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The text, therefore, is the recorded, written, permanent testimony of God the Father, as to the validity of a claim, that eternal life is in his Son Jesus Christ, and through him alone to be dispensed.
On any subject which we are anxious to establish by the force of human testimony, we in all cases, and by a kind of moral necessity, measure our belief by the number and credibility of the witnesses by whose instrumentality such matters are attempted to be established. If men would act in this simple and natural manner towards the holy Scriptures, there would not be such a being as an infidel in existence; for if ever there was a matter, the credibility of which could be sustained by the number and moral weight of the witnesses, it is the divine authority of the Scriptures, and the way of salvation revealed in their pages. Infidelity does, in relation to the religion of Jesus Christ, what it never does, and never would dare to do, in relation to any other subject respecting a fact which has the most wonderful accumulation of evidence, arising from the number and credibility of witnesses, of any fact on record.
In relation to the assertion contained in my text, we have all the concurrent testimony of the Prophets of the Old and the New Testament. But in the text and context we have the testimony reduced. to a record of one whose means of information cannot, by any sophistry, be questioned; and whose veracity cannot, even by impiety itself, be impeached. And this witness is no other than the Eternal Father, the Great Jehovah-“If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the
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 REPRESENTED 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
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.