« PreviousContinue »
sures of earth, but the riches of heaven? whose kingdom was not of this world? who made manifest the glorious purposes of the Deity in the reconciliation and restitution of all things? who not only taught the infinitude of God's love to man, but gave full proof of the doctrine in praying for his murderous enemies while in the agonies of death? who thus set the glorious example of universal benevolence? He was surely no less than the "power of God and the wisdom of God," as manifested in human nature.— What shall we say of his disciples and followers, who not only maintained his doctrine at the risk of their lives, but defended it even in the hour of death? Can we suppose that such ardour, and such faithfulness, when they could not have promised themselves any thing of a worldly nature as a reward, was the effect of any thing short of the knowledge of the truth?
Our text implies that, not only a knowledge of God, but also, that a knowledge of Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent, is necessary to eternal life; or, at least, whether life eternal can be communicated in any other way or not, the text assures us that this knowledge is eternal life. The ancient philosophers of Egypt, of Greece, and of Rome, had all the means, except that which is revealed in the holy scriptures, of knowing God: yet how destitute were they of eternal life! So far from enjoying it at all, they were" alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance there was in them;" and all their ideas of a future state of existence were confused, dark, and obscure. Filled with superstition, their religious rites were too obscene to be even so much as named among Christians.
The Jews, also, notwithstanding the oracles of God were committed to them, yet as the true light was revealed to them but in part only, and that, through the medium of types and shadows, which of
ten were mistaken, and with which they had min gled their vain traditions, (their leaders, also, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men,) had but very little knowledge of eternal life. And as they rejected their own Messiah, even Jesus Christ, whom God hath sent, so this blindness in part has happened unto them; and, even to this day, they are. by no means in the enjoyment of that life which is eternal.
It is evident, also, that even the Christian, while he tabernacles in mortality, enjoys this life, i.c. eternal life, only by faith and hope; for "we walk by faith and not by sight:" and, again, "we hope for that which we see not, for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for it? but if we hope for that which we see not, then we with patience wait for it." The nature of that life, therefore, which we enjoy, which we believe to be eternal, depends wholly on the correctness or incorrectness of our knowledge of God, and of Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent. If we can imagine a principle in God, or in Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent, incompatible with infinite and divine' love to the chief of sinners, then we can suppose that we are in the enjoyment of eternal life, although (on account of their not being so good in our estimation as ourselves) we have no love for a great part of the human race. If we have discovered a justice in God, or in the law of God, which requires the unmerciful punishment of any of his creatures, then, although we may know that we co...ct very unmercifully to wards some of our fellow beings, yet we may at the same time vainly imagine we are doing them good justice! And on this ground, no doubt, (or at least it is most charitable to suppose so,) all the cruel and horrid persecutions on the account of religion have been, some how or other, justified in the breasts of those who were the authors or instigators of those enormities. Admitting these observations correct;
you will see the importance of our subject, if it be nothing more than to save the religious world from a spirit of persecution. I say religious world, be cause those who make no pretensions to religion will seldom persecute others for being religious. But he who is brought to know God, even that God who is LOVE, and that CHRIST who is the light of the world, will view all mankind, however great may be their errors, as children of one common Parent, and also as brothers and sisters of the same common family; knowing that God made of one blood all nations of men on all the face of the earth; hence, if he says he loves God, while he hateth his brother, he must know that he is a liar, and the truth is not in him; for if he love not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" Let it not be supposed that this knowledge is too high for man, and therefore he cannot attain unto it. For this is the record, that God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son." Let us take heed therefore that we do not make God a liar, by not believing the record which he has given of his Son. But, unless it were a truth that God has given unto us eternal life, we never could make God. a liar by not believing it, because the belief in any thing whatever, never makes the thing believed any more true than it was before it is believed; and unless it be a truth that God has given us eternal life in Christ, the Son of God, previous to our believing it, were we to believe it, we should believe a falsehood. But, permit me to ask, how can any one make God a liar by not believing that which is not true? The supposition involves an absurdity. - No creature can be called upon by the God of truth to believe that which is not true in itself, or at least made so by the Deity, previous to any one's being called upon to believe it. Hence, all the Christian virtues must be considered the effect of the know
ledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, and not the cause of that truth which they, by the grace of God, have been brought to know, To the want of making these proper distinctions may be imputed some of the greatest errors in modern divinity. A few of which may be here mentioned.
Young people, instead of being taught to know and understand the great interest they have in Christ, i. e. in the truth brought to light by Christ, by his life, his ministry, his miracles, his death, his resurrection and ascension into glory, are taught to seek to obtain an interest in Christ, &c. which implies that they have now no interest in him, and if they obtain one, it will be by their own exertions.And at the same time, and perhaps in the same discourse, they are told that they can do nothing of themselves, and if they ever have an interest in Christ, it will be all by the grace of God, without any works of their own! and then, to close by way of exhortation, they are called upon to be sure that they get an interest in Christ; not to give sleep to their eyes, or slumber to their eyelids, till this work is done; for, if they should die without it, they must be eternally miserable!!
Such preaching, while it affords no peace, comfort, or consolation, to an honest sincere inquirer after truth, is calculated only to make hypocrites, or else drive people into despair.
Does not every child of God, who believes in the historical account of Jesus, know, that all which could have been or ever will be effected by his life, death, and resurrection, is as certain now as it ever will be? that every thing depending on his death &c. is as certain as it is that his death &c. took place? Yes but then he is told, that if he will believe in Christ, the Holy Ghost will apply the merits of his death &c. to him, i. e. the sinner, as an individual. But, it may be asked, what do they mean
by the merits of Christ, unless it be the truth brought to light by his divine mission? And does not every sinner who is capable of exercising one spark of reason or common sense know, that this truth, whatever it be, does now apply to him as an individual, or else it does not; and if it do not, is it the office of the Holy Ghost to make something apply which does not apply? This would be like applying a garment to a man which by no means fits him! Or is it the work of the Holy Ghost to alter this garment until it will fit the sinner, although it now does not? No, this would not be orthodox; for he is not the author, but is only to apply the truth, or righteousness, or whatever is to be applied, to the believer and how that can be applied which has no application in truth, I cannot even imagine. But if Christ have power over all flesh, as mentioned in the verse preceding our text, then the difficulty is solved at once. Unless the truth will now apply to the sinner, the sinner must be made to conform to the truth. Hence his pride must be humbled, his obstinacy removed, and his sin taken away; for all these stand opposed to that eternal life which Jesus has power to give. For he that hateth his brother is in darkness;" which darkness is synonymous with moral death: and again, "he that hateth his brother is a murderer, and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.”
This shows the necessity of Christ's having power over all flesh, in order to give them eternal life. For unless Christ has power over the sinner, he cannot give him eternal life, unless the sinner is pleased to receive it; but if he has power over him, then he can make the sinner willing in the day of his power.*
* Scripture references have not been given here, as it is probable these same passages will occur again in the body of the work.