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to be—“ deceitful above all things, and desperately wickede." He might expatiate upon the sufficiency of man's righteousness to justify him before God: but he could never induce a true penitent to rely on any thing but the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, “ the righteousness which is of God by faith?” He might assert, as confidently as he would, the ability of man to fulfil the will of God: but the man that has this divine unction knows “ that without Christ he can do nothing." Thus he has, if I may so speak, a compass whereby to steer even in the dark, and can traverse the seas in safety; whilst those who have only the dictates of human wisdom for their guide, are left to run on rocks and shoals, to th eternal ruin".] 2. For his final salvation
[This divine unction, duly improved, shall be sufficient for every thing to which the Christian is called. By it, he shall mortify the whole body of sin! By it, he shall be able to sustain every affliction that can come upon hims. By it, he shall be changed into the perfect image of his God!
We must not, however, misunderstand the Apostle, as though this unction of the Holy One superseded an attention to the word of God, or the necessity of continual diligence on our part. The word of God is, after all, our only directory: and to imagine, as some do, that the light within renders the written word unnecessary, is a very dangerous error. The light within is necessary, just as the light of the sun is for the discovery of time upon the dial: but as the dial is of no use without the sun, so neither will the sun suffice without the dial. And, whatever office the Holy Spirit executes, he executes it by and through the written word. Nor let it be supposed that we can acquire divine knowledge without much studious application to the word of God: for Solomon tells us, that it is not by either prayer or study, separately, that we can attain knowledge: it must be by both combined: “ If we cry after knowledge, and search for it as for hid treasures, then shall we understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of Godm.”
It is proper I should yet further guard against an idea, that this divine unction supersedes the necessity of diffidence on our part: for though it is true, that, on the great leading and fundamental doctrines of the fall, and of the recovery by Jesus Christ, the inward witness of these truths may suffice to preserve us, there are ten thousand errors, into which we may fall, even whilst we think that we are taught by the Holy Ghost. From damning error and apostasy he will keep his people; but not from all error: for then there would be no room left for diversity of opinion in the Church of God. But we shall never see eye to eye” in this life. There will still be room left for difference of sentiment, in matters of minor importance: and mutual forbearance in relation to them will be necessary, even to the end. In things essential, there should be unity; in things non-essential, liberty; and in every thing there should be charity.] ADDRESS 1. Those who doubt the doctrine of our text
e Jer. xvii. 9.
f Phil. iii. 9.
& John xv. 5.
[To speak of a divine unction, as given to us to secure us from error, and to bring us to salvation, appears, to many, to be a wild and enthusiastic conceit. They believe that the Holy Ghost was given formerly to the Church for the working of miracles; but they will not believe that he is continued to the Church, for the purpose of guiding, and comforting, and sanctifying the soul. But to any one who doubts his need of the Holy Spirit, I would say, "What did our blessed Lord mean, when, in counselling the Laodicean Church, he said, “ Anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest seen?" I do not conceive it possible to explain away that passage; or for any one, who believes the Scripture, to doubt but that there is an unction of the Holy One, which we all need, in order to the attainment of a spiritual discernment. It is the office of the Holy Spirit to "glorify Christ, by taking of the things that are Christ's, and shewing them unto uso." Let not prejudice, then, keep any from seeking this inestimable benefit; but let all entreat of God to send down upon them “a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ P;" and so to " guide them into all truth," that they may“ be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation."]
2. To those who profess to be living in the experience of it
[Have any of you been thus anointed, and thus preserved? Then give God the glory of it; and say with the Apostle, “ He who hath established us in Christ, and hath anointed us, (you observe the union of the two, as in the text,) is God.” But remember, that the world can only judge of your professions by your practice. You profess, that “ by the unction of the Holy One you know all things :: let it be seen, then, that by the unction of the Holy One you [2441. do all things. It is by your fruits that you must be judged, both by God and man. See to it, then, that you guard against that conceit which so prevails in heretics and apostates, To your latest hour you must retain a childlike spirit, and particularly in the simplicity and docility of your minds.
n Rev. iji. 18. o John xvi. 14. p Eph. i. 17, 18. 9 John xiv. 26. and xvi. 13. r 2 Cor i. 21, with 1 John ü. 27.
You must guard, too, against every corrupt bias. “ If your eye be single, your whole body will be full of light: but if your eye be evil, your whole body will be full of darkness." In particular, be careful not to make the truths of God an occasion of needless contention. For the fundamentals of religion you must indeed contend, and that earnestly, if need be; but even in reference to them, it would be better to recommend to your adversaries, and to cultivate for_yourselves, the study of the Holy Scriptures with prayer. In this way, you will grow both in knowledge and in grace;" and “ your light will shine brighter and brighter unto the perfect day."]
BELIEVERS ARE SONS OF GOD.
1 John iii. 1. Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.
RELIGION is altogether a mystery : every part of it is deeply mysterious. The restoration of a fallen soul to God! The means of effecting that restoration — the death of God's only dear Son, as a sacrifice for sin; and the operation of his Spirit in the sinner's heart! The effect produced—the translation of a soul from the family of Satan to the family of Almighty God! This is the point which the Apostle is contemplating in my text : and it fills him, as we might well expect, with the profoundest wonder and admiration: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!”
That we may enter into the Apostle's views, and attain somewhat of his spirit, I will endeavour to shew, I. What is comprehended in the relation of sons
No one need to be informed on this subject, as far as it relates to men. But in the relation as borne to
God, there is much which needs to be elucidated. In it are comprehended, 1. An adoption into his family
[By nature, we belong to a far different family: for we are of our father the devil :” and, being “ children of disobedience," we are also “ children of wrath.” But God takes to himself a people out of that wretched mass, and adopts them as his own; giving to them the name of sons, the privileges of sons, the endearments of sons, and acting towards them in all respects as a loving Father It is in and through the Lord Jesus Christ that he effects this. In “sending his Son to redeem them that were under the law,” he did it, " that we might receive the adoption of sons."] 2. A participation of his nature
[When man adopts any person, he may deal with the adopted person as his son ; but he can never really make him a son. But when God sets apart any for this high relation, he creates them anew, and makes them entirely tures." He imparts to them his Holy Spirit, and makes them “partakers of the divine natureb;" so that they become, in reality, his sons; being “ begotten of him," and " born unto him.” Hence, with the new relation, there spring up in their souls new views, new dispositions, new desires, new habits altogetherd: and in God also there arises, not a mere arbitrary good-will
, but a paternal interest, a special regard, such as exists in every part of the creation between the parent and the progeny.
All this, then, is comprehended, this change of nature on their part, and this peculiar regard on his,) when we speak of any as made “sons of God.”] 3. A title to his inheritance
[This does not necessarily exist among men; but with God it does. Every one that is born of him, is begotten to an inheritance, even an inheritance that "fadeth not awaye.” “ If we are sons, we are also heirs, heirs of God, and jointheirs with Christ?." There is this peculiarity also attaching to the children of God: they are all his "first-born." They are the brethren of Christ; and partakers with him in all that he himself inherits—bis throne, his kingdom, his glory”.]
And now let us contemplateII. The wonderful love of God, in bringing us into
that relation to himselfa Gal. iv. 4, 5.
b 2 Pet. i. 4. c 1 John v. 1, 18. d Gal. iv. 6. and Rom. viii. 15, 16. e 1 Pet. i. 1, 3, 4. f Rom. viii. 17. 8 Exod. iv. 22. Heb. xii. 23. h Rev. ii. 21. John xvii. 22.
When it is said, “ We are called the sons of God,” it means that we are really made so. And this change is altogether the effect of God's unbounded love. Behold, then, what manner of love this is : 1. How sovereign !
[It is wholly unmerited on our part. There never was, there never could be, any thing in us to attract the Divine regards, since “every imagination of the thoughts of our hearts was only evil continually.” In the selection of his objects, God was as free as in the choice of Abraham from amidst an idolatrous world, or of Isaac and Jacob in preference to their elder brethren. In conferring this high honour, God has respect only to his own will, and to the glory of his own name. This is marked with peculiar strength and force by the Apostle Paul, when, speaking on this very subject, he says, “ God has predestinated us to 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 belovedi." In truth, “ He loved us because he would love usk:” and because she loved us with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness hath he drawn us!.”] 2. How beyond all human expectation !
[If man adopt any one, it is because, having no progeny of his own, he feels a want of some one to succeed to his estates: and in conferring this favour, he has respect to some qualities in the person selected by him. But God has no need of us. We can never add either to his happiness or glory. Or, if he needed any creatures to be objects of his favour, he could create any number, either of angels or men, as it should please him, and make them the happy objects of his choice. But it is not thus that he has acted. He has chosen from amongst men, corrupt and sinful men, multitudes, who shall in time, be born to him, and in eternity enjoy him. Nor is it of the best of men that he has made his selection, but often of the vilest. Even a murderous Manasseh has been made a vessel of honour, and a monument of grace; whilst millions of persons, less guilty, have been passed by. If we ask the reason of this, our Lord assigns the only reason that can be given : “ Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.” The potter has power over the clay, to do with it as seemeth him good : and "shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus m?" True it is, that, in reference to this matter, we must say, as David did in
i Eph. i. 5, 6. i Jer. xxxi. 3.
k Deut. vii. 7, 8. m Rom. ix. 20, 21.