea, casting their nets—but catching nothing. No, oftentimes their sea is without a Christ walking upon the water—and their ship without a Christ—without even a 'sleeping Christ'. Yet when they desire his coming upon the sea, and cry out to him—they soon see him walking to them over the waves! And when they desire his awakening in the ship, they soon see him rising to rebuke the wind, saying, "Peace, be still," until there is a great calm.

God hides his face only to disclose it again; and 'his hidings' are oftentimes as full of mercy as his manifested presence. But whether to their feeble-sighted eyes, he is present or absent—they may always know that he is not far from them at any time! When there are 'clouds' so that they cannot see him—they may look at him through faith, and discern that he is not far off. And as those who are overtaken by 'storms in the darkness of the night'—not knowing on what strange shores they may be thrown—cast anchor and wait for day—so in the midst or trial and temptation, when the storm is fierce and the night is dark, when the lights are quenched and the signals gone—the believer may cast anchor. And if he waits in faith and hopes for the day—it will always dawn. The darkness will always hide itself—the light appear. There never was a night so long—that the day did not overtake it. There never was a morning—without its morning star. There never was a day—without its sun.

But how does hope keep the soul quiet and steady in these seasons of trial? I answer, by exhibiting the future rest which God has provided for those who love him. There is in that one word "heaven," a balm for every wound, a cordial for every fear! The soul reposes on the certainty of heaven. "The traveler, when overtaken by a shower, can stand patiently under a tree while it rains—because he hopes it is a shower, and sees it clear up in one part of sky, though it is dark on another part. Providence, I am sure, is never so dark and cloudy but hope can see fair weather. When the Christian's affairs are most disconsolate, he may soon meet with a happy change. It is but a moment, said a holy martyr to his fellow-sufferers in the fire—and our pain and sorrow are all over!" (Gurnall)

"For God has reserved a priceless inheritance for His children! It is kept in heaven for you—pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay!" 1 Peter 1:4. Yes, says the sufferer, it is the CERTAINTY of future glory that fills me with consolation! However bright were the prospect, however glorious the scene—if I could not rely upon it, if I could entertain a doubt or a fear that it were all an illusion—I could have no comfort! But to know that there is a heaven to come, and that it is mine, is a consolation to be felt—though not capable of being fully described.

Nor is it the certainty only—but the GLORY of that eternal state, its transcendent excellence that sustains the soul under its trials. How expressive is the language of the apostle, already quoted, "I reckon," says he, "that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to be revealed in us!" The value of a calculation depends of course, upon its accuracy—and we are quite sure Paul was correct. He had both his own experience and the power of inspiration to keep him from an error. "It does not yet appear what we shall be." There is a glory to come too great for language to describe, or imagination to conceive of—"an eternal weight of glory." What an expression! Never to be understood until it is possessed. For every pang, every sigh, every tear, every moment's suffering—millions of ages of ineffable, inconceivable felicity are to come! Can we wonder that hope of this should keep the soul from being overwhelmed with affliction, and shipwrecked by unbelief, despondency, and rebellion against God?

And then hope not only rests upon the certainty, and rejoices in the glory of heaven—but, expects that its present sufferings will contribute to its future bliss. Every tear is the seed of a smile; every groan the discord that prepared for a sweeter harmony; every loss the means of a gain; every disappointment the cause of a fruition. A believer parts with his comforts on earth to receive a full return of happiness from the loss; just as the husbandman parts with his grain in sowing-time, to receive it back a hundredfold in his crop at harvest-time. The Savior said of himself; "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?" And our way to glory lies by the same road. He was officially made perfect through suffering, and we must be personally made perfect by the same means. Our trials may be as necessary to carry our souls to the haven of eternal repose, as is the wind to carry the ship to her destined port.

We are very apt, in our ignorance, to call evil good, and good evil; to imagine that God is blessing us with his richest favors--when he causes the sun of prosperity to shine with noontide splendor upon us; and that he is cursing us with his heaviest judgments--when our condition is overcast with the clouds of adversity; but, the contrary may be the case; just as there times in regard to agriculture, when sunshine is a curse, and clouds, and gloom, and rain, a blessing. We need the cloud and the rain of adversity, as well as the sunshine of prosperity, and far more. Hope has an eye to see heaven in a cloudy day, and an anchor that can find a firm bottom to lay hold of, under a weight and depth of waters. Here is its safe and blessed anchorage in that one passage, "We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, and are the called according to his purpose."

Afflictions, then, are among the all things which are working for our good; they are like bitter medicines and sharp operations, which put us to present pain for future health; and are like property sunk at present in unproductive employment, to yield a large profit hereafter; or the troubled, stormy ocean, over which we must sail to the haven of rest, for which we are promised, and through which we are carried in safety, by having on board this anchor of hope.

But of what use is an anchor, if it be not a good one. Great care is taken to secure good iron, and to have it well wrought for this purpose. Neglect in this particular would endanger the best ship, having on board the richest cargo. And as it is not every kind of material that will answer this purpose of an anchor; so it is not every kind of hope that will preserve the soul from destruction.

There is such a thing as a false hope, and there is also a good one. That hope only is good which rests on the foundation which God has laid in Zion, which is fixed on the Heaven revealed in Scripture, and purifies the soul from sin and worldliness. Let us look well to the nature of our anchor.

And of what value is the best anchor, if it be not used, and used well? Christians, are yours? Oh, keep up the desire and expectation of eternal glory. With heaven above, and eternity before you; with such events as the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power and glory, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting—do not allow yourselves to be swallowed up in worldliness, or overwhelmed by afflictions. Hope is a grace which you need to keep in daily exercise. And choose your proper anchorage—the promises of God in his blessed Word. Human speculation, the deductions of reason, the suggestions of philosophy, are but insecure ground; and all ideas of your own personal excellence are but quicksand, which will deceive you. It is the promise of God in Christ Jesus into which you must cast your anchor—and then come what will in the way of either calm or storm—it will hold, and you are safe!