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CONSEQUENCES OF REGENERATION.--ADOPTION
1 John iii. 2.- Beloved, now we are the sons of God.
In a series of discourses, I have considered the Attendants of Regeneration : viz. Faith, formerly explained ; Repentance ; Love to God; Love to Mankind; and Brotherly Love. I shall now proceed, according to the scheme formerly proposed, to examine the Consequences of this Change of character.
Of these, the first in the natural order is Adoption. That Adoption is a Consequence of Regeneration will not be denied. The observations, which I shall make concerning the subject, will be included under the following heads:
J. The Nature;
A Child is, in this act, taken by a man from a family, not his own; introduced into his own family; regarded as his own child; and entitled to all the privileges and blessings, belonging to this relation. To adopt children in this manner has, it is well known, been a custom, generally prevailing in all ages, and probably in all nations. Thus children were adopted among the Egyptians, Jews, Romans, and other ancient nations; and the same custom exists in the Chris. tian nations of Europe ; in our own Country; among the American Aborigines; and, so far as my knowledge extends, throughout the world.
Of the same general nature is that transaction, in divine economy, by which mankind become the children of God.
II. The Reality of Adoption may be thus illustrated.
enemies to him, to his law, to his kingdom, and to all his interest. From this situation they are invited to come, and enter into his family; to take his name upon them; to share in his parental care, tenderness, and blessings. Such of them as comply with the invitation, are received into his family ; and become entitled to his parental Love, and all the offices of affection to which it gives birth. From this period, they are styled the children of God. From this period, they are permitted, and required to address him as their Father a character, which he has been pleased to assume; and to consider theinsclves as his children; and as entitled to the character of his children.
Of this subject the Scriptures give us the following exhibition. 1st. God announced the adoption of mankind into his family soon after the Apostacy: At the birth of Enos, we are told, that men began to call
upon the Rame of the Lord. In the margin, and, as it would seem, with greater correctness, men began to be called by the name of the Lord :* that is, they began to be called his children, and to take upon themselves the name of God, as being now their parent; just as adopted children take upon themselves the names of those human parents, by whom they have been adopted. The style, by which they began to be known at this early period, has been continued through every succeeding age of the Church. In Gen. vi. 1, 2, we read of the sons of God. These, I apprehend, are persons of the same class with those, who, in the time of Enos, began to be called by the name of the Lord; and were now publicly designated by this title. "That such persons were meant by the phrase, the sons of God, is sufficiently manifest from the use of it elsewhere. In Job i. 6, it is said, the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord : and in Job xxxviii. 7, that, at the creation, the Morning Stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy. In these passages, Angels are undoubtedly the persons intended. When mankind, in those early days, received the same appellation, it was designed to indicate, that they belonged to the same family, and were by adoption, children of the same heavenly Parent.
In the communications, made by God to Abraham and his family, the same scheme is more particularly and explicitly pursued. God, in the covenant of grace, declared to this earthly father of the faithful, I will be your God; and ye shall be my people: phraseology, exactly equivalent, in the mouth of the Speaker, to the following: I will be your Father; and ye shall be my children. In
. conformity to this scheme, Moses was directed, Ex. iv. 22, to preface his message from God to Pharaoh, with Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my first-born. In the same manner,
Moses declared the same relation, Deut. xiv. 1, Ye are the children of the Lord your God. In Ps. Ixxxii. 6, it is said to the rulers of Israel, All of you are Children of the Most High. In the latter days of their kingdom, when they had become deeply depraved, they were still called by the title of children. Thus they are styled rebellious children ; corrupters ; lying children, that will not hear the word of the Lord.
By the Prophet Hosea it was again predicted, that they should be called the Sons of God when gathered again, after their disper. sion. It shall be said of them, Ye are the Sons of the living God.
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, eden 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, eis 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 creaturrs; and were objects, only of his eternal indignation. But when we are adopted into his family, we become his children anew; are acknowledged as 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 to 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 üi. 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 parenț 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 exceedingly the honour, and importance, derived to us from this
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. The 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 deblors : the one owed five hundred pence; the other, fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me, therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered, and said, I suppose, he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. In 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,