Faith in the Last Days - J. Thomas
29 - WHAT WE MUST DO TO OBTAIN ETERNAL LIFE

THE Scripture not only teaches what the animal man is as a physical and a moral being, but what he may become. It shows that he has "no good thing in him" [Rom. 7:18]; that he has no pre-eminence [Eccl. 3:19] over other animals more than the perfection of his organization confers upon him; and that therefore, he is, destitute of inherent holiness, righteousness, immortality, honour and glory. He is a humbled creature, made subject to vanity, and at enmity against God and His laws.

These things being abundantly demonstrated both in the works and word of God, the future destiny of man as predicable upon the constitution of his nature, is that of an eternal cessation of his existence from the time he shall have mingled with his parent dust. This is the conclusion to which Revelation and Science will conduct every disciple of truth, who is independent of prejudice and party, and who has the courage to confess her in the face of ignorance, bigotry, and persecution . . .

The grand truth of God's word is that glory, honour, incorruptibility, and life are the reward of a character formed in harmony with the commandments delivered to man in the several dispensations of time under which they live. They are the reward of a good character; a character which shall be pronounced by the judge "without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that shall be holy, and without blemish". [Eph. 5:27] If glory, honour, and eternal life be worth the sacrifice of every thing on earth to obtain, then the inducement to a holy, righteous, and unblemished life in Jesus Christ is found in these, transcendently powerful. Carnal and blind are they who say that this doctrine is demoralizing! We know no language strong enough to express the sense we entertain of the ignorance and perverseness of such cavillers. What stronger inducement to goodness and virtue could the philanthropy of God propose, than an unending, pleasurable and dignified existence in the eternal heavens? If such a consideration will not lead men to "repentance unto life", [Acts 11:18] we are at a loss to conceive what will. "Fear", says one of the terrorists, "will do it!" But "cowards" have no fraternity with the heroes of the faith; the scripture condemns them to the "Second Death". [Rev. 2:11;20:6,14;21:8] Fear never made a genuine Christian yet; no, nor ever will. The sons of God are freemen whom the truth has freed from all slavish fear. They love God with a "perfect love", [1 John 4:18] because they believe that He first loved them.

During the times between the Ascension and Future Advent of Jesus, the terms upon which immortality, etc., are offered to men, are contained in the gospel, and in that only. When born into the existing world, we come under the curse and a sentence of death; or, as the Apostle saith, we are "made subject to vanity ( mataiotes , all that pertain to the state of good and evil and which ends in dissolution) not willingly". [Rom. 8:20] It is in this sense that the world of mankind is said to be "condemned already" -- "he that believeth not", whether the faithlessness be predicated on physical or circumstantial disability matters not, all unbelievers are "condemned already" (John 3:18). Because of this congenital condemnation it is that we suffer evil from our birth, die and return to the ground from which we originally came; but well would it be for multitudes if the condemnation which rests upon them did not transcend this. The sentence under which we are involuntarily born has no reference to the second death; it subjects mortals only to present evil and to a return to the dust which is final and eternal to those who die in "time of ignorance". [Acts 17:30] Were there no other sentence than this pronounced upon mankind there would be no Second Death, which is the penalty, not of the Eden Law, but for the transgression of subsequent ones. And here I would make one remark for the reflection of our Universalist friends, namely, had there been no other sentence promulged than that in Eden, and had the word of Christ been simply and solely "all shall be saved", then the dogma that to the extent in which all men die in Adam to the same extent shall all men be made alive in Christ, would have been true. But on the assumption that "he that believeth" means "all", there is still a sentence of condemnation pronounced against unbelieving mortals, which restricts the "all" to a portion of mankind, and condemns the rest. He that believeth not (the Gospel) shall be condemned." (Mark 16:16)

Here then, are two sentences of condemnation, to which, if a man become obnoxious, he may be said to be doubly damned. He is condemned to the first death because he is "born of the flesh"; [John 3:]) and he is condemned to the second death if he believe not the Gospel; but let the reader bear in mind that no mortal son of Adam is obnoxious to the second death because he is born of the flesh; but, being born of the flesh involuntarily, he becomes liable to it by rejecting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And this is the ground of the second condemnation, "that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil" (John 3:19).

What then do men need to be saved from? First, from ignorance of God's way; secondly, from moral perversion thirdly, from the evils of the present life, in body and estate and fourthly, from the dissolution of the grave. The "light which God has revealed in the scriptures will save them from ignorance and its sequents, which are superstition, fear, bigotry, unbelief etc.; "repentance and remission of sins in the name of Jesus" [Luke 24:47] will rectify their consciences; and a "resurrection unto life", or a transformation, will deliver them from "all the ills that flesh is heir to", and restore them to a being which shall end no more.

"The wages of sin is death." [Rom. 6:23] Wages are paid only to those who labour: those who in their toil "sow to the flesh" [Gal. 6:8] will be paid for the labour they perform; and the pay for this kind of labour is "corruption" [Gal. 6:8] or "death unto death" [2 Cor. 2:6] -- death ending in corruption, as the Apostle saith, "shall of the flesh reap corruption", [Gal. 6:8] and of such he says in another place, "whose end is corruption"; so that "death", "corruption", and "destruction" are "the wages of sin", [Rom. 6:23] which every one is fairly entitled to "who loves darkness rather than light" [John 3:19], and refuses to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to be delivered from our sins, and from a resurrection unto a second death and corruption, which shall be consummated in a fiery destruction, constituting the destiny of unbelievers, cowards, abominable characters, and whosoever loves and invents a lie.

