Romans 6:23
Contrast heightens effect, as artists by a dark background throw the foreground into brighter relief. So the apostle places two careers in close proximity. He will not allow that it makes little difference which path men tread, in which condition they are found, or what qualifications they seek.

I. A MOMENTOUS BLESSING. "Eternal life." All life is wonderful Easy is it to destroy the ephemeral life of a moth, but to restore it is beyond human skill. The disciples were assured of eternal life, yet they died; consequently the life they received was not to be measured in ordinary scales, nor to be probed by a material dissecting knife. Eternal life is a different kind of life from mere transitory existence; it passes unharmed through the crucible of animal death, for spiritual powers are untouched by earthly decay and corruption. Eternal life means the quickening of the moral nature, its resuscitation from the sleep of trespasses and sins. And as ordinary life in its fulness involves freedom from pain and sickness, and a vigorous activity, so spiritual life, when fully realized, implies peace of mind and the power to do right. They are feeble Christians who do not know the joyous energy of children "with quicksilver in their veins," delighting to exercise their limbs and thus to develop their growing faculties.

II. THIS BLESSING RECEIVED AS A GIFT. By a sinful course of action we merit death, as a soldier by his service earns his rations and his pay. We disobey the Law, and bring the sentence upon ourselves. But we have no power available to procure for ourselves acquittal and favour. Much as the youth joys to see his first-earned sovereign glittering in his palm, he could take no delight in the stripes which his disobedience brings upon him. Human weakness has been provided for in God's plan of salvation. He who breathed natural life into man comes again graciously to inspire his creatures with spiritual life. God knows the needs of his creatures, and the gift is pre-eminently suitable. The Romans loved the games of the amphitheatre; but when famine threatened the city, the curses were loud and deep against Nero because the Alexandrian ships expected with corn arrived instead with sand for the arena. And men like a beautiful present; let us not, therefore, hang back from accepting the royal bounty so adapted to our wants. Treat the gilt with care, prize and use the treasure.

III. THE BEARER OF THE GIFT. It comes "through Jesus Christ our Lord." He is the Channel through which new life streams into us, the envelope containing the promise of life. Life in the abstract we cannot comprehend; it is ever connected with some person or organism. "In him was life; .... Your life is hid with Christ in God." Life has been scientifically declared to consist in the harmonizing of our external and internal conditions. The chief condition on our part is sinfulness, on God's part righteousness; and it is Christ who reconciles us unto God, putting away sin by the cross, and investing us with the righteousness of the Holy One. In his words, example, and offices we find all help and blessedness. As the navigator passing through the Straits of Magellan into the Pacific connected its tranquility with the southern cross gleaming in the sky above, so can we rejoice in the peace which Christ brings. It is not a creed we are invited to accept, but a living Person, with whom we may hold converse, and be instructed in perplexity and cheered when despondent. We have this earthly life as the period and opportunity of "laying hold on eternal life." - S.R.A.

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life.
I. THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH. "Wages" here means "the rations" supplied as pay to a soldier. If sin is your commander, you will have "death" to eat as your pay. "Sin" is treated as a person, even as "God" is, and the more we treat it as a living enemy, the more we are likely to fight against it manfully. "Death" may be defined as separation. Spiritual death is a present separation from God. Physical death is a separation of body and soul, and the separation of both from this world. Eternal death is final, total separation of body and soul from heaven, and from God forever. Now we are prepared to unravel the sentence.

1. God treats "sin" as a master. "Whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin," and "his servants ye are to whom ye obey." Now sin is any violation of God's will which a man does with his eyes open. We can make no scale of sin. The only measure of the sin is the light which it darkens, and the grace which it resists. Bad temper at home — pride and unkindness — want of truth — self-indulgence and sloth — lust and uncleanness — meanness — "covetousness, which is idolatry" — a cherished scepticism — and all the negatives — no prayer, no love to God, no usefulness — all, and many else, are equally "sin."

2. Every "sin" has its "wage"; and the devil is the paymaster.(1) He promises, indeed, very different "wages" from what he gives. He promises the gay, and the affectionate, and the satisfying. But God has drawn up the compact, and He has shown it to you, "The wages of sin is death."(2) Now the expression implies that there is a deliberate engagement — a title. You have a right to your "wages." A servant can claim his "wages," and the master must give them: for whosoever "sins" is doing his employer's work.(3) Let me tell you what it is. First, to destroy your own soul; then to spread a contagion, and hurt others' souls, so to increase your master's kingdom, and give him another and another victim! Is that all? No. To insult God — to grieve the Holy Ghost — to rob Christ of a jewel — that is the work which everyone who "sins" is doing for his employer.(4) And often it is very hard work. How hard a man of the world is working; and how little he knows of the employer he is working for. And shall not the wages be a proportionate wages? — the more work, the more pay.(5) The "wages" generally given are to be paid soon; not all at once, they accumulate. Happy are you if you at once recognise it as your "wages," and determine that you will earn no more of them! Happy if you resolve, "I will quit the service!" For, if not, the "wages" will go on being paid. Little by little, the separation from the good and the pure will widen. The Bible will be put further and further aside. Gulfs will come in between you and God. And out at that distance, the soul will have got very cold; heavenly things will wither! But there is a great deal unpaid yet. Perhaps there will come a separation unmitigated by any real hope of a reunion: to go out — where? To a land of darkness! No voice in the valley! no arm in the crossing! And, then, separation forever! Separation from that father of yours, that mother, that husband, that wife, that child, that saint, that church, that happy fellowship, that God!

II. "THE GIFT OF GOD IS ETERNAL LIFE." Here, too, is service — real, severe, lifelong. And "wages"? Yes; certain wages — wages in a most just degree. But it would not be right to call them so. "Wages" do not precede the work. But here the "wages" do precede the work. You do not work to get your "wages," but you work because you have them. But they are infinitely disproportioned to the work; rather, all the work is so bad, that it wants to be forgiven, and a part of the wages is that God does forgive. But were it "wages," and deserved, it would not be half so happy as now — to be an unearned thing — a gift of the love of God! What would heaven be, were it not a gift? Nevertheless, it is "wages." God is just to give it, because deserved by "Jesus Christ our Lord."

