by James Smith, 1858
I was in a grave-yard only this morning musing among the tombs. I sometimes like to converse with death and wander in the resting-place of the dead. I like to read the inscriptions on the head-stones, and often get a profitable subject for meditation. A simple passage of Scripture is often more impressive on a grave-stone, than in a book. I found it so this morning, for on a stone near the church door, I read the following text, "God has given to us eternal life and this life is in his Son."
Satan had conquered man, sin had swept over the world, and death had usurped dominion here. All around me were the proofs of death's power, for the aged and the young, the rich and poor were reduced to one common level. This seemed to be the spot where death reveled, where death triumphed; and yet here, by the verse on this grave-stone, it seemed to me that death was defied. For here it was asserted, by a passage from God's own Word, that life was given to sinners, and that it was lodged in, and flowed from, the person of God's Son.
God looked upon sin-stricken, death-stricken man, and it was the look of pity and sympathizing love. He saw man's miserable, wretched and lost condition; and determined, of his own free grace to confer upon the guilty and undone the richest gift possible. And that though in order to do so he must deliver up his only Son to suffer, bleed, and die, to atone for their sins! He would write out in large capitals, "THE LORD IS GOODAND READY TO FORGIVE!"
The benevolence of God is astonishing. It appears in creation and providence but it shines forth in all its splendors in the gospel. There it gets full scope. There it occupies its throne. There it is glorified.
"The Lord is good." But how good? Who can say? Who shall attempt to set it forth in all its fullness? No created power is sufficient. All creatures may well be mute. And yet we have some glorious revelations, and exhibitions of it in the Word. What a manifestation of God's goodness is here placed before us, "God has given to us eternal life and this life is in his Son." What a wonderful display of divine benevolence is this! What an extraordinary exhibition of sovereign love to rebel sinners such as we are!
WHAT has God given? "Eternal life." What a comprehensive, and enduring blessing is this! Look at its opposite, eternal death. Endless separation from God. Eternal deprivation of happiness, changeless and never-ending torments. This was our just desert. To this we were doomed by the justice of God. This must have been our portion forever but for the free love, and unmerited goodness of God.
Look at what "eternal life" comprehends: Pardon, or a change of state, so, that though we were condemned we are now set free, and not only set free but every charge against us is blotted out! Nor merely this, we are taken into the favor of God, are pronounced just before God, and are accepted as beloved children by God!
In addition to pardon, or a change of state there is a change of nature. So that we who were dead live again. We who were filthy in nature and habit are cleansed and made holy. We have a new life, a new nature, a new disposition, and are pronounced new creatures in Christ Jesus.
More than this, there is a possession, and there will be a change of place. We have an incorruptible inheritance, reserved in heaven for us! He who pardons our sins, and renews our nature, will show us the path of life and at his right hand, we shall enjoy pleasures forever more!
Eternal life, comprises a life, like the Son of God a life, in the presence and enjoyment of God a life, the end and object of which is the glory of God.
HOW has God bestowed it? He has given it, not bartered it for something the creature was to do or suffer but given it.
He gave it by PROMISE first, as our Apostle says, "This is the promise that he has promised us even eternal life." And so the Apostle Paul, speaking of the believer's life, says that it is "in hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the world began." Eternal life is absolutely, and repeatedly promised, to every one that believes in Jesus. He revealed it in his Word, especially in the everlasting gospel, where again and again, we are told that he who believes on the Son of God shall not perish but shall have everlasting life.
He also presents it to us in the GOSPEL. Here it is held forth to every one who hears the good news, to be received, possessed, and enjoyed. For the gospel is a proclamation, that God of his own free love, will give eternal life, to every one who sincerely believes in his only begotten Son. The gospel, rightly preached, presents eternal life, as a free gift, for the reception of every one that may be present, without qualification or exclusion. Its voice is, "Ho, every one that thirsts, come to the waters, and he who has no money! Whoever will, let him come, and take of the water of life freely!" He confers this eternal life therefore, on every believer in Jesus. God's mercy is the hand that holds it out to us; and faith is the hand that receives it from God.
The moment we believe, we are clearly entitled to live forever; to live forever, because Jesus died; to live forever in the enjoyment of peace, purity, and every conceivable blessing! A weak faith may receive this great salvation; though little faith will stagger under its weight, and either say it is too good, or too great, for such a sinner. But it is neither. It is not too good or too great for God to give; therefore it is neither too good nor too great for us to receive. He crowns it, when he presents us faultless before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy. O the wondrous grace which provided, promised, presented, conferred, and crowned with eternal life such sinners as we are!
