Friday, February 4, 2011



" He shall be a resnel unto honour, sanctified and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work."—2 Tim. ii. 21.

There is somewhat very expressive in the title:— ' Vessels of Mercy.' For what is a vessel? Nay, it can be no other than a mere receiver. For the very designation of it is to this office, and to this office only. It is pre-supposed to be formed for this purpose, and no other, having nothing in itself; and, after all, can have nothing more than what it receives. And what can more aptly be chosen to represent the church of Christ ? she is a vessel indeed unto honour, when sanctified and made meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work; but in herself still only a vessel to receive. " For," as the Holy Ghost by Paul unanswerably reasons, " who maketh thee to differ from another ? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive ?" 1 Cor. iv. 7.

Let us pause for a moment over this view, and ask the question, who in the congregation this day, can be fitted to receive, but such as are vessels for that purpose? Nay, who among the vessels is likely to fare best, but he that is most empty in himself, and is come here under a sense of need, " to receive out of Christ's fulness, and grace for grace ?" John i. 16. To this end speaketh the Lord, " When the poor and the needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst; I the Lord will hear them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them: I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the vallies ; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water," Isa. xli. 17, 18. And it is very blessed to see how exactly suited our most glorious Christ is in himself, to fill the empty vessels of his people. The more dry they are, the more they are made sensible when receiving out of his fulness. It is not unsimilar to the thirsty earth, when parched by long drought. You must have seen the effect which immediately takes place at such a time, after a shower of rain, which is soaked in by the ground, making the whole refreshed and saturated. Hence it is said of our most glorious Christ, " He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass, as showers that water the earth," Ps. Ixxii. 6. Hence his gracious love-call to his people in the days of the prophet: " Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price," Isa. Iv. 1. And in person, the Lord of life and glory followed up the same gracious invitation to the thirsty soul, when in the days of his flesh Jesus stood and cried, " If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink," John vii. 37. And as this was delivered by the Lord in his last public sermon, the last great day of the feast; so when he sent his angel to testify these things, and to close in the final words of scripture, until his second coming, the same is repeated : " And the Spirit and the bride say, come; and let him that heareth say, come; and let him that is athirst, come; and whosoever will, (whomsoever the Lord hath made willing in the day of his power) let him take of the water of life freely," Rev. xxii. 17. And very sure I am, that the more a soul feels his need of Christ, as an empty vessel, the greater will be his supply from this almighty fountain of living water. And though all that are longing for Christ shall be supplied by Christ; (for as Mary in her love-song said, " He filleth the hungry with good things, and it is the rich only he sends empty away," Luke i. 53.) yet that precious soul shall be first fed that is most famishing; first have his vessel filled that is most empty; the poorer the sinner, made sensible of his sin and poverty, the welcomer here. Well, therefore, are the Lord's people called vessels, since they have nothing but what they receive. But we must not stop here. The church is not only said in all her members to be vessels, but " vessels of mercy." And there is a vast sweetness, as well as great blessedness in the expression, when by regeneration the Lord hath brought us into a real scriptural and spiritual apprehension of the meaning. For mercy, strictly and properly speaking, can be shewn only to the miserable. God might, and God did indeed, love the church in Christ, before he called them into actual being in themselves, Jer. xxxi. 3. And God is said to have given grace to the church in Christ Jesus " before the world began," 2 Tim. i. 9. But I speak with reverence when I say, the church could not have been called " vessels of mercy," had she not before, by the Adam-fall transgression, been the object and subject of misery. And this divine attribute of Jehovah, hath no other occasion for exercise but upon the miserable. Mercy is a perfection solely for manifestation in this way.

All the other divine properties find opportunity for numberless displays of them; " God is love." 'God loves himself in his trinity of persons. God's riches of grace tin making the church to be accepted in the Beloved: this is said to be to the " praise of the glory of his grace." Eph. i. 6. But God cannot be said to be gracious to himself, or merciful to himself. Mercy is solely for the miserable. Hence it is said by the prophet, that " he delighteth in mercy." Micah vii. 18. Yes, he saith himself, when calling upon the church to the contemplation of it, that he delighteth in it; and calls upon his people to delight in it also : " Thus saith the Lord, let not the wise man glory in his wisdom; neither let the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord, which exerciseth loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord," Jer. ix. 23, 24. You see, therefore, that the church is not only a vessel, considered as a mere receiver; but a vessel of mercy, needing daily mercy, as we need our daily bread; and I hope that the Lord hath brought both you and me, at this time, before his divine majesty, under a sense of both; and that as he knoweth every care and every want of his people, and hath a suited mercy for you, for me, and for all that feel their need of him ; his gracious voice may be heard by the ear of faith, and his power felt in the believer's heart, when he saith, " Let Israel hope in the Lord, for in the Lord there is mercy, (even Jesus, the mercy of mercies) and with him is plenteous redemption ; and he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities," Psalm cxxx. 7, 8.

We shall be the better prepared, under divine teaching, to enter upon the subject proposed for our meditation in this tract of " vessels of mercy," by previously observing how the apostle hath introduced it; in a verse or two preceding the statement concerning " vessels of mercy," the apostle had been speaking somewhat largely of God's sovereignty, according ^to his own declaration of it to Moses ; and Paul made a quotation from that scripture, Exod. xxxiii. 19. where the Lord asserted his just prerogative to the exercise of the same. For he saith to Moses, " I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion;" and Paul foreseeing that this would excite the indignation of all natural men, the apostle took occasion to assert therefrom, the unquestionable right of God in the exercise of this power; and for the better confirmation of the doctrine, he adopts a very familiar mode of illustrating it, in the well-known character of the potter, who, in moulding or shapening his vessels in whatever way or manner pleased him, had no resource to the opinion of others, his own judgment being the best standard; " Hath not the potter (saith Paul) power over the clay of the same lump, to make one vessel to honour, and another to dishonour ?" To be sure he hath. And who ever doubted it, or called in question this man of the earth, whose clay and himself are alike of the same materials, dust ? And shall the God of heaven then be arraigned at the bar of his creature's tribunal, for exercising an authority which all the world, without reluctancy, give to the maker of potsherds, when such an infinite dissimilarity of being marks the Creator from the created ? And from this unanswerable statement, the apostle advancxth to another equally unanswerable, and which carries conviction with it against all objections, " What if God (saith Paul) willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction? and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy which he had afore prepared unto glory; even us (said Paul) whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles," Rom. ix. 21—24.

Let us not dismiss this scripture, until that we have marked one or two of the leading particulars of it. God hath authority surely to shew both his wrath and his power on the vessels of wrath. But the apostle is here stating his long-suffering in enduring with forbearance the execution of his justice on " vessels fitted for destruction." For when men that are ripe for ruin, full of evil to the brim, and like a vessel laden with inflammable materials, ready to ignite with a spark, need but to be touched to be blown up with an explosion; is it not long-suffering, the suspension of the merited punishment day by day ? Are they filling up continually their measure of iniquity, and treasuring up to themselves " wrath against the day of wrath;" and is it not great long-suffering in God that they are not cut off? Nay, are not thousands and tens of thousands receiving at the Lord's hand innumerable blessings, who, in return, only " cause him to serve with their sins, and weary him with their iniquities ?" Is not this great long-suffering in the righteous Lord " who loveth righteousness ?" I have often thought, if persons of this complexion had the power to pause over their awful situation ; if after the midnight revel, or the visiting haunts of licentiousness, the wretched character, when awakening to the morning light, could but put the question to himself, and say, wherefore is it that the Lord hath spared me to this hour, and the dawn of a new day opens upon me ? Can this forbearance be ascribed to any other cause than the Lord's long-suffering ? They of the Lord's redeemed ones, who can and do trace the recovery by grace to this divine forbearance, will need no intimation from me, how much they are debtors to the Lord on this score. They can and will appreciate somewhat at least of his mercy, " who maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good; and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust," Matt. v. 45.

