Seek a Good Hope
An extract from chapter 4 – ‘Our Hope’ – in J. C. Ryle’s Old Paths.1
I entreat all who feel they have no hope, and desire to have it, to seek ‘a good hope’ while it can be found.
A good hope is within the reach of any man, if he is only willing to seek it. It is called emphatically in Scripture a ‘good hope through grace.’ It is freely offered, even as it was freely purchased: it may be freely obtained, ‘without money and without price.’ Our past lives do not make it impossible to obtain it, however bad they may have been; our present weaknesses and infirmities do not shut us out, however great they may be. The same grace which provided mankind with a hope, makes a free, full, and unlimited invitation:— ‘Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely;’ — ‘Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find’ (Rev. 22:17; Matt. 7:7).
The Lord Jesus Christ is able and willing to give ‘a good hope’ to all who really want it. He is sealed and appointed by God the Father to give the bread of life to all that hunger, and the water of life to all that thirst. ‘It pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell’ (Col. 1:19). In him there is pardon and peace with God, bought by the precious blood which he shed upon the cross. In him there is joy and peace for any believer, and a solid, well-grounded expectation of good things to come. In him there is rest for the weary, refuge for the fearful, a cleansing fountain for the unclean, medicine for the sick, healing for the broken-hearted, and hope for the lost. Whosoever feels labouring and heavy laden with sin, whosoever feels anxious and distressed about his soul, whosoever feels afraid of death and unfit to die — whosoever he is, let him go to Christ and trust in him. This is the thing to be done: this is the way to follow. Whosoever wants ‘hope,’ let him go to Christ.
If any man really wants to enjoy a good hope, let him seek it from the Lord Jesus Christ. There is every encouragement to do so. The Thessalonians in old time were, like the Ephesians, dead in trespasses and sins, having no hope, and without God in the world; but when St Paul preached Jesus to them, they arose from their miserable state and became new men. God gave them a ‘good hope through grace.’ The door through which Manasseh and Magdalene entered is still open: the fountain in which Zacchæus and Matthew were washed, is still unsealed. Seek hope from Christ, and you shall find it.
Seek it honestly, and with no secret reserve. The ruin of many is that they are not fair and straightforward. They say that they ‘try as much as they can,’ and that they really ‘want to be saved,’ and that they really ‘look to Christ;’ and yet in the chamber of their own heart there lies some darling sin, to which they privately cling and are resolved not to give it up. They are like Augustine, who said, ‘Lord convert me: but not now.’ Seek honestly, if you wish to find a good hope.
Seek it in humble prayer. Pour out your heart before the Lord Jesus, and tell him all the wants of your soul. Do as you would have done had you lived in Galilee eighteen hundred years ago, and had a leprosy: go direct to Christ, and lay before him your cares. Tell him that you are a poor, sinful creature, but that you have heard he is a gracious Saviour, and that you come to him for ‘hope’ for your soul. Tell him that you have nothing to say for yourself — no excuse to make, nothing of your own to plead — but that you have heard that he ‘receives sinners,’ and as such you come to him (Luke 15:2).
Seek it at once without delay. Halt no more between two opinions: do not linger another day. Cast away the remnants of pride which are still keeping you back: draw nigh to Jesus as a heavy-laden sinner, and ‘lay hold upon the hope set before you’ (Heb. 6:18). This is the point to which all must come at last if they mean to be saved. Sooner or later they must knock at the door of grace and ask to be admitted. Why not do it at once? — Why stand still looking at the bread of life? Why not come forward and eat it? — Why remain outside the city of refuge? Why not enter in and be safe? — Why not seek hope at once, and never rest till you find it? Never did soul seek honestly in the way I have marked out, and fail to find!
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