But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said,…
I. THE NATURE OF THE GOSPEL, AS HERE INTIMATED. "All the words of this life." It is the design of the gospel to restore man to a certain life. With regard to its matter, the gospel is styled the word of truth; with regard to its end, the word of life. The apostles embraced Jesus Christ as "having the words of eternal life." There is a life, lost by the fall to man, restored by the gospel. Christians experience a great transition, no less than from death to life. Jesus Christ came to give life, and to give it more abundantly; the gospel being a fuller ministration of the blessings related to spiritual and eternal life than the Old Testament. This life consists in the effects of the gospel on the spirits of men. Their state is essentially changed by the introduction of this life: "all things become new." God, who was the object of aversion, becomes the object of love; God, who was disregarded, becomes the chief source of happiness; His favour, which was left out of sight, becomes the great prize and end of our being; we press after this beyond all beside.
II. SOME DISTINGUISHING PROPERTIES OF THIS LIFE. None can form an adequate conception of it but those who experience it. This is the case with every kind of life; you could not judge of the life you live, unless you had experienced its functions, its pleasures and its pains. Similarly, the natural man cannot know the things of the spiritual; they must be spiritually discerned. This is —
1. A supernatural and spiritual life. It is not produced by any natural causes or means; none can impart it to another, none can produce it in himself. God must give it; it is called a "new creation," "born of the Spirit — born of God." It is a life quite distinct from every other kind of life; there is vegetable life, distinct from sentient or animal life; and, above this, there is the life of reason, which reaches to the past and the future by reflection and anticipation, and diffuses existence over interminable space; but as far superior to this, as this is to the life of mere sensation, is the life of spirituality.
2. A most elevated life. It brings us into an alliance with the Father and the Spirit by Jesus Christ. He who has this life places his interest in heaven. He would not exchange the sufferings of this life for all that riches could purchase, all that pleasure could offer, all the glory of time; for he feels himself called to the station of those who are "kings and priests to God"; he is enabled to reign over his fleshly appetites and desires, and to sit down with Jesus Christ in heavenly places. Never shall we know what real dignity is till we experience this life. This is the life that Jesus Christ lived.
3. A holy life. It partakes the nature of its Author, the Holy Spirit; it is given for the very purpose of recovering man from sin to holiness; the necessity that existed for Christ's interposition springs entirely out of this design. It is a life which creates pure desires; wars against everything base and evil; makes men strive against sin even unto death.
4. A progressive life. All life is such, vegetable, human, and Divine. The views of a Christian become clearer, his faith strengthens, his consolations improve, and, if he has not so much fervour as at first, his increasing stability amply compensates for the decrease. The saints are described as rich and flourishing in old age. Grace is represented as at first a blade, then an ear, then the full corn; as a little leaven leavening the lump. The Christian pilgrim, forgetful of things behind, presses on to things before; he is never satisfied until he is with God; his path is like the light shining more and more to the perfect day.
5. An eternal life. "I give My sheep eternal life." As this life commences with the eternal purpose and Spirit of God, so it is destined to flourish with God for ever and ever. The life of believers is the same, in its essential spirituality, with the life of those who live in heaven; they have the same pleasures, the same devotion; they feed on the same bread, taste the same salvation, sing the same new song.Conclusion:
1. He that has experienced this life has a knowledge of its value that surpasses all that description, even the description given in the Word of God itself, can impart to others. He has had realising foretastes of unutterable, unchangeable, interminable glory and felicity; he seems almost to have entered within the veil.
2. But without this life, heaven itself, as it is the exhibition of God, must prove a most unsuitable element. There must be a new heart, new tastes, a new life in the soul. They that have not this grand specific, must die in their sins.
Parallel VersesKJV: But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said,