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

I. THE FIRST FACT. St. Paul does not say, "The punishment of sin is death," however true that may be. He uses the word "wages." These we earn —

1. When we dishonour our bodies.(1) We do this when we forget them, or withhold from them that on which their health, and vigour, and usefulness depend. We see this on a large scale when we face the terrible effects of preventable disease. Now, is it not a sin to allow bad air, water, drainage, filth, and overcrowding to court these fiends, and bid them come and do their work among us? We say pestilence is the judgment of God, and so it is; but it is His judgment on wilful neglect, blindness, selfishness, and wrong.(2) When you give way to drunkenness, destroying thereby the high faculties of your manhood; when you yield to lust, surrendering yourselves to "the strange woman"; when you throw the reins on the neck of pleasure, and chase it wherever it may lead you; when in this way you lay deep and sure the seeds of premature decay, are you not learning by the bitterest experiences that "the wages of sin is death"? Trifle not with the body. Forget not it was made by God's hand, and redeemed by Christ's blood. Dishonour not that which should be the temple of the Holy Ghost. The sins of the body will bring their awful retribution. It will come as a curse upon yourselves, and, perhaps, upon your children.

2. When we stifle the voice of conscience within us.(1) Every time you do what you know to be wrong, every time you surrender yourselves to a thought which you know to be evil, you are earning the wages of sin which are death — death to all peace of mind, to all noble feeling, to all nobility of character, to all solid success in life. You go off with companions and give way to drink. Well, what of the morning? You feel that you have lost caste at home, among the friends whose respect you value, and you hate and loathe yourself.(2) And so it is whenever a duty is sacrificed to a selfish pleasure, whenever there is the least departure from strict integrity, for the consequence must be uneasiness of mind, a load upon the heart which cannot be laughed off or drunk away; for God has ordered it. Let me beg you not to stifle the voice of conscience. It will surely, sooner or later, be heard. If you do not heed its gentle remonstrances, it will thunder condemnation. Say not that you make good resolutions, but that you are too feeble to keep them. Ask God, by His Spirit, to make you a man, and not suffer you to be a miserable weakling. Trust to yourselves, and you are no match for the devil.

3. When we reject the offers of the gospel (Proverbs 1:24, etc.). There is no sin so awful in its character and so terrible in its results as unbelief. That sin some of you are committing every day, every hour; and its wages are death — death to that peace which a man can only know when he has been cleansed by the blood of Christ; death to that hope of a happy hereafter which a firm trust in his Saviour alone can bring to him, and the death which never dies. What I have as the consequence of my sin, either here or hereafter, I have earned, and must have. I may, by God's grace, give up my sin, but the wages of sin are shown in my shattered health, and, it may be, by the sickliness of my children. And if the death of the body sees me unsaved, how my misery will be deepened when I am constrained to say, "I have earned damnation."

II. THE SECOND FACT. Poor, lost, unworthy sinners may have eternal life in Christ, and that as a gift from God, and not as something which is to be had in another world, but something which may be had in this. See you not what a grand, brave, and noble thing it is to live in this world knowing that we belong to God, that our bodies are His, our minds His, our souls His, and that, by His grace, we are using them to His glory? Then choose ye this day whom ye will serve.

(J. Burbidge.)

? — The more important any matter is, the more need there is that we view it in a right light. A human face rich with expression, or a monument of architecture rich with grandeur, or a bit of landscape rich with beauty, cannot have all that is in them set forth in one picture. Even a picture cannot set forth the Christian life: it must be experienced to be known.

I. THE WAGES SYSTEM OF HUMAN EXISTENCE. In all departments work is a marketable article, of which wages is the price. The one balances the other. Wages, as distinguished from other modes of income, is something that stands due though the account is seldom presented: they are paid directly to the man after a period of work is finished. St. Paul says that sin is an employer of labour. It pays wages, is bound by strong law to do so. True it does not pay in full as work is done, but will in the end clear up the debt. This is one system under which men live. Not always is this a matter of definite purpose, but it is of prevailing disposition. Their trust in this system is not always strong — are they likely after all to earn much that is desirable? But things cannot drive them hard under a God who is good. Unhappily they are not apprehending what their decision means — that it is wages and the paymaster sin. Let us remove any ambiguity about the terms of this contract: the wages of sin is death. These wages are openly paid. The installments he pays hint the kind of final recompense to be paid in the end: he now pays in disorders, loss, calamity, disease, discontent, hatred, uneasy forebodings. He cannot hide the character of these payments. God has revealed this as the recompense. This system goes on unchecked because sin is what it is; it rests upon the nature of things, God is the one source of life; if He is forsaken death must be the result. Am I working for so sad a result?

II. THE FREE GIFT SYSTEM OF HUMAN EXISTENCE. We now pass into a different climate of things. It is as if we had been walking along the northern side of a mountain in the springtime, within the chill shadow of its peaks, where the lingering wind of winter is blowing across the slushy snow, the fields bare — and now had travelled round the mountains into the southerly sunshine. We have removed from the presence of a rigorous employer to that of a most munificent friend; from hard earned wages to generous gift; life instead of death. It seems very evident that the gift system of living is brighter than the wages system of living. There must be some powerful prejudice to make men choose the latter. In other matters between God and men in the world the gift system is actually at work and men do not quarrel with it. Providence not less than grace is pervaded by this system. What do we render for the sunlight; are weal of body or mind, safety, earned? A pure wages system in the world would mean death. Sin pays like sin; God gives like God. He will give life, real, unbounded, happy. It is too great to be earned. And this is a gift from Him whom we have greatly wronged. In Christ the wages system has been broken down. Christ has earned the gift for us.

(J. A. Kerr Bath, M. A.)


1. Sin a service.

(1)Not an independence, as the world thinks.

(2)A service to which wages are attached; each sin has its consequence.

2. These wages are "death," and are invariably paid.


(1)To those who are not earning it, for they are in the service of another.

