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witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God has given 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."
In discussing the all-important subject connected with this record, it is necessary to inquire
I. WHO ARE THOSE FOR WHOSE BENEFIT THIS RECORD IS MADE.
II. WHAT IS THE ETERNAL LIFE WHICH IS REPRE
SENTED AS GIVEN.
III. IN WHAT SENSE IS THIS LIFE WHICH IS GIVEN IN HIS SON.
IV. HOW IS THIS LIFE A GIFT.
After these things are considered, the way will be prepared for the solemn declaration which is founded on it-"He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not life."
I. The Apostle, you will observe, uses the word us"God has given us"-of course we can only gather the sense in which he uses this expression, by the character of the context. He opens the chapter from which my text is taken, with the forcible declaration "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God; and every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him." This remark locates, if I may so speak, the meaning of the word us, and fixes it upon those who are true believers of the Lord Jesus Christ: for the term, born of God, is a term which is used in the strongest contrast with those which are applied to the circumstances of mere natural birth, as can be readily
ascertained by appealing to the Gospel of the same writer-"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." That the term, us, may therefore be confined to those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ with a living faith, is to be looked upon as the intention of the Apostle. And this idea is further confirmed by every verse of the chapter from which the text is taken. Thus in the second and third verses we have the practical characteristics of the children of God-" By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous." Next comes a most remarkable attribute connected with the faith of the children of God-" For whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" When we pass on to the verses which succeed the text, they are, if possible, more strong and emphatic-" 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. And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true; and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life." From 6
all these passages there cannot be the shadow of a doubt, that the intention of the Apostle was to confine the application of the term, us, to those who are believers in Christ, and not nominal believers, but really such born of the Spirit of God, and thus constituted new creatures in Christ Jesus. This limitation of the term is indispensable to a correct interpretation of the eternal life which is said to be given them of God. We are thus led to consider
II. What is the eternal life which is thus represented as given.
Eternal life is sometimes put in direct contrast to extinction of animal existence, and is then merely synonymous with the term immortality. When God created man out of the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, he made him a living soul, which expresses an immortality of existence. In this sense eternal life is given to every creature of God who possesses a rational soul. But there are two perfectly conclusive reasons which show that this is not the eternal life which is intended in the text. In the first place, eternal life does not of itself describe any peculiarity of happiness or wo. Eternal life, that is, perpetuity of existence, is as much an attribute of the damned in hell, as it is of the saints in heaven. They all live for ever; that is, are immortal. But as a second reason, the eternal life spoken of by the Apostle in the text, is by him confined to a certain class of persons whom he denominates us, by which term, as I proved in the last division, believers are to be understood. Mere perpetuity of existence cannot, therefore, be the meaning of eternity; because perpetuity of ex
istence belongs as well to those who are unbelievers. This will pave the way for a clear idea. The eternal life which is given is a life of eternal happiness, as opposed to one of eternal wo. It needs but very few citations from Scripture to prove, beyond the possibility of question, that this is the precise, definite meaning of the term. Thus-"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand."* Here the contrast is striking, and the idea expressed in a three-fold form. Eternal life'they shall never perish, neither shall any one pluck them out of my hand." Again-"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have eternal life." "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." In the description which our Saviour gives of the day of judgment, we have the contrast, and are furnished also with an explanation"Then shall the king say unto them on his right hand, Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal." Here is a contrast between the righteous and the wicked as to the ever
John x. 27, 28. †John iii. 16. 36. + Matthew xxv. 34. 41. 46.
lasting destiny; and the eternal life into which the righteous enter, is explained in the verse which records the invitation-"Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Here the kingdom prepared for them from the beginning of the world is the eternal life into which they enter. The eternal life here spoken of, therefore, is given to believers, and to them exclusively is a condition of immortal happiness.
III. This eternal life, or this condition of immortal happiness, God the Father testifies and even records his testimony, is in his Son.
What does this expression mean?
Persons who are in the habit of taking superficial views of Scripture truth, even if those superficial views should in the main be correct, are in danger of misapprehending the completeness of God's scheme. For instance, on a superficial view, it is supposed by many that the expression, "eternal life is in his Son Jesus Christ," means no more than it is in consequence of the mediation of our Lord Jesus Christ sinners receive the benefit of the pardoning mercy and the sanctifying grace of God. The doctrine here announced is unquestionably true, but it stops far short of the importance and the intensity of the meaning of the text. It is a most precious doctrine, that the whole mercy of God flows down to sinners through the mediation of his dear Son. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the meritorious cause of that justification of the sinner which not only delivers him from present condemnation and future wrath, but in consequence of the grant annexed