From pages 93-95 of the Bible Standard September 1878
In the first eight chapters of Paul’s letter to the saints at Rome, you will find a very comprehensive deliverance on this important subject. In most emphatic terms he describes the guilty condition of the whole family of man, and the completely adequate and gracious salvation which God has provided, and caused to be proclaimed in the gospel concerning His Son.
What renders the Apostle’s argument so invaluable to us is its infallible accuracy. He spoke by the Spirit of God; and his words are as true as though they had been uttered’ by Jehovah Himself. Let all ponder them with reverence, and receive them with faith. My wish, at present, is to call attention to one sentence in that grand discourse, which, in few words, states our condition as sinners, and the provision made for it by the God and Father of all :-
“The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”-Rom. 6: 23. “Were it not for the prevalent perversion of these words, as well as others of similar import, the mere reading of them would be sufficient for our purpose; but the necessities of the case demand that we explain the sense in which we understand them. The term “death,” in the sentence quoted, is generally understood to mean “endless life in misery; “ and the words” eternal life,” are used as synonymous with “eternal happiness; “ we maintain that these words are used in their primary acceptation, and that they express their own import. We hold that they are meant to be read and believed, not explained, as having any moral or figurative signification. “The wages of sin is death.” DEATH was the penalty threatened – death was the doom passed on the first parents of our race, for their transgression. “In the day thou eatest thereof dying thou shalt die.”-Gen. 2: 17. Mark, God said” THOU shalt die;” “not thy body, or a part of thee;” but” THOU.” The man Adam, formed by the plastic hand of the Almighty, out of the dust of the ground, and into whose nostrils was breathed the breath of life, was threatened with death. Dost thou doubt this? Then listen to the words in which the doom of this man, after his transgression, was declared. “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return unto the ground; for out of it was thou taken; for dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return.”-Gen 3:19. Yes! Death, a returning to the condition he had before being formed into man, was the penalty of Adam’s sin; hence he was driven from the garden, lest he should eat of the tree of life, and live forever, v. 22-24. These are the true sayings of God, cavil who may. Jehovah’s decree was, that His wonderful creature, man – so highly favoured – so nobly endowed – made in the image of God – lord of the earth, and all upon it – should be placed beyond the reach of “the tree of life, which was in the midst of the garden,” and after years of toil and sorrow, return to the condition of the soil on which he trod, because he had disobeyed his Maker. As truly as all cattle, birds, insects, and men – “all in whose nostrils was the breath of life,” (Gen. 7: 22) outside of the ark, perished in “the waters of Noah,” so were our primal parents doomed to die-for “the wages of sin is death.” And who dare; nay! who, justly, can find fault with the judgment of God in this matter? Wonder not at the severity of God; but rather at the hardihood and ingratitude of His creature, who dared to disobey Him. But what has this to do with our case? Much every way; chiefly, because, “as is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy.” The root being mortal, so are the branches; and, spite of all the self-inflation, and vain talk, regarding human -immortality, each individual of our race, like its parent stem, is mortal. “All are of the dust; all turn to dust again “-” By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”-Eccles3:20, Rom5:12.
“It cannot be!” cry ten thousand voices of the sons of men, “it cannot be, that so proud a being as man is, can be doomed to perish – to return to the non-being, whence he came. What! that creature, endowed with powers so stupendous – with genius so brilliant – with speech so eloquent, by nature a mere mortal? Preposterous!” God has, indeed, made man fearfully and wonderfully; conferred on him capacities of astonishing power; yet the mass of men are, in their lives, not far removed from the beasts that perish. Sensuality is more characteristic of the race, as a whole, than intellectual or moral beauty; but even where these latter qualities exist, they are the result, not of inherent immortality, but of the power and wisdom of God: their existence is no more a proof that their possessor shall never die, than that he never began to be. Vain man! How often is he, who, yesterday dazzled the world with his genius, and kept thousands hanging on the eloquence of his lips, to-day changed to an imbecile, or a raving maniac? Our limits, however, forbid indulgence in this sort of reasoning.