(2)To those who do not want to earn it, for they have yielded themselves to another service.

(3)To those who cannot earn it, for they cannot atone for one sin, and their very efforts to do so impair God's one condition (Ephesians 2:8, 9).

(4)Which all may have for the taking (Isaiah 55:1; Revelation 22:17).

2. That gift is eternal.(1) Christ Himself. Life

(a)From Christ, depending solely on His substitution.

(b)In Christ, ours only by appropriation.

(c)A part of Christ, continued to us only by indwelling.(2) Eternal life.

(a)Begun when Christ began.

(b)Begun to us when we grasped it.

(c)Continuing till — eternity.

(J. H. Rogers, M. A.)


1. Death is the natural result of all sin. When man acts according to God's order he lives; but when he breaks his Maker's laws he does that which causes death.(1) The further a man goes in iniquity, the more dead he becomes to holiness: he loses power to appreciate the beauties of virtue, or to be disgusted with the abominations of vice. You can sin yourself into an utter deadness of conscience, and that is the first wage of your sin.(2) Death is the separation of the soul from God. Can two walk together except they be agreed? Man may continue to believe in the existence of God, but for all practical purposes God to him is really non-existent.(3) As there is through sin a death to God, so is there a death to all spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14).(4) Inasmuch as in holy things dwells our highest happiness, the sinner becomes an unhappy being; at first by deprivation of the joy which spiritual life brings with it, and afterwards by suffering the misery of spiritual death (Romans 2:9).

2. The killing power of some sins is manifest to all observers.(1) See how by many diseases and deliriums the drunkard destroys himself; he has only to drink hard enough, and his grave will be digged. The horrors which attend upon the filthy lusts of the flesh I will not dare to mention; but many a body rotting above ground shall be my silent witness.(2) We have all known that sins of the flesh kill the flesh; and therefore we may infer that sins of the mind kill the mind. Death in any part of our manhood breeds death to the whole.

3. This tendency is in every case the same. Even the Christian cannot fall into sin without its being poison to him. If you sin it destroys your joy, your power in prayer, your confidence towards God. If you have spent evenings in frivolity with worldlings, you have felt the deadening influence of their society.

4. Death is sin's due reward, and it must be paid. A master employs a man, and it is due to that man that he should receive his wages. Now, if sin did not entail death and misery, it would be an injustice. It is necessary for the very standing of the universe that sin should be punished. They that sow must reap. The sin which hires you must pay you.

5. This wage of sin is in part received by men now as soldiers receive their rations, day by day. "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die" — such a life is a continued dying. "She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth." The wrath of God abideth on him that believeth not on the Son of God; it is there already.

6. But then a Roman soldier did not enlist merely for his rations; his chief pay often lay in the share of the booty which he received at the end of the war. Death is the ultimate wage of sin. Sin will perpetuate itself, and so forever kill the soul to God, and goodness, and joy and hope. Being under the ever-growing power of sin, it will become more and more a hopeless thing that you should escape from death which thus settles down upon you.

7. The misery of the misery of sin is that it is earned. If men in the world to come could say, "This misery has come upon us arbitrarily, quite apart from its just results," then they would derive some comfort. But when they will be obliged to own that it was their own choice in choosing sin, this will scourge them indeed. Their sin is their bell.

8. It will be the folly of follies to go on working for such a wage. Hitherto they that have worked for sin have found no profit in it (ver. 21). Why, then, will you go further in sin?

9. It ought to be the grief of griefs to each of us that we have sinned. Oh, misery, to have wrought so long in a service which brings such terrible wages!

10. It must certainly be a miracle of miracles if any sinner here does not remain forever beneath the power of sin. Sin has this mischief about it, that it strikes a man with spiritual paralysis, and how can such a palsied one ward off a further blow? It makes the man dead; and to what purpose do we appeal to him that is dead? What a miracle, then, when the Divine life comes streaming down into the dead heart I What a blessedness when God interposes and finds a way by which the wage most justly due shall not be paid!


1. Eternal life is imparted by grace through faith.(1) The dead cannot earn life. Both good works and good feelings are the fruit of the heavenly life which enters the heart, and make us conscious of its entrance by working in us repentance and faith in Christ.(2) Since we received eternal life we have gone on to grow. Whence has this growth come? Is it not still a free gift?(3) Yes, and when we get to heaven, and the eternal life shall there be developed as a bud opens into a full-blown rose; then we shall confess that our life was all the free gift of God in Christ.

2. Observe what a wonderful gift this is, "the gift of God."(1) It is called "life" par excellence, emphatically "life," true life, real life, essential life. This does not mean mere existence, but the existence of man as he ought to exist — in union with God, and consequently in holiness, health, and happiness. Man, as God intended him to be, is man enjoying life; man, as sin makes him, is man abiding in death.(2) Moreover, we have life eternal, too, never ending.

3. It is life in Jesus. We are in everlasting union with the blessed person of the Son of God, and therefore we live.Conclusion:

1. Let us come and receive this Divine life as a gift in Christ Jesus. If any of you have been working for it, end the foolish labour. Believe and live. Receive it as freely as your lungs take in the air you breathe.

2. If we have accepted it let us abide in it. Let us never be tempted to try the law of merit.

3. If we are now abiding in it, then let us live to its glory. Let us show by our gratitude how greatly we prize this gift.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Word of God abounds with striking contrasts, which picture the opposite character and portion of the two great classes into which all mankind are divided before God. Poverty and riches, slavery and freedom, darkness and light; but no contrast is so forcible as that between death and life.


1. Its origin. It is the wages of sin. The apostle sets before us what fallen man loves, what he dreads, and the union between the two. Fallen man loves sin and dreads death. Yet the death he dreads is the inevitable consequence of the sin he loves. Sin is discovered under two distinct aspects. It is —(1) Whatever is not in accordance with the character of God. All deviations from truth and holiness.(2) Whatever is not in accordance with the law of God. All that goes beyond, and all that falls short of this Divine standard, is sin.(3) Now death is not, therefore, what men sometimes call it, the debt of nature. It is the righteous recompense by which God shows His displeasure against sin. He has set such a mark upon it as compels every individual to feel and show in his own person the guiltiness of this accursed thing.

