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Of communion with Christ in privileges — Of adoption; the nature of it, the consequences of it — Peculiar privileges attending it; liberty, title, boldness, affliction — Communion with Christ hereby.
III. The third thing wherein we have communion with Christ, is grace of privilege before God; I mean, as the third head of purchased grace. The privileges we enjoy by Christ are great and innumerable; to insist on them in particular were work for a man’s whole life, not a design to be wrapped up in a few sheets. I shall take a view of them only in the head, the spring and fountain whence they all arise and flow, — this is our adoption: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God,” 1 John iii. 2. This is our great and fountain privilege. Whence is it that we are so? It is from the love of the Father. Verse 1, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!” But by whom immediately do we receive this honour? As many as believe on Christ, he gives them this power, to become the sons of God, John i. 12. Himself was appointed to be the first-born among many brethren, Rom. viii. 29; and his taking us to be brethren, Heb. ii. 11, makes us become the children of God. Now, that God is our Father, by being the Father of Christ, and we his children by being the brethren of Christ, being the head and sum of all the honour, privilege, right, and title we have, let us a little consider the nature of that act whereby we are invested with this state and title, — namely, our adoption.
Now, adoption is the authoritative translation of a believer, by Jesus Christ, from the family of the world and Satan into the family of God, with his investiture in all the privileges and advantages of that family.
To the complete adoption of any person, these five things are required:—
1. That he be actually, and of his own right, of another family than that whereinto he is adopted. He must be the son of one family or other, in his own right, as all persons are.
2082. That there be a family unto which of himself he hath no right, whereinto he is to be grafted. If a man comes into a family upon a personal right, though originally at never so great a distance, that man is not adopted. If a man of a most remote consanguinity do come into the inheritance of any family by the death of the nearer heirs, though his right before were little better than nothing, yet he is a born son of that family, — he is not adopted. [In adoption] he is not to have the plea of the most remote possibility of succession.
3. That there be an authoritative, legal translation of him, by some that have power thereinto, from one family into another. It was not, by the law of old, in the power of particular persons to adopt when and whom they would. It was to be done by the authority of the sovereign power.
4. That the adopted person be freed from all the obligations that be upon him unto the family from whence he is translated; otherwise he can be no way useful or serviceable unto the family whereinto he is ingrafted. He cannot serve two masters, much less two fathers.
5. That, by virtue of his adoption, he be invested in all the rights, privileges, advantages, and title to the whole inheritance, of the family into which he is adopted, in as full and ample manner as if he had been born a son therein.
Now, all these things and circumstances do concur and are found in the adoption of believers:—
1. They are, by their own original right, of another family than that whereinto they are adopted. They are “by nature the children of wrath,” Eph. ii. 3, — sons of wrath, — of that family whose inheritance is “wrath,” — called “the power of darkness,” Col. i. 13; for from thence doth God “translate them into the kingdom of his dear Son.” This is the family of the world and of Satan, of which by nature believers are. Whatever is to be inherited in that family, — as wrath, curse, death, hell, — they have a right thereunto. Neither can they of themselves, or by themselves, get free of this family: a strong man armed keeps them in subjection. Their natural estate is a family condition, attended with all the circumstances of a family, — family duties and services, rights and titles, relations and observances. They are of the black family of sin and Satan.
2. There is another family whereinto they are to be translated, and whereunto of themselves they have neither right nor title. This is that family in heaven and earth which is called after the name of Christ, Eph. iii. 15, — the great family of God. God hath a349349 Hab. iii. 6. house and family for his children; of whom some he maintains on the riches of his grace, and some he entertains with the fulness of his glory. This is that house whereof the Lord Christ is the great dispenser, it having 209pleased the Father to “gather together in one all things in him, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him,” Eph. i. 10. Herein live all the sons and daughters of God, spending largely on the riches of his grace. Unto this family of themselves they have no right nor title; they are wholly alienated from it, Eph. ii. 12, and can lay no claim to any thing in it. God driving fallen Adam out of the garden, and shutting up all ways of return with a flaming sword, ready to cut him off if he should attempt it, abundantly declares that he, and all in him, had lost all right of approaching unto God in any family relation. Corrupted, cursed nature is not vested with the least right to any thing of God. Therefore, —
3. They have an authoritative translation from one of these families to another. It is not done in a private, underhand way, but in the way of authority. John i. 12, “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God,” — power or authority. This investing them with the power, excellency, and right of the sons of God, is a forensical act, and hath a legal proceeding in it. It is called the “making us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light,” Col. i. 12; — a judicial exalting us into membership in that family, where God is the Father, Christ the350350 Rom. viii. 29; Heb. ii. 12. elder brother, all saints and angels brethren and fellow-children, and the inheritance a crown immortal and incorruptible, that fades not away.