To such high thoughts of man’s immortality we, meanwhile, oppose the declarations of Holy Writ. “Trust not in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help; His breath goeth forth, he returns to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish”–Psalm 144: 4. Verily, man by nature is mortal. Our first father sinned, and so death came on him and his posterity, for” The wages of sin is death.” Indeed, it is so; and, what makes the matter worse, we have sinned ourselves. Need I quote the testimony of Holy Scripture to that effect? No; we know it is so. We have sinned-we have earned death, God’s sentence of condemnation has been passed upon us: as sinners we are condemned to die. “The soul that sinneth it shall die “-” The wages of sin is death”- “The wicked shall perish, the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs; they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.”- Psalm 37:20. There is, indeed, a resurrection “of the unjust;” God shall one day bring them from their grave; but this is not to them a “resurrection unto life;” it is only the bringing forth of the guilty from their prison, to receive at the “great white throne” the sentence due to them for their own sins. They shall be judged according to their works; and, being found guilty, they shall be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death, from which no resurrection shall revive them. Thus their “end is destruction” – “everlasting destruction.” -Rev. 20:12-15, Phil.3:19, 2 Thess 1:9.
Such is our case, as sinners,-a helpless one indeed; and, far as “Human action is concerned, utterly hopeless. “None can by any means redeem his brother, or give to God a ransom for him, for all are guilty, shut up under sin.” Yet despair not, ye children of men, for God Himself has provided deliverance by His Son Jesus.” “The gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Listen to the glad tidings from the lips of Jesus Himself-“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him might not perish, but have everlasting life.”
See in these thrilling words God’s love to you as sinners. Perish you need not, for God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. The same record that declares our guiltiness, proclaims our means of deliverance. Our case is fully met by the very God we have offended. How transcendent the love of God; “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” and “God is in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing to men their trespasses; for He hath made Him, Who knew no sin, to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” “God hath given to us eternal life; and this life is in His Son.” “It is in His Son, not yet in us; but “hid with Christ in God,” secured for us in heaven-away up yonder at the right hand of the Majesty on high-this eternal life is kept for us till He Who redeemed us by His blood returns in glory. As yet we are “of the earth, earthy,” and may soon be numbered with the dead ; but He Who has the keys of hades and of death, shall soon return to revive us to life everlasting; for, as “Christ being raised from among the dead dieth no more,” even so “those who are counted worthy to obtain that age, and the resurrection from among the dead cannot die anymore;” but in the freshness and vigour of immortal youth, shall “run and not be weary” on the errands of Jehovah’s love, blessing and being blest through ages which shall never end.
And those of His who are alive at His coming, shall never die, but “be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” “for the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first, then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord,” 1 Thes. 4:16,17. This eternal life is obtained by believing in Jesus the Son of God, as the Christ -Anointed of God to “sit on the throne of David, and reign over the house of Jacob for ever” -the seed of Abraham, through whom all the families of the earth shall be blessed. “These things are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through His name.”-John 20:31. One thing especially let us remember, that God has made this rich provision for our salvation, through the death of His beloved Son. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him might not perish but have eternal life,”- “ God so loved the world that He gave His Son” –“delivered Him up to the death for us all.” We are “redeemed to God by His blood”-hence-“eternal life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord”- “Through this Man is preached unto us the forgiveness of sins.” Thus is our case as sinners fully met in the gift of God – pardon to the guilty-life to the condemned. This announcement is, to you and me, indeed, “the gospel of God concerning His Son.” We have, in these days, much contention as to what constitutes the gospel of God, but, if the announcement of the gift of eternal life, through Jesus Christ to all who believe in Him, be not glad tidings, I know not what is. The gospel preached to Abraham, that in him all nations shall be blessed, was glad tidings of a most comprehensive character; being indeed but another form of the truth that “God hath appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained” -the establishment of His own kingdom over all the earth in the hands of His Son the Christ –when the will of God shall be done on earth as it is done in heaven. Doubtless these are glad tidings concerning the kingdom of God-which God has appointed to be preached among all nations for the obedience of faith; but what gladness would be in these tidings to me a sinner, condemned to everlasting destruction, except for God’s gift of eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ? This, and all the rest, everything that is announced in Scripture regarding Jesus as the Deliverer, is glad tidings of great joy-and must be believed by those who will be saved-but this comes nearest to our hearts, it is of all the glad tidings to you and me, the most joy-inspiring. It is life to the dead.
Thus have I spoken of the way in which our need as sinners has been met in the gift of God; but the half is not told – the Almighty Father has not only met our case completely- but far exceeded all our need. Not life alone; not merely endless being in His presence-but glory and honour, in His kingdom, such as His own beloved Son is promised. “Now are we the sons of God,” “if sons, then heirs, heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ,” yea, “all is ours, for we are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”
Blessed be God, the Father of mercies-yea, blessed be. His name for evermore, and blessed be the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood; and made us kings and priests unto God His Father. Amen.