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Sermons on Important Subjects
By J. M. Pendleton
Death the Wages of Sin - Eternal Life the Gift of God.
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. - Romans vi:23.
Men in the performance of physical, mental, and moral labor, usually have reference to the result of such labor. We are so constituted that the prospect of remuneration for our toils is one of the most powerful motives to action. It is this that animates the farmer, the mechanic, the lawyer, the physician; and Christians themselves are divinely permitted to have respect to the recompense of reward. It may be remarked, also, that there is manifest justice in the fact that the nature of rewards depends on the nature of the service rendered, and that rewards are apportioned to the amount of labor performed.
The text divides itself into two parts, and affirms two propositions.
I. Death is the Wages of Sin.
It is elsewhere said that sin has reigned unto death. The meaning is, that death is the result of sin; and though, in the text, eternal death is
specially referred to, yet it is true that death, in its threefold sense, results from sin. Let us see:
Natural death is the consequence of sin. Sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. Sin made an entrance way - opened the door, and death followed. "In Adam all die;" the old, the young, the rich, the poor, the honorable, and the despised.
Spiritual death is the result of sin. It consists in an interruption, a breaking up of fellowship between God and the soul. What but sin could do this? Fallen angels and unregenerate men are subjects of this death. Nothing in the universe but sin could have sundered the bond of union between them and their Creator. "Dead in trespasses and sins," is the awful language winch the Scriptures apply to the impenitent and the unbelieving.
Eternal death is the effect of sin. This the text asserts. The wages of sin is death. The antithesis must be preserved. Death is here contrasted with life, and as the life is eternal, the death must be also. But what is eternal death? It is an interminable protraction of death spiritual. It is a stream flowing from the bitter fountain of sin, and rolling its blighting current everlastingly along. It is the expulsion of hope from the immortal spirit, and the substitution of despair in its stead. It is the worm that dies not, and the fire which is never quenched. It consists in an
eternal deprivation of heaven, and in an eternal endurance of the misery of hell. But I can not describe eternal death. It is a phrase of inexhaustible meaning. Eternity alone can develop its terrible signification. This death is the wages of sin. It is the reward the impenitent receive for living in sin. They serve sin, and wages due for the service are paid them. They earn wages and receive them. They sow to the flesh, and reap a dreadful harvest. One of the bitterest reflections indulged by lost spirits in hell is, that they have ruined themselves. Apostate angels feel this. The ungodly who have gone from this world to perdition know, to their unutterable sorrow, that their sins have caused the curse of God to fall with all its crushing weight on their guilty souls. As the thunders of Divine wrath roll in tremendous fury, they utter a language which every lost sinner well understands. That language is, "Thou hast destroyed thyself." Again, every sinner will receive justice at the hands of God - will be dealt with as he deserves. There will be no departure from the principles of justice, even in hell. No lost sinner will ever feel a pang which he does not deserve to feel. The soul will never be arbitrarily excruciated with agony. No groan will be capriciously wrung from the bosom - no tear causelessly drawn from the eye. The fires of perdition will glorify the perfect justice of God. No more wages will be paid than have been earned. Justice will be done, and the sinner will feel that justice has him
in custody. What anguish will this fact create! Could the ruined sinner persuade himself that his damnation is his misfortune, and not hia fault - that he is unjustly dealt with - how would his miseries be alleviated! how would his anguish be mitigated! But there will be no such alleviation. The sorrows of hell are unmitigated sorrows. The lost soul will feel that it suffers ita deserts, no more, no less.
The wages of sin will be in proportion to the sin committed. Some will be beaten with few, some with many stripes. An established principle of the divine government is, that "where much is given much will be required, and where little is given little will be required." Those who have sinned without the law shall also perish without the law; and those who have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; while those who have rejected the gospel will incur a more aggravated condemnation. Jesus Christ, recognizing the principle to which I have referred, said, "Woe to thee Chorazin! woe to thee Bethsaida, for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shall be thrust down to hell; for if the mighty works which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, that it shall
be more tolerable for the laud of Sodom in the day of judgment than for thee."
How fearful will be the guilt and condemnation of those who disobey the gospel of Jesus Christ? They, in making their way to hell, pass by Calvary, and justly deserve the fiercest wrath of Heaven. Truly the wages of such sin as they commit in rejecting Christ will comprehend everything that is terrible in eternal death.
The text affirms:
II. Eternal Life is the Gift of God Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The term wages and the the term gift are placed in contrast. Men go to hell because they deserve to go thither; but they do not go to heaven for this reason. They can earn eternal death, but they can not earn eternal life. They can procure for themselves ruin; but they can not procure salvation. Man is powerful to demolish, but not to build up. He can destroy, but he can not restore. "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, but in me is thy help." Eternal life is the gift of God. The rich boon is gratuitously conferred. It could be conferred in no other way, because man can not merit it. If he receives it at all, it must be as a gift. Eternal life is the great blessing promised in the gospel. "This," says John "is the promise he hath promised us, even eternal life." To describe eternal life is a glorious impossibility. Who, with finite powers, can define a life replete with felicity and endless
in duration? Eternal life! What a phrase! How sublime! How unfathomable its mighty import! This life is the gift of God. Man does not merit it. The life, however, is not bestowed without regard to merit. There is infinite merit in the obedience and death of him through whom it is conferred. It is given through our Lord Jesus Christ. It comes freely to those who receive it, but it cost the Savior much. While they are justified freely by the grace of God, it is through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Paul informs us also in another place that as sin has reigned unto death, even so grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. Hence we see the glory of the scheme of ^redemption. We had seen justice reigning in the distribution of the wages of sin, but here we see grace reigning through righteousness or justice unto eternal life.
While the penalty of eternal death is righteously executed on the lost, the gift of eternal life is righteously bestowed on the saved. Do you ask, How is this? There is one phrase in the text which explains it through Jesus Christ our Lord. He, by his atoning sacrifice, magnified the law and made it honorable. He vindicated the rights of the divine government; for he was set forth as a propitiation that God might be just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. As God spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, he with him also freely gives us all things. He gives all things with Christ -
in connection with Christ - in consideration jf the mediatorial work of Christ. The bestowrnsnt of eternal life on believers was the grand object which God had in view in the gift of his Son. God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish but have everlasting life. And Jesus, by the work of mediation, having procured the right to confer eternal life, says, "Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life: he that drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst again; but it shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life." Speaking of his followers, he says, "And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish."
1. From this subject we may learn the evil of sin. What awful results flow from it! Its consequences are eternal, exhibited in the miseries of everlasting death.
2. The grace is infinitely rich which bestows eternal life on worms of the dust. Strange that those who deserve hell shall stand before the throne in heaven. This will ever be to the glory of boundless, free, sovereign, Omnipotent grace.
[From J. M. Pendleton, Short Sermons on Important Subjects, 1859. This book is from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Library, Wake Forest, NC via ILL through Boone County Public Library, Burlington, KY. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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