“Christian hope is hope in God” by John Webster

“Christian hope is hope in God, for the God confessed by the Christian fellowship is ‘the God of hope’ (Rom. 15:13).

Christian hope and its activities have to be explicated out of faith’s apprehension of God and God’s ways with the world as its maker, reconciler and consummator.

In formal terms, this is simply an application of the rule that Christian moral theology ought not to exist in independence of Christian doctrine.

In material terms, it is an application of the rule that all Christian teaching, including teaching about the moral life, is an extension of the doctrine of the Trinity, which is the Christian doctrine of God. Christian hope is hope in this God; and the doctrine of the Trinity can therefore rightly be said to furnish ‘the environment of Christian behaviour’. How is this so?

The Christian confession of God as Trinity attempts to indicate that the sovereign majesty and perfection which is God’s life is that of the eternal and perfect relations of Father, Son and Spirit.

God is the relations of these three persons; his being is his eternal fullness as the Father who begets the Son, the Son who is begotten of the Father before all worlds, and the Spirit who proceeds from them. In these relations, fully achieved and lacking nothing, God is one; his unity is the repleteness and blessedness of the fellowship of the three.

This repleteness of God’s life includes within itself, as an integral aspect of its perfection, a turn to that which is not God. In this turn there occurs a movement in which the fellowship of the immanent life of God creates a further object of love.

This turn is free, self-caused, wholly spontaneous, original to the divine being; its necessity is purely the necessity of God’s own self-determination to be in fellowship with that which is other than himself. As such, it is not a turn which completes or extends the divine life; it is a turning out of fullness, not out of lack.

More simply: it is gift, love. This turning or act of love is the work of the triune God as the world’s creator, reconciler and consummator. It takes historical form in the simple yet staggeringly complex work of God’s majesty in the entire scope of the economy, as God brings creaturely reality into being, redeems it and ensures that it will arrive at its perfection.

As Father, God purposes that in its abundance, the divine love should be directed to bringing creation into being, bestowing upon it life, order and direction. Because it is rooted in the Father’s will, this purpose is unshakeable. That is, God’s relation to what he makes is not simply an act of origination, but an act which ensures the creation’s destiny, and therefore one which oversees, directs and protects the creation so that it attains that destiny.

As Son, God intervenes in the history of creation when by its own perversity the creature seeks to struggle free from the Father’s purpose, refusing to be a creature, and in so doing exposing itself to mortal peril. Only as creature can the creature have life; and it is the work of the Son to reconcile and therefore to recreate what has brought destruction upon itself.

Through the person and work of the Son, gathering created being to himself and bearing in himself its alienation from the source of its life and well-being, creation is reintegrated into the Father’s purpose.

Lastly, as Spirit, God acts to bring to completion that which the Father purposes and the Son secures against all opposition, namely the identity and integrity of the creation in fellowship with God. God the Spirit perfects, bringing creaturely being and history to their completion.

What is the significance of this for Christian hope? Hope is that creaturely disposition which corresponds to the fact that all occasions of human history, including its future, are caught up within the economy of the triune God’s mercy.

Because God is to the depths of his eternal being triune, and because he acts in the world as the one he is in himself, then the entire scope of human history and action is embraced by God’s purpose. God is not simply originator (setting the creation in motion), nor simply end (tying up the loose ends of history at its terminus).

Rather, as Father, Son and Spirit, God is infinite—no time or space is apart from or beyond his presence and action—and so steadfast—his purpose has been, is and will be at all times constantly and reliably at work.

And it is as this one that God is the ground of hope, for hope trusts that, because the Father’s purpose has been accomplished in the Son and is now at work in the world in the Spirit’s power, then human history is God’s economy.

Within the space which the triune God creates, hope is neither a fantasy nor a gesture of defiance, but a fitting, truthful attitude and shape for action. In sum: hope rests upon God’s faithfulness, and God’s faithfulness is triune.

