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A GOOD HOPE THROUGH GRACE.
BY THE REV. JAMES SMITH. Hope is the sweetener of human life. But for hope we should dash down the bitter cup and rush into desperation and despair. Painful as life often is, it would be ten times worse but for hope. But hope sometimes is limited to time, and sometimes it rests on a false basis. Then comes disappointment, sorrow, and woe. We shall not dwell on hope in general, but on the christian's hope. A good hope; a good hope through grace.
. A GOOD HOPE IS A STEADY EXPECTATION, RAISED IN THE SOUL, OF THE POSSESSION OF SOME FUTURE GOOD. Its author is the Holy Spirit, and the means by which it is produced is the everlasting gospel. A man is convinced of sin, alarmed by the law, and realizes that his desert is hell. He is afraid of God, he is terrified at the thought of judgment, and at times perhaps longs for annihilation. He believes in hell, and dreads it. He believes in heaven, but has no hope of it. He is afraid to pray, and yet dares not neglect it. The pride of his heart gives way. He is ready to do anything, and willing to be anything, if he may but escape the wrath to come. He hears the everlasting gospel; it proclaims a full, free, and immediate pardon of all sin. It presents a glorious righteousness, to be placed to the account of all that believe. It opens a fountain which cleanses the foulest sinner, and makes him white as snow. It reveals the infinite, unbought, and sovereign love of God. It promises heaven, with all its blessedness and glory, to every one that believes. The Holy Spirit accompanies this gospel with his own sweet and invincible power to the heart. Unbelief gives way. Doubts, fears, and dulness depart. Hope, cheering hope, springs up. The man believes the record, he has confidence in God, he casts himself on Jesus, and this faith is the immediate parent of hope. He almost unconsciously begins to expect good things at the hand of God. His expectation deepens and strengthens. He is persuaded that God is love. He is filled with wonder when he hears that God beseeches him to be reconciled. He yields at once. His fetters are broken. The yoke of bondage is destroyed. Pardon and peace are enjoyed. The Spirit of adoption whispers, "Abba,” in his heart, and he cries out, “ My Father!” Good hope is now produced. It roots itself in the man's nature. It influences the man's heart and life. It lifts up his head. It brightens his eye. It strengthens his power of vision. It pierces the clouds. It passes through the distance with the velocity of lightning, and fixes on the glory pro. vided in God's word.
Its OBJECT IS GOOD,—the greatest good. Guided by the promises, it embraces all the good things which are limited by time. So that the christian hopes for, or expects, strength equal to his day, and that the grace of Jesus will be sufficient for him. He hopes to conquer every foe, however powerful, vigilant, or determined. To master every difficulty, however great and startling. To bear every cross patiently after Jesus. To endure all the afflictions that may come upon him, whether they be losses, crosses, bodily pains, temptations, or disappointments. To persevere to the end of his journey, and pass over the river in safety. Faith often looks forward, and leads the mind over the whole journey, but hope accompanies it, and whispers, You will endure that, you will overcome that, you will conquer that. Hope has a sweet voice, and though its strains are sometimee a little melancholy, it cheers the pilgrim as it sits in his bosom, like the nightingale in the thicket, amidst the gloom, and sings, “ It shall be well, all shall be well, apd well for ever; for all
things work together for good to them that love God, and are the called according to his purpose. Heaviness may endure for nights, but jov cometh in the morning." But it is not limited to the good things of time; it embraces the invisible world, the residence of God, the dwelling. place of Jesus Christ. Good hope cheers the dying christian with the thought, “Absent from the body, present with the Lord.” It persuades him that every pain will soon cease, every sorrow will soon end, every trouble will soon terminate. It reminds him, that though he may carry his cross to the gates of glory, he can carry it no farther,-every cross must be laid down on the threshold of that blissful mansion. It soothes his fainting