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faith. Our refuge is in the charity, on the one hand, that cultivates brotherly love "according to Christ Jesus ;” and, on the other, the fervent prayer which maintains a sound confession in preaching and teaching whilst it supplicates the universal outpouring of the Spirit of truth. Our Lord's witnesses on earth, bearing their testimony against a multitude of errors, must unite in this Prayer of the Apostle, remembering amidst all their discouragements the special attribute here given to the Hearer of their prayer, “The God of patience and consolation."
“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”—Rom. xv. 13.
Tas Prayer is closely connected with the preceding. The more immediate and obvious link seems to be the final word of the quotation, “In Him shall the Gentiles hope;" but, if we look closely, we see that the note of hope had been struck before : “ that we through the patience and consolation of Scripture might have the Hope.” We need not, however, pause on the connection. The Apostle has lost sight of it, and gives us his solitary Prayer on this grace of the Christian life in a manner perfectly independent, thus adding an element indispensable to the completeness of the series of his Apostolic Supplications. Hope is its one subject, whether we regard the God to whom it is addressed, or the fulness of the blessing which it asks.
1. The Author of Redemption derives some of the most precious among His many names from the Gospel which manifests His glory. As that Gospel rests upon an accomplished propitiation, He is “the God of grace," “ the Father of mercies,” with an abundance of attributes attending these names ; as that Gospel displays its present effects in the souls of men, He is “the God of peace," and His name of names is Love; as that Gospel reserves its blessedness for the future, especially the final future, He is “ the God of hope.” Hence it is an undue limitation to make this mean “the Giver of hope." The signification is rather that God is the Author and Fountain of the entire Christian salvation as it is not yet revealed and imparted. This includes both a wide range and an interminable perspective. Taking the former, there is hardly an aspect of the redeeming work which the God of hope " does not preside over. The Son, whom He has sent is “ Christ Jesus, our hope,” 1 Tim. i. 1; the Gospel is the foundation of a great hope, Col. i. 23; the Christian vocation is summed up in hope, Eph. i. 18; salvation is our comprehensive hope, 1 Thess. v. 8; Rom. viii. 20, 24. Taking the latter, the future is a glorious sequence of revelations which the God of hope has yet
to disclose. There is the hope of the glorious appearing of God and our Saviour, Titus ii. 13; the hope of the resurrection, which is the redemption of all past pledges, and the new earnest of all that is to come, 1 Thess. iv. 13; the hope of righteousness by'faith, which, although already imparted, is to be sealed as a final declaration of righteousness through Christ imputed and imparted, Gal. v.5; the hope of salvation, as the final deliverance from every evil that our nature has ever known, 1 Thess. v. 8; Rom. viii. 20; the hope of eternal life, as more than mere deliverance, Titus i. 2, iii. 7; the hope of glory, which admits no paraphrase but the word perfection, Col. i. 27; Rom. v. 2; 2 Cor. iii. 12. Now, it would be easy to show that every one of these forms of the one great Gospel blessing is referred to God as its Author. And when He is called “the God of the Hope," we must give the expression a wide meaning. As He is the God of Creation, Redemption, and Providence, so also He is the God of the Gospel Hope.
2. But the Prayer refers to the establishment, assurance, and abundance of the Christian hope as imparted by the Holy Spirit to believers. Though other terms are found here, it may easily be seen that they pay their tribute to this one grace; and it is the observation of this fact that gives the interpretation its only key. Faith is the root of hope ; the peace and joy which are the fruits of faith are the nourishment of hope; and the abundance of hope is here in a certain sense made the perfection of the Christian life as it is a life of probation.
Faith and hope are within the soul so united and inseparable, that the only definition of both contained in Scripture makes them all but identical: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for." They are one in this, that their objects are invisible: Faith is the evidence of things not seen,” and “we hope for that we see not." But they always and essentially differ in this, that in the economy of salvation faith has to do with the present, and hope only with the future; or, rather, that faith brings the past, and hope the future, into the reality of the present moment.
Faith and hope blend in the experience of the now that is; but faith brings its assurance of a mercy resting upon the work already wrought, and hope its assurance of a salvation yet to be revealed. Faith rests upon the “ It is finished," already spoken ; hope rejoices in the assurance of another “It is finished," which the creation groans to hear. But, while they thus are counterparts, it is obvious that faith must have the pre-eminence as being the parent of hope. We may conceive of a faith without hope, shut up to the present moment, however difficult the conception may be; but we cannot conceive of a hope that does not believe in its object. Hence, when the Apostle is about to invoke upon the Romans the abundance of Christian hope, he utters his Prayer in a circuitous manner, and takes faith on the way : “May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in believing, in order that you may abound in hope" as the fruit of that abounding faith.
There is, further, an evidentconnection in St. Paul's mind between the fruits of faith and the abounding in hope. The Prayer borrows from chapter xiy. 17 that part of the definition of the internal kingdom which refers to the graces of experience: “peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." It is hard to separate between these two, almost as hard as to discern between soul and spirit. But those who are accustomed to study the subtilties of St. Paul's phraseology, when the economy of salvation is concerned, will be prepared to allow that peace is the blessed settlement of the controversy between God and the sinner as respects the past; while joy is the present good cheer of the soul as encompassed by mercies, but feeling the present rather than thinking of the past or the future. “We joy in God through Jesus Christ," by whom we have received the peace of the Reconciliation. Now these two demand imperatively a third, to fill up the measure of the Christian estate: peace touching the guilty past, and joy in the fruitful present, do not so much cry out for as naturally produce good hope for the unknown future.
