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proceed upon necessity, .whimsical fancy, nearness of kin, and a thousand various motives, all which are very distinct from a divine adoption. But both these adoptions, human and divine, wear a similarity in some respects. They are acts of free pleasure and good will ; they are not natives of, but strangers and foreigners to, the families into which they are brought; and they are both called sons, and entitled to certain priviledges.
But infinitely wide is the difference between them. The father of the one is soon enrolled in the bills of mortality; or he may change his mind and will, and appoint another; native heirs may arise and interpose; innumerable accidents may happen to disappoint the expectant; and at any rate the death of the adopter must be tarried for. None of these things can take place in a divine adoption. The Father never dies; never changes his mind, or alters his will; native heirs cannot come into exis
teace or interpose; and the death of theadopter is not to bee Waited for.
Yet, as observed, there are two things which enter into, and constitute the very essence and nature of adoption, to wit, the act of the adopter, and the act of the adopted..'
The act of the adopter is that operation on the heart of .a sin- 2ier usually called regeneration ; whereby he is born again and made a new creature in Christ Jesus. It is described in strong' language by St. Peter, when he speaks of it, "as a participation "of the divine nature." Nature is propagated by nature; man begets man. Adam begat a son in his own image and likeness. So God regenerates his children in his own likeness, and after his own image. All the adoptions of men are weak and contemptible pictures, and cannot be stiled even shadows of this. The sun illuminates the world, but its solar nature it communicates not. The rains descend upon the earth, fill its fountains and cause their streams to flow, yet the earth is not made water, but tb* renovating influences which God gives, "become a well of' •[ water in the soul springing up into everlasting life." Thus God, by regeneration, begets creatures and makes them his children. Surely the new born ought to lift up their voices and proclaim, "What manner of love is this ?,r
In the important transaction of adoption, there is also the act of the creature. No one becomes a child of God against hii own consent. Therefore, it is said, " Ye are all the children of ** God by faith in Jesus Christ.'' Faith is the act of the creature, whereby it acquiesces in the gospel, accepts of Jesus as it* Saviour, and returns to God as a prodigal to his Father. At the same time, that regeneration takes place in the soul by the powerful grace of God, the 'person is justified, and he is adopted by the most High; so also by faith he chearfully consents to be a child of God. He surrenders himself to him, to be instructed, directed, corrected and provided for by him, as a child by his father. Therefore, our Apostle rejoices in this consideration: ** Beloved, we are now the sons of God, and it doth not yet ap"pear what we shall be, but we know that when he shall appear, £' we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.''
The great distinction between regeneration and adoption is, the former may be considered as a change of nature; and the latter, as a change of relation, though both constitute a change of condition. Without regeneration, we cannot be made the children of God; and without faith, we cannot commence members of the divine family. But by the one, as the work of God—and by the other, as the exercise of our own hearts, this new and marvelous relation is constituted, which fills all heaven and earth 'with astonishment.
It is true, adoption and justification bear a similitude to each other in certain respects, as both of them are acts, and neither of them works of grace, strictly so called ; yet there is a great distinction between pardon and approbation, acquittal and acceptance; and between justification and an admission to the high
«nd glorious priviledges of the children of God. Priviledges, who can conceive? Eternity will be exhausted in the retail.
Having thus described the nature of adoption, allow me to lead your contemplations to a view of its properties ; which was a
Second thing we proposed for your consideration.