heart, and cheers his sinking mind, as it speaks of the better land, and his interest in it, and title to it, and holds up the testimony which sparkles like a cabinet of gems. “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them to living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." It even goes beyond this, to the coming, the glorious coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, to set up his kingdom, fulfil all the glowing predictions of his word, and make good his largest promises to his people. The coming of Jesus is the most desirable, the most glori. ous event predicted in all the future, and, as such, hope fixes upon it. Oh, the flashes of joy that enter through the eye of hope into the son!, as it looks forward to the advent! Oh, the pleasure that at times thrills the spirit, as it anticipates that sublime event! Hope looks, longs, and at times wearies, for the coming of Jesus. She rejoices in what is laid up in beaven, in the inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth net away. But she places the espoused spirit on the tip-toe of expectation for the coming of the beloved Bridegroom openly to celebrate his nuptials. Hence the believer is described by the apostle as “looking for that blessed hope, even the glorious appearing of the great God our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
This hope is of GRACE,-entirely of grace. It owes its existence to the free, sovereign, and unmerited favour of God. It originates in grace, not in works; in what is in God, not in anything in man. It has cheered the heart of the vilest. It has visited the abode of the most wretched. It has brightened the eye of the most unworthy. It flows from the God of all grace, it is generated by the Spirit of grace, by the instrumentality of the gospel of grace, and is intended to reflect the praise of God's glorious grace for ever. Oh, Grace! thou friend of man, thon brightest emanation of the glory of God, thou source of all good, thou centre of all excellence, I admire, I adore, I love thee! But for thee, good hope had never visited my poor, polluted, miserable bosom! But for thee, I had been languishing in gloom, sitting in despondency, or sinking in despair! But for thee, I had never wept over sin, fled to Jesus, em. braced his cross, or felt the sweets of pardon, peace, and liberty! But for thee, I had been a felon in chains, a criminal in prison, a malefactor doomed to eternal death! Oh, Grace, how much I owe thee! Oh, Grace, how shall I sufficiently extol thee! . Yes, good hope is through grace, and grace alone. Grace devised it, grace made provision for it, grace produced it, grace sustains it, and grace shall have all the glory of it!
It is a good hope. Good in its author, which is God, who is called the God of hope. Sweet is that prayer of the apostle, “Now the God of hope 1 fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ve may abound in hope, 1 by the power of the Holy Ghost.” Whatever God produces must be
good; whatever God gives must be excellent. Hope is his gift one of those favours referred to by James, “ Every good gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, in whom 15 no variableness, nor shadow of turning.” It is good in its nature. An expectation, founded on the goodness of God, generated by the good Spirit of God, of receiving good things from God. An expectation that does honour to the benevolence of the Divine Nature, the veracity of the Divine Word, and the glorious atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is good in its effects. It vanishes sullen gloom, dissipates dreary fears, scatters distressing doubt, and conquers accursed unbelief. It lights up a candle in the prisoner's dark cell, it opens a door to the traveller in Achor's dreary vale, and it kindles a fire in the sinner's icy heart. It gives lustre to the eye, colour to the lip, and bloom to the cheek. It purifies the heart from prejudice against God, enmity to man, and accursed selfishness. It sets the idle to work, sends the sick soul to the Physician, and stimulates the disheartened to run the race set before him. It is good, for it gives God praise, its possessor comfort, and benefits all around. It is good, for it rests on a good basis. A basis broader than time, firmer than earth, and durable as the throne of God. It rests on the infinite love of Father, Son, and Spirit; on the everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure; on the meritorious blood and perfect righteousness of Incarnate Deity; on the many exceeding great and precious promises of the sacred Word; on the oath of God, that he willeth lìot the death of the sinner, and will not be wrath with his people; and on the immutable faithfulness of a God who cannot lie. Glorious foundation of our hope this! What can shake it! What disturb it! My soul, let thy hope rest, not on anything within thee, or on anything done by thee, but on what God is, what God has said, what God has done, and what God is pledged to do. This is the rock on which to cast thy anchor, _it will keep thee steady amidst all the storms of life, and in the great earthquake of death. As the anchor grasping the rock holds fast the vessel, causing it to outride the storm, so thy hope, grasping this glorious rock, will keep thee safe and steady. It moors thee to the eternal throne. Others may make shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience, but thou never shalt. Other vessels may be dashed to pieces by the fury of the storm, but thine never can. The metal of which this anchor is made is so strong, and so well welded, that all the powers of earth and hell may try in vain to break it; the cable by which this anchor is held—the faith of the operation of God-is so powerful, that no stress can ever snap, or even strand it; and the timber to which it is fastened in the vessel_the work of the Spirit of God in the soul-is firmer than any old English oak, or Lebanon's far-famed cedars; therefore it is that every vessel of mercy is enabled to sail over the stormy and troubled ocean of time, and, notwithstanding its eddies and tides, its rocks and quicksands, its whirl. pools and waterspouts, not one ever perished yet. Perished! Forgive the thought, alike dishonourable to God and injurious to man ! Perished ! Utterly impossible, since He who holds the winds in his fists, and the waters in the hollow of his hand, has said, “THEY SHALL NEVER PERISH!” Perisbed! If so, then the promise must fail, the oath of God must be violated, the blood of the cross must be dishonoured, the everlasting covenant must be broken, the word of Jesus must prove a falsehood, and Satan would triumph over the Saviour! Perished ! No, never one! Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice, my soul, in this ! Hold this fast, and never give it up; for if one has perished, more may; and if any one is likely, thou art the man. Yes, my feeble, fickle, foolish soul would be sure to be found among the lost. But no, that hope that originated with God is sustained by God, and will be consummated in the presence and glory of God. “The hope of the righteous shall be gladness." A good “hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost.” But if I hope for victory, and lose the battle,-if I hope for the prize, and lose the race, if I hope for heaven, but am doomed to hell, should I not be ashamed? And when tormented by devils and fellow-sufferers of a different class, would not my hope make me ashamed ? But we are saved by hope. Saved from distraction, desperation, and despair now; and saved from the horrors of hell for ever. Hope, eldest daughter of a living faith, thou hast cheered, solaced, and comforted me hitherto ; wilt thou not comfort me to the end? Yes, yes, and when on my dying pillow, when heart and flesh is failing, when earth is receding, and the unseen world is approaching, thou wilt whisper to me, “Grace reigns, glory approaches, heaven opens, Jesus calls thee. Farewell; go realise for ever what I have taught thee to expect, and assured thee of enjoying!” Thrice blessed hope! Thou hast been my helinet when fighting on land, and my anchor in the storm at sea; thou has opened a door of escape in the valley of trouble and sorrow; thou hast moderated my grief under losses and bereavements; thou has stimu. lated me to activity when dejected and discouraged ; thou has saved me from despair many a time, bidding me look out for better days, and assuring me that there was a good time coming. Comfortable hope ! companion of my wintry seasons and darkest nights, thou shalt accom. pany me to the gates of the celestial city, and only expire in the blaze of its glory and inconceivable splendour! God of hope, Í bless thee for this grace, this fruit of thy Spirit; strengthen it in my soul, and confirm it unto the end, for Jesus' sake!