2. Its nature. Death is separation. We call it dissolution.(1) Bodily death is the separation of the soul from the body.(2) Spiritual death is the separation of the soul from God, in whose favour is life.(3) Eternal death is the perpetual separation of both body and soul from God's presence and favour. This is called in Scripture "the second death" (Revelation 20:14).


1. How is it procured?(1) At the first, life was the gift of God. It was solely of His goodness, and for His glory. And, as at the first creation, so in the new. Life is not the wages of our obedience. It was forfeited by sin; it can never be recovered on the ground of our own merit. Death is rendered to us in justice. Life can only be restored to us in grace. The very God whose honour we have outraged by sin, comes forward to "seek and save the lost."(2) It is a free gift so far as we are concerned, but not so far as Christ was concerned. Before He could obtain life for us, He must taste death for every man (Hebrews 2:9).(3) Christ is also the fountain that contains this life. It is treasured up in Him for all who will come to Him for it (1 John 5:12; John 10:14).

2. In what does it consist? It is in all respects the opposite to the death. It is the antidote to spiritual death, for it brings us into union with God. It is the destruction of bodily death; for it secures to the glorified body and soul an everlasting home in God's presence, where is fulness of joy and pleasure for evermore. "

(W. Conway, M. A.)


1. Who are the servants who receive the pay?(1) All by nature. We are slaves born upon the estate of sin.(2) But we are servants also by voluntary choice.(3) The servants of Satan are many. His workshop is the world. Go where you please you find his liveried servants. Unlike other employers he never diminishes the number of his hands, for if any are by grace persuaded to leave his service it goes much against his grain. It matters not to him whether trade be slack or otherwise, he can always find employment for all.(4) They belong to all ages. Children not in their teens, and lads not out of them, are every day through the medium of our police courts astonishing even a sinful world with their proficiency in guilt; and side by side with them stands the criminal whose locks have grown white in the service of the same relentless master.(5) They belong to all grades of society. In the sight of God there is not much to choose between Bethnal Green and Belgravia, Westbourne and Whitechapel. Kings, princes, statesmen, and paupers are all equally his servants.

2. The work they have to perform. To be Satan's servant is no sinecure.(1) To one he says, "Get rich": and at the word of command the poor wretch at once begins to toil, and laborious toil it is. The miser is a lump of incarnate misery.(2) To another he gives an order summed up in the word drink, and there is no slavedom more killing both to body and soul than slavedom to the drink. He who enters a drunkard's grave has worked hard for the result.(3) He sets another to obtain pleasure. Men will even in the most lawful pleasures do that which if required of them in an ordinary day's work would be the subject of much grumbling. Who does not know by experience that a day's pleasuring is more tiring than an equal number of hours' work? And how much more is this true with the gay man of the world. Possessed with the evil spirit, he goes hither and thither seeking rest and finding none. The quiet of the home he terms slow, so he launches into a whirlpool of dissipation, and singing "Begone, dull care." The pleasure that once enchanted him by frequent indulgence becomes insipid; something stronger, more vicious is needed to stimulate his jaded spirits. He goes from bad to worse, until at last every sinful pleasure has in its turn been tried, and in its turn grown tame. Of all the miserable sights on earth that of an aged roué is the most miserable.(4) Satan sets a fourth to act the hypocrite, and for this service he pays the highest wages, and right he should, for the work must be tremendous. How great a strain to have always to remember the part he has to act. But whatever the work may be to which the sinner is set it is work without a pause. Satan has no old pensioners permitted to end their days in peaceful idleness.

3. The wages paid them.(1) The death of the body is but the result of sin. For six thousand years men have been receiving the wages of death. But death here is placed in contrast to "eternal life," and means eternal death.(2) Sin pays some of its wages on account, it gives sometimes an instalment of hell on earth. The wretched debauchee often finds it so. Mark his haggard countenance, his trembling gait, follow him to the hospital — nay, don't — let his end remain secret; terrible are the wages he receives on account. And yet after all this is nothing. Eternity is one long pay day, and the wages paid is death.


1. The pivot word is "gift." God absolutely refuses to sell salvation. He will give to any, but barter with none.

2. The blessing specified. "Eternal life"; and this the Lord permits His children to enjoy on earth; for as part of the wages of sin is paid on account in this life, so even in this life foretastes of the gift of God are enjoyed by the saints. Peace with God, quiet trustfulness as to the future, beside a thousand other joys, are some of the clusters of the grapes of Eschol, that refresh the wearied one on his journey to the land where the vine grows. And how about the end, when the gift is received in full?

3. Forget not the channel through whom it flows; it is a gift to thee, because thy Lord paid all.

(A. G. Brown.)

Men are born to serve. The majority are materially. All are morally. Only a choice of service open to us — the service of sin, or of righteousness. We are keen on "the wages question" in matters material; much more ought we to be in matters moral. Of these two services mark —


1. The service of sin is at first promising.(1) Its demands are easy. To serve Satan, self, the world, is attractive to human nature. Like prospectuses promising 30 per cent.(2) And it begins well. At first delightful. Pays dividends at first.

2. The service of righteousness is at first unpromising.(1) Its demands are high. The opposite of those of sin. Self-control, self-denial, self-sacrifice. Service of virtue and truth. Hence it begins with sorrow, conviction of sin, penitence.(2) And no wages can be earned therein. An apparently hard service, slow progress. When done all, unprofitable servants, (R.V.) "free gift." All we get comes undeserved.


1. The service of sin ends badly.(1) It issues in death. "The wages of sin is death." "Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." Death, physical, moral, eternal. Sinner like some decoyed drudge worked to death. Yet the service has a fatal fascination for many.(2) And death deserved. These wages are earned. Had power of choice, are responsible. Will be paid in full. But sin pays them, not God. Hate it, not Him!

