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God's family. God will be their Father, and they shall be his sons and daughters.'
Here I shall shew,
1. What is tho call of the gospel, on compliance with which men shall be adopted into God's family.
2. Confirm the doctrine.
3. Lay before you further the nature of this relation to the family of heaven.
4. Apply the subject.
FIRST, I shall show what is the call of the gospel, on compliance with which we shall be adopted into the family of God. It consists of two parts. It is a call,
1. To leave the devil's family: 'Come out from among them,' Psal. xlv. 10. Come away from the family ye were born in : leave your natural father, his house, work, and way. Sinners, ye have remained too long at home. Repent now, and be converted. Give up with your old way of sin and sloth : bestir yourselves like true Israelites, and come forth from the land of Egypt, and the house of bondage, from the iron furnace. This is the gospel-call to you.
2. To come away to Jesus Christ, the head of the blessed society, and so put yourselves into the family of heaven, Matth. xi. 28. 1 Pet. ii. 4. A father, a master, ye must have; and ye are called to change fathers and masters, to take the Lord himself instead of Satan. Join yourselves to the Lord in the covenant of grace. Offer yourselves into the family of heaven, and for that cause accept tho offer of the elder brother of that family, taking him for your all, in all his offices. He is saying to you as he did to the spouse, Cant. iv. 8. Come with me from Lebanon,' &c. He offers to introduce you into his father's house and family, and to get you admitted among the children.
SECONDLY, I shall confirm this doctrine, 'That whosoever will comply with the gospel-call, shall be adopted into God's family.'
1. This is the plain gospel-promise, held out to sinners to engage them to come away, as in the text expressly. It is the Lord's own word, who is truth itself, and whose deeds of mercy and grace are always equal to his word; and ye may with all security venture on it. And it is no more than what was prophesied before to be the effect of tho preaching of the gospel, among those that comply with it, Hos. i. 10.—Ye are the sons of the living God.'
2. All that have complied, and come away, have met with no worse entertainment, than the promise put them in hope of, John i. 12. ' To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.'
They were of sundry sorts that received him,
some high, some low, some of the greatest sinners, that were grown sinners in the devil's family. But they all met with this entertainment. The apostle John, 1 Epist. iii. 1. speaks of this honour as common to all that have believed. And the entertainment they have got before us, was designed for the encouraging of those in after generations to come away, Eph. ii. 7.
3. This was the very end and design of the incarnation of the Son of God, his obedience, death, and sufferings, to bring in sinners as children into his Father's family, John xi. 51, 52. The repairing of the breach made therein by the fall of angels and men, was laid upon him, as the fittest person : forasmuch as he was by nature the Son of God, he was the fittest to make others sons by grace. Hence he is represented,
(1.) As the first born among many brethren, a first-born in a positive sense, whom other sons were to follow, Rom. viii. 29. The man Christ was designed to be God's first-born ; and therefore there must of necessity be other men to be his brethren, as children of the same family. Else where is his pre-eminence, dominion, priesthood, &c. if there be no brethren added to him ? Now these must be of men taken out of the devil's family, or not at all; for there are none other of Adam's posterity, whose nature he took.
(2.) As a Captain upon the head of the children bringing them home to their Father's house, Heb. ii. 10. The glory the saints receive at last, is given them as children and heirs, Matth. xxv. 34. And Christ is appointed the Captain of those heirs of glory, leading them to their inheritance. Now, these must draw to his standard out of Satan's family, and list themselves under his banner, his army being gathered together by the gospel.
(3.) As one lowering himself to exalt our nature, that we might be capable of adoption into his Father's family, Heb. ii. 14. For this cause ho took our nature into personal union with his divine nature, that the meanness of the adopted might not be such as to stain the honour of the Adopter.—And now, since the Son of God is also the Son of man, the way is opened for the children of men to become the children of God.
(4.) Lastly, As travailing and bringing forth children unto God. Christ's death-pains were birth-pangs, Acts ii. 24.—Well may he call believers Benoni and Nahptali ; for his pangs for bringing forth these children put him to strong crying and tears, Heb. v. 7; into an agony and bloody sweat, Luke xxii. 44; and in the end he died of them. But only they were not in vain, ho will have issue by all his labour and toil, as that word signifies, Isa. liii. 11. “He shall see of the travail of his soul.'
What ground then remains to doubt of this adoption, which Christ has been so employed for, and upon which so much of his honour depends?
4. The design of the ministry of the gospel is to bring sinners out of Satan's family into God's by adoption. And therefore they arc Bent out with that message in the name of the Lord, 2 Cor. vi. 17. Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord.' They are sent to travel betwixt the two families, and persuade sinners to forget their father's house. The Lord does not send out his ambassadors to mock you, but as really as the word of God is truth, if ye comply with their call, ye shall be God's sons and daughters.
D. Lastly, Whosoever shall comply with the gospel-call shall be espoused and married to Christ, and therefore cannot miss to be a child of his Father's family, Hos. ii. 19. The gospel.call is the carrying on a treaty betwixt the elder brother of the house of heaven and a child of the house of hell. It is offered to all to whom the gospel comes, and to you in particular, amongst whom the feast of the espousals is providing, Matth. xxii. 4. It is his Father's good will that this match be made. And therefore whom Christ takes for his spouse, the Father will never refuse for a child of his family.
