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of death; to the Israelites a lamp of light and of life. (Exod. xiv. 19, 20.) They that have nothing treasured up in Christ of life eternal, are not within the possibility of being quickened from the death of sin in which our whole nature is involved in the Adam-fall transgression, unto a life of righteousness; for the only source of recovery being in Christ, they are utterly void of Christ, and incapable of receiving from him; they "are from beneath, whereas Christ saith, I am from above; ye are of this world, I am not of this world." (John viii. 23.)
The division of our subject is prepared to our hands; here is God's record, his Magna Charta, the charter of his grace. "He hath given to us (saith John) eternal life; he hath given it freely, fully, and for ever; and this without purchase, without merit, nay, against all demerit or unworthiness whatever, in the objects of this free gift; and this record brings with it the united testimony of all the persons in the GODHEAD. I shall first request your attention to twó or three leading particulars, in relation to this fundamental article of our most holy faith; when I have finished this part of my discourse, I shall then desire, under the second branch, that you will accompany me to that sweet and endearing declaration, in which the text expresseth the soul-reviving truth of the divine record, which all the persons in the GODHEAD Unitedly attest, that "this eternal life is in Christ, and that he that hath the Son hath life." These distinct points will form the sum and substance of what I have at this time to propose to you.
But before we enter upon either, I would wish it might be impressed upon the mind of all that hear me, as far as the outward ministry can reach, that sinners of the greatest and most desperate circumstances cannot consider themselves as precluded from a participation in the unspeakable mercy, on account of worth
lessness; since neither merit can recommend, nor transgression shut out; for the blessing is wholly the free gift of God. And I would desire to add to this observation another closely connected with it, namely, that while regeneration, or the new birth, instantly brings the soul so blessed into immediate possession; the not having yet received it becomes no argument whatever that you never may, for Scripture gives many examples of some called in old age, and even at the "eleventh hour," and who were made equal with them" who had borne the burden and heat of the day."
And while I premise these things, I would beg no less to observe, that the knowledge of having had given to us eternal life, and this life in Christ alone, is of such vast and infinite importance to attain, and so clearly attainable by all the regenerate, that I hope no one who feels sensibly alive to his everlasting interest will go away before he is satisfied on the point. In the verse following my text the apostle saith, "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God." So then, if through grace I believe in Christ, that belief is knowledge, and that knowledge keeps alive the belief. The Lord grant such belief!
And let me just add this one observation more, before we proceed to the subject. Should it be asked, how is this knowledge and the belief obtained? the answer is at hand; he that gives eternal life in Christ, gives to every receiver grace to know and to believe you are made partaker by the same Almighty power that gives the blessing. How are you made partaker of the most ordinary blessing? Doth the sun wait to shine until you desire it? Doth the dew full at man's bidding? May we not say in the same
words as the Lord did to Job, out of the whirlwind, "Hath the rain a father? out of whose womb came the ice?" (Job xxxviii. 28, 29.) The Lord grant, if it be his blessed will, that so much of the dew of his favour may at this time be upon our present assembly, that we may discover all is of God; and as the new birth brings us into the enjoyment of this eternal life in Christ, so every one that is new born in Christ may know that he is born "not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John i. 13.)
I am first to request your attention to God's record, in some two or three leading points concerning his gift of eternal life in Christ, as the fundamental article of our holy faith. And here I do not think it necessary to go into all the several particulars; it will be sufficient upon the present occasion to observe, that this gift of eternal life, and which is in Christ, is the gift of all the persons in the GODHEAD. Eternal life is said to have been given by God the Father; and there can be no question but that in the original purpose, council, will, and pleasure of Jehovah, in his trinity of persons, eternal life with all its appendages was the gift of God the Father. But that God the Son took equal part in this act of grace is as evident, for he saith himself, speaking to the Father on the subject, "As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.” (John xvii. 2.) Now had not eternal life been in Christ and by Christ, this could not have been said. And it is through the Eternal Spirit that all the offerings in Christ, and through Christ, are made. Hence therefore, the Holy Three hath ascribed to each and to all, the gift of eternal life given to the church. And had you time, or would the limits of a 'sermon admit enlargement, I might go on to shew that the very portion of our nature, that "holy thing" so called.
(Luke i. 35.) in which this eternal life is said in my text to have been, was the joint work and operation of the Holy Three in One.
But besides the consideration of the thing itself in the joint act of the almighty Giver, it is infinitely important to have a proper conception of the everlasting state of security and blessedness, arising from the right of eternal life which the church possesseth in Christ. For as nothing on the part of the possessors of this unspeakable privilege gave birth to it, so nothing in them can deprive of it. Eternal life, the gift of God, is of God, and can neither be promoted by their good, nor obstructed by their evil: hence in the fall, though by the apostacy of our nature we lost the privilege of communion, the church never lost her relationship to Christ, and her interest in Christ. Even as it is in the natural affinities of life, the father with the child, the husband with the wife, and the like, the unworthiness of one or of the other doth not destroy the relationship, however it may intermit communion, the bond of union still continues; so the church with Christ. Sinful and adulterous as the church hath proved by the fall, she is no less Christ's church; hence we find the Lord Jesus speaking of her, and speaking to her: "They say (saith the Lord) if a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and she become another man's, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? But thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the Lord! Turn, O backsliding children! saith the Lord, for I am married unto you; and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion." (Jer. iii. 1-14.)
I would proceed now in conformity to what I proposed under the second branch, to the consideration of that sweet and endearing doctrine of the text,
namely, that the gift of eternal life to the church is in Christ; and "that he that hath the Son hath life.” And here, as in the former part of the subject, we are taught to trace the source of eternal life, with all the blessings arising out of it, as coming from the united love of the holy Three in One to our persons, as we are in Christ: for Christ himself, that is God in our nature, God and man in one person, with all that is connected in the gracious dispensation, is the gift of God. And hence the Lord Jesus in the days of his flesh, when conversing with the woman of Samaria, ascribed to her ignorance of his person the inattention she seemed disposed to shew him: “If thou knewest (said the Lord) the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water!" (John iv. 10.) A similar expression to the words in the text-" eternal life." All is treasured up in the person of Christ and from that union of God and man in Christ, through the medium of his human nature, he communicates to his members by his divine, eternal life with all its blissful properties. And hence it is said in that blessed Scripture the Holy Ghost hath given to the church by Paul, "your life is hid with Christ in God: when Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory." (Col. iii. 3, 4.)
And it is from this hidden life which the whole mystical body of Christ hath in Christ, and hath had in Christ from everlasting, (by which, as Jude beautifully and blessedly describes it, being sanctified by God the Father, they are preserved in Jesus Christ, and called) the communication of life from the glorious Head to the members is made in every instance, when "the set time to favour Zion is come." (Ps. cii. 13-16.) And as the whole of all blessings, temporal, spiritual, and eternal, originate in the one