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Became, were made, the sons of God. Were they not so before?
In one sense, all mankind are the sons of God. So Adam is called by St. Luke,' when he is tracing the line from which Joseph was descended. But the whole of the Jewish people were children of God in a higher sense. God sent a message to Pharaoh : (Ex. iv. 22:) “ Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my first-born.” Accordingly Moses addresses the people in Deuteronomy, (xiv. 1,) “ Ye are the children of the Lord your God.” Jesus recognizes them as such, distinguishing them from the Gentiles. (Matt. xv. 26.) “ It is not meet to take the children's bread and to cast it to dogs.” And St. Paul speaks of the privilege enjoyed by his brethren ; (Rom. ix. 4;) “ Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the promises.”
Yet still we find, that they were capable of, and required, a further and more special adoption. There is a higher privilege, which they could only possess as disciples of Christ Jesus: a privilege which those Jews forfeited, who, when he came, received him not ; and to which those were raised, who did receive him, and believed in his name. To as many as received him,-to those who acknowledged the character in which he came, and accepted the redemption which he offered,—to those he assigned the blessings which he alone could give, and which in no other way they could enjoy.
1 Luke iii. 38.
To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God. God's children. “ Ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” And justly are they so entitled. It is not a vain and empty term. For by the adoption given them, they have the provision, and the education, and the inheritance of children.
1. They have the provision of children. As the Father of all, God has provided for the whole race of man. He sends them rain and fruitful seasons : he causes his sun to shine, and his rain to fall, “ on the just and on the unjust.” But a very different provision is made for those who belong to the covenant which is in Christ Jesus. They have the assurance that their God shall supply all their wants; that all needful things shall be added to them : for their heavenly Father knoweth that they have need of all these things. “ For even the hairs of their head are all numbered.”? The circumstances of their lives are so ordered, that all things work together for their good. If they are poor, it shall preserve them from temptation, and keep them humble ; if they are rich, it is that they may be “ rich in good works.” If they are in adversity, it is that they may enjoy a peace which this world cannot give. If they are in prosperity, it is that they may take comfort from the sunshine of God's favour. Rich or poor, afflicted or prosperous, in health or in sickness, in life or in death, “ they are the Lord's," 2. Together with the provision, they have also
* See Matt. vi. 33. Phil. iv. 19.
the education of children. If they are the sons of God, they are “ led by the Spirit of God ;"3 and prepared by his grace for the glory which is to follow. He purifies them from the corruption of their natural descent, and renews them after his own image; he withdraws their hearts from things below, and raises them to things above; he uses exactly that discipline which their character most needs, whether gentle or severe : sometimes he chastens them, that they “ may bring forth more fruit;" but still he“ dealeth with them as sons ;” “ yea, spareth them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.”+
3. And in the end, they have the inheritance of children. “ If they are children, then are they heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.”5 If they are children, they are the “ blessed of the Father,” whose “ good pleasure it is to give them the kingdom,” “the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world.”6 We need not know, or desire to know, more of this inheritance, than that it is worthy of the purchase of the blood of Christ; worthy of the promise of God's everlasting covenant. It is an “ inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away."7
Such are the privileges of those who are made the sons of God by faith that is in Christ Jesus. But who shall declare their generation ? They
3 See Rom. viii. 14.
6 Matt. xxv. 34. Luke xii. 32. 1 1 Pet. i. 4.
are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. It is not with their spiritual as with their natural birth : that comes of the will of the flesh, and of the will of man; but the spiritual being cannot be so handed down : God keeps it in his own power. The corruption of Adam descended in natural course to his posterity ; but not so the grace of Adam, or of any since born his children : no man can produce it in another by his own means, or secure it for another by his will and desire. It is the gift of God. And though we know it is bestowed according to just and equal laws, we are often foiled and baffled, if we attempt to trace their operation.
Still, we know that, which it is of chief consequence to know. Though this birth is a secret thing, and of a spiritual nature, it is discerned by outward signs. It belongs to those who receive Christ Jesus. To as many as receive him, to them gives he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in his name.
Inquire, then, how it is with yourselves. It was shown in the last lecture, why the Jews received him not. When those reasons were pointed out, did your hearts reply, It is not so with us. On the contrary, we desire to be saved, “ not having our own righteousness, but the righteousness which is of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” We have “come to him, that we might have life,” knowing that without him we were “ dead in trespasses and sins." We do not complain that " if we are the sons of God,” we must be “ led by the Spirit of God.” The promise is dear to us, that “ if we continue in his word, we shall be made free,”—free from the dominion of sin. « Our rejoicing is this ; the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity” we have received Christ Jesus for what he came to be : our PROPHET, to teach us the will of God; our PRIEST, to make propitiation for our sins; our LORD, to rule and direct our lives.
Blessed are they whose spirit bears witness with them that such is their case and state. And the ·more blessed, because “ flesh and blood” has not
put this new heart and right spirit within them, but the Father which is in heaven. If it was of flesh and blood ; if it was of the will of man, and not of God,-it might fail “ through their manifold temptations.” The corruption which they feel within, tells them it might fail, if it was of themselves. But this is their security ;—that it is not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And none shall pluck them out of his hand. He that is the author, will be the finisher of their faith. “He that hath begun a good work in them, will perform it unto the end."