But passing away for the present the consideration of what this scripture hath stated, in relation to " the vessels of wrath;'' the purport of this little tract is intended to treat, and on scripture ground, concerning the " vessels of mercy." The apostle, in his divine way of reasoning, taught by the Holy Ghost, draws an argument from the former, the more strikingly to prove the latter. " What (saith he) if God willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction ;" shall he not do it ? " shall not the Judge of all the earth do right ?" Gen. xviii. 25. In like manner shall he not demonstrate no less his grace ; " and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory. Even us (saith Paul) whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles." The words themselves are very blessedly formed into those three distinct branches in relation to those " vessels of mercy." The first and chief (and which must indeed be everlastingly so in all the dispensations of the Lord to his creatures) is the divine glory. It is to make known the riches of God's glory for which they are vessels of mercy, and for which " they were afore prepared unto glory." This, therefore, as it is the pre-disposing cause of all, it will be our wisdom, under the Lord's leadings, first to consider. The second branch of our subject, will then come within its proper province to notice; namely, "vessels of mercy;" and particularly that they are such, because they were fore-ordained to glory. And when we have gone over this, part of the subject, it will form a matter of no small interest to examine the third, namely, of the us Paul speaks of, who are the objects of such divine favour, whether Jew or Gentile, being the " called of God." And it will be a very blessed application of our time, if the Lord's presence shall be in our midst, to give us a true spiritual knowledge of these rich mercies in Christ. To discover that we are vessels of mercy, being afore prepared unto glory, exceeds the highest calculation we can in the present time-state conceive of happiness. For this is what the Lord called upon his disciples to rejoice in, that " their names are written in heaven," Luke x. 20.

And in order for your better apprehension, under divine unction, of this soul-comforting truth, I would have you enter upon it with the humble hope, that as Paul in his sermon before the people at Antioch declared, that " whosoever among them feared God," were interested in what he had delivered; so the same may be said among all God-fearers now; " to you is the word of this salvation sent," Acts xiii. 26. Methinks I would have the blessed truth proclaimed in every place of concourse where the ordinances of God are observed, that Jesus is always present to fill the vessels of mercy in all who are made sensible of their emptiness. And I would have it yet further proclaimed, that a sense of need is the only qualification for receiving. The bountiful Lord, as he wants nothing from the objects of his bounty, so there is nothing that they have to give, or that the Lord can receive. His grace finds vent, when from his fulness he pours into their emptiness; and while they are made happy, his riches hath the end in the bestowing of them. It is not what the objects of misery can do for him ; but what he can and will do for them. And yet more. I would have it yet further considered, that as we are vessels of mercy, and not sacrifice, all that are receivers are by their very state and circumstances beheld as passive in receiving. There are no preparations, no worth, no merit, no deservings. The generous Lord gives with a full, free, and open hand. And above all, as if to remove every doubt and every fear from the mind of the miserable who feel their poverty and long for mercy, the Lord declares, that his glory is more concerned in the salvation of his people, than any of them can be for themselves. The word saith, that it is " to make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy which he had afore prepared unto glory !" What then is wanting to recommend the gracious doctrine concerning what this little tract is directed to treat of? Thy sovereign grace only, O Lord ! for in this we have the whole power of persuasion ! And if the Lord God of the prophets will mercifully do in the present day, as he influenced the mind of his servant Elisha the prophet to do in his, to the poor widow, when commanding her to bring empty vessels, and not a few, which supplied her need in filling from the cruse of oil, which failed not while she had any to fill; what may we not hope our God himself will do to supply every needy one whom he hath made sensible of his misery by sin, and is come to ask supply from him who is the head of his body the church, " the fulness that filleth all in all." Sure I am that while there is one such empty vessel to fill, the oil of his grace will not fail; yea, every vessel shall be filled, and the infinite ocean that is in himself shall remain undiminished; for however we fail, his compassions fail not. He is "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever."

I begin according to my proposal, in speaking of the vessels of mercy, with that first branch of the subject, which is and must be in this (and indeed in every other) the bottom and topstone of all things; namely, the object of all the divine glory. The words of this scripture so speak, " that he might make known the riches of his glory." And this is so plain and clear, that though the highest in importance to every other, yet requires the least in point of reasoning to insist upon. This was the burden of the song John heard in vision, among those who rested not day and night, to proclaim the sovereignty of Jehovah ; " Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power, for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are, and were created," Rev. iv. 8—11.) And very eminently is this glory manifested in the infinite grace shewn to the church in our most glorious Christ. For in him, in the blessed manifestations made personally to the church, all the divine attributes find display. And in the fore-ordination of those which become vessels of mercy in time, because they were chosen in Christ to glory before all time; here is the richest and fullest demonstration of it. Jehovah in his trinity of persons is here, and here only known. " No man hath seen God at any time ; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him," John i. 18. So that in this most glorious Christ we know the Father, we have seen the Father, John xiv. 7, 9. And Christ, as the visible Jehovah, manifesteth the whole according to this his own statement, John xiv. 10, 11. All the purposes of the Holy Three in One, are concentrated in him, Eph. iii. 11. In his Person there is a full constellation, like that beautiful cluster of the heavenly bodies in the south, Job xxxviii. 31. which we call the seven stars, which give lustre in one full blaze of glory. Hence his praise is blessedly described in the Psalms. " His glory is great in thy salvation; honour and majesty hast thou laid upon him : for thou hast made him most blessed for ever," Ps. xxi. 5, 6. I stay not to observe at this time how each glorious person hath taken part in the vast purposes concerning the church ; it will be enough to remark, that as the vessels of mercy were fore-ordained to glory, evidently this arose from those ancient settlements of eternity, in which the personal love of the Father was declared in naming them in Christ, Eph. iii. 14, 15 ; the personal love of God the Son in betrothing them to himself, Isa. liv. 5 ; Hosea ii. 19, 20; and the personal love of God the Holy Ghost, in anointing them in Christ before all time, and giving them the earnest of the promised inheritance, 2 Cor. v. 5.

But this eternal fore-ordination to glory, being founded in the joint favour and love of the Holy Three in One, most decidedly shews the safety and security of it. For there could be no peradventures, no obstructions, no impediments which the same divine wisdom which foreappointed to glory, had not foreseen to guard against, that nothing might arise to counteract the ordination of eternity. The divine glory stood engaged for the accomplishment; and in the person of our most glorious Christ, every efficiency was found to render the whole secure. And the church being now in time made vessels of mercy, not only were made so because they were fore-appointed to glory; but in this marvellous way hereby the riches of glory became more conspicuously displayed, both for the salvation of the church, and the greatening and exalting the person of Christ.

