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SERMON V. ETERNAL LIFE THE GIFT OF GOD IN JESUS
1 John v. 11, 12. And this is the record, that God hath given to us
eternal life : and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life ; and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life.
The chief truths of religion are revealed so plainly in the Holy Scriptures, as to be intelligible to every serious inquirer. Whatever obscurity may rest on some parts of the sacred Volume, every thing is perspicuous in proportion as it is important. Thus the leading doctrines of the fall of man and his recovery in Christ Jesus, lie on the very surface of Holy Writ. God has been pleased to direct our regard to them with peculiar solemnity. The Witnesses of heaven and earth * attest by an express record the eternal life which is in the Son of God. To such a testimony who would refuse credence? To a truth delivered in a way so authoritative, who would not bend his utmost attention; especially, when the attestation relates to the greatest benefit which was ever bestowed on a lost world ? God does not require us to believe so extraordinary a fact, as that of his having given to us eternal life in his own Son,
* 1 John v. 7,&.
without an adequate record; and when he condescends to bear witness to such a fact, we may be assured it is one of unspeakable moment. Let us then consider with due anxiety,
I. The gift which is here said to be conferred;
I. THE GIFT WIIICH IS SAID TO BE CON FERRED; God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
The gift which God bestows is ETERNAL LIFE. This life, strictly speaking, is that glorious state of endless happiness which the saints in light enjoy before the throne of God; but it is frequently used in the Scripture to designate all those blessings which precede it and prepare the way for it; and is opposed to that everlasting death which our sins had merited. With this latitude it is to be taken in my text.
ETERNAL LIFE, THEN, CONSIDERED IN ITSELF, is that state of consummate peace and holiness and joy which awaits the righteous in a future world. It is the unveiled presence of God. It is “ the fruition of his glorious Godhead."* It is the rest which remaineth for his faithful people. It is the inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, that fadeth not away. It is the fulness of joy which is in God's presence, and the pleasures which are at his right hand for evermore. It is the blessedness which the sacred writers anticipate, when they speak of beholding God's face in righteousness, awaking up after his likeness, and being satisfied with it; of being with Christ; and of falling down before the throne, and saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength,
Collect for the Epiphany.
and honour, and glory, and blessing. This will be life fitly so called ; a life with no decay or impurity, no change or interruption, no satiety or weariness. It will be spiritual and perfect; immeasurable in its degree, eternal in its duration.
But, in addition to this, ALL THOSE BLESSINGS WHICH PREPARE the Christian for this unutterable felicity, are also included in the expression Eternal Life. He that believeth on the Son of God HATH everlasting life. He becomes entitled to it upon his pardon and justification before God, and his acceptance and adoption into the divine family. He is an heir of God. He has the Spirit of holiness communicated in regeneration, which is in him a well of water springing up to everlasting life. He has the pledges and anticipations of his full redemption in the seal and earnest of the Holy Ghost. The hope of eternal life is itself a prelude of heaven. Besides which, the happiness of communion with God, the enjoyment of his paternal love, the calm pleasure of holy meditation, and the visits and manifestations of his Saviour's mercy, are all evidences that the Christian has eternal life abiding in him. These are of themselves unspeakable blessings; blessings, indeed, such as, previously to a full display of them in the Gospel, eye had not seen, nor ear heard, neither had entered into the heart of man.
In order, however, to understand better these remarks, we must contrast this eternal life with THE EVERLASTING (DEATH WHICH IT REMOVES. For we were by nature children of wrath even as others. We had incurred, by our sins, the righteous curse of God's holy law. We were enemies in our mind by wicked works. We were under condemnation. Banishment from the divine presence, the torments of a corroding conscience, misery unutterable of body and soul, the dreadful society of the devil and his angels, all the full inflictions of infinite wrath and infinite justice, whatever the provoked majesty of God could demand, or the avenging power of God put into execution—all this we had incurred as transgressors against him. Estimate, then, the terror of this eternal death on the one hand, and the height of glory to which eternal life will raise us on the other, and you will be better able to appreciate the gift which we are now considering. Look down, if you can venture to do it, towards the impenetrable darkDess of hell, and look up to the ravishing bliss of paradise ; and when you have contrasted the two, say what must be that LIFE which delivers us from the one and bestows upon us the other.
But I proceed to notice, that God confers this blessing AS A GIFT- God hath GIVEN to us eternal life. This is a point which, we might think, could require little proof. For if we are all sinners against God, if we have forfeited his favour, and lie under his curse, then how can salvation be obtained otherwise than as a gift? Where are the merits which are to purchase it? Where is the covenant of works which can convey it? Where the uninterrupted and perfect obedience which can fulfil the conditions prescribed for its attainment? Where the atonement to repair the injured justice of the Lawgiver ? Where the superabundant duties to make up for previous defects? Where the present security of virtue to prevent additional faults? Where even the disposition of heart to turn to God? Where the relenting spirit which weeps for sin? Where the human strength which can lead us on against it, or the human resolution which can subdue it? In a word, where is the man who, on any supposable terms, can claim this salvation as a reward? To every one of these, and a thousand similar questions, there is but one reply-Man is by nature dead in trespasses and sins, unable to save himself, if he were disposed, and indisposed, if he were able.
Eternal life, then, is undeserved, and gratuitously bestowed. By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. I give unto them eternal life. The gift of God is eternal life. Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life. Every part of this unspeakable blessing, whether we regard the full fruition of it in heaven, or any of the preparatory steps to it, is spontaneously conferred, as by a sovereign who claims to himself the right of doing what he will with his own.
This will appear more evidently, if we consider THE PARTICULAR MANNER IN WHICH GOD GRANTS THIS INESTIMABLE GIFT.-This life is in his Son. God does not bestow it on man, as he did on Adam, but treasures it up for him in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. This still more directly shows that the blessing is entirely free. It hath pleased the Father that in Christ should all fulness dwell. The salvation of sinners is in him alone. This is the one method in which it became Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, to bring many sons unto glory. The expression of the text is very strong, THIS LIFE IS IN HIS Son; this eternal life, which is gratuitously conferred on us in the Gospel, is laid up, deposited, secured, hidden, sealed in Christ. He is the proprietor, the owner and dispenser, the treasurer and guardian, the spring and source of it. Life is in him as water in the fountain, as riches are in the mine, as the pearl is in the casket, as the sap is in the tree, as light and heat are in the glorious orb of day.
Christ has LIFE IN HIMSELF, as the Word which was with God and was God; that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us. He has life, also, as THE MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND MAN; for the life was manifested. As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given also