Reader, have you a good hope? A hope you have, I doubt not; but is it a good hope? Was it preceded by conviction of sin, despair of help in self, and submission to the righteousness of God? Was it begotten at the cross ? is it nourished at the throne ? and does it rest on the faithful Word of God? These are serious and important questions; for a false hope will deceive thee. It may delude thee in health and strength, but it will fail thee in the hour of trial, and in the article of death. See to it, that thy hope rests on Jesus, that it purifies thy heart, that it bears the stamp of heaven upon it. All the productions of the blessed Spirit bear his stamp,-his private mark,-upon them; that stamp, that mark, is holiness. If thy hope is good, it centres in Christ, it consecrates thee to God, and looks forward to a heaven that is holy, as well as happy. Good hope always leads its possessor to sigh, cry, and pray for holiness more than happiness. By this one mark thou mayest prove the nature of thy hope. Art thou a hopeless sinner? Thou mayest become a hopeful, happy believer. Flee to Jesus from thy sins, thy guilt, thy desert; he will receive thee, and his Spirit will give thee a good hope through grace. Art thou a poor doubting soul? Jesus asks thee, "Why dost thou doubt ?” Mercy is free. His blood is infinitely efficacious. His righteousness is for every one that is willing to have it, and wear it. Doubt not, my brother, but hope in God, for thou shalt yet praise him. Art thou just going to give up thy hope? What, is it come to that? Well, then, even give it up. Give it up! You start at this advice, I know, and something within you says, “Never !” No, no, you never will give up your hope, for hope will never give up you, or, rather, the God of hope will not. Hope on, hope ever, and never talk of giving up then !
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF IDOLATRY.
BY THE REV. JOHN GREGSON. In coming out to India, a land about whose temples, idols, and worship, we have heard so much, we naturally expect to be at once arrested by some palpable and striking forms of idolatry. A system of such great antiquity, such debasing sensuality, and maintaining moreover such deep and widespread influence over the people, must have many outward me. morials of its existence and its power. It was with such anticipations I first landed in Calcutta, and yet strange to say to my uninitiated eye nothing idolatrous was apparent. I traversed its public thoroughfares, threaded many of its narrowest and most densely populated streets, visited its bazaars and principal places of business, but no indications of idolatry presented themselves, no grand imposing temples, no thronging crowds of worshippers,—no solemn or impressive ceremonies. Day after day passed, and even one week after another, during which period I had gone over a large portion of the city. Yet all was the same, there was no cessation of business, no seasons of general religious worship,-no appearance of repose, in short, nothing to indicate the people had a religion at all, or recognised any interests beyond those of the passing hour. I felt greatly perplexed, and could not help asking myself, Can these people be so bad as they are represented to be? Are these the blinded, infatuated idolaters of whom we have so often heard and read ? Judging from what I saw, I should certainly have inferred that their religion, if they had any, was more negative than positive, much more censurable in what it omitted than in anything it performed.
It was some time before I mentioned my feelings, or sought to fathom the depths of this mystery. I then soon learnt that the marks of idolatry were not so wanting as I had supposed. It is true Calcutta does not possess many heathen temples. I am not aware that it possesses one of any note,-and, in the city itself, I have no recollection, after a residence there of five weeks, of having seen one of any sort whatever. Perhaps along the banks of the river I may have seen one or two, but cannot speak with certainty. But whatever its lack of temples, it has worship. pers in abundance. Those men whom I had observed, as I was taking my morning or evening walk, sitting by the road-side and filling their brazen lotus with water, then pouring it over their hands, or bathing their faces with it, were engaged in their devotions, and whilst performing their ablutions were muttering their prayers. Again, those men whom you meet with so frequently having their faces smeared, or streaked with paint, bear upon their brows the characteristic mark of the god they worship. Whilst, again, those crowds I had seen at the river's side, some sitting quietly upon its banks, others plunging boldly in, or pouring water over their heads or bodies, all these were engaged in their daily religious rites.
But even had I not been thus enlightened, and taught to recognise idolatry where previously it had been unobserved, I should not have had to wait long to have my earliest impressions corrected. The Hindoos have no Sabbath like ourselves, but its place is supplied by a large num. ber of festivals occurring throughout the year, and which last from one or two to eight days each. It so happened before I left Calcutta the last of these Pujas or festivals for the year came on. It was what is called Kartik Puja, or the festival in honour of the God of War. The gentleman with whom I was staying had kindly made arrangements for us to leave Calcutta the day it commenced, and to spend the two days it lasted in the country. I had, however, an opportunity of witnessing the cere