The First property of this relation is, that it cost an immense price. Men, in certain states of society, have paid a great value for relations. Jacob gave fourteen years hard service for his wives. David risked his life and brought in the required foreskins of the Philistines for his. But who ever purchased son", but the great eternal? And this he did at an infinite expencc.— As they could be obtained by no inferior means, he gave the blood of his only begotten Son. It is generally esteemed a high favor for one person to adopt another, without any compensation ; but first to pay an exceeding price, then to adopt and constitute an heir of an inheritance beyond all calculation, all tliat can be said is, this 'is marvelous in our eyes, and will be an object of wonder forever. "God so loved the world, that he sent u forth his son, made of a woman, made under the law, to re"deem them that were under the law, that we might receive the "adoption of sons." Here is love for the recovery and adoption of sons, that cherubs cannot comprehend, nor the extensive understanding of Seraphs explain to all eternity. Angels standi amazed at the price paid for the adoption of rebel man. All heaven is filled with wonder, and earth and hell ought to be astonished. "Hear O heavens, and give ear, O earth, 1 b^ve nour"ished and brought up children.'' Remember! " he that spared "not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he u not freely with him give us all things." Here is encouragement for sinners, and consolation and joy for believers.
Secondly, Another property of this adoption is, tlrat it is high and honorable beyond all conception. It is higher than heaven, what can we know? and the depths of hell can afford no conceptioii or it. It hath no measure, nor can it be weigheJ'in balances: "He who hath measured the waters in the hallow of his. "hand, and meted out heaven as a span, can give knowledge of "the matter, and shew the way of understanding.'' »A relationto kings and princes of the earth, is deemed a high exaltation. David, when called to enter into connection with the royal family, cried out, " What am I, that' I should be thought worthy to "be son-in-law to the king?" Well then may christians exclaim, what are we, hell deserving wretches,. that we should be the children of the king of kings, and Lord of Lords? Let us mention it with humility, with profound adoration and praise, what our Lord says, "Go to my brethren and say unto them, I "ascend unto my father and your father, and to my God and "your God." O what is the relation to which sinners are dignified ?" Behold what manner of love is this, that we should be 4i called the sons of God.''
A Third property of this relation is its freedom; perfectly free on the part of God and the creature. They are not fettered to each other with worse than chains of brass, as is the case in many relations among men. But God chose from the uninfluenced benevolence of his heart, whom his pleasure was to adopt afld constitute his heirs. Sa they becoming his regenerated and believing children, cordially choose him for their Father, the supreme friend and only portion of their souls. "And they whom "Christ hath made free are free indeed."
Fourthly, A distinguishing property of this relation, is its permanency—it lasteth forever. No human adoption or relation can sustain this character. The longest that can be conceived,. bears no proportion to it. All the years of Methusalah, could not constitute a moment. The drop of the bncket, the atom which plays in the sun beam, as they bear no proportion to the ocean and the universe, so there is no comparison of the duration of this relation. It is co-extended with the existence of Jehovah. The interminable nature of this relation makes the heart of
the believer to leap for joy. Behold, what manner of love is this 'which endureth forever.
I proceed to the
Third Head of this discourse, which was to direct your contemplations to the blessings granted to the children of God
Their blessings are beyond the conception of a created mind; and the tongue of a Seraph could make but a feeble description of them. It is not a mere honorary change of name, like many of the empty titles among men, but this honor involves an infinitude of glory, riches and felicity. A compleat retail of those blessings eternity alone must set forth. All that heaven, in the plenitude of its power and beneficence could bestow, is comprehended herein. A feeble glimpse of these wonders is allowed to saints on earth.
First, One of the eminent blessings of this relation in scripture stile, is "The Spirit of adoption." A strong, strange and extensive phrase. What can be its contained ideas? Must they oot be something of the following nature: That they are in favor, peace, reconciliation and friendship with God as their Father ; that they hive an irrevocable interest in all the promises of the immutable covenant of grace; that they are in possession of the indwellings of the Holy Ghost; that they have access to God, and freedom to 'present their petitions and requests to him as to a Father; that they have a sure bulwark against all the infirmities of the flesh, the assaults of Satan, and the snares of the world. This spirit, feeling or temper, comprehends in it much sweetness, pleasure, consolation and joy. It affords a precious hope, and an undeceiving shore or support to faith; it dispels slavish fears, disperses doubts, quiets misgivings of heart, and diffuses over the soul same sprinklings of assurance ; it nourishes and encreases grace, opens the glories of heaven, and fills the l:eart with anticipation of eternal felicity. I pause, for whose