2. The service of righteousness ends blessedly.(1) It issues in eternal life. "Gift of God is eternal life." A service which is its own reward, which ennobles, which confers "glory, honour, immortality" upon its servants." The servant is taken into partnership, is lifted up to the throne, partakes of the King's life. It has, if not wages, an exceeding great reward, passing all possible desert.(2) Which not only consummates, but accompanies it. It is through and "in Jesus Christ our Lord," who supplies the working strength. Hence this hard service becomes easy. Hence it does not weaken and wear us out like human and sinful service, but we are renewed day by day. "In Him is life."

(S. E. Keeble.)

Escape is contrary to the laws of God and of God's universe. It is as impossible as that fire should not burn, or water run up hill. Your sins are killing you by inches; all day long they are sowing in you the seeds of disease and death. There are three parts of you — body, mind, and spirit; and every sin you commit helps to kill one of these three, and in many cases to kill all three together. The bad habits, bad passions, bad methods of thought, in which they have indulged in youth, remain more or less, and make them worse men, sillier men, less useful men, less happy men, sometimes to their lives' end; and they, if they be true Christians, know it, and repent of their early sins, and not once for all only, but all their lives long, because they feel that they have weakened and worsened themselves thereby. It stands to reason that it should be so. If a man loses his way and finds it again, he is so much the less forward on his way, surely, by all the time he has spent in getting back into the road. If a child has a violent illness it stops growing, because the life and nourishment which ought to have gone towards its growth are spent in curing the disease. And so, if a man has indulged in bad habits in his youth, he is but too likely (let him do what he will) to be a less good man for it to his life's end, because the Spirit of God, which ought to have been making him grow in grace, freely and healthily to the stature of a perfect man, to the fulness of the measure of Christ, is striving to conquer old habits and cure old diseases of character, and the man, even though he does enter into life, enters into life halt and maimed.

(Canon Kingsley.)

We have to notice three words.

I. SIN. "Sin is the transgression of the law." Its fundamental idea is deviation from the law, as a standard of excellence or as a rule of conduct. Now, the law supposes a lawgiver, and the possibility of God's law being disobeyed, i.e., that it has to do with moral agents. Well, then, we have to think of them as failing from some cause or other to do God's will, which is sin. Sin is set forth under three aspects.

1. As a principle or law (Romans 8:2).(1) As sin is the rejection of God's authority, the refusal to let Him reign over us, it follows that by it we set up our own will in opposition to His. See, then, what such autonomy involves.

(a)The basest ingratitude, for who can deny that we owe all our powers and happiness and our very being to God?

(b)An imputation upon God's character, viz., that He is unworthy to govern us, that His will is unjust, His law unkind.

(c)Rebellion against Him.

(d)Usurpation of His place; and hence idolatry and self-deification.(2) Why should any creature throw off God's authority and govern himself? It must be for some object of self-gratification incompatible with obedience to God. Now, God's law seeks the greatest good of all; and therefore, to set it at nought for the sake of personal indulgence, is to violate the principle of benevolence.(3) This selfishness may assume a great variety of forms. Many men have as many different ways of enjoying themselves, yet all may be equally selfish. Some are sensual, some are covetous, others ambitious, and not a few are fired with the intellectual passion for fame.

2. As an act or acts. The law, though in principle always one, has nevertheless many particular precepts, and is outraged by the violation of any of those precepts. There are sins of deed, of speech, of deportment, of looks, of motive, desire, imagination, thought, of negation, and omission. All these are the outgrowth of that self-will and selfishness in which sin essentially consists.

3. As state. Hence, we read of men being "born in sin," and remaining "dead in trespasses and sins." Before we commit any acts of sin, and as the source of all we do commit, we have a sinful nature — a bias to go and to do wrong. The thoroughly sinful soul may be said to live in sin always. Sin is its element and vital air. It lives without God.


1. Spiritual death. The soul is dead when destitute of holiness and happiness; of the disposition to do well, and of the power to enjoy God. It admits of degrees; the more it prevails, the more it grows, and the commission of sin inevitably paves the way for the perpetration of many more; and the final stage is reached when the conscience is seared as with a hot iron, proof against every appeal, and resolutely bent on his own eternal destruction.

2. Eternal death. Let us suppose a man, whose soul is dead through sin, removed out of this world into the next, and what shall we behold concerning him? His case is a million-fold more terrible than before. For —(1) It is confirmed unalterably forever. Though countless ages roll over his head, he that is unholy must be unholy still; he that is filthy must be filthy still.(2) Besides, he is still the subject of the law of progress; and therefore, as the ages of his immortality advance, each will leave him worse than it found him.(3) This development of evil will be incalculably accelerated and aggravated by the absence of everything enjoyed on earth, and which helped either to restrain the malignity of the disposition or to relieve the wretchedness of the feelings.(4) The positive infliction of punishment as a token of God's anger at sin.

III. WAGES. This word denotes a relation of equity between sin and death. The sinner earns death as his rightful recompense. This connection is —

1. Natural. You have only to study the human mind, its laws of association and of working, to be convinced that sin, when it is finished, must bring forth death.

2. Judicial. The wicked are turned into hell by a just and holy God; and the same reasons which send them there must avail to keep them there. They have no power to make themselves good, and being immortally evil they must be immortally shut out from heaven. Certainly God will not lay upon the wicked more of these terrible "wages" than they individually deserve. But who shall determine the full and adequate deserts of sin? Conclusion:

1. Christians should not live in sin, but utterly hate and discard it, and earnestly strive to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord. They have done with it as a state; let them have done with it as a law, and in its individual acts.

2. Here is a message of warning to the ungodly. See for what wages you are working; part are being paid now, but immense arrears are being treasured up in the future. You think you are working for pleasure, for gold, for honour, but lo! it is for death.

(T. G. Horton.)


1. Original sin. Sin bears date with our very being, and indeed we were sinners before we were born (Ephesians 2:3). There are some who deny this to be properly sin at all, because nothing can be truly sin which is not voluntary. But original corruption in every infant is voluntary, not indeed in his own person, but in Adam his representative. Pelagians, indeed, tell us that the sons of Adam came to be sinners only by imitation. But, then, what are those first inclinations which dispose us to such bad imitations?

