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BETWEEN NATURE AND GRACE,
ILLUSTRATED ON SCRIPTURE AUTHORITY,
IN THE STATEMENT OF THE CHILDREN OF THE BONDWOMAN
FROM THE CHILDREN OF THE FREE.
A SERMON, PREACHED ON THE MORNING OF THE LORD'S DAY, IN THE
CHURCH OF CHARLES, PLYMOUTH, MARCH 20, 1825.
It may not be improper to state in this place the general plan of these sermons for the use of cottagers, diversified as the subjects are, and read as they may be, detached and apparently unconnected with each other, yet there hath been a design, from the beginning, of connecting the whole into one plan of progressive usefulness, if followed up in the order in which they are placed. Hence the first sermon is intended to set forth what is to be expected in the labours of the gospel ministry : so that if it be asked, what are faithful ministers supposed to preach? the answer is," the servants of the Most High God shew unto the people the way of salvation.” And the second follows up this preaching, in shewing how the people may be ascertained, that the preaching they hear, and the Lord's blessing upon it, is the truth as it is in Jesus ; namely, that “ the people have the knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins.” Having thus paved the way for the apprehension of right preaching, and the blessed effects following it, the third sermon leads to the Source of all saving knowledge, in the contemplation of Him, whose glorious person and whose finished salvation is endeared to the church under that sublime character in which he hath proclaimed himself “the resurrection and the life.” To this succeeds, what is so intimately connected with it, the event, in which the church is included in this high administration; and which therefore the fourth Sermon states in that most blessed doctrine, namely, “the children of the resurrection.". The fifth and sixth sermons are chiefly of the person of Christ; and the seventh treats of his unequalled sorrow, when accomplishing the salvation of his people. The eighth, which we are now about to enter upon, is directed to set forth, under Scripture information, the everlasting difference between the “children of the bondwoman, and the children of the free.” Let us seek grace from the Lord, to render our attention to it profitable. Blessed Lord God! Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, look upon every one of thine which are now before thee ; and as the children of the free woman, give them clear marks of their adoption character; that we may none of us feel the spirit of bondage again to fear, but may know the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, “ Abba, Father ! ” And $0 sweetly accompany the word to our spiritual understanding, that as we prosecute the wonderful subject of distinguishing grace, our hearts may feel our personal interest in the same ; and the Holy Spirit may bear witness to our spirits “ that we are the children of God.” Graciously confirm those divine truths to us, as we sit under thy word ; and may many a one of thy redeemed find cause to say, the Lord is here ! We ask this
in His name who is “the mercy promised ;” and to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, we desire to ascribe everlasting praises. Amen.
THE EVERLASTING DISTINCTION BETWEEN NATURE
GALATIANS iv. 22-24.
For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a free-woman. But he who was of the bond-woman was born after the flesh : but he of the free-woman was by promise. Which things are an allegory
And what is an allegory? It is simply no more than a parabolical method of conveying instruction, by familiar illustrations of terms suited to popular apprehensions ; in relation to holy Scripture it is the explaining divine truths by human figures ; it was a plan very generally used in the eastern part of the world; and our most glorious Lord, in the days of his flesh, in accommodation to the time and custom then being, so much did he condescend to deliver his instructions in the audience of the people in this way, “that at one time without a parable spake he not unto them.” (Matt. xiii. 34.)
The subject before us in the words of the text is of the same kind. Under the similitude of an allegory, the Holy Ghost hath been pleased to bless the church with explaining to us the two covenants, illustrated in the historical relation of Sarah and Hagar, as recorded in the book of Genesis, chapters xvi. and xxi. We can never be sufficiently thankful to God the Holy Ghost for giving himself the spiritual meaning of those records; for never, untaught of God, could it have entered into the mind of man, that matters of so important a nature were veiled under that covering. We might, and should no doubt, have read the his
tory of both again and again, as the different characters are there stated in the Holy Scripture, and have considered the whole an interesting memoir in the family of the patriarch Abraham, in that early age of the world; but to have supposed that it had so vast a reference to ourselves, and that in the son of Sarah was intended to shew the election of grace; and in the son of the bond-woman Hagar was meant what the apostle calls “the rest :” (Rom. xi. 7.) such a spiritual apprehension of the subject, untaught of God, would have been for ever impossible, (as indeed it is now, without the same divine instruction,) and must have been unknown.
We shall be the better prepared, under the Lord's anointing, to enter into clearer apprehensions of the subject, if we first gather into one point of view the several parts of the history itself, before we look into what the Holy Ghost, by Paul, calls an allegory, as illustrative of the two covenants : the children of the bond-woman under the covenant of works ; and the children of the free in the covenant of grace. And the Lord, the Almighty Giver of this allegory, grant an understanding in all things.
The history opens with the words of the text. “For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a free-woman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the free-woman was by promise: which things are an allegory.” Abraham had many sons; we read of no less than six in one verse of Scripture. (Gen xxv. 1, 2.) But the great object the Holy Ghost had in view in teaching this allegory to the church being to illustrate distinguishing mercy in election, the Lord refers only to the son of Sarah, and the son of Hagar; the one representing the children of grace, and the other the children of nature; the seed of Hagar the covenant of works, the seed of