such subjects of truth and error,-the words of the Apostle John, in his first epistle—chap. v. 13.


These words contain all the topics to which it is my object to direct the reader's attention. They suggest the following series of propositions, which, in the discussion of the general subject, we shall, for the sake of clearness, make the heads of our dis


I. It is the design of God, by the gospel, that sinners may obtain "eternal life :"

II. This eternal life is, on the part of God, offered and bestowed" in the name of his Son :"

III. On the part of the sinner, it is obtained and enjoyed by "believing" in the name of his Son:

IV. It is in the intention of God that they who believe in the name of his Son should "know" that they have eternal life :—

V. There are certain" things written" in his word, by which it is that they are to know this::

VI. The same things, from which this knowledge is scripturally derived, serve to establish their faith, and to keep them cleaving to Christ.



In briefly illustrating this proposition, our first inquiry must be what is eternal life? And the inquiry must first be answered negatively. It is

not merely eternal being or existence. To this all mankind, by the sovereign and irreversible will of the Author of their being, are destined; and the destiny is independent of character; it comprehends the wicked as well as the righteous. There shall be existence-conscious and sensitive existence, in hell, as well as in heaven; where existence will not be desirable; where the cessation of being would be a boon of inestimable value, even although those on whom it was bestowed would not exist to be sensible of its preciousness.-LIFE is employed in scripture to express happy existence; and DEATH is correspondingly used to denote the opposite,-existence in misery; on which principle it is, that future punishment obtains the designation of the "second death."-" Eternal life," then, is existence in perfect, uninterrupted, and unending happiness.

It ought farther, however, to be observed, that this life is not entirely future. When we speak of eternal life, there are very many persons to whose minds the phrase conveys the idea of a state that is still to be entered upon, lying entirely beyond the limits of the present world, and continuing, to the close of the believer's abode here, the object of anticipation rather than of possession; the hope here, the fruition in reserve. But, although the perfection of this life must be future, it cannot be too strongly urged upon the attention of all, that it is begun here;-that although heaven be the scene of its completion, earth is the place of its commencement ;-that the birth at least must be in this world, though the maturity and permanence of the life be in the world to come;-and that, unless begun in time, it can never be obtained in eternity.

For the further elucidation of this important point, let it be observed, that, in contrast with death, there are three distinct although connected

points of light in which eternal life may be contemplated, as to legal state, as to personal character, and as to future prospects.


1. It may be regarded as to legal state.-As transgressors, we are under a sentence of death,a sentence which the law of God has pronounced, unequivocally and universally. While that law declares, on the one hand, "the man that doeth these things shall live by them," it is not less explicit in its denouncements, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die;" "cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them."-The supreme lawgiver said originally to man, when he instituted the test of his continued allegiance-" In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt die :"--and the moment man sinned, the sentence took effect. The sinner" came into condemnation :"-and, all having sinned, all have since been under the sentence,-dead in law. When contemplated in contrast with death in this view of it, life consists in the annulling or reversing of this sentence. It is a state of pardon, justification, acceptance with God :—“ Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my words, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life; and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life :"*" He that believeth on the Son of God hath everlasting life; but he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him :"+" For if by one man's offence death reigned by one, much more they who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. Therefore, as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came]

† John iii. 36.

* John v. 24.

upon all men unto justification of life.*-In such passages, life is used in a forensic or legal sense. It is associated with justification, or the removal of the sentence of condemnation to death. The passages express also, it is true, the way in which sinners come into this happy state of acceptance or life: but at present they are cited with exclusive reference to the transition itself,-the "passing from death unto life, so as not to come into condemnation."-With regard to the sense, or consciousness, which the sinner may possess of his having made this transition, and of his being in this state,-it belongs to a future part of our subject. This, then, is the first meaning of the term life, a state of divine absolution from the sentence of death,- —a state of legal pardon and acceptance with God.

2. Life may be regarded in reference to personal character, or the moral state of the heart. As sinners, the degenerate members of an apostate race, the scriptures represent us as spiritually dead; dead to all those holy sensibilities of soul, which constituted the original life, or true happiness of man,-to the entire range of what may be termed spiritual sensation. The grand principle of the original divine life in the soul of man was supreme love to God in all the infinite excellencies of his nature. This love was life. The holy creature was fitted by this love for living on the love of God, for relishing communion with the Eternal Mind, and deriving emotions of the purest and most generous delight from every thought and word and act of homage to its all-worthy Creator. The essential principle of spiritual death lies in the opposite of this love: The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." The life is gone, for the

Rom. v. 17, 18.

† Rom. viii. 6, 7.

love is gone; and with this principle of spiritual vitality, there has been, of course, a cessation of all the spiritual sensibilities; as physical sensation terminates when the animal life departs. There is this important difference, however, in the analogy between the animal and the spiritual life,-that in the spiritually dead soul, the soul from which the vital principle of love has taken its departure,there ensues not a state of inactivity and unconsciousness, but the active influence of a virulently opposite principle,-that principle of enmity, which contains in it the whole amount of evil.

In harmony with this representation of our natural state, as a state of spiritual death, are all the representations given in scripture, under different figures, of the conversion of sinners. It is a regeneration, or new birth :" Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."* It is a resurrection from the dead :-" And you [hath he quickened] who were dead in trespasses and sins:-God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ."-It is a creation,-the creation of a new principle of life :-"If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:"-" For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works."-There is thus in the conversion of a sinner, a quickening of the spiritually dead soul,— the bringing of it, like a child born into the world, into a new state of being; the implanting of a new vital principle of holy feeling and holy action; the creating of this principle, where it had no previous existence. Hence we read of the "new man;" by which is simply to be understood this new principle, as opposed to the former and still remaining princi

* John iii. 3. † Eph. ii. 1, 3, 5. 2 Cor. v. 17.

Eph. ii. 10.

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