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dwell together In unity!" Psal. cxxxiii. 1. Especially brethren hy the adoption of our heavenly Father. The thoug'ht of their being' beloved of him, should recommend them to our love; and if we truly love him, we should love his imag« in them. "Every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also• that is begotten of him," 1 John v> 1.
(7.) In the temper of our spirits in reference to dying.. Where God is considered mainly as an object of fear and dread, death must be so too in proportion. Death came in as the wages of sin, and the sentence of an offended God for it; and in that view must be terrible to apostate creatures. And the relief discovered by the law was so imperfect, that good men then might be expected to have a greater dread of it remaining, than becomes saints under the gospel, when CJirist has been actually made a sacrifice to put away sin, and life and immortality are more fully brought to light. It was the very intention of Christ, in "taking part of flesh and blood by death, (his own death,) to deliver them who through fear of death, were all their life-time subject to bondage," Heb. ii. 14, 15. to change the grim aspect of that last enemy, to reconcile his followers to it, and to induce them rather to wait for it as a friend to the children of God, the introduction to the inheritance of sons. Now a servile fear of it ill becomes the light and liberty of the gospel. If still it be our dread merely from a fondness of life and of present things, how unworthy is that of the filial affection to God, to which his grace should constrain us? If the relief discovered by Christ is ineffectual to reconcile us to death, because of the weakness of our faith in that relief, we have then but a small share indeed, if any, of the spirit of adoption; for that is founded in our believing the love that God hath to us, as the gospel makes it known, and can rise no higher than our faith. But if our terror arises from a doubt of our own interest in the gospel-relief, the best Way to remove that doubt is to cultivate a love to God in our hearts, by the frequent contemplation of his general love to sinners in Christ. If we love God, it is certain in itself that we are beloved of him, that we are the sons of God, and therefore that death and judgment will be most friendly things to us. And as love to God will breathe out in desires after the fullest enjoyment of him, so those very desires will gradually abate servile fears, and rise up to filial hope; and that hope^
“will not make ashamed, because the love of God to us, is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.” -
For the application of this subject, 1. Examine yourselves, how far you are partakers of a filial spirit and temper. There is somewhat of it in all the children of God; I say not, to the full of all the particulars mentioned. I have been describing, how an ingenuous love to God should express itself; but dare not say, that every one in the relation thus acts up to the relation. There is too much of a servile spirit in all of them, of darkness and weakness, and indisposition for the frame and behaviour worthy of so happy a state; and in some of the children of God more than in others; but may it not be said, that such things as these are found in those of the lowest form 2 They have at least such a persuasion of the general mercy of God in Christ to sinners, as gives them some hope. If they have many doubts of God's special love; yet they are enabled to put in a claim to him as the common Father, not only by creation, but by redemption. If they cannot appropriate a peculiar share to themselves, yet they put in for a general hope upon the declarations of divine grace to sinners, And though at times this hope runs low with them, yet it is never totally extinguished; the Spirit of God keeps it so far alive, that they do not utterly sink. And though they cannot live such comfortable lives as some other Christians, yet they live upon the feeble hope they have, and would not be without that upon any terms. And they have so high an esteem for an assured relation to God, that they account them the happiest people in the world who have it; and earnestly desire it themselves.
They cannot keep away from God, but cry to him in all
their wants and burdens, as a child would do to his father, even though they may fear a denial. If they are in “the depths, yet out of them they cry unto God,” Psal. cxxx. 1. In their applications to God, they most earnestly desire the things that are suited to the new nature: which may be summed up in grace and glory. And though they question their state, yet they are very tender of offending God themselves, and cannot bear to have him dishonoured by others. In their darkest hours they jus
,tify God; and will lay no blame upon him, but upon themselves.
And they continue their dependance upon God in a way of duty, though with a trembling heart.
These things bespeak a filial disposition, though distemper ,or darkness may cramp it. And would to God, such fruits as these were more conspicuous among those who enjoy the gospel: Yet,
2. Every Christian should endeavour after the greatest heights, and the noblest fruits of the Spirit of adoption; to act more thoroughly upon the principles of ingenuity, and liberal affection to his God and Father.
This is most suitable to the liberal and gracious dispensation we are under, as hath been shewn at large. ** We are not under the law, but under grace," Rom. vi. 14. "As sin once reigned unto death, so now grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord," chap. v. 21. And when grace reigns as the motive, love should reign as the principle.
