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The Blessed Hope of Everlasting Life.'
"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."-1 PET. i. 3.
On this day of all others in the Christian year we are especially met together to be reminded how the apostles and first disciples of our Lord, who had been altogether dismayed and confounded by His crucifixion and death, were begotten again unto a living hope by His resurrection from the dead. We are met to think of the visit to the empty sepulchre ; of the appearance of our risen Lord; of the delighted surprise with which the welcome news was spread, "The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared unto Simon;" of the manner in which the belief of the early Christians and the leaven of the Master's spirit passed through the lives of generations of faithful men, enabling them to be "steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as they knew that their labour was not in vain in 1 Preached on Easter-Day.
the Lord;" and then, as we think on these things, to bless and thank the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ for the glorious legacy of faith and hope which His disciples have handed on to us. If the words, "who hath begotten us again unto a living hope," seem scarcely an accurate description of our own experience, it is because a belief in the life of the world to come has been instilled into us from our earliest infancy, because it has come to us as an inheritance which has been handed down to us by the faith and righteous efforts of our fathers, and because it has become so enwoven with our thoughts and feelings and conceptions of life and duty that we can scarcely imagine what we should have been without it. It is quite true that before the Lord Jesus Christ lived and died and rose again from the grave, the immortality of the soul was more or less believed in, and the chief religions of the world had more or less affirmed it. "God created man to be immortal," writes the author of the Book of Wisdom, "and made him to be the image of His own eternity." But the moment the Lord Jesus Christ had risen from the dead, and the faithful men who had been begotten again unto a living hope by His resurrection had gone about the world proclaiming the glad tidings in connection with the Divine life of Him over whom death had had no power, then, I say, the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, together with the belief in His resurrection,
passing through the hearts of generation after generation of faithful men and women, and consecrating them to the performance of the will of God, created so strong a current of faith and hope, that however much the belief in the life to come might occasionally waver, the heart of man was henceforward more or less securely fixed in the direction where its true joys were to be found. The faith in the life to come may, therefore, be said to be the great inheritance which has been handed down to us by countless generations of faithful men who have endured as seeing Him who is invisible—men whose patience has given birth to experience, and whose experience has given birth to a hope that maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts by His Spirit which He has given them. Accordingly, in the Collect appointed for Easter Day, we are taught to pray Almighty God, who has opened to us the gate of everlasting life, to put into our minds good desires, and help us to bring the same to good effect; as though, now that the faith which leads to everlasting life has been clearly marked out, what we chiefly require is the will and the power to walk along it. Again, in the Collect for the Fourth Sunday after Easter, we pray God to grant that we may love the thing which He commands, and desire that which He has promised, in order that so among the sundry and manifold changes of the world our hearts may
surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; whilst in the Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent we pray that we may read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the records that have been handed down to us of all that God has to say to us by the lives of the great and good of olden time, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life which He has given in our Saviour Christ.
You see, the life of the world to come is put before us, not as something which is capable of being scientifically proved, but as a faith or a hope which we have inherited, and which is to be cherished and increased, not by matter-of-fact proofs derived from the heavens above or the earth beneath, nor by any curious speculations concerning the origin and destiny of man, but by a faithful walking in the steps of Him who died, leaving us an example that we should follow where He has led the way; Who said, "In My Father's house are many mansions: . . . I go to prepare a place for you;" and, "This is life eternal, that they may know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent."
Now I believe it is a matter of almost universal experience that scarcely any man now passes away from this present scene without believing that somehow or somewhere he shall live again, and yet how many persons in the present day are anxiously looking round on all sides for some one who shall give them
a more solid assurance than any they have hitherto met with that they shall survive the grave! How many are there of us who have not longed that they might be made more absolutely certain of the existence of the things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man to conceive, but which the voice of God in our hearts is ever telling us that He has prepared for those that love Him! How many who do not feel (to quote the words of a recent author 1) what a rush of happiness would sweep over their souls "if it could only be seen and accepted like some fact of science that death arrives like a mother lulling her child to sleep, that he may be ready for play the next morning"!
Now, I myself believe that there are numbers of people—though, of course, not so many as could be wished-who do thus think of death, and who, regarding our passage out of the world by death as just as natural as our coming into it at birth, not only feel that there must be some great good behind it, but would themselves "as soon go die as sleep, trusting half that they have unto an honest, faithful grave, making their pillow either down or dust." But I also know that there are numbers of others to whom this assured hope is just the one thing that is wanting to complete their happiness, and who are constantly perplexed to think why it
I Sir E. Arnold.