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that the Almighty hath said, "I, the Lord, do keep "it: I will water it every moment."* Sanctification shall go on, till it end in perfection. Grace shall abide, till it be exchanged for glory.
And to what does this lead us, but to the other meaning, which may belong to the expression before us, and which, we have observed, it was most probably intended to bear:-They shall not, by any means, perish under eternal wrath. They may now be visited with temporary punishments, or rather with fatherly chastisements: but banishment for ever from the presence of God, the anguish of the worm that never dies, shall not be their portion. "For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but "with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little "wrath I hid my face from thee, for a moment; "but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy "on thee, saith the Lord, thy Redeemer."+ At these promises, christian, how does thy heart bound within thee? The second, even the eternal death, thou hast deseryed. But over thee it shall have no power. The dissolving world shall tumble into ruins; but thou shalt escape unhurt. Hell, wideyawning, shall open her mouth for her prey; and into it the wicked shall be turned, and all the "nations that forget God." But though "a thou"sand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand, it shall not come nigh unto thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold, and see "the reward of the wicked."§.
2. But preservation from perdition is not the whole portion of the redeemed. Christ not only promises to his sheep, that "they shall never peIsaiah xxvii. 3. † Ibid. liv. 7, 8. Psalm ix. 17. § Ibid. xci. 7, 8
rish," but declares, "I give unto them eternal "life." The change of the time, in these two expressions, is not without intention. His people know that, so long as they are on earth, they are not, at least, in a state of utter perdition, But when they consider their weakness, their corruptions, and dangers, they may often be ready to dread it. Nay, even after the most comfortable experience of divine love, they would have reason to fear that, owing to these causes, they might still fall into a condition of alienation and enmity; had they no gracious assurance, to encourage their faith, and to ascertain their security. Therefore, says Jesus, they shall not, by any means, or at any time, perish. While, with respect to "eternal life," his language is, "I give,," I now give: in order to intimate, that that life is not merely a future possession, but a blessing, which takes its commencement even here; and which begins as soon as any individual is admitted into the flock.
The state of a believer, therefore, both here and hereafter, is frequently expressed by Life; as that of an unbeliever is described by Death. The propriety of the appellation Life, as thus employed, (for it is more than an image,) and, in some degree, the nature of the state which it denotes, will if we consider,
(1.) That Life is the principle of action. Without Life, our bodies are but a mass of inactive clay; without value, and fit for no use. It is life which gives to the blood its circulation, to the muscles their moving power, to the eye its sight, to the ear its hearing, and to the tongue its eloquence. A state of alienation from God, either in time or in
eternity, is not indeed a state of total inactivity; but its activity is worse than inaction. Activity exerted to an evil end is worse than want of power. Even death, therefore, is a term as much too feeble to express that state, as unprofitableness is feebler than injuriousness. But the state of a believer is well denominated Life; for it consists in a nature renewed, and in a principle of holy activity implanted; by which all the springs and instruments of action are settled for performing their functions, with propriety and vigour. True, in the present state, the intellectual eye is much bedimmed by clouds of prejudice or error, and the springs of spiritual motion are clogged by the remaining weight of sin. Still, however, the christian's condition is that of life as a tree, in an ungenial soil, is still known to be alive, while a few buds appear; though its fruit be scanty, and some of its branches bare. But in Emmanuel's land, no cloud, no incumbrance, nothing poisonous is found, to dim the sight, impede activity, or sicken life. There "the Lord is an everlasting light:" the corruptions of nature are not only subdued, but rooted out; and there grows "the tree of life, the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations."
The propriety of the expression, and the nature of the state, now under consideration, will farther appear, when we observe,
(2.) That Life is the principle of enjoyment. Without life, our corporeal frame is incapable of sense or feeling; and this is the indispensible mean of every pleasure. Hence, by an easy figure, enjoyment, being the natural effect of life, is expressed by life itself. Though an unconverted person,
then, may have his laughter and his mirth, he has no capacity of genuine happiness; because he is destitute of spiritual life. But the believer has "Christ formed in him, the hope of glory."* Because his Lord lives, he "shall live also ;"+-shall live a life similar to his Lord's, both in action and enjoyment. The day of his conversion, is the day from which commences his deliverance from bondage and from suffering, His leader divides for him the floods which prevented his escape; and overwhelms his enemies behind him. It is true, indeed, that in the wilderness, which, to prove and try him, he has still to traverse, there are many hardships to be encountered, many pains to be endured. Yet he is on his return home. And how sweetly does the prospect of his arrival sooth the labours of the way! Nay, even in the wilderness, his kind shepherd finds him " green pastures," in which to lie down, and "still waters," by which to feed. The word, the ordinances, and the Spirit of Christ, guide, support, and refresh his soul, as the pillar of cloud by day, and of fire by night; as the manną which fell from heaven; and as the everflowing stream, which followed the footsteps of Israel. And the hour of death is the hour of his complete redemption. It is the hour of the passage of Jordan. The waters may be full and strong: they may threaten to carry him down; but he smites them with the mantle that covers him-the mantle without seam, which fell from the cross of an expiring, from the burning chariot of an ascending Saviour. He cries out, Where is the Lord God of my Redeemer? The waters hear, and are separat
*Gal. iv. 19. and Col. i. 27.
↑ John xiv. 19.
Psalm xxiii. 2.
ed:* and he goes over safely to the happy shores of the promised land; where "is fulness of joy, "and pleasures for evermore."
Thus the state of a believer, both in grace and in glory, is, with propriety, called Life.—But that we may enjoy a little longer this meditation on the gift of Jesus to his sheep, let us contrast it with the condition of those who belong not to the fold.
"In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die," was the curse of disobedience intimated to Adam and his posterity. In its execution, therefore, Death infects their whole state, corporeal or spiritual, external or internal, present or future.
(1.) The present corporeal and external state of those who are still under the curse, is a state of death.-Mortality is, indeed, so inseparably connected with the corporeal frame of all mankind, that they may be said to be born to die; and their whole life is but a journey to the grave. The troubles to which their fall hath made them heirs, the sorrows which harass their minds, and the diseases which wear down their bodies, mark them as the prey of death, and make way for its approach. -Every earthly pleasure, too, is under the same doom. It perishes in the enjoyment; and frequently leaves nought behind, but the loathsome traces of its corruption. Nay, like sweet poison, such pleasures, while they gratify the sense, are often the means of hastening the fate of him who tastes them. And though And though" the wicked may be
great in power, and spread himself like a green bay tree;" so as for a season to be insensible to the evanescent and unsatisfying nature of his joys * See 2 Kings ii. 13, 14.
↑ Gen. ii. 17.