One immediate effect of rooting a theology of Christian hope in the doctrine of the Trinity is to prevent an exclusive orientation towards eschatology. Hope is not simply a correlate of the divine futurity or the coming of God; it is, rather, a disposition which is related to the entirety of God’s dealings with his creature, past, present and future.

Within this, hope undoubtedly has an especial regard for the future horizon of human history. But this future quickly becomes isolated when not adequately related to a theological account of God as the world’s creator and as its reconciler in the person and work of Christ.

An isolated eschatology accords little weight to created nature, and often functions with only a pale theology of incarnation and atonement, precisely because the preponderant doctrinal weight is placed in the future of God.

This imbalance within the structure of Christian teaching orients hope, not to the fulfilment of God’s eternal purpose but to an absolute eschatological novum. The corrective to the imbalance is achieved by relating hope not simply to the future but also to the triune eternity of God, that is, to God’s sovereign and purposive presence to and action within all creaturely time.

Christian hope, and therefore hopeful Christian action, rests not simply on what will be, but on what will be as the fulfilment of God’s steadfastness as Father, Son and Spirit, his already-enacted, present and promised constancy to the creature.

Hope is hope in God’s steadfast love (Psalm 33:18, 22; 130:7; 131:3; 147:11). A Christian moral theology of hope begins thus with the perfection of the triune God.”

–John Webster, “Hope,” in Confessing God: Essays in Christian Dogmatics II, The Cornerstones Series (London; New Delhi; New York; Sydney: Bloomsbury T&T Clark: An Imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc; Bloomsbury, 2016), 197–200.

“Assurance produces true humility” by Sinclair Ferguson

“Assurance produces true humility. Christian assurance is not self-assurance and self-confidence.

It is the reverse: confidence in our Father, trust in Christ as our Savior, and joy in the Spirit as the Spirit of sonship, seal of grace, and earnest of our inheritance as sons and daughters of God.

When these are the hallmarks of our lives, then the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ has come home to us in full measure.

And that, surely, is one of the great needs of our times.”

–Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 226.

“What are the implications of union with Christ?” by Sinclair Ferguson

“What are the implications of union with Christ? In essence this:

Through our union with Him in His death we are set free from the penalty of our guilt, which He has paid for us;

In union with Him in His resurrection a complete, final, and irreversible righteousness is ours;

In union with Him in His death and resurrection we have been set free from the reign of sin.

Yet we remain sinners in ourselves. Sin continues to indwell us;

Only when our regeneration comes to further flowering beyond this life will we be free from sin’s presence.

These distinctions are vital. While guilt is gone and the reign of sin has ended, sin continues to indwell us and to beset us.

It still has the potential to deceive us and to allure us. Once we understand this, we will not confuse the ongoing presence of sin with the absence of new life in us.

Without that stability in our understanding, our assurance will be liable to ebb and flow.”

–Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 218–219.

“An earnest of heaven” by John Newton

“Tomorrow is the Sabbath. I am usually glad when it returns, though it seldom finds me in that frame of mine which I would desire.

But it is my happiness to live amongst many who count the hours from one ordinance to another.

I know they pray that I may be a messenger of peace, and an instrument of good to their souls; and I have cause to hope their prayers are in a measure answered.

For their sakes, as much as my own, I am glad to go up to the house of the Lord. O that in watering others I may be also watered myself!

I have been praying that tomorrow may be a day of power with you and with us, and with all that love Jesus in sincerity; that we may see His glory, and taste His love in the sanctuary!

When it is thus, the Sabbath is a blessed day indeed, an earnest of heaven.

There they keep an everlasting sabbath, and cease not night or day admiring the riches of redeeming love, and adoring Him who washed His people from their sins in His own blood.

To have such imperfect communion with them as is in this state attainable in this pleasing exercise, is what alone can make life worth the name.

For this I sigh and long, and cry to the Lord to rend the vail of unbelief, scatter the clouds of ignorance, and break down the walls which sin is daily building up to hide Him from my eyes.

I hope I can say, ‘My soul is athirst for God,’ and nothing less than the light of His countenance can satisfy me. Blessed be His Name for the desire: it is His own gift, and He never gives it in vain.

