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This character, thus insisted on through the several ages of the Jewish Church, is more particularly, and strongly insisted on in the New Testament. Here the important fact of our Adoption is declared in the most explicit manner, and in a great variety of forms. In Eph. i. 5, it is said, that Christians were predestinated unto the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ, to God, according to the good pleasure of his will. Agreeably to this determination, it is declared, John i. 12, that to as many as received Christ, to them gade he power to become the Sons of God, even to them who believe on his
Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. To persons of this character St. Paul says, But ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby
, we cry, Abba, Father. These passages are amply sufficient to show the Scriptural views of the reality of Adoption. It would be useless, therefore, to quote a multitude of others, of similar import.
2dly. The same doctrine is forcibly taught in the ordinance of Baptism.
The ordinance of Baptism is a solemn symbol of Regeneration. By the affusion of the water upon every subject of this ordinance is exhibited, in a very affecting manner, the effusion of the Spirit of Grace upon his heart; and by the cleansing influence of the water, the purification of his soul by the blood of Christ. In the administration of this ordinance, every subject of it is baptized, by the command of Christ, els so ovoua, into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. In this manner, baptism is a direct exhibition of our Adoption into the family of God, and our rightful assumption of the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Accordingly, Christians are, in the Scriptures, entitled, after these names, Godly, Christian, and Spiritual. The ordinance, it is true, is, as from the nature of the case it must be, external and symbolical. But the symbol is easy, intelligible, and plainly indicative of the adoption of Christians into the family, which is named after Christ.
III. The Importance of Adoption may be illustrated from the following considerations.
1st. The act of Adoption produces a real relation in us to God.
In reading the Scriptures, a book so fraught with figurative language, it is no unnatural, and, I believe, not a very uncommon, thing, for persons to regard whatever is said on this subject, as a mere collection of fine phraseology, intended to express, with strength and beauty, the dignity of the Christian's character, and the desirableness of his situation; and not to denote a real and important part of the scheme of Redemption. This, however, is an erroneous mode of thinking concerning the subject. We are, in fact, strangers to the Divine Family; and have ceased to be, in any sense, useful to ourselves, and dutiful children of God. We have allied ourselves voluntarily to strangers, and become aliens
from the commonwealth of the spiritual Israel. In this manner, we have wandered, and remained, far off from God; and, but for his mercy, employed to bring us back, had widened our distance from his house and favour for ever. In this situation, we were related to him, only as froward and rebellious creatures, and were objects, only of his eternal indignation. But when we are adopted into his family, we become his children anew; are acknowledged às such; and shall be treated as such throughout eternity. The act by which we are adopted, and which creates this relation, is also a publication of it to the Universe; solemnly announcing to all the subjects of the divine kingdom, that henceforth we are regarded by God as his children; that he will be a father lo us; and that we shall be his sons and daughters ; that the name, the duties, and the privileges, of children, will henceforth be rightfully ours.
2dly. This relation is very near, and very interesting.
In the original condition of mankind they stood related to God by creation and preservation. This, considered as the state of Intelligent beings, is a relation of high and interesting importance. Adam accordingly, on account of this relation, is, together with the angels, dignified with the title of a Son of God. See Luke iï. 38.
This relation is often insisted on with much magnificence by the ancient heathen Sages; who exhibited their views of it in a variety of bold and strong images. Particularly, they represented the soul of man as an emanation from God; as a part of the divine mind; separated for a season, to return again, and be reabsorbed by the original Source of perfection; as a beam of divine light; a particle of ethereal fire; sent forth from the uncreated Sun, to be re-united hereafter to its parent Orb. It will be easily seen from these representations, what stress they laid upon our divine original; and it will be not less easily seen, that the more perfect views of the Original Mind, furnished by the Scriptures, enhance exceedirgly the honour, and importance, derived to us from this source.
But though it is honourable to an Intelligent being, that God was pleased to bring him into existence, and endow him with such noble faculties; yet, in the Adoption of the Covenant of Grace, a much nearer, dearer, and more exalted, relation is formed, and finished. In this proceeding, God takes rebels, sinners, and outcasts, and with immense exertions, and with means most wonderful, brings them back into his family and favour. They were before created, and preserved : now they are redeemed, sanctified, and forgiven. An act of creative power was before exerted, to bring them into being; and of preserving power, to continue them in being; but now Christ has been made man; has lived, suffered, and died; has descended into the grave; risen again; sat down at the right hand of God; and begun an eternal intercession; that they may be restored to the character of children, and to the bless
ings which flow from infinite love. The Spirit of God has, also, with infinite condescension, patience, and kindness, sanctified, enlightened, quickened, and purified, them unto the end. Father of Spirits has formed, and completed, a new dispensation in the Universe, a dispensation of grace and forgiveness, for their sakes; has forgiven and justified them; and re-admitted them to his kingdom and everlasting love. These are all new, great, and glorious things; things, which have been done for no other.
Correspondent with the degree of that, which is done, or suffered, by any Intelligent being for any other, is their mutual love. He, for whom most is done, and to whom most is forgiven, will naturally love the most. This is directly taught by Christ in his parable of the two debtors, recorded Luke vii. 40.: And Jesus, answering, said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee; and he said, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor, who had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence; the other, fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgade them both. Tell me, therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered, and said, I suppose, he, to whom he forgade most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. În proportion, then, to what has been done for the redeemed, will be their love, and the cause of it also, throughout eternity.
