« AnteriorContinuar »
how seldom he comes near his master, hut would rather be from under his eye. An ingenuous son, who has found his father kind and indulgent, loves to he in his company. Such should be the temper of Christians to God. Servile fear drives men from him, so that they care not to come at him. Such an effect it had upon our first parents, as soon as they were fallen', Gen. iii. 8. "They, heard the voice of the Lord God, walking in the garden in the cool of the day; and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God, among the trees of the garden." They would gladly have avoided converse with him, which in innocence was their highest delight; But a soul animated with the lively sense of divine grace to sinners, and attracted thereby to uniting affection, cannot live without God in the world. He inquires where he may meet with God, and gladly em. braces every opportunity of converse.
By delight and pleasure when we approach the servile spirit, when pushed on by conscience to some acts of seeming 'devotion, is like "Doeg detained before the Lord," 1 Sam. xxi. 7- But the filial is then in its proper element; and most of all, when there are the most lively actings of pious and devout affections.
By freedom and confidence in our approaches. Not indeed forgetting our distance. The ingenuity of a son maintains reverence; and most of all, when nearest his Father. M If I be a Father, where is mine honor?" Mal. i. 6. Not forgetting our own unworthiness. The clearest and most impressive apprehensions of grace, will keep that freshest in our minds. But a freedom and confidence arising from the belief of his fatherly benignity, of the sufficiency of Christ's mediation to recommend us, and to obtain any thing we need from God, and of the fulness and firmness of his promises. Upon such a foundation, we should go to God as children to a father. In all our wants, believing his ability and willingness to supply us, and therefore "being careful for nothing, but in every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving* making our requests known unto God," Phil. iv. 6; With a persuasion of his superior wisdom; as ingenuous children will reckon their father, is a more competent judge than they are, what is best for them; so in cases where God hath not taught us to think that a thing is necessarily and immutably
good for us, which is the case in all temporal concerns, we should leave it to him to judge what answer shall be given to our desires, with a full resignation. We should come expecting welcome from our father. “This is the confidence, that we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us. And if we know, that he heareth us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him,” 1 John v. 14, 15. The encouragement a loving father gives his child to come to him, the success he has met with on former occasions animate him to a growing freedom. So it should be with us toward our heavenly Father. “Having liberty [allowed us] to enter into the holiest, [we should thankfully make use of it, by] drawing near with a true heart, and then with full assurance of faith,” Heb. x. 22. “Coming with boldness to him, as on a throne of grace, to obtain mercy and find grace to help in every time of need,” chap. iv. 16.
(2.) In acts of obedience and service.
The slave has commonly hard thoughts of his master, and no liking to his work. Either he despairs of pleasing him, because he has found him rigid and unkind; or injuriously thinks him so ; and therefore is sullen and will do nothing ; as the wicked and slothful servant is described in the parable, Matt. xxv.24, 25. “Lord, I know thee, that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strewed; and I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth.” Utter despair will have the same effect in God's service. When the slave does any thing, he does it with an ill-will, merely because he is forced to it, and cannot expect to escape punishment without it. Hence the apostle saw it necessary to exhort Christian converts, who were in a state of servitude to their earthly masters, “with good will to do service, as to the Lord, and not to men,” Eph. vi. 5. And ordinarily the slave will do as little as he can, consistent with hopes of escaping the lash; for he loves neither his master nor his service.
