1 Peter 1:3-5
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…
I. To say that WE CANNOT GET ON WITHOUT HOPE is a truism. Hope is not the salt, it is the sinew of man's moral life. His capacity for excellence is exactly proportioned to his power of throwing himself onward into a future, which is as yet beyond his reach, and which may even be always beyond it. This truth holds good whether we look at man as an individual or as a member of society. The great object of a wise educator is to set before the boy whom he is teaching some future to which he may aspire, and which may fire his best enthusiasms; some future which may supply him with a strong motive for making the most of his present opportunities; some future upon which, during the drudgery and toil of his earlier tasks, his eye may rest, as upon the prize which will reward"" him, the object of his hope. And does not the same rule hold in later life? The boy becomes a man, the father of a family, and he transfers to his children some of the hope which he cherished for himself. He thinks less of what they are than of what it is probable that they will be a few years hence. So strong and penetrating is his sympathy, that in them he lives his own boyhood over again, only with the larger experience and wider horizon of his manhood. Nor is this less true of a professional work in life: hope is ever the motive principle of the exertions which command success. Minds of a lower type look forward to the reputation which will be won by success; minds of a higher order look forward to the happiness of doing work for God by rendering some real service to their generation or to posterity. And it is this hope which sustains them under all discouragements. Nor is hope less essential to associations of men than to man in his individual capacity. An army is never thoroughly demoralised until the hope of victory is gone. A nation is not ruined until it, has reached a point at which it remarks that it can make out for itself no prospect of expansion in coming years. And as hope is thus necessary to the temporary well-being of societies of men, and of individual men, so is it essential to the highest well-being of man as man. The hope upon which states, institutions, artists, painters, military men, politicians rest, is directed to objects within the sphere of sense and time. But man, as man, must look beyond sense and time. The man who has no clear belief in a future life may undoubtedly have, within some very restricted limits, a strong sense of duty. He may even persuade himself that this sense of duty is all the better and purer from not being bribed by the prospect of a future reward or stimulated, as he would say, unhealthily, by the dread of future punishment. But, for all that, his moral life is fatally impoverished. It is not merely that he has fewer and feebler motives to right action; it is that he has a false estimate of his real place in the universe. He has forfeited, in the legitimate sense of the term, his true title to self-respect. He has divested himself of the bearing, the instincts, the sense of noble birth and high destiny which properly belong to him.
II. Man then needs a hope, RESTING ON SOMETHING BEYOND THIS SCENE OF SENSE AND TIME. And God has given him one, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Our Lord indeed taught, in the plainest language, the reality of a future life (John 14:2; Matthew 25:46; Matthew 6:20; Luke 20:38). He contributed to the establishment of this truth in the deepest convictions of men, not merely many lessons taught in words, but a fact, palpable to the senses. His resurrection converted hopes, surmises, speculations, trains of inference, into strong certainties. Not that the fact of Christ's resurrection could force itself upon reluctant minds, or rather upon reluctant wills, in the earliest ages, as now, there were expedients for evading its force. The evangelical narrative, the convictions of the earliest Church, the moral strength of the Church, advancing through blood and suffering to the heights of a worldwide empire, resist these expedients, as inconsistent with fact, inconsistent with reason. There are at least three forms of interest which might be accorded to such a fact as the resurrection. The first, the interest of curiosity in a wonder, altogether at variance with the observed course of nature. This interest may exist in a high degree; observing and registering the fact, yet never for one moment getting beyond it. The second, the interest of active reason, which is satisfied that such a fact must have consequences and is anxious to trace them. This interest may lead a man to see that the resurrection does prove the truth of Christianity, even though he may know nothing of the power of Christ's blood and of Christ's life as a matter of experience. A third kind of interest is practical and moral. It is an effort to answer the question, What does the resurrection of Christ say to me, mean for me? If it is true, if Christianity is true, what ought to be the effect on my thoughts, my feelings, my life? Now St. Peter answers that all should be invigorated by a living hope. Burthen this absorbing moral interest does not come of ordinary powers of observation and reason, like the two earlier forms of interest. We are, says St. Peter, "begotten" unto it. Of this birth, the Father of souls is the Author, and His Eternal Spirit the instrument, and union with Christ the essence or effect. It does much else for us; but it does this among other things, and not least among them: it endows us with a living hope.
III. St. Peter calls THIS "HOPE" A LIVELY, OR LIVING, ONE. What does he mean by this? There are within many a soul trances of powers, ideas, feelings, which once lived, but which have died away. We investigate them from time to time, like the buried ruins of Pompeii or Herculaneum. But a Christian's hops endures. Earthly disappointments do but force us to make more of it. The lapse of time does but bring us nearer to its object. Surely we can ask ourselves few questions so important as "Have I this hope?" Not to have this hope is to be living at random; it is to be drifting on towards eternity without a chart in hand, or a harbour in view. And if we humbly trust that we have this hope, what are the tests of our possessing it?
1. A first test is that earthly things sit easily upon us. We are not uninterested in them: far from it. We know how much depends on our way of dealing with them. But, also, we are not enslaved by them. To have caught a real glimpse of the eternal is to have lost heart and relish for the things of time.
2. A second test of our having this hope is a willingness to make sacrifices for it. "What difference do my hopes of another world make in my daily life? What am I doing, what do I leave undone, that I should not leave undone or do, if I believed that all really ended at death? What changes would be made in my habits, occupations, daily modes of thought and feeling, if — to put a horrible supposition — I could awake tomorrow morning and find that Christ's conquest of the eternal world for me was a fable?"
3. A third test is progressive efforts to prepare for the future life (1 John 3:3).
Parallel VersesKJV: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,