On the other hand, he, who does, or suffers, much for others, loves them, also, in proportion to what he has done and suffered. This truth is abundantly evident in all human concerns. A father loves his child, when sick, and distressed, and needing much at his hands, more tenderly, than those of his children, who are healthy and prosperous. A friend, in the like circumstances, loves his friend more than before ; and a patriot his country.
The same doctrine is also taught by Christ, in the parables of the ten pieces of silver, and the hundred Sheep; and is appealed to by St. Paul in that memorable passage : He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not, with him, also freely give us all things? But God has done more, Christ has suffered more, for the Redeemed, than has been done, or suffered, for any others. Of course they are loved more, in proportion to their importance in the Universe, than any others. For this, as one reason, there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, who need no repentance. The fact, that they have been once lost, and have been found again; that they have been once dead, and live anew; and that their restoration has been accomplished by so much exertion and suffering; will render this event an object of peculiar interest, and them objects of peculiar tenderness, throughout eternity.
Thus the Redeemed are brought into a near relation to God; nearer than that of mere Intelligent creatures, in proportion to the greatness of the things, which have been done, and suffered, to bring it into being
3dly. This relation is eternal. Those, who are once redeemed, sustain this character for ever. The song, which ascribes blessing, and honour, and glory, to the Lamb who was slain, and who hath redeemed us to God by his blood, is begun in the present world, and continued throughout all its suc cessive ages. But it does not terminate here. It is renewed in heaven; and will be continued throughout its everlasting duration. In that happy world, they will be joint heirs with Christ to the inheritance, which is undefiled, and fadeth not away. There they will behold his glory, even the glory which he had with the Father before ever the world was. Throughout their interminable existence they will ever sustain the peculiar character of Redeemed creatures; will be regarded by God, and the virtuous universe, as the trophies of Christ's Mediation, as monuments of forgiving and sanctifying Love. In this character they will regard themselves; and will feel its import with a gratitude, suited to the greatness of the blessings, which they have received.
It is this consideration, which stamps the peculiar value on the relation in question. All that is temporary and perishable is, in its nature, comparatively of little importance. Time, necessarily fading in itself, imparts its own character to every thing under its dominion. The remembrance, that an enjoyment will come to an end, embitters it, even while it is in possession; and after a period, which must soon arrive, it will be destroyed for ever. No possession therefore, ought ever to engage the ardent attachment of an immortal mind, unless made sure by the seal of eternity.
4thly. This relation will become more and more inieresting for
The mind, which is received into heaven through the mediation of the Redeemer, will more and more understand the nature of the blessings, to which it has been admitted. From the sufferings of those who are lost, it will learn the greatness of the evils from which itself has been delivered ; and, from their obstinate continuance in sin, the hopeless pature of its own former state, bad it not been for the atonement of Christ, and the sanctifying agency of the Holy Spirit. In the happiness of heaven it will see, and feel, the vastness, and multitude, of the enjoyments to which it has been introduced; and in the perfection and loveliness of itself, and of all its companions, the transcendent excellence of that character, which was mercifully begun in it here, to be improved for ever. In proportion as its views of these subjects expand, it will discern, more and more clearly, the importance of those wonderful things, which have been done to deliver it from endless sin and misery, and to instate it in endless virtue and happiness In this manner it will advance continually, together with all glorified saints, towards the comprehension of what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and heighth ; and will more and more know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge. As the sense of these divine subjects increases
in the heart, its admiration, complacency, and gratitude, will rise continually higher; its beauty and amiableness daily increase ; and itself become daily a more delightful object of the divine ap. probation.
IV. The Consequences of Adoption are great and desirable.
I have observed above, that the relation, produced by this event, is real. Every real relation involves real rights and obligations; duties to be performed on our part ; and on the part of God, blessings, to the communication which he has been pleased to oblige himself by his own gracious promises. The relation, introduced into existence by the act of Adoption between him and his redeemed children, involves in its consequences a long train of rights and obligations, duties and blessings. 'Of these a few only can be mentioned at the present time ; and even these must be mentioned
; in a summary manner.
The consequences of Adoption respect either the present world, or the world to come.
In the present world, God
God provides for the wants of all creatures; not only for mankind, but for animals. The young lions seek their meat from God; and he satisfieth the young ravens, when they cry. But the provi. sion which he makes for the wants of his Children, is distinguished from that which he makes for others, by this important consideration: that it is exactly that which is best for them. In kind, in degree, in manner, it is just such as most promotes their real wel. fare. Were
difference to exist in their circumstances; had they more, or had they less; or were their supplies to be varied in any other manner; or were their situation, in this respect, to be at all different from what it actually is; their true interest would be less perfectly consulted. All things, in this respect, work together for the good of them that love God; and they that seek the Lord do not want any good thing.
The provision made for them, differs also from that made for their fellow-men, in another important particular. They are assured by his promise, that this provision will always be made for them, while they live. They have, therefore, an indefeasible right to expect all the blessings of this nature, which they need; a right founded on the unchangeable covenant of grace; on the truth of God, which is as the great mountains, stedfast and immoveable; and on his promises, which endure for ever. Every one of them may, therefore, say with David, The Lord is my Shepherd: I shall not want. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of
Finally; there is yet another difference between the provision, made for their wants, and that made for others; viz. that the good furnished to them is a series, not of enjoyments merely, but of blessings. As such, they are not only permitted, but required, to regard Vol. II.