Now, this authoritative translation of believers from one family into another consisteth of these two parts:—
(1.) An effectual proclamation and declaration of such a person’s immunity from all obligations to the former family, to which by nature he was related. And this declaration hath a threefold object:—
[1.] Angels. It is declared unto them; they are the351351 Job. i. 6, xxxviii. 7; Heb. xii. 22–24; Rev. xxii. 9. sons of God. They are the sons of God, and so of the family whereinto the adopted person is to be admitted; and therefore it concerns them to know who are invested with the rights of that family, that they may discharge their duty towards them. Unto them, then, it is declared that believers are freed from the family of sin and hell, to become fellow-sons and servants with them. And this is done two ways:—
1st. Generally, by the doctrine of the gospel. Eph. iii. 10, “Unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places is made known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.”
By the church is this wisdom made known to the angels, either as the doctrine of the gospel is delivered unto it, or as it is gathered thereby. And what is this wisdom of God that is thus made known to principalities and powers? It is, that “the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs and of the same body with us,” verse 6. The mystery of adopting sinners of the Gentiles, taking them from their slavery in the 210family of the world, that they might have a right of heirship, becoming sons in the family of God, is this wisdom, thus made known. And how was it primitively made known? It was “revealed by the Spirit unto the prophets and apostles,” verse 5.
2dly. In particular, by immediate revelation. When any particular soul is freed from the family of this world, it is revealed to the angels. “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God” (that is, among the angels, and by them) “over one sinner that repenteth,” Luke xv. 10. Now, the angels cannot of themselves absolutely know the true repentance of a sinner in itself; it is a work wrought in that cabinet which none hath a key unto but Jesus Christ; by him it is revealed to the angels, when the peculiar care and charge of such a one is committed to them. These things have their transaction before the angels, Luke xii. 8, 9. Christ owns the names of his brethren before the angels, Rev. iii. 5. When he gives them admittance into the family where they are, Heb. xii. 22, he declares to them that they are sons, that they may discharge their duty towards them, Heb. i. 14.
[2.] It is denounced in a judicial way unto Satan, the great master of the family whereunto they were in subjection. When the Lord Christ delivers a soul from under the power of that strong armed one, he binds him, — ties him from the exercise of that power and dominion which before he had over him. And by this means doth he know that such a one is delivered from his family; and all his future attempts upon him are encroaching upon the possession and inheritance of the Lord Christ.
[3.] Unto the conscience of the person adopted. The Spirit of Christ testifies to the heart and conscience of a believer that he is freed from all engagements unto the family of Satan, and is become the son of God, Rom. viii. 14, 15; and enables him to cry, “Abba, Father,” Gal. iv. 6. Of the particulars of this testification of the Spirit, and of its absolving the soul from its old alliance, I shall speak afterward. And herein consists the first thing mentioned.
(2.) There is an authoritative ingrafting of a believer actually into the family of God, and investing him with the whole right of sonship. Now this, as unto us, hath sundry acts:—
[1.] The giving a believer a new name in a white stone, Rev. ii. 17. They that are adopted are to take new names; they change their names they had in their old families, to take the names of the families whereinto they are translated. This new name is, “A child of God.” That is the new name given in adoption; and no man knoweth what is in that name, but only he that doth receive it. And this new name is given and written in a white stone; — that is the tessera of our admission into the house of God. It is a stone of judicial acquitment. 211Our adoption by the Spirit is bottomed on our absolution in the blood of Jesus; and therefore is the new name in the white stone privilege grounded on discharge. The white stone quits the claim of the old family; the new name gives entrance to the other.
