Friday, February 4, 2011



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.