Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show to the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:…
The apostle had just been speaking of "laying hold on the hope set before us," by which he seems to denote the appropriation of those various blessings which have all been procured for us by Christ. And when the apostle proceeds, in the words of our text, to describe this hope as an anchor of the soul we are to understand him as declaring that the expectation of God's favour and of the glories of heaven, through the atonement and intercession of Christ, is exactly calculated to keep us steadfast and unmoved amid all the tempests of our earthly estate.
1. Now the idea which is immediately suggested by this metaphor of the anchor is that of our being exposed to great moral peril, tossed on rough waters, and in danger of making shipwreck of our faith. And we must be well aware, if at all acquainted with ourselves and our circumstances, that such idea is in every respect accurate, and that the imagery of a tempest-tossed ship, girt about by the rock and the quicksand, as well as beaten by the hurricane, gives no exaggerated picture of the believer in Christ, as opposition, under various forms, labours at his ruin. We first observe that there is great risk of our being carried about, as an apostle expresses it, "with every wind of doctrine"; and whatever, therefore, tends to the keeping us in the right faith, in spite of gusts of error, must deserve to be characterised as an anchor of the soul. But, we may unhesitatingly declare, that there is a power, the very strongest, in the hope of salvation through Christ, of enabling us to stand firm against the incursions of heresy. The hope presupposes faith in the Saviour; and faith has reasons for the persuasion that Jesus is God's Son, and "able to save to the uttermost"; and though the individual is ready enough to probe these reasons, and to bring them to any fitting criterion, it is evident, that where faith has once taken possession, and generated hope, he has so direct and overwhelming an interest in holding fast truth, that it must be more than a specious objection or a well-turned cavil which will prevail to the loosening his grasp. We observe, next, that the believer in Christ is in as much danger of being moved by the trials with which he meets as by attacks upon his faith. But he has a growing consciousness that "all things work together for good," and therefore an increasing submissiveness in the season of tribulation, or an ever. strengthening adherence to God as to a father. And that which contributes, perhaps more than aught besides, to the producing this adherence, is the hope on which the Christian lays hold. If you study the language of David when in trouble you will find that it was hope by which he was sustained. He describes himself in terms which accurately correspond to the imagery of our text. "Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of Thy waterspouts; all Thy waves and Thy billows are gone over me." But when the tempest was thus at its height, and everything seemed to conspire to overwhelm and destroy him, he could yet say, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul! and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God." It is hope, you observe, to which he turns, as the principle through which the soul might best brave the hurricane. And can we wonder that a hope, such as that of the believer in Christ, should so contribute to the steadfastness of its possessor that the winds may buffet him, and the floods beat against him, and yet he remains firm, like the well-anchored vessel? Is it the loss of property with which he is visited, and which threatens to shake his dependence upon God? Hope whispers that he has in heaven an enduring substance; and he takes joyfully the spoiling of his goods. Is it the loss of friends? He sorrows not " even as others which have no hope," but is comforted by the knowledge that " them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him." Is it sickness — is it the treachery of friends — is it the failure of cherished plans, which hangs the firmament with blackness, and works the waters into fury? None of these things move him; for hope assures him that his " light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for him a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Is it death which, advancing in its awfulness, would beat down his confidence, and snap his cordage, and send him adrift? His hope is a hope full of immortality: he knows "whom he hath believed, and is persuaded that He is able to keep that which he hath committed unto Him against that day." We go on to observe that the Christian is exposed to great varieties of temptation: the passions of an evil nature, and the entirements of a "world which lieth in wickedness," conspire to draw him aside from righteousness, and force him back to the habits and scenes which he has professedly abandoned. The danger of spiritual shipwreck would be comparatively small if the sea on which he voyages were swept by no storms but those of sorrow and persecution. The risk is far greater when he is assaulted by the solicitations of his own lusts, and the corrupt affections of his nature are plied with their correspondent objects. And though it too often happens that he is overcome by temptation, we are sure that if he kept hope in exercise he would not be moved by the pleadings of the flesh and the world. Let hope be in vigour, and the Christian's mind is fixed on a portion which he can neither measure by his imagination nor be deprived of by his enemies. And now if, at a time such as this, when it may almost be said that he has entered the haven, that he breathes the fragrance, and gazes on the loveliness, and shares the delights of the Paradise of God — he be solicited to the indulgence of a lust, the sacrifice of a principle, or the pursuit of a bauble — can you think the likelihood to be great that he will be mastered by the temptation, that he will return, at the summons of some low passion, from his splendid excursion, and defile himself with the impurities of earth? We can be confident that if hope, the hope set before us in the gospel, be earnestly clung to, there will be no room in the grasp for the glittering toys with which Satan would bribe us to throw away our eternity. And therefore — to bring the matter again under the figure of our text — we can declare of hope that it ministers to Christian steadfastness, when the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil, combine to produce wavering and inconstancy.
2. Now, throughout these illustrations we have rather assumed than proved that Christian hope is of a nature widely different from that of any other. But it will be easily seen that we have claimed for it nothing beyond the truth if we examine, the apostle's statement in regard of a Christian's hope, that it "entereth into that within the veil." The allusion is undoubtedly to t, he veil, or curtain, which separated the holy place from the holy of holies in the Temple at Jerusalem. By the holy of holies was typified the scene of God's immediate presence, into which Christ entered when the days of His humiliation were ended. And hence we understand by the hope, or the anchor, entering within the veil, that, in believing upon Jesus, we fasten ourselves, as it were, to the realities of the invisible world. This throws new and great light on the simile of our text. It appears that the Christian, whilst tossing on a tempestuous sea, is fast bound to another scene of being, and that, whilst the vessel is on the waters of time, the anchor is on the rock of eternity. Within the veil are laid up joys and possessions which are more than commensurate with men's capacities for happiness when stretched to the utmost. Within the veil is a glory such as was never proposed by ambition in its most daring flight; and a wealth such as never passed before avarice in its most golden dreams; and delights such as imagination, when employed in delineating the most exquisite pleasures, hath never been able to array. And Jet hope fasten on this glory, this wealth, these delights, and presently the soul, as though she felt that the objects of desire were as ample as herself, acquires a fixedness of purpose, a steadiness of aim, a combination of energies, which contrast strangely with the inconstancy, the vacillation, the distraction, which have made her hitherto the sport of every wind and every wave. The object of hope being immeasurable, inexhaustible, hope clings to this object with a tenacity which it cannot manifest when grasping only the insignificant and unsubstantial; and thus the soul is bound, we might almost say indissolubly, to the unchangeable realities of the inheritance of the saints. And can you marvel if, with her anchor thus dropped within the veil, she is not to be driven from her course by the wildest of the storms which yet rage without? Besides, within the veil is an Intercessor whose pleadings insure that these objects of hope shall be finally attained.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: