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the field and the sun in the firmament. Vain man would be wise, though he was born like a wild ass's colt;' proud man will be righteous, though loathsome with sin, and obnoxious to ruin. But, however highly the self-sufficient may think of their own obedience, the sinner whose conscience is pressed with a sense of guilt, and every real Christian, will deprecate an appearance before their final Judge, in their own righteousness. The man who is taught of God will ardently cry,' hide me, ye rocks! cover me, ye mountains! yea, rather let me lose my existence, than appear before the Most High in the filthy rags of my own duties; or in any righteousness but that which is perfect, in any obedience but that which is divine.'

CHAP. VII.

Of Grace, as it reigns in our ADOPTION.

THOSE Whom God has justified and admitted into a state of reconciliation with himself, he has also adopted for his children, that they might enjoy all the blessings of grace, and the unknown riches of glory, not only by the favour of friendship, though that he of the noblest kind, but also by an indisputable right of inheritance, which right they have in virtue of Adoption.

The word Adoption signifies that act by which a person takes the child of another, not related to him, into the place, and entitles him to the privileges, of his own son. In the Grecian and Roman states, it was customary for a man of wealth, in default of issue from his own body, to make choice of some person upon whom he put his name; requiring him to relinquish his own family, never to return to it again, and to proclaim him publicly his heir. The person thus adopted was legally entitled to the inheritance, upon the decease of his adopter; and though before he was

entirely void of all claim to such a benefit, or any expectation of it, was invested with the same privileges as if he had been born an heir to his benefactor.* That spiritual and divine adoption, about which we treat, is God's gracious admission of strangers and aliens into the state, relation, and enjoyment of all the privileges of children, through Jesus Christ, according to that glorious promise of the new covenant,' I will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.'t Reconciliation, justification, and adoption, may be thus distin guished. In reconciliation, God is considered as the sovereign Lord, and the injured party, and the sinner as an enemy to him. In justification, our Maker sustains the character of the supreme Judge, and man is considered as a guilty criminal standing before his tribunal. In adoption, the Source of all mercies appears as a father, and the apostate sons of Adam as aliens from him; as belonging to the family of Satan, and denominated children of wrath. In reconciliation we are made friends, in justification we are pronounced righteous, and in adoption we are constituted heirs, and have a declared right to the eternal inheritance.

That believers are the children of God, the scriptures expressly declare. They may be so called, as they are begotten and born from above; as they stand in a marriage-relation to Christ, and as theyare adopted into the heavenly family. These different ways in which the scripture speaks of their filial relation to God, are intended to aid our feeble conceptions when we think upon the grand ineffable blessing; one mode of expression supplying, in some degree, the ideas that are wanting in another. To express the original of spiritual life, and the restoration of the divine image, we are said to be born of God. To set forth, in the liveliest manner, our most intimate and delightful union with the Son of the Highest,

* Mr. Venn's Complete Duty of Man, 2d edit. p. 470, 471.
+ 2 Cor. vi. 18.

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we are said to be married to Christ. That we might never forget the misery of our natural condition, as a state of alienation from God, and at the same time to intimate to us our title to the heavenly patrimony, we are said to be adopted by him. The condition, therefore, of all believers, is most noble and excellent. Their high birth, their divine husband, and everlasting inheritance, loudly proclaim it. The beloved apostle was so amazed at the love of God manifested in the privilege of adoption, that he could not forbear crying out with astonishment and rapture, Behold! what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called THE SONS OF GOD! Here grace reigns. The vessels of mercy were predestinated to the enjoyment of this honour and happiness before the world began. The great Lord of all chose them for himself, chose them for his children, that they might be 'heirs of God and joint heirs of Christ.' This he did, not because of any worthiness in them, but of his own Sovereign will; as it is written, Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace.'* According to the good pleasure of his will;' this is the eternal source of the heavenly blessing. By 'Jesus Christ;' this is the way of its communication to the sinner. To the praise of its glorious grace;' this is the end of bestowing it.

The persons adopted are sinners of Adam's race; such as, considered in their natural state, are estranged from God, and guilty before him, under sentence of death, and obnoxious to ruin. Their translation, therefore, out of this deplorable condition, into a state and relation so 'glorious, is an instance of reigning, triumphant, boundless grace. That the children of wrath should become the inheritors of glory, and the slaves of the devil be acknowledged as the sons of Jehovah; that the enemies of God should ever be adopted into his family, and have an indefeasi* Eph. i. 5, 6.

ble right to all the privileges of his children; are astonishing to the last degree. Our character and state by nature are the most indigent, wretched, and abominable; such as render us fit for nothing after this life, but to dwell with accursed fiends and damned spirits in the abodes of darkness and despair. But, by the privilege of adoption, we rightfully bear a character, and are brought into such a state, as render us fit to associate with saints in light, with angels in glory. What but grace, the riches of grace, omnipotent reigning grace, could be sufficient to effect so noble, so astonishing, so divine a change?

If we take a cursory view of those invaluable privileges which the saints enjoy by adoption, and of which they are heirs, our ideas of the superlative blessing will be still heightened. They have the most honourable character; for they are called, not merely the servants, or the friends, but the sons of God. This dignified character is unalterable, for the Lord himself declares that it is an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.* If David so highly esteemed the character of son-in-law to an earthly king,† how much more should believers esteem the title of the sons of God; of Him, who is King of kings, and Lord of lords! They are also called kings and priests, and are represented under a rich variety of august and venerable titles, obvious to every intelligent reader of the sacred writings. The dignity of their relation is immensely great; for, being the children of God, Jehovah himself is their Father, and Christ acknowledges them for his brethren. Nor do they stand in relation to Jesus merely as brethren; they are also his bride. Their conjugal relation to Him is such, that nothing can be conceived more honourable, or more beneficial. For 'He is the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely.' When David, though not yet in possession of the crown, sent his men to Abigail to take her to wife, that discreet widow 'bowed herself on her face to the earth,

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and said, Behold, let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.'* Now, may not the believer, for infinitely greater reasons, with gratitude and astonishment adore that beneficent hand which broke off his yoke of basest vassalage, and joined him to David's Antitype, the heavenly Bridegroom; joined him in a marriage-covenant that shall never be broken, in an union that shall never be dissolved?

Again: Believers, being the children of God, are the objects of his paternal affection and unremitting care. As a Father, he guides them by his counsel, and guards them by his power. Their disobedience he visits with a rod of correction, and in all their distresses he feels for them with the bowels of parental compassion. In all his dealings with them, he manifests his love, and causes all things to work together for their good. Yes, they are the darlings of providence, and the charge of angels. Those ministering spirits, who are active as flame, and swift as thought, encamp around them; and, in ways unknown to mortals, subserve the designs of grace in promoting their best interests.

Further: Nothing can exceed the riches and excellency of that inheritance to which they have a right in virtue of their adoption-that eternal inheritance, which is bequeathed to them by an irrevocable testament. This testament, recorded in the sacred writings, was confirmed by the blood and death of Christ. The inheritance includes all the blessings of grace here, and . the full fruition of glory hereafter. Yea, even the blessings of providence are theirs, and are dispensed to them, so far as infinite wisdom sees necessary to their real temporal good, their spiritual welfare, and the glory of God. For godliness hath the promise of life that now is, as well as of that which is to come: and their heavenly Father knoweth that they have need of his providential favours, so long as they continue in their present state. So that, whether they be things temporal, spiritual, or eternal-whether they be things present,

* 1 Sam. xxv. 40, 41.

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