WHERE has God placed it? "God has given to us eternal life and this life is in his Son." Jesus is the depository and channel of this blessing. It was placed in him for safety, that it may never be lost as the first Adam lost his life, and the life of all his seed. It was placed in Christ, that it may be brought near and conveyed to us. That it may flow into our world, flow through our nature, and be thus very near unto us. It was placed in Jesus, that it may be conveyed to us with safety, without the possibility of failure. Life in Christ, life flowing through Christ, life to be received immediately from Christ how precious is that! Jesus sweetens everything! He enhances the value of everything. Eternal life is even sweeter and more valuable in our estimation because it flows to us through Jesus.
For WHOM is eternal life intended? "This is the record, that God has given to us eternal life and this life is in his Son." It is eternal life for sinners as sinners. For lost sinners. For lifeless, dead sinners. For hopeless, helpless sinners. For the vilest the worst of sinners. For all classes of sinners. None are excepted, and therefore the gospel, the good news, the glad tidings of eternal life, is to be preached to every creature. It is for every sinner, in every place, no matter what his case, or what his character, or what his circumstances may be! Every sinner is to be told that there is eternal life in Jesus, and that whoever will, may come and receive. It is free for every one, free for all. No bounds are set, no limits are marked out, no conditions are appended. Here is eternal life or pardon, holiness, and heaven and you may have them freely, instantly, by applying to Jesus, who gives to every one that applies liberally. Yes, whoever will may come and take freely.
See then, eternal life may be received by any sinner. You need not perish. You need not die the second death. God has freely given, and Jesus lovingly imparts eternal life to repentant sinners. To old sinners. To young sinners. To the greatest sinners. To lesser sinners. To any one, and every one, who applies for it.
Those therefore who would have eternal life must come to Jesus. It is to be obtained no where else. It is to be received in no other way. God gives it but it must be taken out of the hand of Jesus. It is no use coming to the pope, the prelate, the priest, or even to the Blessed Virgin for they cannot give eternal life. No, if you would have life you must come to Jesus.
Nor must you expect to obtain eternal life by your mental sufferings, or by your external acts; it is only by faith in Jesus, that you can obtain it. All may come to Jesus who will. None are forbidden. None are prohibited. Jesus never refused one, or found fault with anyone for coming. But he did find fault with those who stayed away, hence in grief of spirit he said, "You will not come unto me, that you might have life." "How often would I have gathered your children, even as the hen gathers her brood under her wings and you would not."
Whoever comes obtains. No one was ever sent back empty yet. It was provided purposely for sinners, it is promised expressly to sinners it is put into the hand of the sinner's best Friend it is presented gratuitously to all sinners, in all places, wherever the gospel comes, and it is readily conferred on every one who is not too proud to apply, or to receive it. Blessed, blessed truth this whoever comes to Jesus, obtains eternal life!
Come, then, reader, if you have not come to Jesus. He has eternal life, he has it for such as you. He is ready, he is willing, he is waiting to bestow it on the likes of you. Come, O come to Jesus, and eternal life is yours!
"You will not come to Me, that you might have life!" John 5:40. Rejectors of Christ are ungrateful, inexcusable and suicidal. How can we properly represent the blackness of that ingratitude which refuses to come to Jesus for eternal life! Surely, surely, no one can pity the sinner who dies because he will not receive a pardon because he will not have eternal life!
Sinner, if you perish you are a suicide! You die by your own hand! You die because you will not come to Jesus, and have eternal life. Such conduct must certainly be inexcusable. Surely, the very devils will laugh that sinner to scorn to all eternity, who goes to hell from beneath the sound of the everlasting gospel.
He would not have eternal life!
He would not go to heaven!
There was the gate but he would not pass through it.
There was the road but he would not travel it.
There was eternal life offered but he would not have it.
He would go to hell.
He was determined to do so.
He would not be stopped, either by the invitations of mercy, or the threatenings of wrath. He chose death and damnation in his erroneous way.
No offer of eternal life was ever made to devils, after they had fallen; so, that they are more excusable in one sense than the sinner, who perishes, because he will not come unto Jesus, and have life. What a thought is this! There is an enormity about the sin of rejecting eternal life by Christ not even to be found even in the sin of devils!
Think then, think seriously, my reader; and if you have not applied to Jesus for that eternal life, which God has graciously promised to all who believe on his Son apply at once. O delay not one day, one hour, one minute but go this moment! Hear the solemn testimony of God, there is eternal life in Jesus. Receive the witness of heaven and earth, that there is eternal life in Jesus, for sinners. Read the record, and act upon it, and "And this is the record: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life!" 1 John 5:11-12