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Sarah that of salvation; the former the law, the latter the gospel. The two sons of Abraham were happily made choice of for this purpose, as setting forth in the persons of Ishmael and Isaac, the two distinct heads of each family. And this is similar to what, by the same servant, Paul, the Holy Ghost afterwards stated to the church of the Corinthians, under the headship of Adam, and of Christ: “The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.” (1 Cor. xv. 47.) The doctrine is the same in both. Adam, though when he came out of the hands of his Maker he was an holy being, yet that holiness was nothing more than natural holiness, he had no spiritual holiness, “but was of the earth, earthy;” and when he fell he lost all that natural holiness, and entailed on all his seed his own sunken and degraded nature: “As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy." In like manner Christ and his seed have a distinct relationship from that of Adam and his seed : “For as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.” The children of promise have a being in Christ, and a well being in Christ, from everlasting; and though in the Adam-fall transgression, they, as well as all Adam's fallen, helpless race, are involved in the same condemnation; yet from their original and eternal adoption character in Christ, when they are regenerated and quickened into their spiritual life in Christ, they are brought to the spiritual apprehension of their relationship to Christ,“ and cry, abba, Father ! ” (Gal. iv. 6.)
In the illustration of this leading doctrine of our most holy faith, God the Holy Ghost hath been graciously pleased by this allegory to give us his own divine statement of it. As was Ishmael, the son of the bond-woman, so are all the children of bondage,
in every generation of the world; they are all children of nature only, and can rise no higher than nature; they never had, neither can they have, any inheritance in Christ; they have no spiritual grace given to them in Christ, as the chidren of the promise have, before the world began. (2 Tim. i. 9.) They were never chosen in Christ, neither predestinated to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to the Father himself, “ according to the good pleasure of his will ;o) neither accepted in Christ before the world began. (Eph. i. 4—6.) All they had, and all they have, and all they can have, is necessarily limited to the gifts of nature; and from having no union with Christ, they possess no capability of having communion with Christ; and from being children of the bond woman, in that alliance they continue, and cannot have any heirship “ with the son of the free.” On the other hand, Isaac was a child of promise before he was conceived in the womb, (Gen. xvii. 19.) and being chosen in Christ, grace was given to him in Christ, and eternal life, with all the blessed properties connected with it, given to him in Christ; by which the recovery from the Adam-fall transgression became secured to him, and all the seed of Christ with him; and all the promises of God" which are all yea and amen in Christ Jesus,” confirmed and rendered unalterably fixed in that“ everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure.” (1 John v. 11. 2 Cor. i. 20. 2 Sam. xxiii. 5.)
In the fartherprosecution of this subject, my intention is, as the Lord shall be pleased to enable me, to follow up
the few. observations which I have already made, and (on Scripture ground) state some other of the very blessed things connected with this dispensation of the Lord, in his marked distinction between nature and grace, under the following bearings :-I shall first, according to ту
usual plan in speaking to you
on divine truths, bottom the whole where the Lord himself hath bottomed his sacred purposes in relation to the church, by shewing you how the pleasure of Jehovah, in his trinity of persons, hath been revealed in this “mystery of godliness.” I shall then, secondly, take
up the subject under these two distinct branches of the children of the bond-woman, and the children of the free; that under the Lord's teaching, the Lord's people may be clearly led to see, and in that spiritual sight to bless God for the discovery, that “they, as · Isaac was, are the children of promise."
Let me only before I enter upon it drop a word or two to the children, and especially to the little children, that they be not alarmed, as if the subject was involved in difficulty to understand, and above their comprehension. To a truly regenerated child of God, under the unction of divine teaching, nothing is more simple and plain, and nothing more comfortable and refreshing; and although it is indeed beyond all the learning of this world's wisdom, for the greatest abilities in nature to apprehend a single point of what is spiritual, yet the Lord Jesus assures his church, that while these things are hidden from the wise and prudent, they are revealed unto babes." (Matt. xi. 25.)
And I would add another observation for the children of the Lord's family to take comfort from, and especially the little ones of the family, namely, that they be not discouraged from giving their earnest attention to this subject, from an idea that they have not minds so capacious as others of the Lord's people seem to have, for receiving the “deep things of God." Do not say so'; for by regeneration and the new birth, the spiritual faculties of the Lord's children of the free-woman are all equally made alive to the knowledge of that life, in
the truths themselves; though, like children in nature, they are not all of equal age, or equal stature. You should remember that a babé just born is as truly alive as one arrived to manhood; and that new birth and spiritual life in Christ gives an equal right in Christ, if not of equal' knowledge and understanding. It is said of sheep, that amidst the largest flock the lamb. will know its own dam by smell, and the dam will know, by the same instinct, her own lamb; be this as it may, I stay not to determine ; but sure I am, as Jesus knoweth his own sheep, and calleth them all by name, and they follow him, so the lambs of his fold are drawn to him by that divine attraction, far greater than all creature instinct, which He himself hath marked, of the Father and of himself, and hath promised. (John vi. 44. xii. 32. and vi. 37.)
And let me add another observation for the encouragement of the little ones. A largeness of capacity or attainment, even in spiritual knowledge, is not an higher proof of our life in Christ, and our well-being in Christ, than in one of humbler apprehensions ; and for this plain reason, because it is not what our views of Christ are, so much as Christ's views of us, which constitutes our relationship to Christ. In glory itself our happiness and our blessedness will not arise from our attainments; but the Lord's manifestations of himself to us. All we are, and all we have, and all we ever shall be, or have, is from what we are, and what we have, and shall be everlastingly receiving from Christ; we shall then be, as we are now, still vessels of receiving; and each and every child of promise will have a capaciousness equal to his utmost desires, to make him everlastingly blessed, and holy, and happy, in beholding Him who is alike to all the one Almighty object of all our glory.
And while 1 say these things by way of preface to our entering on the subject, for the comfort of the little ones of the Lord's family, I entreat that all and every one, before whom I speak, will not have their minds discouraged from the study of this divine doctrine, concerning the son of the bond-woman and the son of the free, from an apprehension that by reason of sin they would conclude themselves to be among the children of the bond-woman. Let it be always remembered that the gospel is preached to sinners, as sinners; neither doth the foulest state of sin, and under the most deplorable circumstances of sin, prove that such are of the children of the bond-woman. There is a vast and essential, yea, an everlasting difference between being in the service of Satan, and being the children of Satan.' Many of God's dear children, yea, all of them by nature, have lived more or less in Satan's service, and some of them long worn his livery, dóne his drudgery, and worked for his wages; but when the Lord hath awakened them by his grace, and called them from darkness to light, they have been enabled to run out of Satan's kingdom, and thereby proved that they were, and are, not of the children of the bond-woman, but of the free." Let the most distressed sinner in the most desperate state of sin, therefore, take comfort from hence';' and should the Lord in rich, free, full, sovereign grace and mercy, recover any precious soul this day from the fangs of hell, through the foolishness and poverty of preaching, with what holy joy and thanksgiving to God shall we bless the Lord for this sweet allegory, when seeing the truth of it realized in rescuing a child of promise “out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will!” (2 Tim. ii. 26.)