The Sacred Anchor
By Thomas Watson (1620 – 1686)
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
A Christian’s chief happiness is in the future. A saint in this life is an expectant of heaven; he has little in hand – but much in hope. So says the text, “looking for that blessed hope.”
What is Hope?
Hope is a supernatural grace planted in the heart by the Spirit of God, whereby a Christian is quickened to the expectation of those things which are held forth in the promise. “…If we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (Rom. 8:25).
Hope is concerned with a good. It looks at some good, so it differs from fear. Fear looks at evil, hope at good.
Hope is concerned with a future good. It looks at some good to come, so it differs from joy. Joy is exercised about something present, hope about something future.
Hope is concerned with a good that is hard to reach. It looks at some good, which is difficult to attain; so hope differs from desire. Desire is weak and transient; it is soon over. Hope is resolute and fixed, it wrestles with difficulties and will not give up until it has the thing hoped for.
Hope is concerned with a good that is open to be gained. It looks at some good which is feasible, and which there is possibility of obtaining; so hope differs from despair. Despair looks on things with black spectacles and gives all up as lost. Hope is like cork to the net, which keeps the heart from sinking in despair.
How Does Hope Differ from Faith?
These two graces, faith and hope, are so alike that they have been taken one for the other. But, though they are placed near together like the two wings of the cherubim on the mercy seat, they are not the same. Indeed, in some things faith and hope do agree. Both feed upon the promise; both help to support the soul in trouble. Faith and hope are like two buoys put under a Christian which keep him from sinking in the waters of affliction. Both of these graces, like medicinal water, comfort the fainting soul.
Though in some things these two graces agree and are alike – yet in some things they differ. Faith and hope differ in order and priority. Faith precedes and goes before hope. Faith shows a Christian the land of promise; hope sails there with patience. Thus, you see how faith and hope differ – but these twins must not be parted. Faith strengthens hope and hope comforts faith.
What Does a Christian Hope For?
Emphatically, he looks for “that blessed hope.” A Christian’s hope is not in this life; then he would have forlorn hope. There is nothing here to be hoped for but vicissitudes. All the world rings changes – but we are looking for that blessed hope. This is the difference between the seaman’s anchor and the believer’s anchor. The seaman casts his anchor downwards; the believer casts his anchor upwards in heaven, looking for that blessed hope. The believer is a rich heir (Heb. 6:17), and he waits until the royal crown shall be set upon his head.
The object of a Christian hope is set down specifically – “the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.”
Characteristics of True Hope
True hope is quickening. It is called a living hope (1 Pet. 1:3). It puts life into a man. Hope is a spur to duty, a whetstone to industry. Hope of victory makes the soldier fight; hope of gain makes the merchant industrious. Divine hope is as wind to the sails, as wheels to the chariot; it makes a Christian active in piety. He runs the ways of God’s commandments. Hope cuts away through rock; it wrestles with difficulties; it despises dangers; it marches in the face of death! True hope never gives over until it has the thing hoped for. He who has divine hope will have Christ, though it is in a furnace. He will profess the truth, though the next word is “Christians, to the lions.”
True hope if purifying. “…Every man that hath this hope in Him, purifieth himself…” (1 John 3:3). Hope is in the soul as lightning is in the air; it clears the air. He, who has hope in Christ, sets himself against all sin, both in purpose and practice. He is a consecrated person. There is engraved upon his heart, “Holiness to the Lord!” (Ex. 28:36). Hope is a virgin grace; it lives in a soul. Benard compares holiness to the root – and hope to the branch. True hope flourishes upon the root of holiness.
Now, then, try your hope by this Scripture touchstone. The hypocrite says he has hope – but is he a purified person? What! an unclean person – and he hopes to go to heaven? Nothing enters there which defiles (Rev. 21:27).
A true hope is a good hope. “Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace” (2 Thes. 2:16).
A true hope is a persevering hope. “…Whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end” (Heb. 3:6). Hope makes us endure: therefore, it is compared to an anchor which holds the ship in a storm. In time of public calamities, hope keeps the soul from sinking. “The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of His people…” (Joel 3:16). Though the heavens and the earth shall shake – yet a believer’s hope abides.
A believer never casts away his anchor. The Jews were prisoners in Babylon, yet prisoners of hope – “turn you to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope” (Zech. 9:12). When a Christian is on his deathbed and all hope of life is taken away – yet his hope in God is not taken away.
What unspeakable comfort is this to a child of God, who, upon a serious trial, finds he has a well-built hope. When Christ shall appear, it will be a glorious appearing to a believer.
If a Christian’s outward comforts were taken away, and one should ask him what he had left, he might say, “the anchor of hope.” He has a confident hope of those eternal mansions which Jesus Christ has gone to prepare for him (John 14:2). When Christ, who is his life, shall appear, then shall he also appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:4). Oh, what comfort is this; how may this lighten and sweeten the cross! After the bitter waters of Marah comes the wine of paradise! After a wet spring comes a joyful harvest!
Be exhorted to cheerfulness. We “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:2). Fear begets sorrow; hope begets joy. Divine hope, said Augustine, cannot be without some mixture of joy. Does a Christian have hope of heaven – and will he not rejoice? “The hope of the righteous shall be gladness…” (Prov. 10:28).
Our Hope Is Near
But may some say, “It is long before we shall enter upon possession of heaven, and hope deferred makes the heart sick” (see Proverbs 13:12).
It is not long. “…Behold, I [Jesus] come quickly, and My reward is with Me…” (Rev. 22:12). This glorious reward we hope for is quickly in faith’s account; faith makes future things present. Christ’s coming is at hand; the bright morning star begins to appear. As a telescope makes those things which are far away off seem near to the eye, so faith makes Christ, heaven, and the day of recompense seem to be near. It gives a kind of possession of them in this life. Oh, then, Christians, rejoice! Turn your lamentations into “Hallelujahs.” It is but a little while – and you shall be made partakers of those blessed things you hope for. Think of the certainty of Christ’s appearing, “Behold I come”; and think of the speediness, “I come quickly.”
Press on in Hope!
Maintain your hope against all discouragements either of fear or temptation. Christians, do not let the devil dispute you out of your hope. A soldier, who has the higher ground and has gotten upon a hill, will not let the enemy beat him off his ground – but will keep it to the last breath. Has God set you on the higher ground? Has He raised your hope as high as heaven? Do not be beaten off your ground; maintain your hope to the last. Pray to God that He would further clear your title to heaven, that you may be as Mount Zion which cannot be moved.
How this should make us abound in the work of the Lord! He who has a well-grounded hope of heaven, how fervent should he be in duty, how zealous in the cause of God! The hope of glory should give spirit and life to a Christian. Let divine hope be as oil to the lamp, as wind to the sails – to excite and to blow us forward in holy activity for God! We sow in hope. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9).
Let us live suitably to our hope – in a holy walking. Those who have heaven in their hope – should have heaven in their lives. Let us walk after that golden pattern which Christ has left us, “He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked” (1 John 2:6). Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ (Phil.1:27).
– Adapted. Thomas Watson was an English Puritan preacher and author.