The very reverse of this should be the temper of Christians in their obedience to their heavenly Father. They should engage in it with good and honourable thoughts of God, agreeable to the discoveries made by the gospel, that he is most easily pleased by an upright mind; “that if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not,” 2 Cor. viii. 12. With a firm persuasion of their acceptance in it through Christ, and of the glorious rewards of grace which he has promised to confer. They should “be stedfast, unmoveable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as they know that their labour is not in vain in the Lord,” 1 Cor. xv. 58. Acting with an eye to the recompense of reward, is not a servile or mercenary principle, but the very filial temper prescribed by the gospel: which leads us to the kve of God upon the discovery of his paternal love in providing us the inheritance of sons. Every duty hereupon should be performed with cheerfulness and delight. “God loves a cheerful giver,” 2 Cor. ix. 7. And so a cheerful servant in any other instance of obedience. No constraint should be so strong, as the constraints of love, as Paul speaks, 2 Cor. v. 14, 15. “The love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live, should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them and rose again.” We should act in his service, as those who esteem it perfect freedom : So it will be reckoned, in proportion to the advances of divine love in us, 1 John v. 3. “This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous.” This displays true love to God, not only that we are from some principle or other obedient, but that his commands are not accounted grievous. We should prosecute our father's interest, as esteeming it our own. That is not the temper of a slave, but it is the disposition of a wise and ingenuous son ; he has an interest in his father's interests, and he pursues them accordingly with the greater alacrity and diligence upon that consideration. So should it be with a Christian as to God's interests in the world. And what our hands find to do, we should do it with our might; “Heartily, as to the Lord, and not to men,” Col. iii. 23. do our utmost in it. Not content ourselves just with so much goodness and duty, as we may imagine will secure
from hell; but aspire at the utmost heights of grace and obe
dience, and aim at performing every service in the best manner
we can, so that God may take the fullest complacency in it. This is filial obedience. (3.) In sorrow for sin. This should be filial, and not merely servile, both in the reason and extent of it. In the reason of it. When a slave has oftended his master, he is only concerned for the punishment he receives or fears. If he escapes that, he is easy. But an ingenuous child is af. fected, not only because of the resentment his father has expressed, or may express at his offence ; but he is grieved that he has done a thing displeasing to a kind and loving father. This touches his heart, more than the punishment; if his father passes it by, this makes the deeper impression ; and even when the father is reconciled, he knows not how to forgive himself. So should it be with Christians; “The goodness of God should lead them to repentance,” Rom. ii. 4. This especially should melt their hearts, and open the springs of godly sorrow. God declares himself to discover pardoning mercy for this very purpose, Ezek. xvi. 63. “That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more, because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee.” And we have this ingenuous temper exemplified in the representation made of the prodigal son. After his father had shewn the greatest forwardness to be reconciled, and had given the most tender marks of actual reconcilation ; “While the son was yet a great way off, the father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him :” yet after this, the next thing we read of the son is, that “he said to his father, Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son,” Luke xv. 20, 21. Nothing shewed more the temper of a son than his sense of unworthiness to be called so. And then in the extent of our sorrow. There should be a hearty concern for every known offence, even those which may be esteemed inconsiderable by men, and which are hardly resented by many of a good character: yet if conscience tells a man they are against the mind of God, if he does but fear it, filial ingenuity will make his heart ready to smite him. (4.) In bearing afflictions. A slave is never ready to take his master's corrections for kindness, but a child may ; for this is the great inducement to a wise and tender father to use any
rough methods with'his child; it is putting a force upon himself to correct him, when he sees it necessary for his good. And yet sometimes an earthly parent's corrections may be the mere fruits of passion, and not of prudent affection: but a child of God may ever be assured, that his heavenly Fathei intends his benefit in the use of his rod. The ajrastle's assertion of this, and his argumentation upon it, is highly worthy of our notice, Heb. xii. (J—10. "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons: for what son is he, whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons." Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh, which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might lie partakers of his holiness. Now to believe this, that God does nothing unsuitable to the character of a loving Father, when he afflicts us, and that he always wisely and graciously consults our good therein, and to behave accordingly in distressing circumstances, is the proper expression of a filial temper. To suppress every murmuring word and thought, cheerfully to submit to his will and wisdom in all, to put a good coTistruction upon the darkest providences, still to love and trust in a correcting God, to deprecate his displeasure as far as that can be discerned, to believe that he means us well, and to wait with submission his time and way for deliverance: This is to act like a son of God.
(5.) In studious assimilation of mind and manners. A son, by being much with his father, from his reverential esteem of him, and the many endearments which at the same time he receives from him, naturally falls into a conformity of behaviour. And this is one way, wherein the scripture calls us to shew our relation to God, Eph. v. 1. "Be ye followers of God, as dear children," 1 Pet. i. 14, 15. "As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts, in your ignorance: but as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation."
(6.) In love to all who appear to be children of the same father. "How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to