And to add no more. The grand point to crown the whole, is chiefly manifested in that the everlasting blessedness of the church, and the holiness and happiness of the church being founded in Christ, is preserved in Christ; and as she was fore-prepared for glory when chosen in him before all worlds ; there is no possibility of being otherwise than holy and without blame before God in Christ, when there are no worlds ; because it is not what the church is in herself, but what she is in Christ. How the Lord hath wrought for the bringing about this incalculably great and sovereign purpose, when gathering his church from the ruins of the fall, will be considered under the second branch of our subject, which I now proceed to enter upon, namely, God hath made known " the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy which he had afore prepared to glory."

I need not in order to heighten the representation of this immense grace of God, in making vessels of mercy from the children of the Adam-fall transgression, take you by the hand to lead you into those chambers of imagery, which are in your and my heart by nature, in order to shew the total corruption of our lost and degraded state, as we are in ourselves. If the Lord hath not taught the reader this self-knowledge, and made him acquainted with the plague of his own heart, very sure I am, that I cannot teach it to you. But there is one always present that can. And if the Lord should so teach and so convince of sin, you will need no further testimony in proof, how all such when recovered by sovereign grace, are indeed in every sense of the word vessels of mercy. But what I would at this time particularly desire to dwell upon, is the grace of God in adopting this wonderful process in order to endear his eternal purpose—in first, making his church vessels of glory from eternity, to make them vessels of mercy in time; that so mercy shall be added to grace—and the love of God in redemption, give a lustre even to the glory of eternity. This is a wonderful display both of infinite wisdom, and infinite love, and infinite power.

And the plan in the accomplishment of both, even in the glorious person of our most glorious Christ; this no less forms a vast subject of delight and wonder in the charter of grace. For as in glory, the original and final state of the church, is in Christ; so in time, as vessels of mercy, the whole is also in Christ. Still receives only in both. For the same scriptures which declare the church as originally chosen in Christ, in which the church was altogether passive and bore no part, do as decidedly state that the being vessels of mercy is wholly out of ourselves, and wholly in Christ. " His own arm brought salvation, and of the people there was none with him," Isa. Ixiii. 3, 5. Hence the apostle bears testimony to the Lord's own incommunicable work of salvation, when saying, " In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace," Eph. i. 7. All therefore being in Christ, and by Christ, and for Christ, the vessels of mercy which afore the Lord had prepared unto glory, are alike saved in him ; and his glory as the first cause, and the final end, is the pre-disposing ordination of all. Hence the apostle elsewhere offers his thanksgiving for the unspeakable mercy, when he tells the church, " We are bound, (said he,) to give thanks always to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord ; because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth, whereunto he called you by our gospel to the obtaining of glory by our Lord Jesus Christ," 2 Thess. ii. 13, 14.

I have one more point to accomplish, under the third branch I proposed on this subject, and that is the little word us which Paul speaks of, who are the characters that are the vessels of mercy. And though the word itself apparently is so little, yet as it concerns the persons who are the objects and the subjects of it, to you and to me, the word itself is bigger than the world. " The vessels of mercy are, even us (said Paul,) whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles." And who are the called ? The same apostle answers the question elsewhere. " We (saith Paul) whom he hath quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; and who were by nature the children of wrath, even as others; but God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ," Eph. ii. 1—5. Do observe—the called are here said to be " by nature the children of wrath, even as others." And observe yet further, that the cause of their quickening is precisely the same, as the text saith, their being vessels of mercy, namely, " God's being rich in mercy," as is said here, that " he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy." So that the whole cause and the final end, is referred into the divine glory. They that are called, are proved thereby that they are " vessels of mercy," and were " afore prepared unto glory." And which is confirmed in another scripture, " They who are the called according to his purpose ; for whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified," Rom. viii. 28—30. And to throw down all the distinctions in the election of grace, Paul saith, " not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles." As the apostle elsewhere more fully explains, " There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for ye are all one in Christ Jesus," Gal. iii. 28.

And now what is the result of the whole ? Who are vessels of mercy among you, and who are not ? They who are, have been "fore prepared unto glory," and are therefore chosen vessels in consequence thereof, and their marks and characters I have shewn from scripture. And the next question is, how many empty vessels are now come to Christ to be filled ? Let none go away as he came. It would be a reproach to our most glorious Christ so to do. He saith himself, " I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly," John x. 10. And is there any, yea, is there one, conscious of his want that will go away unsupplied ?

Do not say your fears or your conscious unworthiness keeps you back. Oh ! say not so. Why herein consists Christ's miracle of grace—that his fulness is exactly suited to our emptiness—and our undeservings to his free salvation. The church would not be suited for our most glorious Christ to get glory by, unless on objects wretched and undeserving he caused his grace to shine. How could the church in all her members be called vessels of mercy, if they were not miserable and wanting mercy ? If they were good and full in themselves, what room would there be for Christ ?

I shall blush if any who is made sensible of his want go away, while so full, so mighty, so glorious a Saviour is here to supply. " How doth the Lord wait that he may be gracious to you!" Oh ! could you look within the veil where thousands now are, that were once vessels of misery here, and found mercy, how would you feel confidence in him; he hath been supplying the church in all ages, and yet is not the less full. The ocean, his creation, hath been near six thousand years, and hath lost nothing of its salt, neither any thing of its fulness, though supplying all the rivers of the earth ; and the sun shines equally bright, equally warm now, as when first made at the creation. And what must our Lord Jesus Christ be, who is the maker of them all?

The Lord accompany* these feeble efforts with his sovereign power, and give to every sensible needy vessel of mercy, " to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and heighth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled with all the fulness of God."



It was a very blessed proclamation made to the church, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, by the apostle John, when from contemplating the unspeakable act of grace of Jehovah, in the adoption of the church to himself by Jesus Christ, he cried out, " Behold! what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!" 1 John iii. 1. The very soul of the old disciple seems to have been on fire", even in the view of such rich and unparalleled mercy. John knew not how to express himself on the occasion. The love itself, the manner of that love, and the distinguishing nature of that love, all pressed together upon the mind of the hoary saint of God, that like Elihu, the spirit within him constrained him, that he was full of matter, and " as wine which hath no vent, he was ready to burst like new bottles!" Job xxxii. 18, 19.

The love itself coming from the whole persons in the Godhead. For though the apostle here speaks only of the Father, yet the Persons of God the Son and God the Holy Ghost are equally included in the grace manifested to the church in her adoption. For the same John, elsewhere speaking of the Son, refers no less the gracious work to him. " He was in the world, (said John) and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God!" John i. 10—12. And so intimately engaged was, and is, God the Holy Ghost in the Almighty gift of adoption, that the Lord the Spirit forms one of his revealed names on this very account, and is expressly called " the Spirit of adoption!" Rom. viii. 15. So that Jehovah in his trinity of persons, is alike glorified in adopting the church.

