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I would recommend the cottager here, as I have done before, that when gathered together in his little circle, before entering upon
the perusal of the sermon before him, to read the whole chapter from whence the text is taken: he will find, under divine teaching, much spiritual instruction from its blissful contents; he will realize the leading truths in himself, and his own soul; that state of alienation in which, while unregenerate, he was in heart from God, will feelingly be understood by him; and he will then discover the suitableness to himself and his former circumstances, while he reads those solemn words, “ for ye were sometime darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord; walk as children of light.” And yet more important as leading to the spiritual enjoyment of what this sermon is proposed to bring forward, he will, from the same divine teaching, see the ground on which the church rests her adoption character as dear children of God, from her oneness in Christ Jesus. Here is founded the marvellous grace to the church, and the cause of her recovery from the Adam-fall transgression, being “ members of Christ's body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” Under these impressions, I would say for myself, and the Lord's people present,
Lord! we beg for grace“ to bow the knee unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named;" and looking up through Him, and his divine mediation, “ who is the way, and the truth, and the life,” we pray for that unction by which our souls at this time may be refreshed in the manifestation of “ the love of God the Father, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the communion of the Holy Ghost.” Lord ! let thy presence be eminently shewn in our midst ; let so much of revelation in the knowledge of Christ be shed abroad in our hearts, that in Him, and through Him, and by Him, “we may have access by one Spirit unto the Father.' And the Lord suit bles sings to that part of his family before him, that each child may have his portion, and all be edified to the Lord's glory and our happiness in Christ. Amen.
THE FOLLOWERS OF GOD AS DEAR CHILDREN.
EPH. v. 1, 2.
Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children : and walk in love, as
Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour.
HERE is somewhat most delightfully endearing, and beyond all calculation precious, in the expression “ dear children.” I find no where in the Bible the word dear applied to any but to our most glorious Christ; of Him it is said, (Col. i. 13.). that he is God's dear Son, or as it is rendered in the margin of the same Scripture, the Son “ of his love." But to none but Him, and to the church in Him, is the term given. We read of “ the elect angels,” (1 Tim. v. 21.) but they are never called “dear angels;" they are called sons of God,” (Job. xxxviii. 7.) “when the morning stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted for joy." And so are magistrates, “I have said ye are gods,” (Psalm lxxxii. 6.) but this appellation is on account of office : and in neither is there the most distant idea to any relationship with God. But of the church alone, as she is in Christ, is this tender name used,“ dear children.". They are said “to have been predestinated unto the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ to himself,” (Eph. i. 5.) and to have been made " accepted in the beloved.” (Eph. i. 6.) But such things are inapplicable to the angels; elect as they are, and upheld by Christ as they are, yet no union with Christ, neither adopted in Christ, nor accepted in Christ. And as a farther confirmation
of the total dissimilarity, the Lord Jesus speaks of his church very differently from what he doth of angels, when he saith, “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be perfect in one; that they all may be one, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.” (John xvii. 21—23.) These are all such mighty things, of union and communion with this mighty Us, as are never spoken of angels, or indeed of any other, but the church. Hence we trace somewhat of the very precious expressions in the text, of “dear children.”
And it is very blessed also to trace the love-tokens shewn to the church as “ dear children,” corresponding thereto through the whole of Scripture. Jehovah'in his trinity of persons appears to take delight in speaking of them, and speaking to them, under a variety of appellations, all manifesting the love he hath for them.“ Thou Israel art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend." " (Isaiah xli. 8.) And speaking of distinguishing grace,
shewn to them in an ample supply of all good, which, like the fleece of Gideon, shall make them full of divine favour, while the ungodly around them in the earth are dry; the Lord saith, “ they shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them.” (Isaiah Ixv. 23.) Hence they are said to be “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people.” (1 Pet. ii. 9.) Yea, they are expressly declared “to be built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone ; growing unto an holy temple in the Lord, in whom they are builded together, for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Eph. ii. 20—22.) And to-add no more, the Lord saith of his church, “ Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal
diadem in the hand of thy God.” (Isaiah lxii. 3.) And what a multitude of Scriptures is the Bible full of, to testify the corresponding affection : « Fear not Abraham, I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” (Gen. xv. l.) “ Thou God seest me,” said the handmaid of Abram in a moment of great extremity. (Gen. xvi. 13.) “Yes (said Elihu,) he withdraweth not his eye from the righteous." (Job. xxxvi. 7.) “Can a woman forget her sucking child, (saith the Lord,) that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb ? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” (Isaiah xlix. 15.) Thus appealing to every sense of our nature, to demonstrate that our God is all eye, all ear, in watching over his people, his dear children,“ keeping them night and day, that none shall hurt them.” (Isaiah xxvii. 2, 3.)
But we shall have a clearer view of this subject, and under the unction of the Holy Ghost be led into a more scriptural and spiritual apprehension of the numberless gracious things included in it, if we trace it to its source. Every effect must have had a cause. And the cause wherefore the church in Christ, in every individual of Christ's mystical body, are " dear children," ariseth from the everlasting love of Jehovah in his trinity of persons towards the church, "according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord!” (Ephes, iii. 11.) And if you
observe the words of the text, there is a some what referred to in what went before to this amount, when the apostle saith therefore, “be ye therefore followers of God as dear children." He grounds this as the reason why they should be followers of God; namely because they are dear children. In the preceding chapters he had been very largely proving the doctrine, in the united love of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, towards the church in those acts of
grace, whereby their relation to God in Christ is manifested, and now calls upon the church on their part to set forth the reality, by a suitable life and conversation.
I must not at this time call upon you to look back and trace the subject through the preceding chapters, in confirmation of the truth ; though the subject would be highly profitable, and can never be studied too often, or too warmly cherished under spiritual'enlightenings, in the church of Christ. But my text contains in its bosom enough for our present contemplation without amplifying particulars. “ Followers of God as dear children” include the affectionate love and obedience to all the persoos of the GODHEAD in Christ; because each glorious person hath taken equal part in those acts of grace. And the walking in love as Christ also hath loved us, and given himself for us,” is not confined to our love of him, or love to one another, but eminently higher than both, in meaning our walking in his love to us as the cause, and then walking in love to him and to each other, as the effect, according to the statement of Scripture, that if we love him, it is becuase he first loved us. (1 John iv. 19.) And the sweet savour of his offering and sacrifice, being the unction of the Holy Ghost, through whom Christ made the propitiation; and through whom it becomes so to his people, in "" wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, that according as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” (1 Cor. i. 30, 31.)
Under this view here is proposed to our meditation a subject of the sweetest and most soul-refreshing nature, in being called upon as dear children to be followers of God, that is, in his trinity of persons; in which we learn from Scripture that the whole of the Holy Three in One are blended, and in which following of the Lord in this endearing point, the blissful