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and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity;" to whom belong the “greatness and the power, and the glory and the victory, and the majesty for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is his ;" sons of God; of that holy One“ who is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look upon iniquity;" “ in whose sight the heavens are not clean, and whose angels he chargeth with folly." Well may we exclaim with the Psalmist, “ Lord, what is man that thou takest knowledge of him, or the son of man that thou makest account of bim?" and with the beloved disciple, “ Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!"
Let us cherish, my brethren, these salutary emotions of pious wonder and filial gratitude, while we consider what it is for man to become a son of God. In attempting to elucidate this subject, I shall notice the past condition, the present character and privileges, and the future prospects of such as become sons of God.
1. In the first place, as to the past condition of the sons of God; they have been removed from the family of Satan, and are no longer children of the wicked one. “ In this,” saith the Scripture," the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God.” “ He that committeth sin is of the devil."
It is indeed a melancholy and ought to be to us all an alarming truth, that they who are enemies to God by wicked works; who feel not towards him the submissive, dependent, and obedient temper of children ; who refuse to receive the unspeakable gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, are sons of the great adversary of souls," the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience.” What an odious parentage is this, so much to resemble, both in disposition and conduct, the chief of apostate spirits, the grand enemy of God and of all good, as to deserve the title of his children!
Think not, my hearers, that this language savours too much of severity and invective. Even he who was the Friend of sinners, and who laid down his life for them, once said to certain of the Jews, “ Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father
will do." “ If God were your Father, ye would love me.” And if God were thy Father, fellow-sinner, thou wouldest love his Sonthou wouldest repose all thy confidence in him as thine only Saviour and thine only hope. So long as thou refuseșt to do this, thou art of thy father the devil, and the lusts of thy father thou wilt do. He, therefore, who becomes a son of God, must first cease to be a child of the wicked one.
II. When we consider, in the second place, the present character and privileges of the sons of God, we remark that they become such by being born
not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Such is the emphatical language which Scripture employs to illustrate, by a striking metaphor, that mighty transformation of moral character effected by the Spirit of God alone, in the heart of the sinner."
It is a birth-that is, the commencement of a new and spiritual life--constituting a most intimate and affecting relation between the subjects of it and its Author. By it, they become his sons in a peculiar and appropriate sense: for they are made partakers of his Divine nature. They are conformed to the image of his First Born, even of him who is the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person. They enjoy a communion with the Father and the Son, the closeness of which is described in the memorable prayer of our Saviour for his disciples : “ Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.” In the like manner it is said,
Every one that loveth, is born of God;" that is, a son of God possesses, though in a very imperfect degree, the same divine benevolence by which God himself is preeminently characterised, when he is styled“ Love." Hence, also, the peculiar force and propriety of those precepts which are given to believers on account of the resemblance between them and their Heavenly Father ; " Be ye, therefore, followers of God, as dear children.” “ Be ye, there
6 Be ye,
fore, merciful, as your Father also is merciful.”_ “ Love your enemies, that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven." therefore, perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
To be a son of God, then, is to be born of God, and to be made a partaker of the Divine nature.
2. The sons of. God become such by being adopted into his own family : for although once they were “ aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenant of promise ; having no hope, and without God in the world;" yet now they “ are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens of the saints and of the household of God.” They are made members of a happy community, which, even here on earth, has some foretaste of that peace, and love, and joy, which will glow with unsullied and perpetual ardour in the breasts of the general assembly and church of the first-born in heaven. They esteem one another as brethren, their hearts being knit together in love; having one common Father, trusting in the same Saviour, espousing the same cause, cheered by the same promises, animated by the same hopes, and looking forward to the same mansions of eternal rest, which Christ their Elder Brother has gone before to prepare for all his followers.
3. The sons of God, on the other hand, enjoy from his bounty the choicest privileges; his spirit bearing witness with their spirits that they are indeed his children. Nor is this done by any imme
diate revelation of his love to them; by' any influence supernatural in such a sense as to be clearly distinguished from the operation of their own minds; by any communication of such miraculous gifts and graces as were common in the first ages of the church; but by infusing into the soul that deep sorrow and contrition for sin, that sincere and hearty repentance, that humble though strong reliance upon Christ, that filial and reverential love toward God, that ardent charity toward all men, and that faithful diligence in good works which afford satisfactory evidence lo their possessor that he is truly a son of God.
Nor think, my brethren, that I wish to deprive you of the earnest of your inheritance, the Divine consolation of the assurance that you have passed from death unto life: for what assurance can be stronger, nay, what other can stand the test of God's word, than to discover in ourselves that holy temper and conduct which are the genuine fruits of the Spirit, which no other influence but his can produce, and without which all our pretensions to the title of sons of God are but as “sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal ?"
4. Those, again, who become sons of God are under his peculiar guidance: “for as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God."
And how necessary, my brethren, is such a heavenly light to cheer and illuminate and direct our path through the wilderness of this world to the Ca. naan of eternal rest! He who has learned, by an