by Octavius Winslow, 1852
No Condemnation in Christ Jesus
Saved by Hope
"For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." Romans 8:24-25
We have been contemplating the present state of the renewed creature as one rather of expectancy than of attainment—not of realization, but of hope. We have seen him in his lofty position, as he stands in Christ Jesus, towering above the storm and thundercloud of sin, the curse and condemnation, tinted with the first beams of opening day, and waving the first golden sheaves of the ripening harvest. The description and the argument now approach their climax. As if these trembling rays and these first-fruits might fail to assure the believing heart of the certain day, and the actual harvest, our Apostle, in yet strongest language, meets the misgiving, and quells the fear, by declaring that we are "saved by hope." Affirming this, he then proceeds tenderly to exhort the believer to a patient waiting its certain and full realization. There are, in these passages, some points of the deepest interest. May the Holy Spirit unfold and apply them!
"We are saved by hope." The phrase, as employed by the Apostle, does not imply the instrument by which we are saved, but the condition in which we are saved. The condition of the renewed creature is one of hope. Salvation by the atonement of Christ—faith, and not hope, being the instrument of its appropriation—is a complete and finished thing. We cannot give this truth a prominence too great, nor enforce it with an earnestness too intense. We cannot keep our eye too exclusively or too intently fixed on Jesus. All salvation is in him—all salvation proceeds from him—all salvation leads to him, and for the assurance and comfort of our salvation we are to repose believingly and entirely on him. Christ must be all. Christ the beginning—Christ the center—and Christ the end. Oh, blessed truth to you who sigh and mourn over the unveiled abominations that crowd and darken the chamber of imagery! Oh, sweet truth to you who are sensible of your poverty, and vileness, and insufficiency, and the ten thousand flaws and failures of which, perhaps, no one is cognizant but God and your own soul! Oh, to turn and rest in Christ—a full Christ—a loving Christ—a tender Christ, whose heart's love never chills, from whose eye darts no reproof, from whose lips breathes no sentence of condemnation! But as it regards the complete effects of this salvation in those who are saved, it is yet future. It is the "hope laid up for us in heaven." It would seem utterly incompatible with the present economy that the renewed creature should be in any other condition than one of hopeful expectation. The constitution towards which he tends, the holiness for which he looks, the bliss for which he pants, and the dignity to which he aspires, could not for a moment exist in the atmosphere by which he is here begirt. His state must of necessity be one of hope, and that hope must of necessity link us with the distant and mysterious future. The idea, "saved by hope," is illustrated by the effects of Christian hope. It is that divine emotion which buoys up the soul amid the conflicts, the trials, and the vicissitudes of the present life. So that we are cheered and sustained, or 'saved' from sinking amid the billows, by the 'hope' of certain deliverance and a complete redemption. "In hope of eternal life, which God that cannot lie, promised before the world began."
The Christian's state, then, is one of hope. Around this single subject how much of Scripture light gathers! A remarkable reference to it is found in these words of the Apostle, "Now 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." Well might Tertullian exclaim in view of a passage so rich as this, "I adore the fulness of the Scriptures." God is here portrayed as the "God of hope." What a glorious title! The believer is then described as the subject of hope—what a blissful being! We are then exhorted to abound in hope—what a precious privilege! This magnificent bow spans the whole horizon of our splendid future. We do not yet realize our heaven but we hope for it. We do not yet see Jesus—but we hope to see him. We do not yet exult in our emancipation from corruption—but we hope to be free. We do not yet drink of the river of pleasure that is at God's right hand, nor bathe in the sea of glory that rolls around the throne—but we hope to do. "We hope for that we see not." But what is the character, and what the foundation of Christian hope?
