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never arrives at any thing like maturity, nor becomes an evergreen in any heart, until the things which are unseen and eternal are “hoped for." Heb. ii. 1. Now this they cannot be, unless they are looked at by faith : but just taking them for granted, or not forgetting them entirely, is not looking at them by faith. “Faith is the substance (or gives subsistence in the mind) to the things hoped for.” Accordingly, it was to Believers as “looking for such things” as acquittals and crowns and glory, on the Last Day, that Peter said, “ Seeing ye look for such things, be diligent, that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” It was to Christians, as anticipating and realizing the end of all earthly things, that he made the solemn appeal,
“ What manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?” And observe: in order to help them to answer this question, he urges them to continue “looking for, hastening (in thought and hope) unto the day of the Lord.” Thus Peter did not think that they could answer his question well, without a growing habit of considering the end of Time and the full apocalypse of Eternity: a plain proof, by the way, that he had no fear of saddening or unsecularizing his converts by keeping the light of Eternity around them!
Well; you have said to yourself, whilst looking at the Cross, and to the Mercy-seat, and to the Sacrament, and to the Moral Law as the rule of life, -“ What manner of person ought I to be in all holy conversation and godliness ?” And all these “great sights ” of privilege and duty, have “greatly helped ” you to bring forth some of the first fruits of holiness unto the glory of God through Jesus Christ. And you will never “bring forth more fruit,” if you look away from these motives, or allow yourself to be drawn away by any thing that would displace them. Should you ever withdraw your eye from the Cross or the Mercy-seat, to fix it upon visions or novelties in religion, there will soon be an end to your present hope and holiness. You may even become such “manner of persons," as those who listen to “ Tongues,” which teach no knowledge, or to Interpreters of Prophecy, who do nothing to fulfil the prophecies, which foretell the spread of the Gospel. “But I hope better things of you ; even the things which accompany Salvation, though I thus speak."
Will you, then, in order to increase your hopes and holiness, try the experiment of looking distinctly at the solemn realities of eternity ; plying your heart and conscience with the solemn question, “ What manner of person ought I to be, in all holy conversation and godliness?" Will you put it to yourself, just as God puts it to you? It is not, you see, a bare or abstract question in morals. It embraces universal holiness of heart and life, and comes before you enshrined with the two-fold splendours of burning worlds and a bright eternity. Will you meet it, as you wish to meet the grand and awful consummation it is founded upon ? Do you hesitate ? Why not look at such things now,
since you must see them at last ? “Every eye shall see " the descending Judge, and the dissolving universe. You must see them, “ for yourself and not for another." And, if you cannot bear to think of them, how will ye bear to see them - to hear them - to feel them, when neither rocks nor mountains, if they could fall upon you, would be able to hide from you the scenes of that day? But, perhaps, you are afraid to hope so freely, as I commend, or as you wish? Why?
“ The hope set before us " in the gospel, like the Sheckinah of the Divine presence
which went before the church in the wilder
ness, is “ a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night;” neither so dim as to be indistinct, nor so bright as to be dazzling, to the eye. It is, indeed, as full of immortality as the sun is full of light: but as the sun shines through an atmosphere which softens his rays, and occasionally shades them too, so the hope of eternal life takes so many of the sweetest forms of social life, and is so surrounded by the duties and trials of public, domestic, and mortal life, that it never shines too brightly to be looked at, nor too darkly to be seen.
It is emphatically a hope set before us : not so far off as to strain the eye in looking for it, nor so near as to pain the eye, in looking at it. And then, how effectually it is set before
The pillar of cloud and fire came down