And John felt inexpressible delight as he contemplated the unspeakable mercy from the manner of that love; " that we (said the apostle) should be called the sons of God !" It would have been a marvellous act of grace, when in our sunken, lost, and sinful state, had the Lord only pardoned us. And had God in infinite mercy, added to this unmerited pardon, the blessing of taking us again into favour; had he transformed us from sinners to saints, and changed our Ethiopian skin, to the purity in which Adam was first created, by washing us in the blood of Christ, those would have been marvellous acts of grace. But the manner of God's love would not rest here. His children shall not only be washed white in the blood of the Lamb, and be redeemed from " the bondage of corruption," they shall also be brought into " the glorious liberty of the sons of God ; made heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ," Rom. viii. 17. So that by this adoption, the church obtains a blessing unknown to angels. For there is not an angel in heaven that can call God Father. Whereas, there is not a sinner upon earth saved by grace, but what can, and ought; yea, he is commanded so to do. For thus we read : " But I said, (said God) how shall I put thee among the children, and give thee a pleasant land, a goodly heritage of the hosts of nations ? And I said, thou shall call me, my Father! and shalt not turn away from me! Jer. iii. 19Thus by sonship, providing a method for overruling all objections, and removing all obstructions which sin and unworthiness had thrown in the way. Well might the apostle stand amazed at the wonderful works of grace, and exclaim, " behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us !"

But John had not finished his admiration when he had said this. The next volume in the mystery, called forth new surprize in the apostle's mind. " That we" (saith John) who are by nature and by practice, both by original and by actual transgressions, " children of wrath, even as others, that we should be called the sons of God. What then, are we better than they ? No ! in no wise, for God hath concluded all under sin." How marvellous the grace, that in the moment we were doing the work of Satan, wearing his livery, and expecting his wages, even eternal death, should be adopted into the household of God; and while meriting hell, should be made heirs of heaven. Well might the apostle stand astonished at such peerless grace. And well may you, and I, cry out with the prophet, " Sing, O ye heavens, for the Lord hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth ! break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein ; for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel," Isa. xliv. 23.
Our tract is the subject of the Adopted Child! And when the child of God is taught of God, and his eyes are spiritually enlightened, " to know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in Christ;" no subject so sweet, or so interesting ; for it takes within its bosom, every other in the manifestation of the divine love. Before that I enter upon it, I would pause at the threshold, and taking my reader by the hand, I would say as we open the door, if you are intent upon a subject of such infinite importance, and are desirous of being taught of God, which the promise decidedly declares, all the children shall be, Isa. liv. 13. John vi. 45. the subject is equally addressed, and is equally suited, both to saint and sinner ; he that now knows by divine teaching of his adoption character, and he that by secret disposings from the Lord, (however unconscious at present from what direction those disposings come) desires it.

If you are of the former class, and are " passed from death 'unto life ;" you cannot be ignorant of those features of sonship by which the children of God are known. Brought into the Lord's family, you are " no more a stranger and a foreigner, but a fellow-citizen with the saints, and of the household of God ; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone," Bph. ii. 19, 20, You are enrolled in the records among those " whose names are written in heaven." By your adoption character you are discovered to be of the " chosen generation, the royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; to shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darknes into his marvellous light," 1 Pet. ii. 9 You are brought by regeneration to look with different regard, and to esteem with different affection, to what you once beheld and valued, while in a state of unrenewed nature, the things of time and sense; for as one, whose views are now enlarged beyond the confines of a dying world, you are " looking for a city which hath foundation, whose builder and maker is God!" Hence your pursuits, customs, language, manners, are unaccommodating to, and distinguished from, men of the world. True indeed, the claims and affinities of natural life necessarily compel you to the employments of life ; and the honest maintenance of yourself and family may prevent a total separation from the world. But in the midst of these unavoidable duties, the concerns and pleasures of all around you, appear to you but as the amusements and pursuits of children. You breathe the atmosphere of the earth, but " your conversation is in heaven." In a word, you are by the new birth, a new creature : " old things are passed away, and behold all things are become new !" Can the reader subscribe to these marks of character, (and which are scriptural) as his own ? Then it will follow that he is the adopted child!

And if my reader be of the latter class, whose desires are awakened, but whose enjoyments do not come up to thejbrmer; let him not from hence conclude that he hath no part nor lot in this matter. There is " a set time to favour Zion," Ps. cii. 15. It was " the fulness of time," when Christ came, Gal. iv. 4. And it is " the day of Christ's power, when by the Spirit of the Son of God in our hearts, we cry, Abba, Father !" Ps. ex. 3.— Rom. viii. 15.—Gal. iv. 6. If you do not discover your sonship, do you long for it ? If you cannot feel that longing for Christ, which marks the confirmed saint, do you feel that loathing of self, which marks the awakened sinner ? Depend upon it self-loathing, and self-abhorring for sin, are never taught in nature's school. Moreover, the child by adoption is made wholly so, by rich, full, free, sovereign grace. The original choice of the church in Christ, had its place in the divine will before all worlds ; so that nothing in the objects of that choice, either of merit or demerit, had any thing to do with the appointment. And it is the same now, in the time-state of the church. No worth or preparation on our part can in the least minister to the promotion of our adoption character. " The remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people, as a dew from the Lord, as showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men," Micah v. 7- It will be a very blessed testimony to the truth of God, if upon the present occasion the Lord should so graciously bless this little tract to the heart, both of saint and sinner, as in the conclusion, " the Spirit should bear witness to their spirits, that they are the children of God !" Rom. viii. 16.

I begin with observing, that the knowledge, or apprehension of our sonship, rarely opens to our view in the first dawn of divine life. Few, I believe, if any, when awakened to the concerns of eternity, and the salvation of the soul, have any conceptions of privileges so exalted. When the Lord begins a work of grace in the heart, the whole cry of the sinner is, " how to flee from the wrath to come." The anxious question, which continually bursts forth within, and which like one tremblingly alive to the apprehension of merited punishment, echoes in his broken heart, as a voice when sounding reverberates from broken walls, " what must I do to be saved ?"

And I pause for. the moment to observe, the very gracious and tender method which God the Holy Ghost hath condescended to adopt, by this divine process of his love, John xvi. 8. Convictions of sin tend to endear Christ. And when the sinner is stripped to the very bone, hath nothing, confesseth he hath nothing, yea, knows himself to be worse than nothing ; then, when God the Holy Ghost begins to open to his spiritual view, the glorious person and the finished righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ; what a ray of light, and life, and comfort, is at once poured in upon his soul! A world for Christ, yea, ten thousand worlds, if he had them, would the awakened soul then give for Christ, when by the Lord the Spirit he is brought to see him in all his beauty, fulness, and all-sufficiency. Here the gracious words of the Lord are confirmed: " See now, that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me. I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal!" Deut. xxxii. 39.

But in all this, most gracious and most blessed as it is, here is nothing said of our adoption character. In this school of divine teaching, it is evident the Lord hath brought all those that are thus far taught of their lost estate by nature; and they have learnt also, that our sole recovery is of grace. But the cause and origin of this boundless mercy is not in those things yet revealed to the awakened sinner. The Lord is leading him by the hand into the chambers of imagery, in his own conscience, Ezek. viii. throughout; and shewing to him, that none but Christ can break to pieces the idols and stumbling-blocks of iniquity that are there. But the child of God hath several lessons more to be led through, before he is brought to trace his mercies to their source, and to discover that all originates in the everlasting love of Jehovah in his trinity of persons, given to the church by adoption in Christ, " before the world began."