THIRDLY, I will lay before you farther the nature of this relation unto the family of heaven. The text tells us, that the issue of this adoption is, that God will be a Father to the adopted, and they his children. Now, this may be considered in two respects. (1.) In point of privilege, and this privilege is exceedingly great; but of that wo have spoken already. (2.) In point of duty, which the privilege brings along with it; and that I will now lay before you. If ye mind to join yourselves to the family of heaven, remember ye are to be there under the character of sons and daughters of the house, and must resolve to carry yourselves as such ; otherwise ye do but mock God, and will ruin your own souls. Lay then your account with this, that God must be a Father to you, and ye his sons and daughters. And this in point of duty implies,
1. Ye must join interests with God's family. As the father's interest is the interest of all the children, so God's interest must be yours, on all hazards, Matth. xvi. 24. 'If any man will come after me (says Christ), let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.' There is a continued battle betwixt Christ and his angels, and the devil and his; the peace will never be made. Now chuse what side you will fall in with. Christ is carrying all the family of God on earth away to heaven, in the ship of the covenant, with a design to weather all the storms they may meet with by the way; never to yield to go back to the devil's ground.
Are ye con
tent to einbark with him on these terms? If so, then say now as Ruth did to Naomi, Ruth i. 16. ` Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go ; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. If not, better not to put your hand to the plough, than to look back.
2. God must command, and ye must obey without disputing your Father's orders. God says to children, Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right,' Eph. vi. 1. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well-pleasing unto the Lord,' Col. iii. 20. The same are the laws of the family of heaven, 1 Pet. i. 14. 'As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts, in your ignorance.' If ye will come in here, leave your own corrupt will behind you, for your Father's will must be yours, Psal. xlv. 10. and ye must resolve to submit to all the laws of the house. If there be therefore any known duty ye have no mind to comply with, or known sin ye have no mind to part with, venture not in among the children, for ye cannot have the portion or welcome of a child.
3. Ye must give him internal as well as external obedience. Filial affections are due to a father; love, reverence, delight in him, and fear to offend him, Rom. viii. 15. A slave or servant will give God the hand, when they do not give him the heart. But if thou be a son, thou must have child-like affections towards him. If thou hast no heart for him, no kindly zeal and concern on thy spirit to please him, thou canst be no child of his. And if thou dost not mind to ply internal as well as external obedience, thou art not for that family.
4. Ye must resolve to imitate your Father, Eph. v. 1. 'Be followers of God, as dear children. Conform yourselves no more to the world, to follow the way of the multitude, Rom. xii. 2. but set yourselves to write after Christ's copy, to follow his example, and to 'walk as he walked,' 1 John ii. 6. for he has left us an example that wo should follow his steps. Consider if ye be so minded, ye are welcome to the children's table; if not, ye are not fit to come there.
5. Ye and your lot must be at God's disposal, Psal. xlvii. 4. We must take what place, and act what part, in the family the Father shall think meet to dispose of you to.
The soul that comes to Christ lays his all down at the Lord's feet, Acts ix. 6; and if ye mind to come into the family, lay your account with this; for God will not allow his children to carve for themselves, but leave that to him.
6. Ye must submit to correction, Heb. xii. 6, 7. The discipline of the house they must submit to who will come into it. The cross ye must be content to take up, if ever ye mind to put on the crown. Lay your account with the ilk-day's cross, and the holy-day's cross : for all the children of God are brought up under it. And they that will refuse the cross, will refuse their part in the family of heaven, since there is no part there without it.
7. Lastly, Ye must resolve to persevere to the end, John viii. 35. Ye must take an everlasting farewell of Satan's family, never to go back to your former lusts and idols; but to be the Lord's only, wholly, and for evermore. Never enter the threshold of the house unless ye mind to stay for ever. Be contented to have your ears nailed to the door-posts; for God has said, “If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him,' Heb. x. 38.
Use, Of exhortation. Comply with the gospel-call. Come to Christ out from among them, and partake of this adoption into God's family. Now ye may have God to be your Father, and ye may be his children. Secure this blessed bargain for yourselves now; and put a close to that transaction by sincerely closing with Christ, and giving up yourselves wholly to be the Lord's. I offer the following motives.
Mot. 1. Consider the wretched case of the family thou art of. Whilst thou art not a child of God, thou art a member of Satan's family, John viii. 44; and they are a miserable society. They are miserable now, and will be miserable for evermore; for God has sworn that he will have war with them for ever.
See the great stroke that will be the decisive one. Matth. xxv. 41. ' Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. Every unconverted man and woman is a child of wrath ; that is their heritage from the Lord, which will make judgment their food, and everlasting sorrow their bed. None of them have a garment to cover their nakedness, nor wherewith to pay their debt to divine justice, so wretchedly poor are they; and therefore Christ says, ' Buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear,' Rev. iii. 18.
Mot. 2. Consider what a Father God will be to you, the best of fathers. No children are so happy as God's children are.
1. The most honourable Father; he is the King of kings, and Lord of lords. And there are none whose eyes God has opened, but they will value this adoption more than all the fading honours of a world, 1 John iii. 1. Moses preferred it to being the son of Phal'aoh's daughter, Heb. xi. 24, 25.