[2.] An enrolling of his name in the catalogue of the household of God, admitting him thereby into fellowship therein. This is called the “writing of the house of Israel,” Ezek. xiii. 9; that is, the roll wherein all the names of the Israel, the family of God, are written. God hath a catalogue of his household; Christ knows his sheep by name. When God writeth up the people, he counts that “this man was born in Zion,” Ps. lxxxvii. 6. This is an extract of the Lamb’s book of life.
4. The two last things required to adoption are, that the adopted person be freed from all obligations to the family from whence he is translated, and invested with the rights and privileges of that whereinto he is translated. Now, because these two comprise the whole issue of adoption, wherein the saints have communion with Christ, I shall handle them together, referring the concernments of them unto these four heads:— (1.) Liberty. (2.) Title, or right. (3.) Boldness. (4.) Correction. These are the four things, in reference to the family of the adopted person, that he doth receive by his adoption, wherein he holds communion with the Lord Jesus:—
(1.) Liberty. The Spirit of the Lord, that was upon the Lord Jesus, did anoint him to proclaim liberty to the captives, Isa. lxi. 1; and “where the Spirit of the Lord is” (that is, the Spirit of Christ, given to us by him because we are sons), “there is liberty,” 2 Cor. iii. 17. All spiritual liberty is from the Spirit of adoption; whatever else is pretended, is licentiousness. So the apostle argues, Gal. iv. 6, 7, “He hath sent forth his Spirit into their hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore ye are no more servants,” — no more in bondage, but have the liberty of sons. And this liberty respects, —
[1.] In the first place, the family from whence the adopted person is translated. It is his setting free from all the obligations of that family. Now, in this sense, the liberty which the saints have by adoption is either from that which is real or that which is pretended:—
1st. That which is real respects a twofold issue of law and sin. The moral, unchangeable law of God, and sin, being in conjunction, meeting with reference to any persons, hath, and hath had, a twofold issue:—
(1st.) An economical institution of a new law of ordinances, keeping in bondage those to whom it was given, Col. ii. 14.
(2dly.) A natural (if I may so call it) pressing of those persons 212with its power and efficacy against sin; whereof there are these parts:—
[1st.] Its rigour and terror in commanding.
[2dly.] Its impossibility for accomplishment, and so insufficiency for its primitively appointed end.
[3dly.] The issues of its transgression; which are referred unto two heads:— 1. Curse. 2. Death. I shall speak very briefly of these, because they are commonly handled, and granted by all.
2dly. That which is pretended, is the power of any whatever over the conscience, when once made free by Christ:—
(1st.) Believers are freed from the instituted law of ordinances, which, upon the testimony of the apostles, was a yoke which neither we nor our fathers (in the faith) could bear, Acts xv. 10; wherefore Christ “blotted out this hand-writing of ordinances that was against them, which was contrary to them, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross,” Col. ii. 14: and thereupon the apostle, after a long dispute concerning the liberty that we have from that law, concludes with this instruction: Gal. v. 1, “Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.”
(2dly.) In reference so the moral law:—
[1st.] The first thing we have liberty from, is its rigour and terror in commanding. Heb. xii. 18–22, “We are not come to the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, to the whirlwind, darkness, and tempest, to the sound of the trumpet, and the voice of words, which they that heard besought that they might hear it no more; but we are come to mount Sion,” etc. As to that administration of the law wherein it was given out with dread and terror, and so exacted its obedience with rigour, we are freed from it, we are not called to that estate.
[2dly.] Its impossibility of accomplishment, and so insufficiency for its primitive end, by reason of sin; or, we are freed from the law as the instrument of righteousness, since, by the impossibility of its fulfilling as to us, it is become insufficient for any such purpose, Rom. viii. 2, 3; Gal. iii. 21–23. There being an impossibility of obtaining life by the law, we are exempted from it as to any such end, and that by the righteousness of Christ, Rom. viii. 3.
