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8. Seasonable and sanctified correction. What is a proper punishment and a sign of wrath on others, is a privilege to them, Heb. xii. 6. It is a special benefit of the covenant of grace, proceeding from God's fatherly love, Psal. Ixxxix. 30—32. Some smart more for a whorish look after an idol, than others for giving themselves a full swing in their evil way; some more for deadness and indisposition in prayer, than others for neglecting it altogether, &c. For a small fault in a child whose education the father has a peculiar concern for, will be more severely checked than a greater in a stranger.
9. Lastly, An inheritance and portion, according to their Father's quality. They are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ, Rom, viii. 17. So all is theirs, grace and glory. Their portion will never fail, but tell out through eternity, when the portion of worldly men shall be at an end, 1 Pet. i. 4. Their Father gives them of his moveables, as he sees meet; but their inheritance is not moveable, Heb. xii. 28.
THIRDLY, The next thing is to shew the properties of this adoption.
1. It is a precious and costly relation. There was a price, a great one, paid to instate the sinner in this privilege. What the chief captain said to Paul in another case, ' With a great sum obtained I this freedom,' Acts xxii. 28. a child of God may say concerning himself, though he paid not that sum himself, Gal. iv. 4, 5. The Son of God, Christ, bought them by his obedience and death. That is the price of our adoption.
2. It is a high and honourable one, John i. 12. As low as we naturally are, adopting grace raiseth us to the highest pitch of honour we are capable of; to be brethren of angels, yea, of Christ, and the children of God. 'Seemeth it a small thing to you to be son-in-law to the king ?' said David; but how much more to be the sons and daughters of the King of heaven.
3. It is freely bestowed, Eph. i. 5. There is nothing in the adopted naturally, more than in the rest of their natural father's house, to move God to pitch on them rather than others, so that it is free grace merely that makes the difference. Neither birth, nor beauty, nor parts, can be here alleged, Ezek. xvi. Neither was it from indigence, as among men, that God adopted any of the children of men, but from his own bountiful nature : not to bring any additional pleasure or comfort to himself, for he needs none, but to make them partakers of his goodness.
4. Lastly, It is a never-failing relation. Once a child of God, ever so, 1 John viii. 35. If a child wander from his father's house, he will be sought and brought back again; SO the children of God
shall persevere in the state of grace. A servant of the house of heaven may be turned out of doors, and quite leave their master, 2 Pet. ii. 1. yea, a natural son may also perish or be lost. So Adam was turned out, so the fallen angels never recovered. But God's adopted children can never fall totally away, Psal. Ixxxix. 30,—34.
Use 1. Of information. Is adoption into God's family the peculiar privilege of those that are effectually called? Then,
1. The gospel-calling is the highest calling men are capable of, Phil. iii. 14. It calls men to the dignity of the sons of God. And they that undervalue it shew themselves sons of earth, that know not the things of God. It might draw tears of pity from the eyes God has enlightened, to think how the gospel-call is slighted, as idle tales, how men value themselves on trifles and baubles of this world, and think the compliance with the gospel-call a vain thing : and all this by men whose eyes the god of this world has blinded, 2 Cor. iv. 3, 4. who trample on the pearl, because they know not the value of it.
2. The unconverted man is of Satan's family still, a child of the devil, for he is not adopted into God's family, John vii. 44. Many a gospel-call has sounded in your cars, sinner, hast thou not come away on the call ? then thou art yet a child of the devil, Acts xiii. 10. and therefore an heir of hell and of wrath. Perhaps thou wilt not believe this, and never couldst: but that is agreeable enough to the blindness of the children of the family of darkness, Rev. iii. 17. Whose imago dost thou hear? Holiness is God's image, unholiness the devil's. Thy dark heart and unholy life plainly tell the family thou art of.
3. The unconverted man has no right before the Lord to sit down at the Lord's table. It is children's bread, and not to be cast to the dogs, Matt. xv. 26. It is true, men that make a credible profession of their repentance have a right before the church; for of the heart in that case men cannot judge. But a token from an angel will not bear out a child of the devil, at God's table before the Lord. God makes this feast for his children; and if God had not children to feed here, it would not be prepared : but wo to those that come in among them, not having sincerely forsaken their natural father's house, and their own people. Will he welcome the children of his grand enemy among his own? No surely. Therefore first comply with the gospel-call, Come out from among them, and be ye separate.' Come to Christ, that ye may be entered into God's family by adoption, and then come to his table.
4. Compliance with the gospel-call brings with it a right to the table of the Lord. This do, and ye shall be adopted into his fa
mily, and have a right to the privileges thereof. This answers the question, How may we be fitted for the Lord's table ? The gospel calls you to come away, forget your own people, and your father's house, the entertainment, work, and business thereof. Give up with all your lusts and idols, receive Christ for your Prophet, Priest, and King ; enter into the covenant sincerely. And Christ's Father shall be your Father, and then ye shall be fitted to come to his table, and have the children's portion.
5. A true Christian is more excellent than his neighbour, Prov. xii. 26. A godly man is more preferable to a wicked man, than a king's son is to the son of a slave, though in external things the latter may have the pre-eminence. A saint in rags is a child of God, while the wicked laded with honours and wealth is a child of the devil. The former has privileges as far above those of the other, as the heavens are above the earth. 0! if this were believed, people would more eagerly pursue after grace than gold, and seek the state of grace more than all the world can afford.
