and CHRIST, as descriptive of his character and office. The name JESUS was given him to denote the great work of salvation which he came to perform: "Thou shalt call his name JESUS," said the angel to his mother, "for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matt. i. 21): for he came from Heaven on purpose to deliver his people from their iniquities by the sacrifice of himself, and by the power of his Spirit attending his word.


But, it may be asked by the anxious sinner, Is he appointed, and perfectly able to do this? Yes, he is, for he is CHRIST also, which name signifies Anointed in the Greek language, as Messiah does in the Hebrew. The name denotes his being fully qualified for the office, being anointed by the Holy Spirit," full of grace and truth ;" and as, in ancient times, kings, priests, and prophets were solemnly set apart to their several offices by being anointed, so Jesus Christ is divinely consecrated and authorized to perform the grand work of saving sinners; and this is further expressed by his being Sent-" Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent.' Jesus Christ, though equal with the Father as touching his divine nature, condescends, in his human nature, and in his office of Mediator, to become "the servant of the Father ;" and, in regard to that character, he was sent ; he did not come without authority; he came with all the authority of Heaven, to accomplish the great design, determined upon in the councils of God, before the foundation of the world. To know Christ, therefore, is as necessary to salvation as to know the Father; he is as much the object of saving knowledge and of saving faith as the Father; and he is distinguished from him, not on account of any inferiority of nature, but on account of his office-character; and it may be remarked, that the same apostle, who records the words of the text, expressly says of Christ (1 John v. 21) "This is the true God, and eternal life." Our Lord himself also declares, that he himself is, equally with the Father, the object of

faith (John xiv. 1) "Ye believe in God, believe also in me❞—that is, Ye have faith in God the Father, according to the discoveries of the Old Tes tament; have the same faith in me, his Son, the Saviour, according to the discoveries of the New Testament.

Let us now proceed, as we proposed, in the second place, to point out,

II. The connection between the knowledge of the Father and of his Son, and the attainment of eternal life.

And here let us pause a moment, and consider the import of the words-" eternal life." This is the glorious blessing which the Son of God came from Heaven to procure for sinners, who deserve eternal death, and were justly doomed to it by the broken law of a righteous God." "The wages of sin is death" -not merely the death of the body, but that which may be called the Death of the Soul-complete and everlasting separation from God, who is the only fountain of life and happiness; and this is called (Rev. xxi. 8)" the Second Death;" this is that dreadful state which our Lord himself calls "everlasting punishment” — "everlasting fire"-" where their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched." But, although the wages of sin be death," the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord." Rom. vi. 23.

Opposed then to eternal death, is that eternal life of which our text speaks; the foundation of which is laid in justification of life, as St. Paul terms it (Rom. v. 18), which includes both an exemption from the sentence of death, and a title, through the perfect righteousness of Christ, to the complete enjoyment of happiness in Heaven; for which blessed state every true Christian is prepared by the gift of the Holy Spirit, who, as an active principle of Spiritual life, is compared, by our Lord, to "a well of water springing up to everlasting life." What the

glories and happiness of that state will be, it doth not yet fully appear; but we know that they will consist, partly, in that knowledge of God in Christ which is here commenced; for "we shall see him as he is," and "know even as we are known."

Now, such is the importance of divine knowledge, that our text declares "it is eternal life"-it is so connected with it, that eternal life is not to be expected without it, but may be confidently hoped for as the result of it.

This will appear, if we consider that the knowledge of ourselves, in relation to God; conviction of sin; apprehension of danger; prayer to God for pardon; trusting in him, through Christ, for salvation; love to him; delight in him; hope in his mercy; and obedience to his will (all which are necessary in a christian), depend upon, and result from a knowledge of his true character; and, consequently, that gross ignorance of him, or great mistakes respecting him, must be extremely dangerous to the soul.

