“We desire that each one of you may show the same diligence unto the Fulness of Hope even to the end.” Heb. 6:11. ASV
It was Hopeful who had warned Christian against Atheist with, “Cease from him. my brother, and let us believe to the saving of the soul.” John Bunyan gives a large place to the history and autobiography of Hopeful, as well as to the doctrine of Hope. It is well worth a careful reading.
The section dealing with Hopeful and Christian offsets natural and practical atheism. Atheist denies the attributes of God. You cannot beat him off more thoroughly than by studying the attributes. Such a stud’ will also help you in your walk and communion with God. You should be in the “Pink on the attributes of God.” Then you will avoid that habit of men of the world, living without God and becoming more and more estranged from him. Making such a serious study will take you closer to holding the Scripture as more to be desired than gold. Only in the canonical Scripture, God’s own revelation, do you find His attributes declared. Many modem prophets and prophetesses, pretending an esteem for God, if they do not hold His revelation in outright contempt, do belittle and obscure it. In all their talk of God they are not thinking of the triune Jehovah. Also to guard against the inroads of creeping, practical atheism, we must watch with great
care over our earthly pleasures. Job was highly concerned, lest, when his children were in their feasting, they should curse God in their hearts (Job 1:4). Peter, too, had the same concern when he counselled, “The end of all things is at hand; be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer” (I Peter 4:7). Remember Belshazzar. Dan. 5:23.
The town of Vanity Fair was Hopeful’s birthplace and the scene of his early manhood. Hopeful then knew nothing better than merchandising of houses, lands, trades, places, honors, preferments, titles, countries, kingdoms, lusts, pleasures, whores, bawds, wives, husbands, children, masters, slaves, lives, blood, bodies, souls, silver, gold, pearls, and precious stones. Hopeful knew every market, mercantile, wharf, alley, lane, gambling den and the whole network of its underground, for the town had a section in it called Alsatia, the hypocritical name for the original establishment of the Carmelites or Whitefriars. Charles Dickens in his Nicholas Nickelby sees such characters in his town as the wretched Mr. Squeers, the equally wretched Mrs. Sliderskew, the Baron Van Koeldwethout of Grogzwig, Baron Yon Swillenhausen, Lord Frederick Verisopht, Sir Mulberry Hawk and a Mrs. Wititterly. Sir Walter Scott in his The
Fortunes of Nigel describes this place together with some of its hoodlums, as Cheatly, Shamwell, Hackum and Scrape-all. Some of its evils are described. There “the holy state of matrimony (was) made but a May-game, by which divers family had been subverted; brothel houses much frequented, and even great persons, prostituting their bodies … to satisfy their lusts . . . in lascivious appetites . . . knights and gentlemen . . . many of their ladies and daughters . . . prostituting their bodies in shameful manner. Alehouses, dicing houses, taverns, and places of iniquity . . . abounding . . . .”
At Vanity Fair, a real “live” show was always going on, and Hopeful, “for free,” could see, and did ill-spend his time witnessing thefts, murders, adulteries, false- swearers, jugglings, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves and rogues of every kind. Hopeful continued a great while delighting in the treasures and pleasures of this once village of Shamwell. Hopeful was then known as Smike (Scot., Smaik, rascal), and spent his time in rioting, reveling, drinking, swearing, lying, uncleanness and Sabbath-breaking, until a new show suddenly came to town, the appearance of Christian and Faithful on the stage, which threw the whole town in an uproar. Through the witness of Christian, and especially of Faithful, martyred for his faith and good living in Vanity Fair, Hopeful was converted.
When Christian escaped this Sodom and Bedlam, so did Hopeful, who then became his constant companion. When one died to be a Faithful witness to the truth, Hopeful arose out of his ashes to take his place. There is a very detailed account of his coming to true Faith and Hope. His conversion experience is the result of a deep regeneration experience. Christian asked him, in not the most accurate terminology, “Could you at any time with ease get off that guilt of sin?” which oft came upon him. Of course, Christian referred to his frequent spasms of the pain of the guilt of sin deeply felt in an uneasy conscience. For nothing will get one off the guilt of sin but the blood of the atoning sacrifice of Christ and faith in its power as our only plea for pardon. With Hopeful, conversion was not sudden, but a wonderful change which came over him by slow degrees.