What must we do to be saved from all these things? The answer is contained in the saying of the King of Israel to his Ambassadors to the Nations [See 2 Cor. 5:20; Eph. 6:20]: "He that believeth the Gospel, and is baptized, shall be saved" [Mark 16:16]; and, "Observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you to teach them". [Matt. 28:20] What is the Gospel to be believed? "Repentance, remission of sins and eternal life through the name of Jesus Christ." These are the glad tidings; but upon what premises are they predicated? Upon the testimony of Moses and the Prophets, that in the fulness of time a purification sacrifice should be manifested, styled the Messiah, "who should be cut off, but not for himself"; [Dan. 9:26] who should be "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" [Isa. 53:3,6]; who should be "despised" [Isa. 53:3,6]; one "upon whom the iniquity of all should be laid" [Isa. 53:3,60]; who should be stricken for the transgression of Israel; who should make his grave with the wicked and the rich man in his death; whose dead body should not be permitted to see corruption; who should ascend to the right hand of the Majesty in the Heavens, and who should sit there until his enemies should be subjected, and until the time of the restoration of the Jewish state and throne of David should arrive.

These glad tidings are also predicated upon the demonstration, that Jesus of Nazareth is the personage; in other words, that Jesus is the Anointed One, the Son of the living God. This is the "foundation" of the Gospel itself, when taken abstractly from the testimony of the Prophets. Having laid this foundation, Paul preached that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose again from the dead, as had been foretold concerning him in the ancient oracles of God; where, as Jesus himself said, it is also written, that "repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem". [Luke 24:47] Does the reader, then, believe in the testimony of the Prophets and Apostles that Jesus of Nazareth is the anointed prophet, priest, king and Son of the living God; that he was crucified for sin; that his blood cleanses from all sin; that he was buried; that he rose from the dead on the third day; that he ascended to heaven, and that he will in like manner come again to raise the dead and rule the world in righteousness -- does he believe these things? Then he believes that repentance, remission of sins, and eternal life are through the name of Jesus -- he believes the Gospel.

But if thou art a believer of the Gospel, O reader, be mindful of the words of him, who will judge thee in the last day by the words of his own mouth; he does not say simply and alone, "He that believeth the Gospel shall be saved" [Mark 16:16]; no, let heaven and earth be witness, he says, "he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" [Mark 16:16], and at your peril, detract from the letter or spirit of the word. After reading this, if thou believest, askest thou what thou must do to obtain "repentance and remission of sins through the name of Jesus"? [Luke 24:47] For what purpose, thinkest thou, the Apostles commanded men to "be baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit", [Matt. 28:19] if it were not that they might obtain forgiveness of sins "through the name of Jesus"? [Luke 24:47] Your heart is purified by faith; your state is changed by baptism. Hear the words, then, of the Apostle, and understand -- "Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins". [Acts 2:38]

On the supposition that you have believed the Gospel and been baptized in the name of Jesus for remission of sins, do you, now inquire what you must do to obtain the "glory, honour, incorruptibility, and life" [Rom. 2:5-7] of the Future Age? The inquiry is appropriate and well timed; for rest assured that you may have believed the gospel, and have most scripturally obeyed it, but unless you hold fast your begun confidence unshaken to the end; unless you persevere in well doing, you had better never have known the truth. "Save yourselves", says Jesus, "by your perseverance"; to which Paul, by whose gospel you will be judged, adds, "God will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing, seek for glory, and honour, and incorruptibility; eternal life". [Rom. 2:5-7] Can you continue in well doing unless you begin to do well? Can you "seek for" a thing, which you pretend to know you already possess? No. "God only hath immortality" [1 Tim. 6:16] -- with Him is "the fountain of life" [Psa. 36:9]; and all the intelligences of His boundless dominion who may have this as a quality of their being, have derived it from Him as a recompence for their faithful obedience in a previous state. Are you not ambitious of the glory, honour, and tranquil dignity of these celestials? Would you not be ravished with delight in the possession of an angelic nature, an undefiled and incorruptible inheritance, and an eternal relation to all worlds? Strive then, that you may be "accounted worthy to attain to that Age" through a resurrection from among the dead", when you shall die no more and "be equal to the angels of God (Luke 20:35,36).

In conclusion: "The wise shall inherit glory, but shame shall be the promotion of fools". [Prov. 3:35] Reader, be wise; for "wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom" [Prov.4:7]; seeing that he is happy who findeth it. Dost thou inquire what there is extant through which you may become wise? Hear the Apostle, what saith he? "The Holy Scriptures are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" [2 Tim. 3:15]; and these writings teach that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" [Prov. 9:10]. Dost thou fear Him with that religious veneration which knows no torment? Dost thou fear, or venerate Him, because thou lovest Him for His abounding goodness to the children of men? Then you possess the element of that wisdom, which, though foolishness with men, is "more precious than rubies" [Prov. 3:15-18] in the sight of God; and incomparably more valuable than all the things you can possibly desire. "Length of days is in her right hand, and on her left hand riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her; and happy is every one that retaineth her." [Prov. 3:15-18] Be wise, then, I repeat, if you would "shine as the brightness of the firmament" [Dan. 12:3] in the Future Age; apply your heart unto wisdom, for, in this, "the time of the End," [Dan. 11:35,40;12:4,9] "the wise shall understand" [Dan. 12:10] "the things of the Spirit of God".