It is through the knowledge of God, as infinitely pure and holy, that we become humble and penitent. We see his infinite purity in the glass of his holy law; we discern our own deformity; "abhor ourselves, and repent in dust and ashes," as pious Job did. The heathens thought God to be "altogether like unto themselves," no wonder then that they were proud and wicked. Where ignorance of God prevails, there sin also prevails. The prophet Hosea, complaining of the people in his days, says, "there is no knowledge of God in the land," and he ascribes to this, the prevalence of "swearing, lying, stealing, adultery, and murder." Hosea, iv. 12. Where ignorance reigns, there Satan also reigns, for he is the ruler of the darkness of this world," and wicked men are "under the power of darkness." Hence, when Jesus Christ commissioned Paul to go and preach the gospel to the heathen, it was for the purpose of "turning them from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God." It was igno

rance of God that caused the Pharisee in the temple to boast; it was a true knowledge of him that humbled the publican, and constrained him to cry,"God be merciful to me a sinner!"

It is through the knowledge of God in Christ, that we are led to believe in him. “They that know thy name," says the psalmist, "will trust in thee." We dare not, in any momentous affair, especially in a matter of life and death, confide in a stranger, a person of whose ability and integrity we have no knowledge. If our property, if our health, if our life be in danger, we are anxious to know whom we trust to defend us: how much more necessary is it to know HIM to whom we commit our immortal souls; to whose advocacy we leave our cause; on whose fidelity we repose, and who is the only foundation of our hopes of eternity. Our faith will certainly bear some proportion to our knowledge; if our knowledge be very imperfect, our faith will be weak. Abraham's acquaintance with the character of God, preserved him from distrust, even in the most trying circumstances; therefore, "he staggered not at the promise of God, through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; being fully persuaded that what he had promised (however contrary to nature) he was able to perform." Rom. iv. 20, 21. In like manner, the blessed apostle, St. Paul, in the prospect of martyrdom, says, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day." 2 Tim. i. 12.

LOVE is another distinguishing disposition of the real christian, without which all pretensions to religion are vain: but how is it possible to love any person, however amiable he may be, if we are perfectly ignorant of his character? The knowledge of God and the love of God are inseparable; for St. John saith" He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love." It is the moral excellency of any person that renders him amiable in our esteem. Wis

[ocr errors]

dom, justice, goodness, recommend a fellow-creature to our regard; but that regard must arise from some acquaintance with the person possessing these virtues, and it is heightened by our deriving personal advantage from his possession of them. In like manner, the glorious God presents himself to our view, in his works, and especially in his gospel, as infinite in power, wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth; and, as exercising all these perfections, through the redemption that is in Christ, for us men and for our salvation; to deliver us from guilt and danger, to reinstate us in his favour and friendship, to render us happy in communion with him here, and most blessed for ever, at his own right hand, where there is fulness of joy, and pleasures for evermore! Surely, such a being must appear to us infinitely worthy of our highest veneration, our most cordial affection, our most devoted obedience. But all this depends upon the knowledge of God and of his Son Jesus Christ.

It is equally plain that the true and acceptable worship of God must depend on the right knowledge of him. "Ye worship ye know not what," said our Lord to the Samaritans 66 ; we know what we worship," said he of the Jews, who derived their knowledge from the sacred Scriptures. More grossly ignorant than the Samaritans were the Greeks; for in their metropolis, in Athens, so famed for its wisdom, the apostle of the Gentiles beheld an altar with this inscription," To the unknown God."-Unknown, alas! in Athens ! unknown by the learned and sagagacious Greeks! so true it is, that "the world by wisdom knew not God." Neither Egypt, nor Greece, nor Rome, with all their improvements in science, arts, and arms, knew, or worshipped the true God. But Jehovah has revealed himself to us; he has also revealed to us the way and manner in which he may and will be worshipped; and "every one who hath heard and learned of the Father, comes to him by Jesus Christ;"-for no man cometh to the Father

« VorigeDoorgaan »