It is emphatically a "good hope." In every point of view it sustains this scripture character. The hope of heaven fostered by an unrenewed mind is baseless and illusory. There exists not a single element of goodness in its nature. It is the conception of a mind at enmity against God. It is the delusion of a heart in covenant with death, and in agreement with hell. It is the inspiration of the wind. It is the night-vision that plays around the slumbering pillow. It is the meteor-light that flashes upon the tomb. It is the treacherous beacon that decoys the too confiding but deluded voyager to the rock-bound shore. Unscriptural, unreal, and baseless, it must eventually cover its possessor with shame and confusion of face. But not such is the believer's hope. Begotten with his second nature—the in-breathing of the Spirit of God—an element of the renewed mind, and based upon the atonement of the Savior, it must be essentially a good hope. Cleansed from moral impurity, not in the laver of baptism, but with the blood of Christ; justified, not by the ritual of Moses, but by the righteousness of the Incarnate God; sanctified, not by sacramental grace, falsely so called, but by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit—the believer's hope of heaven is as well founded as the throne of the Eternal. Moreover, it is "a good hope through grace." The first and the last lesson we learn in our Christian course is, that "by grace we are saved." Lord! do you require of me one thought of stainless purity, one throb of perfect love, one deed of unsullied holiness, upon which shall hinge my everlasting happiness? Then am I lost forever! But since you have provided a Righteousness that justifies me from all things, that frees me from all condemnation—and since this righteousness is your free, unpurchased gift, the bestowment of sovereign grace, I clasp to my trembling yet believing heart the joyous hope this truth inspires. It is a blessed hope. "Looking for that blessed hope." Its object is most blessed. The heaven it compasses is that blissful place where the holy ones who have fled from our embrace are reposing in the bosom of the Savior. They are the blessed dead. The day of their death was to them better than the day of their birth. The one was the introduction to all sorrow, the other is a translation to all joy. Blessed hope! the hope of being forever with the Lord. No more to grieve the Spirit that so often and so soothingly comforted our hearts; no more to wound the gentle bosom that so often pillowed our head. No more to journey in darkness, nor bend as a bruised reed before each blast of temptation. To be a pillar in the temple of God, to go no more out forever.
And what a sanctifying hope is it! This, to the spiritual mind, is its most acceptable and elevating feature. "Every man that has this hope in him purifies himself even as he is pure." It detaches from earth, and allures to heaven. Never does it glow more brightly in the soul, nor kindle around the path a luster more heavenly, than when it strengthens in the believer a growing conformity of character to that heaven towards which it expands its wings and soars.
It is, in a word, a sure hope. Shall the worm undermine it? shall the tempest shake it? shall the waters extinguish it? Never. It saves us. It keeps, preserves, and sustains us amid the perils and depressions of our earthly pilgrimage. And having borne in through the flood, it will not fail us when the last surge lands us upon the shore of eternity. "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, where the Forerunner has for us entered, even Jesus." "Therefore do we with patience wait for it." This is our true posture—a patient waiting its fruition. This grace is called the "patience of hope." "We through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith." We wait the Bridegroom's coming. We wait the descent of the chariot. We wait the Father's summons to our home. We wait the Master's call to our rest. We wait the uncaging of the spirit, that it may fly. The desire to depart is ardent, but patient. The longing to be with Christ is deep, but submissive. For the full realization of a hope so sublime, so precious, and so sure, we can patiently wait. The theater of suffering is the school of patience: "And patience works experience, and experience hope;" and hope in the depth of the trial, and in the heat of the battle, looks forward to the joy of deliverance, and to the spoils of victory. It is well remarked by Calvin, that "God never calls his children to a triumph until lie has exercised them in the warfare of suffering." Thus all who shall eventually wear the palm, must now wield the sword. For the consummation of this hope, then, let us diligently labor, meekly suffer, and patiently wait. Living beneath the cross, looking unto Jesus, toiling for Jesus, testifying for Jesus, and cultivating conformity to Jesus, let us "be always ready to give a reason of the hope that is in us;" and be always ready to enter into the joy and fruition of that hope, the substance and security of which is—"Christ in you the hope of glory."