He will afford us a taste of the water of life by the way; and ere long we shall drink abundantly at the fountainhead, and have done with complaint for ever.

May we be thankful for what we receive, and still earnestly desirous of more.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 2: 201-202.

“An awful flux of words” by Charles Spurgeon

“To any brother who says, ‘I do not know how I can preach more gospel than I do, for I preach very often,’ I would reply, ‘You need not preach oftener, but fill the sermons fuller of gospel.’

The Saviour at the marriage-feast said, ‘Fill the waterpots with water.’ (John 2:7) Let us imitate the servants, of whom we read, ‘They filled them up to the brim.’ (John 2:7)

Let your discourses be full of matter,—sound, gracious, and condensed.

Certain speakers suffer from an awful flux of words; you can scarcely spy out the poor little straw of an idea which has been hurried down an awful Ganges or Amazon of words.

Give the people plenty of thought, plenty of Scriptural, solid doctrine, and deliver it in a way which is growingly better,—every day better, every year better,—that God may be more glorified, and sinners may more readily learn the way of salvation. (1 Tim. 4:15)”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, An All-Round Ministry: Addresses to Ministers and Students (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1900/1960), 130-131.

“Faith feeds on Christ” by Charles Spurgeon

“Faith feeds on Christ.

Feed faith with the truth of God, but especially with Him who is the Truth.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, An All-Round Ministry: Addresses to Ministers and Students (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1900/1960), 22.

“We dwell in a temple of providence” by Charles Spurgeon

“We have faith in God. We believe ‘that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him’ (Heb. 11:6).

We do not believe in the powers of nature operating of themselves apart from constant emanations of power from the Great and Mighty One, who is the Sustainer as well as the Creator of all things.

Far be it from us to banish God from His own universe. Neither do we believe in a merely nominal deity, as those do who make all things to be God, for we conceive pantheism to be only another form of atheism.

We know the Lord as a distinct personal existence, a real God, infinitely more real than the things which are seen and handled, more real even than ourselves, for we are but shadows. He alone is the I AM, abiding the same for ever and ever.

We believe in a God of purposes and plans, who has not left a blind fate to tyrannize over the world, much less an aimless chance to rock it to and fro. We are not fatalists, neither are we doubters of providence and predestination.

We are believers in a God “who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” (Eph. 1:11).

We do not conceive of the Lord as having gone away from the world, and left it and the inhabitants thereof to themselves; we believe in Him as continually presiding in all the affairs of life.

We, by faith, perceive the hand of the Lord giving to every blade of grass its own drop of dew, and to every young raven its meat.

We see the present power of God in the flight of every sparrow, and hear His goodness in the song of every lark.

We believe that ‘the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof’ (Psalm 24:1), and we go forth into it, not as into the domains of Satan where light comes not, nor into a chaos where rule is unknown, nor into a boiling sea where fate’s resistless billows shipwreck mortals at their will; but we walk boldly on, having God within us and around us, living and moving and having our being in Him, and so, by faith, we dwell in a temple of providence and grace wherein everything doth speak of His glory.

We believe in a present God wherever we may be, and a working and operating God accomplishing His own purposes steadfastly and surely in all matters, places, and times; working out His designs as much in what seemeth evil as in that which is manifestly good; in all things driving on in His eternal chariot towards the goal which infinite wisdom has chosen, never slackening His pace nor drawing the rein, but for ever, according to the eternal strength that is in Him, speeding forward without pause.

We believe in this God as being faithful to everything that He has spoken, a God who can neither lie nor change. The God of Abraham is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and He is our God this day.

We do not believe in the ever-shifting views of the Divine Being which differing philosophies are adopting; the God of the Hebrews is our God,—Jehovah, Jah, the Mighty One, the covenant-keeping God,—’this God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our Guide even unto death’ (Psalm 48:14).”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, An All-Round Ministry: Addresses to Ministers and Students (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1900/1960), 4-5.