But of all these there may be measures and degrees. Nothing is more characteristic of St. Paul's Christianity than his perpetual emphasis on the increase, even unto perfection, of every grace of godliness. It would be hard to mention one for the fulness of which he has not expressly hoped or prayed on behalf of his people. He is a most generous interpreter of the privileges of grace. In some form or other the notion of fulness enters into every department of his practical theology. Here we have set before us as the object of prayer the abundance of peace and joy and hope as the result of the abounding power in us of the Holy Ghost. It is not certain whether or not the Apostle meant to connect the Spirit's operation with the increase of all the three in believers' hearts. It is more probable that the faith, with its two first-born graces, referred to Christ in whom the Gentiles should “trust," and that the hope, its later offspring, is referred to the operation of the Comforter. But this is matter of slight importance : certain it is that faith, with all that springs from it, is of the operation of the Holy Ghost, whose "power" in the soul, as that of a personal agent, tends ever to increase where it is nourished, and with its increase enlarges the range and deepens the character of all the graces.
We have long since seen how characteristic it is of St. Paul that he never prays for anything short of the "fulness" of these graces. The notion of abounding plenitude he throws into every variety of variation of which language would afford him the forms: in fact, a consecutive chain of these passages which have the “sound of abundance" in them would be a rich transcript of his mind. But it is a term that reluctantly submits to exposition. It is chiefly to be defined by negatives, though the negatives are positive enough for man's desire. To be filled with peace is to be dispossessed of the last residue of servile dread before God, and to have risen beyond the possibility of unholy resentments towards man: and for this the Apostle prays as among the blessings of the Christian heritage. To be filled with joy is at least to have vanquished all the sorrow of the world, to find elements of rejoicing even in tribulation, and to possess a serene contentment of heart that finds nothing wrong in nature, Providence, or grace: this also he asks as the common privilege of Christian men. To abound in hope is a grace that he expresses by another word: a word that rather brings the answer of the prayer down into the region of our own endeavour. The God and Giver of hope bestows its increase rather as the fruit of our own passive patience under suffering and strenuous fortitude in resisting discouragement. Hence the marked allusion to the power of the Holy Ghost.” Hope is strengthened by the habit of endurance and the habit of resist. ance. And these are habits which beyond all others require the Divine strength within us. While all graces demand the inworking of the Holy Ghost, these demand His “ power.” It is not without reference to this that we are said to be "saved by hope ;" and that our helmet is “ the hope of salvation.”
It must not be forgotten that the abounding in hope is prayed for as the end and result of the fulness of joy and peace.
This indicates, on the one hand, that these more tranquil graces are instruments for the attainment of that more strenuous grace ; and, on the other hand, it seems to make hope the consummate probationary sentiment of the Christian character. A few words on each of these points are all that are now necessary.
"That ye may abound in hope:" joy and peace minister to hope. The assurance of reconciliation with God in Christ, the tranquillity of soul which springs from conscious salvation from guilt and fear, cannot rest in itself: it must needs muse upon that which is to come. If what has been said is true, that peace in its essence is a sure sense of deliverance from all the consequences of the past, through the grace of our Lord's propitiation, how can it but encourage the expectation of all the fruits of a justified state and the adoption to an inheritance? We are “begotten again unto a lively hope.” The soul, no longer weighed down by the burden of sin, by a holy necessity springs upward; and every upward aspiration is hope. “How shall He not with Him freely give us all things?" is not merely St. Paul's theological deduction, it is the silent inference of every new-born spirit. Peace is not hope, but it sets hope free. Until the pardon is sealed, all that the future has is a ministration of death. With the regenerate life of justification hope revives and fear dies. So also joy, by an equally Divine necessity, ministers to endurance and fortitude and the hopeful expectation of the great release. Hope in this case of course ministers as it is ministered unto. “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” The glorious prospect gladdens the soul, and enables it to count tribulation joy. But that refers to the “ consolation" of hope. Its "patience," which enters so largely into Christian experience, is nourished by the joy which the Holy Ghost imparts. For, every reviving and cheering influence of the Spirit strengthens the spirit to encounter its difficulties and privations and temptations. Every inspiration of Christian rejoicing, whether from the Divine immediate contact with the soul, or imparted through the word of promise, is a direct earnest of future happiness. As such it must invigorate and exalt the Christian's hope. Hence the habitual reference to the encouragement of hope as the proximate, though not ultimate, design of all God's dealings with His people. Directly or indirectly the nourishment of this grace is constantly made the end of the Spirit's dispensations of His influence. But nowhere more impressively than in this Prayer which makes the abounding of joy and peace subsidiary to the abounding of hope, and connects with this last result the rarely-used expression, "By the power of the Holy Ghost."
It is scarcely too much, then, to say finally that hope is in some sense the highest of the probationary graces. It is the servant of many of them, but it is itself served by all. So far as the estate of probation is concerned, simply and as such, what would everything else be without this ? the mere imagination of the with. drawal of hope withers the rest and wraps all in darkness. It might seem a hard and thankless task to compare the graces, but St. Paul has set us the example. In his comparison we know that charity has the pre-eminence by every right: it is of the Divine nature, it binds together time and eternity, heaven and earth, and God and man; it survives eternally. But, as the grace of our stem probation, hope has its own peeuliar pre-eminence. It imparts its strength to all other graces, so that they without it cannot be made perfect. It divides the triumphs of faith, it enters largely into the self-denials and labours of love. As it respects the present life, rounded by the last conflict of death, hope is in some eense "the abiding grace.” There are many seasons when all
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