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should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." And to the same effect is the following declaration“But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that, being justified by his grace we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” We have the same thing very strikingly set before us in some otherwise merely incidental expressions. Thus eternal life is represented as an inheritance. Now an inheritance is inseparably connected with the relation of children, and as men are by nature the enemies of God by wicked works, they are brought into the relation of children only by an act of adoption, which is an act of grace. What is declared by Scripture as to eternal life being the gift of God, is confirmed by a process of moral investigation. Were God in any respect weak or indigent, could he be impoverished by the revolt of his subjects, or hurt by the most violent efforts of their enmity, it might be wisdom to court their return by an offer of a reward, and even to connect the reward with such gentle conditions as the proudest heart might easily digest. But this, you must observe, is not the case we are considering. God stands in no need of us or of our services. It requires no exertion of strength to crush his rebellious subjects; if he withdraw for one moment his power, they perish; so that if punishments be deferred, and benefits be conferred, no cause can be assigned for either but his own sovereign pleasure, the self-moving goodness of his nature. Eternal life, then, which I have all along stated to you as including the everlasting happiness of heaven, is not a future benefit which is to be merited, procured, purchased, or in any way obtained by man, except in the way of a free gift, bestowed in consequence of no condition performed, but by mere sovereign favour. Any idea of condition shuts out the possibility of a free gift, and of course, the idea of salvation as a gift to be received, equally shuts out the idea of condition on which such may be suspended. This is a hard saying to the vainglorious dispositions of the sons of Adam, and one of those particulars which constitutes the offence of the sinner. But it is one of those circumstances in the administration of God which seems necessary to let men know what they are, and what they are to aim after, and is distinctly said to be the ultimate aim of the Gospel constitution—"But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. That, according as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” Now, this part of my subject will pave the way for the very singularly important inference which the Apostle draws from the whole subject—“He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." Here
you observe the phraseology is all peculiar. Eternal life, or happiness, is represented as dependent upon having the Son, and the destitution of eternal life, is represented as not having the Son. Now what do these phrases mean?
1. What is meant by the singular term, having the Son?
2. What is meant by not having the Son?
Truths of the most essentially important practical description are connected with these peculiarities, and I ask your serious attention, brethren: the discussion is one which ought to come home to your souls with an interest the most intense, inasmuch as the salvation of those souls is connected with the theme.
1. What is meant by the expression, “he that hath the Son ?" The only way to make this expression intelligible, is to arrange the ideas in the simple form in which they are put in the Scriptures; and observe, the Lord Jesus Christ is represented as the gift of God to man; for this I need but turn your attention one moment to such passages as these“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Now we receive the gift, or in other words, have Jesus Christ, when we believe on him, that is, when we receive him for all the ends and purposes for which he was given. This is the remarkable explanation which the Apostle John himself has given us—“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God; even to them that believed on his name.” To have Jesus Christ is, then, to receive him; to receive him is to believe in him; to believe in him is to accept the Gospel method of salvation proclaimed by him and through him. It is to build on his atoning blood, other foundation
have we none. It is to rest the whole weight of our hope upon him; to abandon every other hope of salvation, whether within or without ourselves, and to put a simple, entire, unhesitating, absorbing, unlimited trust in him as the way, the truth, and the life; the only true way to eternal life.
2. Now, not to have the Son, is plainly and hopelessly the reverse of this. It is to refuse to receive him; and to refuse to receive him is equivalent to a refusal to believe in him; and to refuse to believe in him, is to refuse to accept the Gospel method of salvation proclaimed in and through him. It is to refuse to build on his atoning blood; it is to decline to rest the whole weight of our hope on him; it is to cling to some other refuge, either within or without ourselves; in fact, it is to abandon Jesus Christ as a Saviour. We perceive at once that there is reason in the representation which states, “he that hath the Son, hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." I take the first of these," he that hath the Son, hath life.” Persons who are in the habit of trying to square their opinions with the exact measure of some theological system, are apt to be very much embarrassed by the peculiarity of the phraseology here used; a peculiarity, I suppose, which will hardly have suggested itself to your minds, until I shall have stated it. Observe the Apostle—“ He that hath the Son, hath life.” Any person acquainted with grammar, knows that the term, he hath, is the third person singular of the present tense, indicative mood, and implies actual possession. But wherefore this criticism? Because many persons fearing that this doctrine cannot be squared with one theological system, and comes too near another, have given to the passage rather a paraphrase than an interpretation, and have made it read as follows-He that hath the Son, that is, believes on Jesus Christ, has the prospect, and if he perseveres, shall have the enjoyment of eternal glory. This doctrine is true, but the text does not preach it. As I have long ago determined to leave all isms to take care of themselves, and to preach neither Calvinism, nor Arminianism, but the doctrines of the Bible just as I find them, lead where they will, I shall take the liberty of saying what I think the text does preach, and then you will discover the reason of my
criticism. 3. We will connect this with the third division-What is meant by having eternal life? Now, the text teaches that he who believes in Jesus Christ, has eternal life; he possesses it at the moment he believes in Jesus Christ. Hence it appears how much they mistake the Gospel constitution, who represent eternal life as exclusively a distant reward, suspended upon the performance of certain conditions on the part of the creature. Whereas, salvation through Jesus Christ, though perfected in heaven, is a present salvation, of which the various particulars, which are commonly called terms of acceptance with God, are in truth constituent parts, suited to the present state of sinners, and ought, therefore, to be considered as the genuine actings, and consequently the proper evidences of life received from Jesus Christ, but not as the means or conditions of obtaining it. That the Apostle John received the matter in this light, is evident from the whole tenor of the chapter, and especially from the thirteenth verse, where he thus alludes to the cha