2. Actual sin may be considered —(1) According to the subject matter of it.(a) The sin of our words (Matthew 12:37).(b) The sin of our external actions, theft, murder, uncleanness; and to prove which to be sins, no more is required but only to read over the law of God, and where the written letter of the law comes not, men are "a law to themselves."(c) The sin of our desires. Desires are sin, as it were, in its first formation. For as soon as the heart has once conceived this fatal seed, it first quickens and begins to stir in desire; so that the ground and the principal prohibition of the law is, "Thou shalt not covet." Indeed, action is only a consummation of desire; and could we imagine an outward action performable without it, it would be rather the shell and outside of a sin than properly a Sin itself.(2) According to the measure of it; and so also it is distinguished into several degrees, according to which it is either enhanced or lessened in its malignity.(a) As when a man is engaged in a sinful course by surprise and infirmity.(b) When a man pursues a course of sin against the reluctancies of an awakened conscience; when salvation waits and knocks at the door of his heart, and he both bolts it out and drives it away; when he fights with the word, and struggles with the Spirit; and, as it were, resolves to perish in spite of mercy itself, and of the means of grace (Isaiah 1:5; John 9:41).(c) When a man sins in defiance of conscience; so breaking all bonds, so trampling upon all convictions, that he becomes not only untractable, but finally incorrigible. And this is the ne plus ultra of impiety, which shuts the door of mercy and seals the decree of damnation, Now this differs from original sin thus, that that is properly the seed, this the harvest; that merits, this actually procures death. For although as soon as ever the seed be cast in there is a design to reap; yet, for the most part, God does not actually put in the sickle till continuance in sin has made the sinner ripe for destruction.


1. Death temporal. We must not take it as the separation of the soul from the body, for that is rather the consummation of death, the last blow given to the falling tree.(1) Look upon those forerunners of death — diseases; they are but some of the wages of sin paid us beforehand. And to the diseases of the body we may add the consuming cares and troubles of the mind, all made necessary by the first sin of man, and which impair the vitals as much as the most visible diseases can do.(2) To these we may subjoin the miseries which attend our condition; as the shame which makes men a scorn to others and a burden to themselves; which takes off the gloss and air of all other enjoyments, and damps the vigour and vivacity of the spirit. Also the miseries of poverty which leave the necessities and the conveniences of nature unsupplied. Now all these things are so many breaches made upon our happiness and well-being, without which life is not life, but a thin, insipid existence.

2. Death eternal, in comparison of which the other can scarce be called death, but only a transient change; easily borne, or at least quickly past.(1) It bereaves a man of all the pleasures and comforts which he enjoyed in this world. How will the drunkard, the epicure, and the wanton bear the absence of those things that alone used to please their fancy and to gratify their lust!(2) It bereaves the soul of the beatific fruition of God (Psalm 16:11).(3) It fills both body and soul with anguish (Luke 16:24).


1. Because wages presuppose service. And undoubtedly the service of sin is of all others the most laborious. It will engross all a man's industry, drink up all his time; it is a drudgery without intermission, a business without vacation. Such as are the commands of sin, such must be also the service. But the commands of sin are for their number continual, for their vehemence importunate, and for their burden tyrannical.(1) Take the voluptuous, debauched epicure. What hour of his life is vacant from the slavish injunctions of his vice? Is he not continually spending both his time and his subsistence to gratify his taste? And then, how uneasy are the consequences of his luxury! when he is to grapple with surfeit and indigestion?(2) The intemperate drinker; is not his life a continual toil? To be sitting up when others sleep, and to go to bed when others rise; to be exposed to quarrels, to have redness of eyes, a weakened body and a besotted mind?(3) The covetous, scraping usurper: it is a question whether he gathers or keeps his pelf with most anxiety.

2. Because wages do always imply a merit in the work requiring such a compensation. It is but equitable that he who sows should also reap (Galatians 6:8).(1) But to this some make the objection that since our good works cannot merit eternal life, neither can our sins merit eternal death. But to merit, it is required that the action be not due; but every good action being commanded by the law of God is thereby made due, and consequently cannot merit; whereas, a sinful action being altogether undue and not commanded, but prohibited, it becomes properly meritorious; and, according to the malignity of its nature, it merits eternal death.(2) But some further urge that a sinful action is but of a finite nature, and proceeds from a finite agent; and consequently there is no proportion between that and an eternal punishment. But we answer that the merit of sin is not to be rated either by the act or the agent; but by the proportions of its object, and the greatness of the person against whom it is done. Being committed against an infinite majesty, it rises to the height of an infinite demerit.(a) Sin is a direct stroke at God's sovereignty. We read of the kingdom of Satan in contradistinction to the kingdom of God, into which sin translates God's subjects. No wonder if God punishes sin, which is treason against the King of kings, with death; for it pots the question "Who shall reign?"(b) Sin strikes at God's very being (Psalm 14:1). Sin would step not only into God's throne, but also into His room. Conclusion: Sin plays the bait of a little, contemptible, silly pleasure or profit; but it hides that fatal hook by which that great catcher of souls shall drag them down to his eternal execution. "Fools make a mock at sin." Fools they are indeed for doing so. But is it possible for anything that wears the name of reason, to be so much a fool as to mock at death too? In every sin which a man deliberately commits, he takes down a draught of deadly poison. In every lust which he cherishes, he embraces a dagger and opens his bosom to destruction, he who likes the wages, let him go about the work.

(R. South, D. D.)

I. ITS NATURE. A life of —

1. Perfect immunity from all the sufferings and dangers to which we are here exposed.

2. Preeminent intellectual enjoyment — "Here we know in part," etc.

3. Social happiness.

4. Unspotted holiness.

5. Incessant activity.

6. Endless improvement.


1. It cannot be purchased.

2. It is not the reward of merit.

3. It is everything; leading to it is the gift of God.The promises by which the believer is led to expect it — the great change by which he has become entitled to it and qualified for its enjoyment — the Lord Jesus, by whose merit eternal life was purchased — all these are gifts of God.


1. For this end — to put men in possession of eternal life — the Redeemer was given; for this purpose He laboured, suffered, instituted His gospel, and sent forth His ministers.

2. We should, however, do great injustice to this subject, were we not to observe that Christ died —(1) To procure our pardon, in consequence of which the sentence of the law is reversed, and believers freed from that death to which their crimes had exposed them.(2) To deliver us from a state of moral death.(3) To secure our adoption into God's family, which entitles to this eternal life.(4) To create in us that holiness of heart and life which makes us "meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light."(5) To communicate that grace which enables us to lay hold on eternal life.

(J. Rigg.)

I. IS NOT WHOLLY IN THE FUTURE WORLD. This life begins here at the moment of conversion, when the soul passes from death into life. He that hath the Son hath life. The righteous do enter into life, become heirs of life, enjoy ante-pasts of the infinite fulness which is to be hereafter revealed. These foretastes involve freedom from condemnation, communion with God, and growing likeness to Him. The soul is divested of the fear of death, and Christ fills the believer with His joy, and that joy is full. Satisfaction comes from what we are, and not from what we get. I have seen homes of princely wealth which were but brilliantly garnished sepulchres, their luxury a solemn mockery; and I have seen homes of poverty full of the joy of God, the peace of the eternal life begun. It is false to conceive of the Christian life as a joyless way of self-denial trod by us to purchase a bliss beyond.


1. Heaven is not a sea of bliss in which each of us is to float in equal content. In heaven, as here, there is an infinite variety. What a vast transition from an oyster to the leviathan! There is one glory of the sun, another of the moon, another of the stars. The penitent thief is saved as truly as Paul; but one has built on hay, wood, and stubble, and is "scarcely saved"; the other receives "an entrance abundantly"; one gives the tag-end of a godless life to Christ and is "saved so as by fire"; the other can say, "I have fought a good fight." The riches, joys, and capabilities of the celestial life are measured by the service rendered; "to every man according to his works," "five cities," or "ten cities," as the case may be. Secular papers often make merry about the statement that "scaffold penitents" are received to heaven. It is true that grace does save such. But their heaven is not Paul's heaven.

2. In three respects heaven is the same to all.(1) In freedom from sin. Harlots and murderers, washed in the cleansing blood, are as free from defilement as angels. The malefactor is made as pure as a babe.(2) In freedom from physical and mental pain and sorrow. There will be no anxiety, distrust; no pang or grief.(3) No death. Perpetual freedom from all these is a common blessing to all.

3. It may be objected that if one is wholly happy, according to his capacity, what matters it if there be those of larger capacities than his? A snail is happy, I answer, so is a lark. Is there nothing to choose between them? There is a short radius to a child's circumference of happiness. A man has a thousand-fold larger scope. Is there no preference? The ear of one is satisfied with a rude melody; another man is thrilled to the depths of his being by delicious harmonies. Is there no preference? There is no room for question. What a contrast between one who is a single remove from a laughing idiot, and an angel of God! We are to "seek for honour and glory," even an entrance that shall be "administered abundantly."

III. IS INCREASINGLY GLORIOUS FOREVER. Memory shall lose nothing, the mind pervert nothing, and the heart shall repel nothing. All that God has shall be spread out and open to us forever in riches of grace inconceivable in their glory and infinitude. The possibilities of the soul are beyond conception. God reveals Himself to the righteous through the ages, their capacities ever enlarging and the reality forever increasing — joy, power, blessedness, beyond all thought! These all are the gift of God, bought, and given to believers,

(Prof. Herrick Johnson.)


1. Life. Life, eternal life, and life everlasting, are very frequent designations of the salvation of the gospel (John 17:1, 2). This life consists of —(1) A right state of affection and feeling toward God, the Father of our spirits, combined with a happy consciousness of His love and favour toward us. Where this life is, there is freedom from guilt.(2) A renewed state of the affections and will: the law of God is approved, and the love of God is established in the heart, as its supreme and governing motive.(3) Honour and happiness, the enjoyment of true pleasure, derived from the purest sources of holiness, and love, and fellowship with heaven.(4) A blessed activity of the soul, engaged in the worship and service of Jehovah. Where these exist, the soul lives, fulfils its proper functions, answers the ends of its creation, and realises its most true and noble bliss. We sometimes call this life integrity, which is wholeness or soundness of being: sometimes rectitude, which is erectness and strength: and sometimes sanctity, which is separatedness from evil and devotedness to God.

2. The epithet, "eternal."(1) This word denotes everlastingness of duration.(2) But where this is, there must also be uncorruptedness or perfection of nature.(3) And where this perfection relates to a spiritual creature like man, there must be incessancy of progress, or development.


1. It is the gift of God, inasmuch as —(1) No man possesses it by nature.(2) No man could procure it for himself.

2. We are to receive it as such, in simplicity of spirit and with grateful joy. And let us learn not to look at anything in ourselves to justify our expectation of it: and let us not, when we find nothing but demerit in ourselves, be disheartened, but believe that when we were fit only for everlasting punishment, God stepped forward to grant unto us eternal life. This He has done from the impulse of His own amazing generosity and love.


1. God gives it to us through Jesus Christ, not in an arbitrary manner, but on the ground of what He has done and suffered in our stead.

2. So, we accept it through Christ (1 John 5:11). Indeed, we may say that Jesus is our eternal life. It is by being found in Him that we have pardon and holiness, happiness and heaven. When we reach the celestial world, we shall find that there as well as here, Christ is "all in all."

(T. G. Horton.)

1. Men are so accustomed to the exchange of equivalents, that any other course comes with an element of surprise. If the reward be not in the grosser form of money, or in that which money can purchase, still it is true that one earns his wages. These may be the wages that improved faculties would add — the reward of an approving conscience, of a sense of usefulness — perhaps a sense of increased influence for good, by reason of that which has been faithfully and unselfishly done; or in the very highest possible service of philosophic endeavour or Christian duty. In all these there is that feeling of reward expected, because it has been earned. The idea of a gift coming to one suddenly and undeserved he does not entertain, except as a fiction, such as may amuse him as a daydream. And more than all is one surprised to find that he is the recipient of such a gift from one unknown, or one to whom he has stood in the relation of neglect, perhaps of hostility.

