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A third meaning of the word in scripture, is, a certain race of mankind, whose generation and birth agree, not as to time, but as to descent and pedigree, or as to those persons from whom they originally proceeded. So it is to be understood, Matth. i. 1. " This is the book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham;" that is, this is the book that gives an account of his pedigree. And this meaning, viz. those who are of the same race and descent, must be given to the word in the text. The righteous are often spoken of in scripture, as being a distinct generation. Ps. xiv. 5. “There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous." Ps. xxiv. 6. “This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob.” Ps. Ixxiji. 15. “If I say, I will speak thus: behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children.”
That the godly are a distinct race appears evident, since they are descended from God, they are a heavenly race, they are derived from above. The heathen were wont to feign that their heroes and great men were descended from the gods, but God's people are descended from the true and living God, without any fiction. Ps. xxii. 30. “A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.” That is, a seed, a posterity, shall serve him, and it shall be accounted to the Lord for his posterity or offspring.
Now the people of God may be considered as descending from God, and as being his posterity, either remotely or immediately.
First. They are remotely descended from God. The church is a distinct race, that originally came from God. Other men are of the earth, they are of earthly derivation, they are the posterity of men; but the church is the posterity of God. Thus it is said, Gen. vi. 2, “That the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.” The sons of God were the children of the church, of the posterity of Seth; the daughters of men were those that were born out of the church, and of the posterity of Cain, and those that adhered to him.
It was God that set up the church in the world, and those, who were the first founders of the church, were of God, and were called specially the sons of God. Seth was the seed that God appointed. Gen. iv. 25. “ And Adam knew his wife again ; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth. For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.” Adam, in Luke's genealogy of Christ, (Luke iii. 38, “ Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God,) is called the son of God; possibly, not only because he was immediately created by God, but also because he was from God, and was begotten by him. As
he was a good man, and was the founder of the church, of which Christ himself became a son, he was the first in the line of the church, and as such he was from God. When the church was almost extinct God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees, and afterwards out of Haran. Abraham was one immediately from God, and all God's people in all succeeding ages are accounted as the children of Abraham. God promised Abraham that his seed should be as the stars of heaven, and as the sand on the sea shore, meaning primarily not his posterity according to the flesh. John the baptist said, God is able of the stones to raise up children unto Abraham. Those are the seed of Abraham, as we are taught in the New Testament, that are of the faith of Abraham; Christians, as well as Jews, are the seed of Abraham. Gal. iii. 29. “And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” So the church is the seed of Jacob, who is called God's son. Hosea xi. 1. “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my Son out of Egypt." All God's people are called Israel; not only his posterity according to the flesh, but proselytes' of old, and gentile Christians now under the gospel. The sincerely godly, and they only, are the true Israel.
So the people of God are descended from God the Father originally, as they are descended from Christ the Son of God. Christians are called the seed of Christ. Gal. iii. 29. “And if ye be Christ's,” &c. They are, as it were, his posterity; Christ calls them his children. Heb. ii. 13. “Behold I and the children which thou hast given me." So that if we trace the pedigree of God's people up to their original, they will be found to be descended from God : they are of heaven, they are not of this world. Other men are of the earth, and are earthly, but these are heavenly, and are of heaven. The wicked are called the men of this world. Ps. xvii. 14. “From men which are thy hand, O Lord, from men of the world which have their portion in this life, and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure: they are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes." The first beginnings of the church were from God, the great founder of the church. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and those men, who under him have been founders, were of God, were of him. God chose them, called them, and created them for this purpose. Since which, God's people are descended one from another; the church is continued and propagated, as it were, by generation. If there were no ordinary and stated means made use of for the continuing and propagating the church, it would not be so; but God's people are made the instruments of one another's conversion, by begetting one another's souls. The church is continued by itself instrumentally through all generations, the people of God are begotten through the education, instruction, and endeavours of those who were God's people before. Therefore the church is represented in scripture, as being the mother of its members. Gal. iv. 26. “But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.” Believers are the children of the churclı, as they are often called. Isaiah xlix. 20. “The children which thou shalt have, after thou hast lost the other, shall say again in thine ears, the place is too strait for me; give place to me, that I may dwell.” Isaiah liv. 1. “Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child : for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord.” And many other places.
God's people are often, through their education and instruction, the spiritual parents of those of whom they are the natural parents. The ministers of the word and ordinances are spiritual fathers. The apostle tells the Christian Corinthians, that he had begotten them through the gospel.
Secondly. God's people are immediately begotten of God. When they become saints, they are born again, they have a new nature given them, they have a new life begun, they are renewed in the whole man by a new generation and birth wherein they are born of God. John i. 12, 13. “ But as many as received him, to them gave
power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name : which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." They are born of the Spirit of God. John iii. 8. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh nor whither it goeth : so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” God is said to have formed the church from the womb. Isai. xliv. 2. ". Thus saith the Lord that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob my servant; and thou, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.”
