And Now Faith, Hope, and Love Abide, These Three (1 Corinthians 13:13)
The most literal fact that God has set before us, the most wonderful future, is within the certain reach of every single on of us: as certainly within our reach, as anything that we know of, which we could obtain tomorrow. This is the plain, clear, certain promise, without which Christianity is a dream and delusion. The life and destiny of each individual runs up to this; this is what we were made for; for this we have been taught, and have received God’s grace, and have been tried, and have played our part in the years of time. It is the barest of commonplaces; and yet, I think, to any who have tried to open their minds to its reality and certainty, it must have come with a strange and overpowering force – new on every fresh occasion, like nothing else in the world. For it is one thing to look forward to some great general event, the triumph of the saints of God, the final glory of the great company of the redeemed; one thing to look at all this from the outside, as a spectator by the power of imagination and thought, and quite another when it comes on your mind that you yourself in the far-off ages, you yourself, the very person now on Earth, are intended to have your place, your certain and definite place, in all that triumph, in all that blessedness, in all that glory. Yet surely this is the prospect; this, and nothing less. You may put Christianity aside; you may say that such hopes cannot be for human beings; but, if you are a Christian, this in its utmost fullness and reality is what you are to hope for.
This, as no one denies, is what scripture invites us to believe and to hope. These are no idle exaggerations of rhetoric or fancy, they are the bare words of truth and soberness. It is what we are living for, unless we are living in vain. Have such things been told us for nothing? Are they things to be without a meaning to us? Is it not simply a duty to hope; a sin against God’s high goodness, a crime against the order of God’s teaching, not to hope? Is it not a duty, in solemn and quiet self-recollection, to put before our thoughts that unbroken and continuous line, which joins this very present moment with that hour which certainly is to arrive, when we must be changed, when we may be changed into the spotless blessedness of the saints of God? You – you yourself – with your trouble, your temptations, your sin, small or great, your conscious weakness, your insensibility and ignorance; yet you yourself are one of those of whom all this wondrous future must come true. There is no blessedness of the human soul, no rest from weariness, no refreshment after toil, no opening of the eyes to beauty never seen by mortal eye, no delight in goodness, no rejoicing in perfect love, no ineffable sense of the sweetness and tenderness of God’s mercy – none of these that may not be hoped for; hoped for with all the warrant of the Almighty’s promise. And is that great hope to be practically all a blank to us?
It is not to be told how much we lose of strength, of gladness and enlargement of heart, of power to God’s service cheerfully and happily, by not realizing and dwelling on the great hopes “set before us.” We let ourselves be blinded, fretted, disheartened by the present, because we will not look up and see what is as certain as the present, in the not very distant future.
We, at least, if we are not Christian in vain, can pass on to the great hope which from end-to-end fills the Bible – the hope which ennobles and gladdens our mortal life; such a hope as carried Saint Paul in strength and joy through the long “daily dying” of his apostleship, and burst forth in such impassioned yet most reasonable conviction – I consider, he says, that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.