In unfolding some of the more vivid Bible delineations of the Shepherd of Israel and the Flock of His pasture, we have hitherto spoken mainly, if not exclusively, of their present relationship to Him—reclaimed from their wanderings; entering the Door of the Fold; following His footsteps; He preceding them; leading them by the green pastures; marking out for them paths of righteousness; seeking them in the cloudy and dark day; tenderly bearing in His arms the weak and the burdened.

In this chapter, we are on the threshold of grander truths. The green pastures and the still waters of earth are but the pledge of more enduring realities. Here we have the Good Shepherd Himself announcing the bestowment on His people of a limitless future of being and bliss—"I give unto them Eternal Life!" Retaining, for a subsequent occasion, the consideration of the nature and elements of this peerless gift, we may meanwhile meditate briefly on the three thoughts which, in connection with it, the words of the Shepherd suggest.

It is a FREE gift. "I give." Believers have themselves no share in the purchase. Man, in bestowing his gifts, has generally reference to some loving or lovable qualities in the objects of his beneficence. But it was from no attractiveness on their part—no foreseen good works or virtues, that the Good Shepherd was induced to procure and bequeath the priceless heritage. It is a munificent bestowment of sovereign grace and redeeming love. "I give"—it is theirs in unqualified, inalienable possession—a glorious freehold. The Ransomed Flock reposing in the heavenly paradise are spoken of as having "a right to the tree of life." It is the right of the slave who has had his freedom purchased. It is the right of the son who has been given his patrimonial inheritance. It is the right of the conqueror dividing among his soldiers the honors and trophies of victory which his own valor has won.

And as it was His free sovereign love which led Him to pay the ransom-price, so it is the sovereign, irresistible grace of the Shepherd which keeps His flock every hour from destruction, and will present each member of it at last faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. Let us not lapse into a loose and indefinite theology, by speaking of the "inherent power of the new nature." That is nothing. It is a shadow—a name—apart from the grace of Christ and the indwelling, upholding energy of the Spirit of God. Why was Paul enabled to stand firm when the messenger from Satan was sent to buffet him? Why did not the thorn in the flesh get the better of his nobler self? It was because that free grace which had "predestined" and "called" and "justified," was, in the hour of trial and temptation, made sufficient for him—God's strength "perfected in weakness," yes, overcoming weakness. Let us ever admire, with adoring wonder, this unmerited, undeserved, sovereign freeness, from first to last, of the great salvation.

Christ is the true Zerubbabel, who has laid the foundation, and who also will finish it. Seek to trace His hand in each part of the spiritual building—beginning, carrying on, completing—the Alpha, the Omega—the Justifier, the Sanctifier, the Glorifier. "Thanks be to God," says the apostle, "who always causes us to triumph in Christ." As the pearl would remain forever in the depths of the ocean unless the diver descended for it, so, unless He who purchased us as gems and jewels for His crown had taken us from the depths, there we would have remained forever. And as He rescues the pearl, so He keeps it, polishes it, and finally inserts it in His mediatorial diadem!

As His is the glory of the commencing work and the sustaining work, so His is the glory of the crowning and consummating work. The branch cannot live severed from the vine. The limb cannot live severed from the body. The Christian lives only by virtue of "Christ his life." It is not our repentance or our prayers, or our habits of grace, or our long standing in grace, which keeps us—but the sustaining arm of an omnipotent Savior. "The Lord is your Keeper." "He who keeps Israel does not slumber." Take, then, the gift of eternal life, but take it as Christ gives it—a "present"—a gift—a free heritage of sovereign love—its charter and title-deeds written in His own blood. "The gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord."

It is a PRESENT gift—a gift, not only reserved for the future, but in present possession. Not, "I shall give," but "I give." It is the life of grace now, preparatory to the life of glory hereafter. Scripture, in manifold passages, attests the same truth. "He who believes on the Son of God HAS everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but HAS passed from death unto life." "Who HAS raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ." "Our lives ARE hid with Christ in God." "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who HAS blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ."