This trulh also may suggest to us a few profitable reflections.
First. Christians ought to bear with one another. It appears from what has been said, that they are all of one kindred, that they have a relation to other Christians which they have not to the rest of the world; being of a distinct race from them, but of the same race one with another. They are descended all along from the same progenitors; they are the children of the same universal church of God; they are all the children of Abraham; they are the seed of Jesus Christ; they are the offspring of God. And they are yet much more alike, than their being of the same race originally argues them to be: they are also immediately the children of the same Father. God hath begotten all by the same Word and Spirit ; they are all of one family, and should therefore love as brethren. i Peter iii. 8. “ Finally be ye all of one mind, VOL. VIII.
having compassion one of another; love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous."
It is very unbecoming those who are God's offspring, to entertain a spirit of hatred and ill will one towards another. It is very unbecoming to be backward in helping and assisting one another, and supplying each other's wants; much more, to contrive and seek one another's hurt, to be revengeful one towards another.
Secondly. Let Christians take heed so to walk, that they may not dishonour their pedigree. You are of a very honourable race, more honourable by far than if you were the offspring of kings, and had royal blood in your veins; you are a heavenly offspring, the seed of Jesus Christ, the children of God. They that are of noble race are wont to value themselves bigbly upon the honour of their families, to dwell on their titles, their coats of arms, and their ensigns of honour, and to recount the exploits of their illustrious forefathers. How much more careful should you be of the honour of your descent, that you in nothing behave yourself unworthy of the great God, the eternal and omnipotent King of heaven and earth, whose offspring you are!
There are many things that are very base and too mean for such as you ; such are a giving way to earthly mindedness, a grovelling like moles in the earth, a suffering your soul to cleave to those earthly things, which ought to be neglected and despised by those who are of heavenly descent; an indulgence of the lusts of the flesh, suffering the soul to be iminersed in filth, being taken up with mean and unworthy delights common to the beasts, being intemperate in the gratification of any carnal appetite whatsoever, or a being much concerned about earthly horrour. It is surely a disgrace to them, wbo are accounted to God for a generation, much to care whether they are accounted great upon this dunghill. So it is unworthy of your noble descent to be governed by your passions : you should be guided by higher principles of reason and virtue, and an universal respect to the glory and honour of God.
But Christians should seek after those things which will be to the honour of their birth, after spiritual wisdom and knowledge of the most worthy and noble truths. They should seek more and more an acquaintance with God, and to be assimilated to him, their great progenitor, and their immediate Father, that they may have the image of his excellent and divine perfections. They should endeavour to act like God, wherein they are capable of imitation of bim. They should seek heavenly mindedness, those noble appetites after heavenly and spiritual enjoyments, a noble ambition after heavenly glory, a contempt of the trifles and mean things of this world. They should seek after those delights and satisfactions that can be enjoyed by none but heavenly minds. They should exercise a spirit of true, universal, and disinterested love and confidence, and Christian charity. They should be much in devotion, and divine contemplation.
Thirdly. We see here a reason why Christians are of so different a nature and temper from the rest of the world. The truly godly are very different in their disposition from others. They hate those things that the rest of the world love, and love those things for which the rest of the world have no relish; insomuch that others are ready to wonder that they should place any happiness in a strict observance of the self-denying duties of religion; they wonder what delight they can take in spending so much time in meditation and prayer, and that they do not place happiness in those things which themselves do. 1 Peter iv. 4. “Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot; speaking evil of you.” But the reason is, they are of a different race, and so derive different dispositions.
It is ordinary to see those who are of different families, of a different temper. The natural temper of parents is commonly in some degree transmitted to their posterity. Indeed, all agree in many things, for all are of the same blood originally ; all are descended from the same Adam, and the same Noah. But Christians are born again of another stock, different from all the rest of the world, and therefore they are of a temper hy themselves, wherein none of the rest of the world agree with them. Rev. i. 6. “ And hath made us kings and priests unto God, and his Father : to him be glory and dominion, for ever and ever."
JI. True Christians are a Royal Priesthood.
The two offices of King and Priest were accounted very honourable both among Jews and heathens; but it was a thing not known under the law of Moses, that the same person should sustain both those offices in a stated manner; and while Moses himself is said to have been king in Jeshurun, yet his brother Aaron was the high priest. Those who were kings by divine appointment in Israel, were of another tribe from the priesthood, viz: the tribe of Judah. Before the giving the law we have an instance of one who was both king and priest, viz: Melchizedeck. Gen. xiv. 18. " And Melchizedeck, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine; and he was the priest of the most high God.”
Therefore, in some of the prophecies of Christ, it is spoken of as a remarkable thing of him, that he should be a Priest after the order of Melchizedeck. Ps. cx. 4. "The Lord hath sworn and will not repent; thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedeck.” The same again is prophesied of as a wonderful thing by Zechariah, that he should be a priest