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ing of eternal life is, and can be, no other than the record bath declared it to be the free and sovereign gift of God.
An hard saying this to the vain sons of Adam, who would always find something in themselves to boast of! but absolutely necessary to bring them back to that cheerful dependance upon, and willing subjection to the Father of their spirits; which is the only healthful and orderly state of creatures; the happiness whereof they forfeited by aspiring to become gods. This appears to be the aim of all God's dispensations to the children of men; and is expressly declared to be the ultimate end of the gospel-constitution, (1 Cor. i. 30.) “Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wis. dom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption : that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
These few remarks may serve to throw light upon the first part of the record, God hath given to us eternal life.
2dly. The second branch of it doth further inform us, that this life is in his Son.
Though God acted as a Sovereign, in conferring so great a gift upon any of the dead posterity of Adam, and could not be influenced to this act of grace by any otber motive than what he found in his own essential goodness; yet it became his wisdom to exercise mercy in such a manner, as should be expressive of his real character, and give a full and true representation of his other perfections to all his intelligent creatures.
Holiness belongs to God as well as goodness; and the sceptre of his kingdom is “ a sceptre of righteousness ;" and therefore Wisdom required, that while his mercy triumphed in the salvation of sinners, his holiness should
at the same time shine forth in all its glory, by such a public and awful condemnation of sin, as should demonstrate his infinite abhorrence of that accursed thing, with no less convincing evidence, than if the sword of justice had descended with unabated force upon the guilty heads of the criminals themselves.
This was done in the most effectual manner by the sufferings of his only begotten and well-beloved Son, in that very nature which had offended. When he “ who was in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God, made himself of no reputation, took upon him the form of a servant, and being found in fashion as a man, humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross ;"—then indeed was 66 sin condemned in the flesh,” and the righteousness of God not only revealed, but magnified, as it is written, (Rom. iii. 25, 26.) “ God hath set forth his Son to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare (or manifest] his righteousness for the remission of sins: that he might be just,” and appear to be so," when he justifies those that believe in Jesus.”—Thus, the sacrifice of 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 to the sacrifice, doth likewise invest him with a right to life that shall never end, and even introduce him to the possession of that inesti. mable blessing. Hence believers are said, in the preceding chapter, to live through Christ, as the propitiation for their sins. " In this was manifested the love of God towards us,
because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him."“ Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
But there is an obvious difference between living through, or by means of Christ, and having life in Christ; which last is the form of expression in my
text. Nothing less can be meant by a phrase of such intense signification, than 1st. That the Son, as Mediator, is in full possession of all that life which is the gift of the Father; 2dly. That he is the sole fountain or source from whence life flows to sinners of mankind; and, 3dly. That in him life is so effectually secured for all who believe on his name, that no adverse power shall be able to deprive them of it. And if we consult the lively oracles of truth, we shall find each of these particulars not only implied, but asserted, in the clearest and strongest terms.
The first is written as with a sun-beam on almost every page of this sacred book. “The Word was made flesh,” saith our Apostle, in the 1st chapter of his gospel, at the 14th verse, “ and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of
grace, and truth:-and of bis fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.” It was our Lord's own declaration, (John v. 26.) that was the Father bath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.” Accordingly, St. Paul, speaking of the Son in his of. ficial character as head of the church, thus writes to the Colossians, (Coloss. i. 19.) “ It pleased the Father, that in him should all fulness dwell.” And that none might mistake the nature of that fulness, he explains it by another passage in that same epistle, (Coloss. ii. 9.) “ In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodi. ly.” To wbich he subjoins these emphatical words, “ Ye are complete in him." It is written, (John iï. 35.) “ The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand." This was the testimony of John the
Baptist concerning him; who informs us in particular, that the Spirit, by which the dead sinner is quickened, and born into a new world, “ was not given by measure unto him." And we are further assured, that he is now in possession of that heavenly kingdom, where the spiritual life, begun at the new birth in the hearts of his people, shall arrive at full maturity, and be enjoyed in perfection through all eternity. Thus it appears, that the Sou, as Mediator, is possessed of all that life which is the Father's gift to sinners of mankind.
2dly. We are taught with equal plainness, that the Son hath the entire disposal of life, and is the sole fountain or source from whence it flows. Thus our Lord said to the Jews, (John v. 21.) “ As the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, even sb the Son quickeneth whom he will." In his conference with Martha at the sepulchre of her brother Lazarus, he styl. ed himself the resurrection and the life ; and added, 66 He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth, and believeth on me, shall never die." The manner of imparting this life he illustrates by the similitude of a vine and its branches. “ I,” said he, “ am the vine, and ye are the branches. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me: For without me (or separated from me) ye can do nothing.” Accordingly he gets the name of the head, from which all the body, by joints and bands baving nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. The closeness of this union is thus expressed, (1 Cor. vi. 17.) “ He that is joined to the Lord is one sPIRIT.” And the apostle Paul, in deścribing his own life as “a man in Christ,” (Gal. ii. 20.) after having said, “ I am crucified with Christ,” he im
All the subjects are the creatures of the Supreme Ruler; and whatever they possess, they derive from him. The more they receive, the greater debtors they are to his bounty; and when they improve their trust to the ut. most extent of their capacity, they have no merit to plead ; their fidelity can amount to nothing higher than innocence; while the least failure renders them crimi. nal and liable to punishment.
So that, in the very nature of things, whatsoever God bestows upon the most perfect of his creatures, must be the effect of pure grace and favour. And if all be favour to the innocent, who bave never left the station in which he placed them; surely what is bestowed upon the guilty must flow from the purest grace, the most condescending exercise of sovereign mercy.
And this is the light in which my text presents to our view the record of God with regard to fallen man; where the whole contents of the gospel-constitution are comprehended in this short but emphatical sentence,
God hath given us eternal life: and this life is in his Son.
It consists, you see, of two parts.
I. The first part of the record represents the great Lord of all, in the endearing character of a muvificent benefactor and tender-hearted father, regarding his guilty creatures with an eye of pity, and graciously interposing for their relief, after they had wilfully destroyed themselves.
I need not detain you with a tragical description of the fatal effects of our apostacy from God. It may suffice to remind you of what is written, (Rom. v. 12.) “ By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin." This