It must be exceedingly pleasing to our heavenly Father. Is there any one who hath the bowels of a parent, and is not sensible how much greater the pleasure is, to have his children love him than merely fear him? And to have them respect and obey him upon affection, and as drawn by kindness, rather than be orderly only by the force of correction? So different must the complacency be, which our heavenly Father takes in the obedience of love, and that which is only the result of fear.
It may prevent the exercise of much severity, which otherwise it may be necessary for God to use. He does not willingly afflict, any more than a tender parent would do; he had rather draw with the cords of love and the bands of a man, than be forced to take his rod in his hands. It is only if need be, that for a season his servants are in heaviness, 1 Pet. i. 6. because they are not of so ingenuous a temper, as to be able to bear with safety an uniform course of smiling providences.
It would make the whole course of obedience abundantly more comfortable and pleasant to ourselves. The work of the Christian life in the servile spirit, will be all tedious and tiresome; it will go on heavily, because against the grain. But wisdom's ways will be ways of pleasantness, when we are pushed on by the generous principle of gratitude to walk in them, when we love him who set us on work, and love the work itself as co-natural to our souls.
It would adorn religion, and invite other people to embrace it. A Christian should be very solicitous for the reputation of religion, that "his good may not be evil spoken of," Hom. jtiv. 16. "But his light may so shine before men, that others seeing his good works, may glorify his Father which is in heaven/* Matth. v. 16. Now though one man cannot certainly judge of the principle of another's acting; yet where there are the natural fruits of an ingenuous principle, such as delight in approaching to God, cheerfulness, assiduity, and vigour in holy obedience, patience, submission, and thankfulness in an afflicted state, the amiable resemblance of God shining out in life, and a cheerful prospect of going to God in death; where, I say, the doctrine of God our Saviour is thus adorned, it commands attention, insinuates into men's affections, takes off their prejudices against religion, and shews them engaging pleasures in exchange for the pleasures of sin.
And to add no more, the expressions of such a spirit, which we find even in some Old Testament saints, to a surprising degree in their more disadvantageous circumstances, should provoke our zeal. I will only take notice of one, holy David: How much of the gracious spirit breathes in his Psalms? How frequent and confident was he in his applications to God? "Evening and morning, and at noon will I pray; and he shall hear my voice," Psal. lv. IJ. "Seven times a day do I praise thee," Psalm cxix. 164. *< He loved the habitation of God's house, and the place where his honour dwelt," Psal. xxvi. 8, He often pleads relation to him, as his God and portion. "He would run the way of his commandments, when he should enlarge his heart," Psal. cxix. 32. "He counted all his precepts concerning all things to be right, and hated every false way; and that in keeping God's commands, there is great reward." When he fell into sin, the offence against God sat heaviest on his mind, the offence given to his Spirit, and the loss of the joys of his salvation: Psal. \\. When he was afflicted, he was dumb, and opened not his mouth, under the hand of God; and counted, that in very faithfulness he had afflicted him. How often does he pant after conformity to, God? "His delight was in the excellent of the earth." And viewing both worlds, God was to him'all in all. "Whom have 1 in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee. My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever," Psal. lxxiii. 25, 26. How should such a spirit then, shame and inspire us? To see a poor man content, may justly shame the discontents of the great and the rich. To see the patience and piety of some in sickness and pain, should be a powerful restraint upon the peevish and fretful spirit of those who are-at ease. And certainly the evangelical strains of some in that • state of the church, which was comparatively a state of bondage, should strongly excite us, who are brought into the liberty of the sons of God, to equal or outdo them. To this end then,
1. Accustom yourselves to the frequent contemplation of divine goodness. In creation, and in common providence; but especially as manifested in the face of Christ. This has often been successful, by the blessing of God, to carry good men above their distrustful fears to a free and evangelical ternper*
2. Watch against every thing which tends to draw off your heart from God. Though it be ever so innocent in itself, yet when you discover it to be his rival for your affections, peculiarly guard against it, that it may not be suffered to have the ascendant. And on the other hand, diligently fall in with every thing, which you find leading you to the love of God; such divine institutions, such converse, such particular discoveries of divine truth, as you experience to be most apt to make your hearts burn within you.
3. Daily pray for the light and aids of the Spirit of God, "to shed abroad his love in your hearts, to solve your doubts, and satisfy you of your relation; that he would direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ," 2 Thess. iii. 5.
4. Set yourselves to act up to your hope as far as it goes„ till you can proceed no farther. Be much in thankfulness for general grace, while you have not an assurance of special interest. Animate yourselves by that to go on in duty, growing in grace,, and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ: and your way will hardly fail to brighten, as you go. on.