Think of this!—this eternal life—the purchase of sovereign love—is begun here and now. The feeble rill commences here, which expands at last into the river that makes glad the city of God. The first notes of the new song are hymned in the Church militant, though the full chorus is reserved for the Church triumphant. The bird, though still within its mortal cage, is gifted with the wings of a nobler being—it only waits the opening of the door to soar away to the heights of its bliss. The prisoner has obtained his reprieve: life—dear life—is once more his; he only needs the unlocking of the prison-gate fully to realize the blessing—the conscious possession of which has already kindled the fading luster of his eye. The paralyzed cripple has felt fresh energies creeping into his frame: he only waits until the swathing bands are unloosed and he is freed from his couch, that he may enter the porches of the new Jerusalem-temple—walking and leaping and praising God!

Our natural life indeed is still the life of sense. We move in the scenery of the lower world. We mingle in its bustle—we pursue its avocations, and grapple with its groveling, carking anxieties and cares. But let us seek that all this lower life be blended with the higher. Let the life of time be interwoven and interpenetrated with the life of eternity. "This is life eternal, to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." The vision and fruition of God—that is heaven. By seeking to have the knowledge of God now, we lisp the alphabet of Heaven. Delighting in God now—walking in His ways, doing His will, spending life in His service, is the spring of a glorious autumn. He who is enabled in some feeble measure to make the averment, "I live for God—"that man's higher being—his eternal existence and eternal happiness are already begun. His feet are on earth—but his citizenship is in heaven!

It is a GREAT gift. It is "Eternal life." Eternity!—Who can fathom that word? What mortal thought or figure can compass its meaning? An old writer has thus illustrated it—"Suppose this globe of ours to be composed of sand. Suppose at the close of every million of years one grain were to drop from the enormous mass. Yet when the round orb of sand has exhausted its countless grains and its countless millions of years, that measureless lapse of ages will (compared to Eternity) be only as one swing of the pendulum!" What a heritage is this—these years of deathless bliss!

We are in a perishable world. The proud monarchs of the past—where are they? The scepters waved over prostrate kingdoms, and the hands which grasped them, where are they? Cities with the murmur of a swarming population—temple and tower rising to heaven—where are they?—Relics of perished magnificence—the owl and the satyr hooting desolation to the passer-by! Every form and object around us, animate and inanimate, has the wrinkle on its brow. The most colossal works of nature are hastening to decay and dissolution. The day is coming when the sun itself shall grow dim with age—when the moon's silver lamp shall cease to burn—when the stars in the great temple of night shall quench their altar-fires—when the ocean shall be swept from its channel—when the forests shall be charred into blackness—the mountains crumble into dust, and the hills become as chaff. And after these present material heavens shall have passed away, there may be new suns and systems—new forms and conditions of matter, to take their place. There may be new volumes in the history of God's universe, whose pages are eras, and their chapters millenniums.

But there will be no break, no gap in the believer's limitless life—no canceling of the irreversible word, "They shall never perish." They shall reign forever and ever! Eternity! Yes, believers, this is the measure of your happiness—the duration of your bliss—a duration, in comparison with which all time, all history, all past cycles and ages, from the song of the morning stars until now, is but as a dream when one awakens! Existence concurrent with that of the Infinite Jehovah!—the life-time of the Almighty—the years of God!

He who thus purchased, with His own precious blood, this magnificent inheritance, turns to each one of us and says—"He who believes in me, though he were dead yet shall he live—and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" Let each direct that question to himself, "Do you believe this?" Seek to make it matter of personal concernment. Think of the dread alternative—Eternal life or Eternal death!—a heritage of joy or a heritage of wrath! For while it is said, "He that has the Son has life," it is added, "He that has not the Son of God shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." Abides! Yes, "abides!"

As life—eternal life—in the case of the believer, is now begun—as we have even in this world, the first installment of that life which is never to die; so, if we have not the Son of God—if we have no saving interest in Christ—what is our position—what our inheritance? Is it a fearful looking for of prospective future judgment and fiery indignation? No, it is more than this; it is worse than this. It is a present retribution! It is the first installment of everlasting death—the first gnawings of the worm—the first kindling of the everlasting fire! "The wrath of God abides." It is not the brimstone-cloud hanging over us—but that cloud already burst—the wrath of God already "revealed from heaven!"

Seek without delay a saving interest in Him who came that "we might have life, and that we might have it more abundantly." Flee—oh! flee from the wrath to come! And here is a blessed—a glorious Shelter from that wrath—they are words uttered by the lips of the great Life-giver Himself—"God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life!"

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