Proceeding then by this gracious plan of divine teaching, and preparing the child of his love to enter at length into a scriptural apprehension of his sonship and adoption character, the Lord shews him, that he is not only pardoned, and " justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," Rom. iiL 24. but that in Christ he is provided with a robe of righteousness, and a garment of salvation, to appear in before God. Here the tender and divine Instructor begins to open to his wondering views, some of the more deep and mysterious prospects of the church's union with Christ, and her interest in all that belongs to Christ, as the head of his body the church, " the fulness of him that filleth all in all;" and thus enlargeth his spiritual apprehension, to the receiving " the things which are freely given to him of God." He can now subscribe, and doth subscribe, when brought thus far, with full consent of mind, to that precious, soul-refreshing, soul-supporting scripture, which saith, when speaking of Jehovah exacting all from Christ, as the head and surety of his church, that all his members might go free; " that he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him," 2 Cor. v. 21. And when this sublime view of salvation is received into the soul, from the gracious unction -of God the Holy Ghost, it affords such unspeakable satisfaction, as enables the believer to triumph over all the foes of his salvation, " rejoicing in hope of the glory of God."

At length the gracious Lord leads up his scholar to the fountain head of spiritual apprehension, as far as faith can go in the present twilight of knowledge, (until faith herself is lost in absolute vision,) and by unfolding that marvellous grace of the mysterious union of Christ with his church, and the church with Christ, and Christ in God; opens, and keeps open, a perpetual source of scriptural and spiritual delight, in the endless subject of our adoption character; by which we discover somewhat of those vast and eternal privileges, which testifieth of Jehovah's purpose, counsel, will, and pleasure, of grace to the church in Christ from everlasting to everlasting.

In speaking of adoption, recourse hath been sometimes made, by way of explanation, to the usage not unfrequent in life among men. Yea, the scriptures themselves have shewn instances where the custom hath been observed ; that of Pharaoh's daughter adopting Moses," Exod. ii. 9.—Heb. xi. 24 to 26 ; and again, that of Mordecai adopting Esther, Esther ii. 7. But these cases, can in no instance whatever find any parallel to our adoption in Christ. For, however among great personages of the earth, adopting children from among the poor for their own, from which they differ in worldly circumstances, the nature of both is the same. But in God adopting children from among men for his own, here is the Almighty Potter taking into union with himself of the clay of his own creation ! And for the purpose of this union and adoption, certain it is, that one of the Almighty persons in the Godhead actually took our nature into union with himself; for " the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us!" John i. 14. But the subject is too deep, in this part of it, for our present scanty line to fathom. Like the holy waters in the prophet's vision, though when entered, while rising " to the ancles, to the knees, or to the loins, they may be waded through, yet when be coming a river, we cannot pass over;" our place of safety therefore, must be like his, " to return to the brink," Ezek. xlvii. 1 to 6.

Mysterious as the subject is, (and Jehovah in his trinity of persons hath appointed an whole eternity for the study of it) some very blessed views, we may, by supernatural discoveries to us take, on the brink of the river, " the streams whereof make glad the city of God," Ps. xlvi. 4. And the first, in the highest and the best degree of the subject, is that which shews each glorious person in the Godhead hath engaged in it. God the Father, " of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named," Eph. iii. 14, 15. hath manifested his gracious acts in the deed. He is said "to have predestinated the church unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will; to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved !" Eph. i. 5, 6. And God the Son hath equally taken part in the gracious transaction, for by marrying the persons of his people, his Father is our Father; and by assuming our nature, we become sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty, and we are Christ's brethren, Ps. xlv. 10.—Heb. ii. 11, 12. And God the Holy Ghost, when from everlasting anointing the church in Christ, and by " the washing of regeneration," and the effectual calling of the church, in every individual person in time, gives witness to their adoption character, " that they are sons of God," Rom. viii. 15, 16.—Gal. iii. 26.

But we must not stop here. While we are thus graciously led by the Lord himself, into these most blessed, soul-satisfying testimonies, to the persons, and grace, as concerning our sonship in Christ, " of the three which bear record in heaven, and these three are one!" 1 John v. 7- we are further taught, somewhat of the outlines of this mysterious subject of grace, from discovering the infinite connection between the original purpose of the divine will, when the church in all her members was so " predestinated, before all worlds," to the adoption of children, and the actual receiving of that sonship in time, when, by the outpouring of the Spirit each individual is brought to cry," Abba, Father!" The Holy Ghost in one scripture, dates the pre-determination of the event; and in another, declares the accomplishment. And marks the latter with special and peculiar emphasis, as being done both for the confirmation, and the actual receiving the unspeakable mercy, by the highly favoured objects of it. For thus the sweet scripture expresses it: " And because ye are sons, (not to make them sons, but because they are so, by original and eternal designation) God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father!" Gal. iv. 6. And here do not fail to observe also, how the whole three persons in the Godhead are brought to the testimony of the blissful doctrine, as if combined in one, to set seal to the mercy.

Yea, to go further. This relationship, this adoption, this choice in Christ, this acceptation in Christ; these everlasting, spiritual, and eternal blessings in Christ; as nothing in the creature prompted to such acts of grace from the infinite Creator, so nothing can arise to counteract or frustrate the continued effects of the same to all eternity. Once sons of God, the church in her millions of beings are always sons. Nothing during the Adam-state could arise to make void the sonship. Though the natural enmity of our heart, induced by sin, would estrange, and hath (until subdued by grace) estranged our affections from God, yet not God from us, Jer. xxxi. 3. " He is in one mind, and who can turn him !" Job xxiii. 13. Even among men, in their connections and relations with each other, nothing destroys the affinity, whatever changes take place in their affections! My son, or my daughter, is still mine, whatever places they are in, or whatever distance removed to from me. And if one of a family becomes poor, and another rich, however the one may look shy upon the other, the relationship holds good ; and as we say, all the water in the ocean cannot wash it away. How much more with him, who saith himself, " I am the Lord ! I change not, therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed!" Mai. iii. 6. And very blessedly hath the Lord himself assured the church of his unalterable affection, under this same character of his children, when in the close of all he will come to be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe. " And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked; between him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not," Malachi iii. 17, 18.

And now, what is the result of all that hath been said ? Doth the reader enter into an apprehension by divine teaching of what are the features of the Lord's adopted family ? And is he satisfied by those features that he himself is an adopted child ? I need not run over the land-marks again, which have been set up as we have gone on through the several parts of this little tract. Indeed, the limits of a work of this kind will not admit of it. The quickening of the sinner by the new birth, from being " dead in trespasses and sins," to a life of faith in Christ, (which is the sure prelude to the enjoyment of our adoption character) is such a mighty act of grace, and works so vast a change in every soul who is the object of such distinguishing love, as cannot be unknown, or unfelt, or unenjoyed by any one, who is made the happy partaker of it. If the Lord hath passed by (as is graciously described in the motto of the title-page of this little tract) and looked upon you, when cast out to perish, when there was no eye to pity you, nor to do any thing for you ; and if the time of your misery was the time of Aw mercy; and if the Lord spread his skirt over you, covered you, clothed you, sware in his love to you, entered into covenant with you, and said, " thou art mine !" If these sovereign acts of grace have been bestowed upon you, and you that were once afar off, are now brought nigh ; and from once living " without God, and without Christ in the world," are now " followers of God as dear children ;" will you not behold in these sure and unerring scriptural testimonies, evidences of your sonship ? The Holy Ghost by Paul declares this, for it is said, that " as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God," Rom. viii. 14. And God the Father hath, in another scripture, drawn the character of the adopted child, when saying, " Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, my Father, thou art the guide of my youth !" Jer. iii. 4.

Suffer me only to close these observations with one or two interesting particulars belonging to the subject, as among the privileges of the adopted child. First. As no merit, no preparation, nothing of deservings on our part, became the least recommendation, or had any thing to do with the original purpose of adoption, which arose wholly from the counsel, will, and pleasure of Jehovah in his trinity of persons before all worlds; so the persons adopted are all equally adopted, all equally beloved, all equally chosen. There may be (as in a family among men, of different ages and stature) a diversity of attainments, and a diversity of stations, as the Lord in his providence shall be pleased to place his adopted children ; but there is no difference in his love. The little ones are as dear as the great ones. The smaller boughs on a tree are as truly belonging to the tree as the loftier branches, yea, and as much nourished by the root, and sap, and moisture of the tree, one as another. Let every adopted child never lose sight of this. It will give him comfort under a thousand exercises he may meet with in life. Blessedly the Holy Ghost puts his almighty seal to this doctrine, when saying to the church, " Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek ; there is neither bond nor free ; there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus," Gal. iii. 26 to 28.

Secondly. The subject of adoption, and the wellgrounded assurance of being an adopted child in the Lord's family, amidst the very many and great blessings it gives to all, hath special mercies folded up in it for constant use to all the poor and friendless of the Lord's family in the world. For as it is to the want of this adoption in Christ, multitudes among the rich and great are miserable in the midst of all; so on the other hand, from the possession of it, the poorest of the Lord's adopted ones cannot be truly unhappy, be his outward circumstances what they may. And it is this which solves the riddle the history of mankind is putting forth from day to day, wherefore there are so many aching hearts in fine houses, while numbers are so happy in the humblest habitations, and not unfrequently in the scantiest provision of bread. This solves the problem. Thejbrmer, having nothing but this world's good, have a vacuum the world cannot fill. The latter, having Christ in their adoption by the Father, the Holy Ghost brings forth the enjoyment of it daily, and hourly, to their spiritual apprehension, and this affords a sweetness which sanctifieth all.
I love to close all my poor services with questioning, what savour of Christ hath accompanied them ? what testimony of the Spirit hath witnessed to them ? If an unction from the Lord be upon the present occasion in the use of them, perhaps the reader will feel his mind led out with mine in praise to God, in adopting the words of the Holy Ghost by John, with which I begun this tract; and making them the subject for blessing God now in the close of it! Blessed be God, in the unity of his divine essence and trinity of persons, for the united love of the holy Three in One to his church in Christ from everlasting.

Blessed be the Lord for the manner of that love, in God the Father's adopting the church as children to himself in Christ Jesus, that we should be called the sons of God ! Blessed be God the Son, whose manner of love hath been so graciously manifested to us, as to have united us to himself, and to have given himself for us, " an offering, and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour." Blessed be God the Holy Ghost, whose manner of love hath been shewn, that " when dead in trespasses and sins" by nature, he hath quickened us by grace, and by " the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of his almighty power, which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; being justified by his grace, we are made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." And blessed be God that the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. We are indeed as a wonder unto many ; yea, a wonder to ourselves. Here again, Lord, we find renewed cause of thanksgiving, in that our adored Lord hath taught us to expect these things, when he said, " Behold I and the children whom the Lord hath given me, are for signs and for wonders in Israel, from the Lord of Hosts!" Now, Lord, we are the sons of God ! Here we enjoy our adoption character by faith. And when thou shalt take us home, we shall enjoy our sonship in open vision in glory. Blessed be our God, we know, that though it doth not yet appear what we shall be, nothing in this dying, sinful world, affording similitudes to represent divine things by ; yet when our God and Saviour shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is ! The glory of thy person, Almighty God and Saviour, will constitute the whole blessedness and happiness of heaven ! And the everlasting contemplation and enjoyment of it, will be our heaven of heavens for evermore. " We shall behold thy face in righteousness, and be eternally satisfied when we awake with thy likeness." Amen.



From a far country indeed ! For it is no less a distance than from heaven to earth. From the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God; to a world, which hath no continuing city, " but whose fashion passeth away!" And the remoteness from each other is not more contrasted, than are the manners, and customs, and employments, which distinguish the inhabitants of the different climates. For while the country which is far away, and from whence the good news comes, is a place of holiness and happiness ; and the possessors of that blessed city are at the fountain head of everlasting life; the whole world here below lieth in wickedness and misery; and they that dwell therein are " in darkness and the shadow of death." And what tends yet more to enhance the greatness and preciousness of this good news from a far country is, that had it not been sent from heaven, it never could have been known upon earth. Never would it have entered into the mind of man, untaught of God, that there existed such things as have been related; much less such tidings of good would have been sent to him. And had the blissful intelligence been kept back, the whole apostate race of fallen, sinful Adam, must have remained in everlasting ignorance, and in their awful state of delinquency. Never then in this case could there have been left them the possibility of recovery. Never could any have lifted an eye of hope towards that upper and brighter world. Or if it had been beheld by any, still must it have been looked at as an inaccessible region ! Oh the unspeakable felicity, when tidings first came from that blest country where God is truly known !

And what were and are the interesting particulars of this good news from a far country ? What doth the gazette from the court of heaven, proclaim to the inhabitants of the earth ? Nay, in answer it may be said, what doth it not proclaim, of every thing that be truly called good ? To speak of it in a comprehensive way, as including all blessedness, it may be summed up as containing the whole charter of grace. For the charter of grace folds within its infinite dimensions, what in scripture language is named, " the mystery of God," Rev. x. 7. and " the mystery of godliness," 1 Tim. iii. 16. And when God himself hath developed to the election of grace the mysteries of his kingdom, there is discovered to the objects of his love, somewhat of the vast, illimitable, and unmensurable grant, contained in the charter of grace. I said somewhat ; for in the present twilight of being, even when enlightened by divine teaching, while we are here below, the most that we see and know, we behold only " as through a glass darkly." But the mighty bottom, the ground-work, the foundation on which the charter of grace rests, is most blessedly revealed by Jehovah himself in his trinity of persons; in which he hath made himself over in covenant engagements to the church to be their God for ever. The divine assurance is expressed in these words; " I will be their God, and they shall be my people," Ezek. xxxvii. 27. And as this sovereign grant' comprehends in its infinite bosom all the other promises in the bible, which are all yea and amen in Christ Jesus, so are they all rendered hereby everlastingly certain and sure. For they depend not either upon the will or deservings of man, but are all founded in the eternal purpose and good pleasure of God. And so vast and boundless are they, that Jehovah in his trinity of persons, hath taken an whole eternity for the manifestation of them. Yea, an whole eternity must run out, (if the term be warrantable) for the Lord's breaking up all the infinite magazines of his grace, before that the whole can be explored, and the unsearchable riches exhausted, which are contained in this divine charter. Such are among the blissful proclamations in this " good news from a far country!"

