"We do not deny," say the doubters of the Gospel, "that so long as a believer has Christ, he has life, or eternal life; but if he sin, he no longer has Christ; and, therefore, no longer has eternal life." This is, perhaps, the most seducing doctrine that Satan can bring against the real child of God. By this wile of the enemy, numbers of God's dear children are hindered from all enjoyment of peace with God.
Let not my reader, however, suppose that a mere profession, covering over a wilful course of sin and wickedness, is what is defended in this paper. No; there are thousands of unconverted professors hastening thus to destruction, to whom that passage applies, "He that committeth sin is of the devil." (1 John 3:8.) Yes, be not deceived; if the Holy Ghost has not brought you, as a lost sinner, to receive Jesus as your Saviour — your Saviour from the guilt and condemnation of sin, by His death on the cross, and your living Saviour to deliver you from the present power of sin — no matter what profession you make, no matter what you have; if you have not Christ, you have not life. "He that hath the Son, hath life; he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life." (1 John 5:12.) Indeed, this first Epistle of John was written to meet these two very deadly errors, so prevalent in our day; on the one hand, that it is enough to take the name of Christ, and attach it to an unconverted, unholy life; and, on the other hand, if a true child of God should be overcome and sin, he no longer has Christ, and, therefore, no longer has eternal life. Now, the true child of God, one of whom this verse speaks — "I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you, for his name's sake" (1 John 2:12), yes, one who is born of God, has the very nature of Christ, and this new, divine nature cannot sin; as it is written, "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." Yes, though every child of God has this new, divine nature, in which he stands before God, and which shall endure, in unspotted holiness, for ever and ever; which cannot be killed, nay, which cannot be touched, because "as he is, so are we, in this world." Yea, though no language can express the perfect, blameless standing of every new-creation believer in Christ, yet every child of God must, at once, admit, that we have, whilst here below, still to wage fierce battle with our old nature, corrupt with all its lusts: nay, further, that "if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (Chap. 1:8.) Yes, the beloved disciple, John, puts himself with us, in that little word, "we." If you, my reader, are a child of God, can you not say, that this very sin itself, in your old nature, is the greatest trouble you have? "If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." Can you say, you have never sinned since your conversion? Impossible; nay, sin, before your conversion, appears nothing compared with sin against one who has so loved you.
And now, says the wily enemy (spoken of 2 Cor. 11:14) to the true little children of God, "If any man sin, he no longer has Christ; and, therefore, no longer has eternal life." Dear fellow-tempted believer, if this were true, what would become of thee and me? If we had no Christ, when we need Him most, oh, where would be the use of His living priesthood on high? But, blessed be the God of all grace, we can meet the adversary with, "it is written." "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is a propitiation for our sins," &c. I do not see how it could be plainer. Satan, through men, says to the children of God, If any man sin, he no longer has Christ. The word of God says, carefully limiting this to the children of God, that though this is written that we may not sin — and surely it is the inmost desire of every true child of God not to sin — yet, if any man sin, showing that every child of God is liable to fall, in the hour of temptation, that if he should sin we have then Christ, in a very special way. And now mark, it does not say, if he repent, or if he weep bitterly — no, it is, if he sin. I say, above all things, is not this just where the weak, failing believer needs Christ — if he sin. When he sees, in that look of unchanged love, such as Jesus gave to Peter, that he still, though so utterly unworthy, has Christ, and, therefore, still has eternal life, he will repent, and he will be sorry. But lest this should be put as a merit, it is plain out, "if any man sin." Now, at such a sad moment, what is Christ to him? An advocate. And what is an advocate? It is one who stands up, in open court, to plead and maintain the cause of other.
And is it true, that, even when the true Christian sins, that he not only still has Christ, but that Christ stand up to plead and maintain his cause? Yes, it is written so. "Oh!" says the believer, "on whatever ground can Christ maintain my cause, in the high court of heaven? Whatever can He plead, when I sin?" He pleads His own prevailing blood. He is the righteous One. And He is the propitiation for our sins. And, mark, whom he pleads with: it does not say, with His Father; no with the Father. Even when we sin, still he owns us brethren. It is my Father, and your Father, the Father. Oh, what a secure resting-place for the weary heart is this endearing name, the Father! He does chasten us, as sons, but is ever the Father. How perfect this living work of Christ! Oh, blessed, loving, watchful shepherd! oh, thou all-prevailing priest and advocate! my only security is thy faithfulness to me, not my faithfulness to thee.
Fellow-believers, let us walk in the light, as He is in the light. With such an advocate, let us fully confess our sins "for he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." Everlasting is the efficacy of that precious sacrifice for our sins. Everlasting is the life we have in Him. Everlasting is His love to us. He cannot break his promise; "and this is the promise that he hath promised us, eternal life." God will not alter His own record, "and this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son."
It is not because we do this or that, but "because he liveth, we shall live also."
Before one of Christ's sheep can perish, one must be found more mighty than God. "For," says Jesus, "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and none is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand." (John 10:28.) Oh! my fellow-Christian, reject not these precious words of life. Thou surely needest them, or they would not be given thee. Say not, if this be true, then, I may sin as I like. Nay, no true believer can say so. He cannot like sin. Sin cannot be the believer's object. It was so with Judas; he sought opportunity to betray Christ. Not so with Peter, yet he fell. Oh, beware! Watch and pray, lest thou enter into temptation. Still, child of God, for thy comfort, remember — "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not; and, if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins."