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John 3:35-36

35. The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. 36. He who believeth in the Son hath eternal life; but he who believeth not in the Son 7272     “Qui ne croit point au Fils, ou, qui desobeit au Fils;” — “who believeth not in the Son, or, who disobeyeth the Son.” shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.

 

35. The Father loveth the Son. But what is the meaning of this reason? Does he regard all others with hatred? The answer is easy, that he does not speak of the common love with which God regards men whom he has created, or his other works, but of that peculiar love which, beginning with the Son, flows from him to all the creatures. For that love with which, embracing the Son, he embraces us also in him, leads him to communicate all his benefits to us by his hand.

36. He who believeth in the Son. This was added, not only to inform us that we ought to ask all good things from Christ, but likewise to make us, acquainted with the manner in which they are enjoyed. He shows that enjoyment consists in faith; and not without reason, since by means of it we possess Christ, who brings along with him both righteousness and life, which is the fruit of righteousness. When faith in Christ is declared to be the cause of life, we learn from it that life is to be found in Christ alone, and that in no other way do we become partakers of it than by the grace of Christ himself. But all are not agreed as to the way in which the life of Christ comes to us. Some understand it thus: “as by believing we receive the Spirit, who regenerates us in order to justification, by that very regeneration we obtain salvation.” For my own part, though I acknowledge it to be true, that we are renewed by faith, so that the Spirit of Christ governs us, yet I say that we ought first to take into consideration the free forgiveness of sins, through which we are accepted by God. Again, I say that on this all our confidence of salvation is founded, and in this it consists; because justification before God cannot be reckoned to us in any other way than when he does not impute to us our sins.

But he who believeth not in the Son. As he held out life in Christ, by the sweetness of which he might allure us, so now he adjudges to eternal death all who do not believe in Christ. And, in this way, he magnifies the kindness of God, when he warns us, that there is no other way of escaping death, unless Christ deliver us; for this sentence depends on the fact, that we are all accursed in Adam. Now if it be the office of Christ to save what was lost, they who reject the salvation offered in him are justly suffered to remain in death. We have just now said that this belongs peculiarly to those who reject the gospel which has been revealed to them; for though all mankind are involved in the same destruction, yet a heavier and double vengeance awaits those who refuse to have the Son of God as their deliverer. And, indeed, it cannot be doubted that the Baptist, when he denounced death against unbelievers, intended to excite us, by the dread of it, to the exercise of faith in Christ. It is also manifest; that all the righteousness which the world thinks that it has out of Christ is condemned and reduced to nothing. Nor is any one enabled to object that it is unjust that those who are otherwise devout and holy should perish, because they do not believe; for it is folly to imagine that there is any holiness in men, unless it have been given to them by Christ.

To see life is here put for “enjoying life.” But to express more clearly that no hope remains for us, unless we are delivered by Christ, he says that the wrath of God abideth on unbelievers. Though I am not dissatisfied with the view given by Augustine, that John the Baptist used the word abideth, in order to inform us that, from the womb we were appointed to death, because we are all born the children of wrath, (Ephesians 2:3.) At least, I willingly admit an allusion of this sort, provided we hold the true and simple meaning to be what I have stated, that death hangs over all unbelievers, and keeps them oppressed and overwhelmed in such a manner that they can never escape. And, indeed, though already the reprobate are naturally condemned, yet by their unbelief they draw down on themselves a new death. And it is for this purpose that the power of binding was given to the ministers of the gospel; for it is a just vengeance on the obstinacy of men, that they who shake off the salutary yoke of God should bind themselves with the chains of death.


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