But it were to lose ourselves, and be swallowed up as in the Atlantic ocean, to contemplate the subject in one great whole. To enter into a scriptural and spiritual apprehension of the vast depth, by looking on the surface only, as far as the word of God guides us, we shall the better conceive what the immensity of grace must be, when under divine teaching we have discovered what those streams of grace we have already received now" are, flowing from this eternal source, " which make glad the city of God," Ps. xlvi. 4. And as the Lord hath reserved to himself an everlasting duration for the display of it, opening to us in the present time-state of the church, and extending through all the ages to come ; we shall do well to follow the footsteps of the Lord in this divine order; and as we walk on the skirts and shore of those unfathomable depths of grace, mark one by one the several tides of love, rising as they not unfrequently do, above high water mark, " to make us wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus," 2 Tim. iii. 15.

If we were to trace the origin of this " good news from a far country" to its fountain head, we must look back into eternity. For the first dawn of revelation opens with the relation of events which took their beginning from thence. Yea, in very many parts of the bible of God we learn, that in respect to the church, the goings forth of Jehovah in his trinity of persons, " have been from of old, from everlasting." And in reference to those eternal transactions, then ordained to be in the future ages to come, the church was chosen in Christ, and had being in Christ, " before the foundation of the world," Micah v. 2. Eph. i. 4. Hence the conclusion is evident; the present fallen state of the church, in the common ruin of our common nature in Adam, is not her original state, neither her final state, but only her intermediate and preparatory state, to her return, through the redemption by Christ, to the holiness and happiness in which she was chosen in Christ from everlasting. The " good news from a far country," therefore, while containing-in its vast mail, all those blissful intelligences, unfolds by little and little, the wonderful events, which under the old testament dispensation were set forth by shadowy representations, to be explained in substance under the new- The holy scripture states this divine procedure with its usual sublimity of words, when saying, " God, who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son," Heb. i. 1, 2.

But while it will be our mercy, as it is our interest, to have these glorious and momentous transactions of eternity always in view, as we attend to the revelation made to the church, in her present time-state of being, the " good news from a far country," opens to us with " the glorious gospel of the blessed God." Here, as in a focus, all the rays meet, which shine through the whole book of God. Here we discover the whole tendency of revelation centre as in one, which, through a period of four thousand years from the fall of man to the coming of our most glorious Christ, had been delivered through successive generations to the church. And here surely is the one of all the animating subjects to arrest and call up the most awakened attention of the redeemed of the Lord. It is very blessed to behold with what a world of apparatus, the Lord of life and glory was ushered in to his church. The prophets with one voice had prepared the minds of the Lord's people for the expectation of this mysterious event—the advent of the Son of God in our nature. And as the time predicted by them for the accomplishment drew on, every eye was on the look out for the coming Saviour. Every heart whom sovereign grace had awakened to a sense of sin, was panting for his approach. Yea, of some we are told, " which departed not from the temple night and day, waiting for the consolation of Israel," Luke ii. 25—37. The very feet of them was declared to be " beautiful on the mountains, which brought those tidings of good, and that published salvation." And as if these were not enough in calling forth all the attention of men, angels of light who needed not for themselves salvation, having never sinned, yet, emulous to give glory to their Lord, and to shew their good-will to men, posted down from heaven, with the blissful tidings of the birth of the Lord Jesus, on the morning of his incarnation, and became the first heralds of this " good news from a far country," Luke ii. 8—14.

In the further prosecution of this subject, I must not venture to do more (indeed the limits of a tract will not suffer me) than merely to state the outlines. The whole which I shall be able to accomplish, can be simply but the smallest index to the infinite volume itself. It is to the holy scriptures the reader must look for the several contents of .the " good news from a far country." Yea, and though in that sacred inspiration there given to the church, all the great truths abound; yet, unless divinely taught, he will have no spiritual apprehension in himself of their infinite importance. For it is a solemn truth, too firmly established in the word of Gcd, and too long proved in the experience of mankind to be questioned, namely, that the knowledge of the mysteries of Christ's kingdom is not attainable by all the learning of mere human wisdom. That divine proclamation, how mortifying soever to the pride of man, stands as if placed over the portal of the oracles of God. " The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God ; for they are foolishness unto him ; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things !" 1 Cor. ii. 14, 15. While therefore I humbly attempt to open before the reader some few of the more prominent contents, according to the statement of scripture, of this " good news from a far country," (for further, my province cannot extend) it will be both his interest and mine, to seek the divine teaching of " the Spirit of God, that we may know the things that are freely given to us of God." The Lord hear and answer prayer for this blessing ; that he may go before us, and guide us into all truth, as we enter the sacred enclosure ; for then our researches in his word will not be " in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth ; comparing spiritual things with spiritual," 1 Cor. ii. 12, 13.

In stating the outlines of this " good news from a far country," I have already glanced at the origin of the whole, in those ancient settlements of eternity, when in the counsel, will, and pleasure of Jehovah, in his trinity of persons, the church was " chosen in Christ to be holy, and without blame before him in love." I need not therefore observe more on this part of the subject, than just to remind the reader, that in the unceasing contemplation of this leading doctrine of our holy faith, all that follows in the blessings to the church in her time-state, find their sweetness. It is the infinite greatness of his Almighty Person, our most glorious Christ, which gives value and efficacy to all that he hath done, and is doing, and will eternally do for his people. And it is the original state of the church, as she was in Christ, and as she still is in Christ, (notwithstanding her present fallen and degraded condition) which gives confidence to receive and rejoice in " the good news from a far country." The church, (by which I mean, the redeemed and regenerate church) loseth a thousand sweet, spiritual enjoyments, in losing sight of her original and eternal relationship. If a child of God, awakened by grace, was everlastingly to keep in view what scripture so plainly states how, and in what light, God the Father hath testified of his everlasting love to the church, when choosing her in Christ; and when in confirmation of that everlasting love, he gave her to his dear Son. And if the church was always connecting with this scriptural testimony, how God the Son beheld the church, and loved the church, when he betrothed her to himself for ever; and if taught by the same unerring standard of divine truth, the regenerated child of God always had in contemplation, how, and in what light, God the Holy Ghost testified his equal affection to the church, when anointing her as one with and in her glorious head and husband from everlasting. If, I say, these glorious and fundamental truths were impressed and interwoven in the spiritual mind and understanding of the regenerated child of God, here would be an everlasting resource for the most heartfelt joy; and the soul would then enter into a more enlarged apprehension of the blessed things contained in this and every divine proclamation of mercy. It is from the little acquaintance we have of those first and leading principles of our most holy faith, and the want of cultivating a more familiar knowledge of them, through divine grace in our souls, that even some of the Lord's chosen ones enjoy not more than they do, the glad tidings of the " good news from a far country."