6. See hence the spring of the hatred of the world against the people of God, that has vented itself in all the abuses they have met with from the wicked. They are of opposite families, that will never agree, John xv. 19. Hence it is that the love of the brethren is made a sign of a child of God, 1 John iii. 14. And to be haters and despisers of them, is a black mark. But look abroad through the world, and ye will see, that if there be persons who hate to be restrained, but can take a latitude to themselves, these are the men. But as for others that dare not go into the same excess of riot, who tremble at the Lord's word, and carry at a distance from the appearance of evil, these are ready to be maligned, mocked, and despised, as men of no spirit, because not of the spirit of the devil's family. Nay, not only is the world's contempt and spite against the children, but against the very servants, whom the world despise oft-times for no other reason, but because they are servants, and concerned in the church, which is God's family on earth. Unlike the disposition of God's children, Psal. Ixxxiv. 10. who say, 'A day^ in thy courts is better than a thousand : I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.'
7. Lastly, The people of God are brethren, and should live together in peace and unity and love, as brethren. O how unnatural are the jarrings and discords among those that profess to be of the same family of heaven! Our heavenly Father setting his children on their way liome together, says, as Joseph said to his brethren, See that ye fall not out by the way,' Gen. xlv. 24. Lay by all
feuds and discords among yourselves, forgive as ye would be forgiven. And especially I warn all against approaching to the table of the Lord, in the leaven of bitterness, malice, and revenge, keeping up their quarrels. It is a feast for the children of the family, sealing our communion with one another; a seal of the pardon of sin, and reconciliation with God, which we cannot have unless we forgive others from the heart, Mat. vi. 15. Therefore remember, that 'if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee ; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift,' chap. v. 23, 24.
Use II. Try whether ye be the children of God, adopted into God's family or not. To quicken you hereto, consider,
Mot. 1. Ye were born children of the devil's family; he was your natural father, and there is no middle state betwixt the two families. Still ye belong either to the one or the other. Does it not concern you then to search which of the two ye are now of; whether ye be come out from among them, or are still living with them, among whom ye were born ?
2. This matter is of the strictest weight. Upon the one hand, are the most excellent privileges which it is sad to lose ; and on the other, the most dreadful disadvantages, which it is terrible to lie under. They differ as heaven and hell; and indeed your eternal state turns upon this point, If ye be children of God, heaven shall be your mansion ; if not, hell your everlasting abode.
3. Many deceive themselves in this point. They call God Father, whom he will never own for his children, John viii. 41, 44. They look for the privileges of his children, who will be disowned, as children of Satan. And O what a terrible surprise will that be, to be cast down from the highest hopes to the lowest pitch of despair !
4. Lastly, This trial is at all times necessary, but especially on occasion of the sacrament, 1 Cor. xi. 28. ' Wherefore let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup To clear this, is to clear your right to that holy ordinance. The children whom God has taken into his family by adoption, he has prepared that table for, and for none else. Others are debarred as none of his family, but of the family of Satan. They are bid welcome as his own children, for whose nourishment, growth, and comfort, he has prepared it. Ye may know this by the following marks.
Mark 1. The image ye bear. Children are like their father, and all God's children father themselves. I allude to Judges viii. 18. They each one resemble the children of a king. Look to thy own
soul, and say as Christ of the tribute-money, 'Whose image and superscription is this?' The image of God may shine more brightly in one than another, in one person at one time more than another; but his image is on all his children, 2 Cor. iii. 18. If thou bearest his image, thou wilt be like him.
1. In the head, for there will be spiritual and saving knowledge, Col. iii. 10. He is the Father of lights,' and his children are 'children of light,' Eph. v. 8. Ye that are yet living in your natural darkness, with whom there has been no morning to put an end to the darkness of a natural state, are yet of the family of Satan; and particularly grossly ignorant ones are so, Isa. xxvii. 11. For though some of God's children may not be book-learned, they are all Spirit-learned, John vi. 45. But if God has enlightened your darkness and ye are renewed in knowledge, it is a good sign if ye are let into the knowledge of God and spiritual things, by the working of the Spirit of the Lord on you.
It is true, there is a false light, and a vain knowledge of spiritual things, even in the devil's family; but saving knowledge is, (1.) Solid and humbling. Job xlii. 5, 6; and the more a man has of it, he is the more vile in his own eyes: the other is airy and windy, 1 Cor. viii. 1. Knowledge puffoth up, and makes a man think himself something, when he is nothing. (2.) Lively and sanctifying, John xiii. 17. When the Spirit came on the primitive Church, Acts ii. 3. there appeared tongues like fire: so true knowledge has a heat with it, to burn up known sin, and to burn toward known duty. They know and desire to know, in order to practise. The other is a sort of wild fire, that has light with it, but no heat; meet enough to lead people to the pit, where there is a burning heat but no light, 1 Cor. viii. 1. Unholy ministers and professors, that have knowledge, they are like gentlemen skilled in architecture; all the use they have for it, is to tell how a house should be built, and draw the draughts, but they never lay a stone. The child of God is like the mason that learns the trade, to the end he may work in it daily. The former may have more of the theory than the latter, and «an talk more rationally about it; but they are not called masons: the latter have more of the practice, so the name is theirs. Even so in spirituals, men not enlightened in the knowledge of God, so as to practise it in works of holiness, are not called of God Christians. (3.) Lastly, Experimental and savoury, Phil. iii. 9. The child of God feels the power of truth on his soul. He sees the glory of Christ and religion, and he loves them, and is touched with the overcoming beauty, He feels the ill of sin, and ho is put in horror with the deformity of it, 1 Peter ii. 3. The other is speculative, un