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racter by which believers are distinguished-"These things have I written unto you that believe in the Son of God, that ye may know," not that ye may obtain in the course of time, but that "ye may know that ye have eternal life by the free gift of the Father, in consequence of your union with his Son Jesus Christ by faith." Eternal life doth really commence at that happy moment, when, by being born again, we enter the family of God, and become his children by faith in Jesus Christ. Nothing less than the actual possession of eternal happiness depends on having Jesus Christ. He that has felt a desire after eternal life, and whose desire has led him to the Lord Jesus Christ as a Saviour; who is willing to receive the blessing as the unmerited gift of God, and is looking to Jesus Christ to impart it to him yet more abundantly, and to preserve it in his soul; he who thus lives by faith in the Son of God, has not only a title to eternal life, but he has the beginning and earnest of eternal life in his soul. He can claim eternal life upon the footing of God's word, for thus it is written-" And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one that seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life : and will raise him up at the last day." Not only may he plead the promise of God, but he may rest perfectly assured, that he shall not be disappointed of his hope. He was once dead, but now he is passed from death unto life. The very act of living by faith in the Son of God, proves to a demonstration that he is alive, and that Jesus Christ liveth in him. He may not, indeed, have a comfortable sense and assurance of his happy state, but he is alive to God, and, as alive to God, hath eternal life: for "he that hath the Son hath life."
4. Now the contrast to this is, that he who hath not the Son hath not life; this also is in the present tense. He hath not life-it does not say that he may not have it; but it does say, that at the time in which he rejects Jesus Christ as a Saviour, he is not possessed of life. He is dead in trespasses and sins, and so far from having any title to life, he is under the sentence of condemnation, and the wrath of God abideth on him. Not having the Son of God, he hath not life. Whatever he may have, he hath not life. He may have riches, honour, learning, and even morality itself, according to the usual acceptation of the term, but he has not life, and if he dies in his present state, he must perish for ever. "He that hath not the Son hath not life." These are important considerations connected with the peculiarly strong language of the text, and having thus passed them over with a rapid, though minute attention, I draw from the whole these solemn and interesting practical conclusions.
1. How fully is the whole Gospel system here plainly exhibited! Eternal life is the gift of God; it is in Jesus Christ. He that hath the Son hath the gift; he that has him not, hath not it. Now it is impossible for Gospel truth to be more clearly and explicitly stated. There is no special learning requisite to explain it; it is level with the comprehension of the most unlettered man; and in the unlearned, nothing is requisite for its understanding, but humility of mind, and a willingness to be indebted for every thing to the free grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ. If there be any difficulty, it arises only from the pride of the heart, that would mix something of our own with the finished work of
Christ. The truth is, salvation by the merits of the Lord Jesus alone, without any human admixtures, is so plain, that we are offended with it on the very score of its plainness and simplicity, and the conduct of men has its parallel in the case of the Syrian leper. "And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He would surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned, and went away in a rage. And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldst thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean? Then went he down, and dipt himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean." "What shall I do to be saved?" may be the cry either of the humbled or of the unhumbled heart. How shall I purchase salvation? What equivalent shall I render to merit it? None, none, none, is the answer of the Gospel. Receive the gift; take Christ as a Saviour; submit to God's method, is all he asks.
A person under deep conviction of sin once went to a minister of the Gospel, from whose lips I received the relation, and placed before him the inquiry of the sinner, "What shall I do to be saved?" and at
that moment, through the window, his eye rested on an infirm old man, staggering under the weight of a burden, evidently beyond his strength to carry. I would carry that burden round the world, said the sinner, pointing to the man, if it would only save my soul. Yes, I have no doubt you would, said the minister, if you could do it, then go boasting into heaven. But you could not carry that burden round the world, even if salvation were the purchase; but God has dealt more mercifully with you than this. You would carry a burden round the world to purchase your salvation, but you will not stoop to the humility of taking it, as a free gift, at the hands of God. And this is the case with sinners. God requires them to acquiesce in his method of salvation, and they will do any thing under heaven to escape the degradation of being indebted to the merits and the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. If salvation had been to be merited and earned by our doings, as a slave earns his wages, who could have entertained a hope of heaven? Who can render, during the short period of his probation upon earth, a service which is to be an equivalent for an eternal inheritance of glory in the heavens? Who is so devoid of all reason, as well as modesty, as to suppose that the wretched modicum of service he can pay, would put God on the debtor side of the account, for nothing less than an eternal inheritance of blessedness?
Again: We are told, my dear friends, that eternal life is in Jesus Christ, and that to believers it is given to believe in him. If there is indeed, before me, any one who as yet has no vital interest in the Lord Jesus Christ, I am constrained to tell that one that
he is in a situation of condemnation. In a passage which is perfectly parallel with the text, we have a direct expression of this-" He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."* While he is in this condition of unbelief and rebellion, the wrath of God abides; it has settled on him; it never leaves him for a moment; asleep or awake, in business or in pleasure, at home or abroad, in the Church or in the world, it rests its weight upon him, and must sink him into the depths of interminable wo, unless it be removed by his escape to the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone can take away the application of the curse and the condemnation, by the interposition of his own blood and the merit of his intercession. It is to Christ, as the Saviour, that I desire to direct your attention. Go to him and get the gift of God-eternal life. You may despise it, and many will; you may reject it, and many will; you may ease your conscience by the anodyne of procrastination, and many will; but if, in the midst of your despite, and rejection, and procrastination, you should be summoned before God in judgment, then, when it would be too late, you will find that the saying in the text is truth-"He that hath not the Son of God hath not life."
And this leads me, brethren, to a brief remark in conclusion, that there is not an individual in the house of God at this time, man, woman, or child, who has attained the age of moral accountability, but who has an interest in this thing, personal, direct, and pressing. For, let it be remembered, that
* John iii. 36.