If we now go on to prosecute the subject, and take it up from that part of the time-state of the church, when we behold her, according to the statement of holy scripture, sunk, debased, and degraded, in the Adam-fall transgression; what an awful change is here? She, that as "the King's daughter was all glorious within ; her clothing of wrought gold : Psalm xiv. 13. now in such circumstances of delinquency, and both in guilt and wretchedness, so lost, and helpless, and hopeless in herself, as no finite capacity, yea, even when spiritually taught of God, hath ability fully to fathom ! But even then from hence ariseth a contemplation yet more to endear and appreciate this " good news from a far country !" For what vast volumes doth this good news contain in relation to this one great and momentous event, the church's recovery by grace ? When we read in the sacred word, how incalculably great the salvation; how blessed and blissful the effects of that salvation, by whom it hath been solely accomplished ; with what a word of sovereignty and power it hath been wrought; how eternally secure and unalterably fixed the partakers of it are, in a state of holiness and happiness beyond the possibility of any future change; Oh ! what " glad tidings of good things ; what great joy is here 'to all people !" The Son of God hath displayed his Almighty arm in this great salvation. He hath raised his church from the gulph of sin and misery into which she was fallen, and hath brought her back to her first, and original state of holiness and happiness in himself. He hath crushed with everlasting destruction, all her tremendous foes; and hath not only for ever " put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, but hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through his gospel," 2 Tim. i. 10. Let any, and every truly redeemed and regenerated child of God, pause here, and calculate if he can, the innumerable blessings of this rich salvation ! Indeed, who shall say what it must be, to be for ever freed from the burden of sin, from the guilt of sin, from the dominion of sin, from the unceasing terrors of sin, from the dread of punishment due to sin, from the self-reproaches of sin; yea, from the very being of sin, which now as a canker, eats into the very vitals of all our comforts. What name shall be found for the designation of such mercy, as brings deliverance from wretchedness so superlative, more expressive than " good news from a far country."

But we must not stop here. Infinitely higher views than even what concerns the church are opened to our contemplation in this, charter of grace, when the Lord unfolds yet further, the knowledge of his Almighty person, by whom redemption is accomplished; and in the knowledge of him, is included the spiritual apprehension of, and communion with all the Persons in the Godhead; Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The very mention of subjects so infinitely sublime and incomprehensible, even in the more transient and momentary view, dazzle the eye; though the eye be spiritualized and enlightened by grace. The mysterious union of the Son of God with our nature, the stupendous method in the substitution of himself for his church, in the transfer of our sins on him ; " he who knew no sin, made both sin and a curse for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him :" and yet in the very moment we contemplate these marvellous relations of holy scripture, we are equally taught from the same divine authority, that in the nature and essence of the Godhead, all divine perfections are his; underived, personal, and eternal! These revelations, loudly and decidedly proclaim, that his glory is the first and predisposing cause ; the salvation of his church the effect. Hence the everlasting security of the church, which had for its prime object the divine glory. And hence the culminating point to crown all, and endear all, in this " good news from a far country."

One point more remains to be unfolded; and that, as it concerns every individual interested in this " good news from a far country," is among the sweetest notes in this spiritual song ; namely, that all these blissful intimations from heaven come to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ upon earth, free as the light, " without money and without price!" There is nothing in the highly favoured objects of this bounty to merit those mercies, but there is every thing in them, if demerit would disqualify to keep them back. But the whole is of free, rich, full, sovereign grace. And it appears, as though written with a sun-beam on the cover of the good news itself, that the Almighty Giver of those unspeakable blessings, hath never through the whole of them, had in view what man deserves, but what the Lord can give: not what they have done, or can do, but what sovereign grace can do, and will do, for his own glory, and their happiness. So that wherever this " good news from a far country" comes, and by whomsoever it is heard, if the tidings of salvation it brings be welcome to them, they are welcome to the Lord. Grace begins with the Lord, and it descends to man. If any man feels the need of it, this is a plain proof that the Lord hath created the sense of that need in his heart. For as the Holy Ghost saith upon another occasion, so the same doctrine holds in this, " If we love him, it is because he first loved us," 1 John iv. 19.

Shall I now pause, and ask the reader, whether he hath heard this " good news from a far country ?" and whether it is indeed good news to his soul? The question is easily answered. Hath the reader felt the misery of a lost, ruined, and miserable state by reason of sin ? Hath he tasted of " the wormwood and gall" of the Adam-transgression ? and hath the cry ever issued from his heart, " O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death •?" Rom. vii. 24. To all such, those tidings of good things will be, as life to the dead. Look at the effect of it in others. Figure to yourself a soul deeply depressed by reason of sin, and full of apprehension how to " flee from the wrath to come!" And let it be further figured to the imagination, that " this good news from a far country," was brought to him in an hour of deep soul-despair and wretchedness; and that the Lord who gave this proclamation of mercy, gave with it the heart to receive the mercy and believe in it; and sounded through all the chambers of his conscience, the soul-reviving words, as in the apostle's sermon at Antioch to the sinners there, " unto you is the word of this salvation sent!" Acts xiii. 26. Think with what transports of rejoicing would such an one receive the joyful sound, and on his bended knees bless God " for his unspeakable gift!"

And why not you? The apostle Paul, who was himself a standing miracle of the riches and extensiveness of sovereign grace, hath left it upon everlasting record, that in whatever heart such grace was received it should be effectual. " This is a faithful saying, (said he) and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Surely, if it be worthy of all acceptation, then is it worthy of your acceptation, and of mine. Nay, Paul goes further and saith, that " it was for this cause he obtained mercy, that in me, (said Paul) first Jesus Christ might shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting." So then the grace shewn to Paul, was not simply to his own person, but it was that others from his example, might be encouraged to hope under similar circumstances for the like mercy. Well, say you, but what if my circumstances are not similar to the apostle s? He perhaps never sinned as I have! Nay, hear what he himself saith, on that score. " I was before (saith Paul) a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious !" So that Paul stood charged in his own mind, and before God, not only for his own personal sins, but for being instrumental to promote the sins of others: not only a blasphemer of God, but a persecutor of God's people ; not only sinning with an high hand himself, but injurious as far as his influence reached to make others sin also, and become injurious to the cause of God, and the cause of man. Notwithstanding all these things, (said Paul) " I obtained mercy, that in me the Lord might shew forth a pattern to others. It is a faithful saying, therefore, (said he) and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," 1 Tim. i. 15, &c. So that " all acceptation" includes all cases, the most desperate cases, the most apparently hopeless cases ; for our most glorious Christ is suited, divinely suited, to every case, and to every circumstance out of hell. What will any sinner argue more ? No state is exempt. No situation of a trembling, awakened, fearful sinner is precluded. Our most glorious Christ is able " to save to the uttermost all that come to God by him." And what is the uttermost ? Nay, the uttermost hath no boundary, that the horizon of sense, or even the imagination can form. For if there were a limitation, it could not be the uttermost!

But though there are no boundaries to the divine mercy, my paper of a penny tract, as well as my reader's indulgence are both exhausted. I would therefore close all with observing, that the few, (and they are but few) though grand truths, I have brought before the reader, are among the many, though not the thousandth part, of the " good news from a far country." And I shall not have laboured in vain, neither spent my strength for nought, if the few here enumerated shall prompt the reader under the Lord's teaching to regard those, and seek for more among the sacred pages of the scriptures of God. Do, my brother, I beseech you, turn from all the dying and the dead circumstances of time and sense, to the consideration of things of eternity and salvation. And while the world, and men of the world are for ever passing their time in unprofitable inquiries from each other, what news ? let you and I be daily found studying and meditating under the Lord upon this divine science, and this only, "the good news from a far country !"