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the church, the highest and best, that the whole of the body the church, equally including every individual member of that body, were alike known, loved, and beheld in Christ, by all the persons in the GODHEAD from everlasting
This is most blessedly assured to the church by Christ himself, when as set forth in his well known name of Wisdom, he is described in the book of Proverbs as standing in the top of high places, by the way, at the gates, and at the entry of the city, and calling upon his people to attend to him, promising them that love him, “ to fill their treasures, and to give them durable riches and righteousness.” And then he adds, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before his works of old: I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.—Then I was by him as one brought up with him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him ; rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth, and my delights were with the sons of men.” (Prov. viii. 1—21.) Observe in these words how Christ first states the eternity of his nature; and observe also how he speaks of Jehovah in his trinity of persons possessing him as Mediator, in “ the beginning of his ways, as set up” the glorious Head of his church, “from everlasting. Then having spoken of himself as one brought up with the Lord Jehovah, and the delight of Jehovah in his covenant headship and character, he then takes in the church as in the same view, and expresseth his delight in the sons of men: “rejoicing (saith he) in the habitable part of his earth, and my delights were with the sons of men." Not merely habitable earth, as distinguished from the water, for this prospect of Christ he had before said was, “ or ever the earth was, when there were no depths, when there were no fountains abounding with water; while as yet he had not made the earth, nor
the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world.” But his allusion of “rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth," was that habitable part in which the Lord himself would tabernacle, when he as " the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us; and his delights were for ever with his people. And what a beautiful and unanswerable testimony the whole forms, that the glorious Head of his church, and his members, have been in the unceasing contemplation of Jehovah, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for ever; to whose infinite and comprehensive mind, inhabiting eternity, past, present and future, form but one object.
And were it not for launching out too far into the depths of this vast ocean, while the limits of a sermon confine me to skim the surface of the borders only; I should find it no difficult matter, under divine teaching, to shew that as the church was in Christ, and personated by Christ before all worlds, so grace was given to the church in Christ before all worlds; and all the ordinations of Jehovah concerning the church, in the time-state of her being, were in effect formed before, according (as the apostle states it) to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Eph. iii. 11.) Our redemption in Christ, our justification by Christ, our holy calling to Christ, with all the other events included in that high administration of grace manifested to the church by the Holy Three in One since creation, and the fall in Adam, were to all intents and purposes done in the divine mind before. Nothing can be new to him whose eternity of being constitutes one eternal now. All his ordinations are like the Almighty Author himself: "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.” (Heb. xiii. 8.)
And hence it is when by regeneration, or the new birth, the church and every individual of the church, is brought into that spiritual life in Christ, which the church, as well as the whole race of men lost in Adam by sin, there is at once a capability given of receiving all communicable blessings of a spiritual nature. (Eph. i. 3.) And when the redeemed and regenerated child of God is thus brought forth into this newness of life in Christ, and is daily enabled by grace to live upon his inheritance, he enjoys by faith such fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ, as experimentally to know what unrenewed men can only hear of, or read, that blessed sympathy of Christ, which is described in being “ touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” And all such can, and do, value the sweetness of that Scripture with which the apostle blessed the church, when he said, “ Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace
in believing, that ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Rom. xv. 13.)
On the other hand, until this act of spiritual life is wrought, there is not a possibility even for one in the election of grace to perform a single action, or exercise a single thought of faith in Christ; and hence it is that even the first rudiments of that divine learning, “which maketh wise unto salvation, through faith in Christ Jesus,” are above the reach of all human faculties: the principles themselves were never learnt, neither can be learnt in nature's school. (1 Cor. ii. 14.) True, indeed, mere natural men may hear them, and by the dint of natural reason may by head knowledge understand them; but the spiritual apprehension is impossible to be attained by any, while unregenerate and “ dead in trespasses and șins.” (Eph. ii. 1--5.) Hence Paul's statement of the renewed life, and the proof thereby of our election, in hearing and receiving the gospel in the love of it, which he gave the church of the Thessalonians, is suited to every church of Christ in all
ing (said he) brethren beloved your election of God; for our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance." And the apostle proceeded to give a farther statement in shewing the effects : “ Ye became followers of us, and of the Lord; having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost : so that ye were ensamples to all that believe, and from you sounded out the word of the Lord,” &c. (1 Thes. i. 4–8.)
My text, and the subject connected with it, becomes a beautiful illustration of those divine principles : if you will consult your Bibles at the place where the words are written, you will perceive that God the Holy Ghost had been speaking most blessedly of the testimonies to the truths of God which the regenerated believer had in himself when taught of God. “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.” Then follows the text. “ And this is the record, that God hath given to 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.”
Every word in this divine Scripture is big with infinite importance. The thing itself is called a record, yea, God's record; and though here it is, in a way of personal application, said to be the Father's gift to the church in his Son, yet that all the in the GODHEAD are alike concerned is stated in a verse before, when it is said, “For there are Three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these Three are One." Hence, eternal life is alike the gift of the whole GodHEAD, and alike given testimony to hy record. And what is eternal life? Here we pause. The receiver of eternal life in Christ is not capable of defining it; but we are taught by its very name that it is not liable to be lost or changed, for it is eternal, and in Christ. And Jesus himself most blessedly confirms this, in that he saith,“ Because I live, ye shall live also.” (John xiv. 19.) And what I beg may be particularly kept in your remembrance, from its connection with what was stated before, namely, that what the church is now in Christ she always was and always will be in Christ; hence this eternal life was given to the church in Christ“ before the world began.” (Titus i. 2.) Hence, therefore also, as the words of the text goeth on to proclaim," he that hath the Son hath life;" he always had it in Christ, for though by our Adam-fall in nature we lost communion with Christ in the knowledge and enjoyment of it; yea, on our part enmity against God took place in our hearts by the temptations of the devil ; yet that eternal life which was given us in Christ being in Him, and not in our own keeping, we could not lose it : having the Son, in him we had life.
But now the contrast in what follows: “He that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” He cannot have it, for he hath not the Son of God, in whom alone “ is the life and the light of men.” (John i. 4.) And having no union with Christ, there can be no communion with Christ: hence we find the Lord Jesus giving this statement in all his preaching to the Jews, who despised Christ,“ Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. He that is of God heareth God's words; ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.” (John viii. 43–47.) Pause over these words of Christ, for they are indeed most solemn. They are like the pillar of the cloud which stood between the camp of Israel and the camp of the Egyptians; to the Egyptians, a cloud of darkness, and the shadow