2. At the same time it is true that men are receiving gifts from another, where they cannot make any return whatever. Everything that comes to us from the past is a gift. Individual minds have toiled and studied, and we reap the fruits of their patience, skill, and success. We make the lightning to run on our errands, and we take the vapour that lifts the lid of the kettle to propel the mammoth ship across the sea, or the car which carries us over mountains, or sets in motion thousands of factories all over our land. This we received from those to whom it came as an inspiration of Providence, and an operation of intelligent, unwearied power. The institution of society comes to us a grant from the past. We pay for our primary schooling; but for the great thoughts of men who have lived, what returns can we make? What to any of the great philosophers who brought us the laws and principles we possess? How shall we compensate the artist whose gifts quicken our minds to higher perceptions of beauty, or the poet who sings us into the Elysium of thought? There are still higher endowments that come to us from those whom we only know by those impressions made upon us by their chivalric career, and to whom we can make no more return than we by lighting matches can add to the splendour of the distant, brilliant sun. So, if a man should say, "I expect only that which I have earned, and demand only that which I have deserved and have properly acquired," and should that prayer be answered, he would, today, be a beggared savage. Thus we see how many of the things which we enjoy have come to us as gifts. And it is the desire of every noble, unselfish mind to carry on to the future their beneficent influence that the coming generation may surpass the present,

3. Turn now to the things which come from God. For these many make no acknowledgments whatever; while He continues to shower His gifts upon them. He gives life through Christ. The life of the present is an undeserved gift. It is not the reward of our deserts. The faculties of mind, all opportunities for enjoyment, and all inspirations of thought and effort — these are not earned by us. No man can stand up and say, "I have done so and so, and God owes me that." God gives the sunshine and the shower. They come, not because we deserve them. They come sometimes in the face of protest. He gives the great inspirations of thought to man, and great deliverance to nations from impending calamity. He gives to the individual soul all he possesses, and to society all it has. This argument as to the right of the race to eternal life lies at the basis of our thought this morning. The parallel in natural life is the same. No man has a right to exist in infancy. It is the gift of God; and no man has earned the right to happiness in the present, and to hops in the future. It is the gift of God. Eternal life, however, is the best gift of God. But it is a gift that comes only on certain conditions. Sunshine requires the open eye, but a man may refuse to open his eye; still it is God's gift. So we do not receive inspiration from any great mind, except as we bring our mind into responsiveness to it. So we do not receive eternal life unless the conditions are accepted with which God invests His gift — humble penitence for sin and faith in Christ. Sin earns wages, but eternal life is the gift of God, as personal life is a bestowment: it crowns and glorifies all others. Here is —

I. A SECRET OF THE CHRISTIAN'S UNREST. Life is not something to be earned. The soul of the Christian who thus views it grows restless and troubled, like Galilee's waves, till the feet of the Lord brought them to a level. It is dark, as was the mount, until the Lord rose, in the luminous majesty of His presence, above it.

II. THE SECRET OF PEACE, in simply accepting this Divine gift from the source of infinite compassion and grace. Sometimes this peace may come suddenly, filling the soul with glory; sometimes it may come after long, weary searching for it; sometimes at the end of life; when the light of life has almost gone out, as it flickers in the socket and speech falters, I say, "I can do nothing; I take the gift of God!" Then comes "the peace which passeth all understanding."

III. THE BURDEN WHICH RESTS ON HIM WHO REJECTS ETERNAL LIFE. When one comes to us with a great thought or a rare opportunity, and we turn away to a trivial theme, we grieve him. Let us not thus treat God. Here is the gift of eternal life. Shall I put it aside as if it were the merest summer breeze which by my hand I could arrest and push back into the air? I may, as I may put aside sunshine itself, by shutting my eyes to it. The responsibility is mine.

IV. THE IMPULSE OF CHRISTIAN SERVICE. Freedom and gladness come from other gifts, but here is the supreme one of all. When received by us, what service is too hard, what sacrifice too vast, what worship too exultant! If this consciousness comes into our soul, then no sword or stake can fright us, for our life is interlocked with heaven. The realisation of it dispels our sorrows and forbids our tears.

V. THE SWEETNESS OF HEAVEN. Gratitude for God's gift impels every touch of the heavenly harp. It gives the melody to every song, and joy to all the work of heaven.

(R. S. Storrs, D. D.)

A new convert said, "I could not sleep, thinking over that passage, 'Whosoever believeth on the Son hath life;' and so I got up, and lighted a candle, and found my Bible, and read it over, 'Whosoever believeth on the Son hath life.'" "Why," says someone, "didn't you know that was in the Bible before?" "Oh, yes," he replied, "I knew it was in the Bible, but I wanted to see it with my own eyes, and then I rested."

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

I was out on the Pacific coast, in California, two or three years ago, and I was the guest of a man that had a large vineyard and a large orchard. One day he said to me, "Moody, whilst you are my guest, I want you to make yourself perfectly happy, and if there is anything in the orchard or in the vineyard you would like, help yourself." Well, when I wanted an orange, I did not go to an orange tree and pray the oranges to fall into my pocket, but I walked up to a tree, reached out my hand, and took the oranges. He said, "Take," and I took. God says, "Take," and you do it. God says, "There is My Son." "The wages of sin is death; the gift of God is eternal life." Who will take it now?

A man may as well think of buying light from the sun, or air from the atmosphere, or water from the well spring, or minerals from the earth, or fish from the sea, etc., as think of buying salvation from God with any kind of price. The sun gives his light, the atmosphere its air, the well spring its water, the earth its minerals, the sea its fish; all man has to do is to take them and use them. So God has given salvation to man. All he has to do is to use it, in the use of means, and enjoy it.

(J. Bate.).

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