He talks of the Father revealing the Son to him, not in the sense of a sensational vision, or a new and para-scriptural revelation, such as a voice from heaven informing him that his sins were forgiven. Hopeful’s faith and experience were not founded on such treacherous and deceiving phenomena. He insisted, “I did not see Him with any bodily eyes, but with the eyes of my understanding.” Christ came to him as revealed in the Scriptures, not appearing to his physical senses, but to his renewed understanding. Gradually, he came to see Christ in the fulness of His glorious salvation, made unto him wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. This filled him with all joy and peace in believing. He became an apostle of the joy unspeakable and full of glory. When down in the depths of the dungeon of the Giant Despair, none other than Hopeful led Christian through his gloom and depression. Then while crossing over Jordan it was Hopeful who kept his brother’s head above water, and encouraged him with, “Be of good cheer, my brother; I feel the bottom; and it is good!” That meant touchdown at last over on the golden shore. With that gentle nudge from the jutting point of Emmanuel’s Land, mind and heart begin to sing, Home! Christian also illustrates the truth that though faith, hope and love are in exercise, a great horror of death may momentarily take hold of the mind. No one can claim spiritual comfort as his due. Nor can he expect comfort on any other bottom than the blood and righteousness of Christ and the free mercy of God in Him. Hopeful in the River is a great mainstay for the Christian.
But to truly appreciate this dear Hopeful, we must know what hope is. In the country of Javan he was known as Elpis. The word is known in that heathen land. There it has somewhat of a neutral voice, denoting mere expectation, whether of good or evil portent. This makes hope a mixed emotion, a sinking fear and a rising to the off-chance of the appearance of good. Never is the word so understood in the New Testament. Always it is there used in a good sense, and as “the joyful and confident expectation of good,” viz., of eternal salvation. It is not just an expectation of good, but a joyful and confident expectation of it. Hope is trust! Hope therefore rises above to an object beyond self; it is that to which one flees for refuge. (The God of Hope.) When the word is used in its worldly and common colloquial sense to express doubt and uncertainty, as in, “We will soon be out of the woods, I hope!”, then you do not have the biblical concept, not gospel hope. The gracious hope of the gospel is not a hope-so gospel in the sense that you think you are a Christian, wishing so, but not sure, or at least not sure whether you will remain one. Neither is it a mark of humility or true spirituality to insert in the salutation of a letter such an address as, “Dear friend: (I hope),” and in the complimentary close to sign off with “In Christ, I hope.” Such language suggests that the writer is not sure the addressee is a friend, nor that he is in Christ! This is not the biblical hope, no more than when we say, “I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow.” It would be better to write, “Dear friend: — (I trust!)” and “In Christ, — (I trust!).” But because biblical hope is a joyful and confident expectation, I would prefer to write, “Dear Brother: Amen!” and close with “In Christ. Amen.” But think of it! From jugglings, apes, fools, whores, bawds, silver and gold, this man came to joyful and confident Fulness of Hope! Quite a difference! Is there that difference about you?
You have the hope to awake on Resurrection Morning glorified and satisfied with Christ’s likeness. Does that hope cause you to daily labor in self-examination, repentance, prayer and praise? Does the hope of seeing Him and being like Him, as He is, cause you to purify yourself as He is pure? Certainly, nothing else will cause you to do this. You hope to walk with Christ and the saints in white. Then that hope will be evident in that now and all the days of your life you wash your robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb. You hope for the crown of life, so you watch and fight that no man take your crown. You hope to drink the fruit of the vine new with Christ in the kingdom of God. That will mean that if necessary you will henceforth drink no wine while the world standeth, if it make your brother to offend. The hope that you shall enter in through the gates into the city, and have right to the tree of life, will lead you to do his commandments with loving care.
And it is Hopeful who says to you that the troubles and distresses you go through are no sign that God has forsaken you, but are sent to test you, whether you will call to mind that heretofore you have received of His goodness, and live upon Him in your distresses.