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shall, through the influence of the same spirit, obtain, that is, in the Apostle's figurative style, shall reap, life everlasting.
But, what! you will say, everlasting life is the gift of God through Christ: how is it then that we receive this gift at the hands of another, of God's holy spirit?
To resolve this difficulty, and to ope to you at the same time the Christian doctrine of grace, together with the concern which we have in it, I shall consider,
I. In what sense we are to understand the assertion, That everlasting life is of the spirit.
II. In what way this blessing is conferred upon us; under which head I shall have occasion to set forth the several offices and operations of the holy Spirit.
III. Lastly, what returns of duty, as corresponding to these offices of the Spirit, and as resulting from the relations in which we stand towards him, are, in consequence of this revelation, reasonably required of us.
I. To understand in what sense the scriptures assert everlasting life to be of the spirit, it will
be necessary to form to ourselves a distinct idea of the divine œconomy in the whole work of our redemption; whieh (to sum up briefly what is revealed to us) appears to have been conducted in the following manner.
God the Father, of his mere grace, purposed and willeda, from all eternity, the restoration of life to man, after his forfeiture of it by disobedience: but he saw fit to make our title to this free gift depend on the death and sacrifice of his son Jesus Christ: and, lastly, to give the actual possession of it only through the ministration of his holy Spirit.
The whole of this process is full of wonder ; but there is no contradiction, or inconsistency in its several parts.
However, to open the œconomy of this dispensation a little more distinctly, it is to be observed, that eternal life may be taken in two senses. It may either imply a mere state of ENDLESS EXISTENCE; and, in this sense, it is solely and properly the gift of God through Christ; for as in Adam all died, even so in Christ shall all be made alive: Or, it may mean, what it always does mean in those pas
a 2 Tim. i. 9.
b 1 Cor xv, 22.
sages of scripture, where it is magnified so much, a state of HAPPINESS, in that existence; and then only a capacity of being put into this state is procured for us by the Redeemer. But this capacity, this grace of God, may be frustrated by us, may even turn against us, if we be not duly prepared to enjoy that happiness of which we are made capable; and such preparation, is the proper distinctive work of God's holy spirit.
Further, to see the necessity, the importance at least, of such preparation, we are to reflect, that, by the fall of man, not only life was forfeited, but the powers of his mind were weakened. Transgression had clouded his understanding, and perverted his will. He neither saw his duty so clearly as before, nor was disposed to perform it so vigorously. And this depravation of his faculties, we easily conceive, might, as an original taint, be transmitted to his posterity; nay, we certainly feel that it is so : yet, without any imputation on the author of our being, who might have placed us in this disadvantageous state, if he had pleased, from the beginning; and to whom we are accountable for the right use of the advantages we have, not of those we have not. Still, the purity of
Gal. ii. 21.
God's nature might require what his wisdom has decreed, that without holiness no man shall see the Lord, and that Jesus should be the author of eternal salvation to those only, who, in a higher degree than our fallen nature of itself permits, obey him. And this change in our moral condition from bad to good, from a propensity to evil to a love of righteousness, is called in scripture, a renewing of our minds, a new creation, a new man; in opposition to the former so different state of our minds, which is called the old man corrupted according to the deceitful lusts.
For the change itself, it is represented in scripture as proceeding, not from the virtue of our own minds, but from the influence of the Holy Ghost upon them: and when it has taken place in us, then, and not till then, is our election sure, and we are made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
This extraordinary provision for restoring man to the image of God, to the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness, is what reason could not
d Heb. xii. 14.
f Eph. iv. 22.
h Tit, iii. 7.
e Heb. v. 9.
g Tit. iii. 5:
i Eph. iv. 24.
have hoped for, but, when made known by revelation, seems to have been expedient, may be conceived to have been even necessary, and is clearly an expression of the divine goodness, which, though it fill our minds very justly with wonder, as well as gratitude, none of our natural notions contradict.
We see, then, in general, how the new man receives the gift of eternal life from the spirit. Let us now consider more particularly, ...
II. In the second place, in what way this new creation is carried on and perfected in us. And here we shall find all the marks of that wisdom and fitness, which are discernable in the thing itself.
For we are renewed in the spirit of our minds, by the teaching of the spirit of truth1, through sanctification of the spirit m, and comfort of the Holy Ghost"; that is, we have a new and better turn given to our minds, by the light derived into them from the spirit; by the good thoughts and purposes which he excites in them; and by the joy and consolation with which he rewards our endeavours to profit
K John xvi. 13.
Thess. ii. 19.
1 John xvi. 13.
n Acts ix. 31.