[3dly.] From the issue of its transgression:—
First. Curse. There is a solemn curse inwrapping the whole wrath annexed to the law, with reference to the transgression thereof; and from this are we wholly at liberty. Gal. iii. 13, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law by being made a curse for us.”
Secondly. Death, Heb. ii. 15; and therewith from Satan, Heb. ii. 14, Col. i. 13; and sin, Rom. vi. 14, 1 Pet. i. 18; with the world, Gal. i. 4; with all the attendancies, advantages, and claims of them 213all, Gal. iv. 3–5, Col. ii. 20; without which we could not live one day.
That which is pretended and claimed by some (wherein in deed and in truth we were never in bondage, but are hereby eminently set free), is the power of binding conscience by any laws and constitutions not from God, Col. ii. 20–22.
[2.] [In the second place,] there is a liberty in the family of God, as well as a liberty from the family of Satan. Sons are free. Their obedience is a free obedience; they have the Spirit of the Lord: and where he is, there is liberty, 2 Cor. iii. 17. As a Spirit of adoption, he is opposed to the spirit of bondage, Rom. viii. 15. Now, this liberty of our Father’s family, which we have as sons and children, being adopted by Christ through the Spirit, is a spiritual largeness of heart, whereby the children of God do freely, willingly, genuinely, without fear, terror, bondage, and constraint, go forth unto all holy obedience in Christ.
I say, this is our liberty in our Father’s family: what we have liberty from, hath been already declared.
There are Gibeonites outwardly attending the family of God, that do the service of his house as the drudgery of their lives. The principle they yield obedience upon, is a spirit of bondage unto fear, Rom. viii. 15; the rule they do it by, is the law in its dread and rigour, exacting it of them to the utmost, without mercy and mitigation; the end they do it for, is to fly from the wrath to come, to pacify conscience, and seek righteousness as it were by the works of the law. Thus servilely, painfully, fruitlessly, they seek to serve their own conviction all their days.
The saints by adoption have a largeness of heart in all holy obedience. Saith David, “I will walk at liberty, for I seek thy precepts,” Ps. cxix. 45; Isa. lxi. 1; Luke iv. 18; Rom. viii. 2, 21; Gal. iv. 7, v. 1, 13; James i. 25; John viii. 32, 33, 36; Rom. vi. 18; 1 Pet. ii. 16. Now, this amplitude, or son-like freedom of the Spirit in obedience, consists in sundry things:—
1st. In the principles of all spiritual service; which are life and love; — the one respecting the matter of their obedience, giving them power; the other respecting the manner of their obedience, giving them joy and sweetness in it:—
(1st.) It is from life; that gives them power as to the matter of obedience. Rom. viii. 2, “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus sets them free from the law of sin and death.” It frees them, it carries them out to all obedience freely; so that “they walk after the Spirit,” verse 1, that being the principle of their workings. Gal. ii. 20, “Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God;” — “The life which I now live in 214the flesh (that is, the obedience which I yield unto God whilst I am in the flesh), it is from a principle of life, Christ living in me. There is, then, power for all living unto God, from Christ in them, the Spirit of life from Christ carrying them out thereto. The fruits of a dead root are but dead excrescences; living acts are from a principle of life.
Hence you may see the difference between the liberty that slaves assume, and the liberty which is due to children:—
[1st.] Slaves take liberty from duty; children have liberty in duty. There is not a greater mistake in the world, than that the liberty of sons in the house of God consists in this, — they can perform duties, or take the freedom to omit them; they can serve in the family of God (that is, they think they may if they will), and they can choose whether they will or no. This is a liberty stolen by slaves, not a liberty given by the Spirit unto sons.
The liberty of sons is in the inward spiritual freedom of their hearts, naturally and kindly going out in all the ways and worship of God. When they find themselves straitened and shut up in them, they wrestle with God for enlargement, and are never contented with the doing of a duty, unless it be done as in Christ, with free, genuine, and enlarged hearts. The liberty that servants have is from duty; the liberty given to sons is in duty.
[2dly.] The liberty of slaves or servants is from mistaken, deceiving conclusions; the liberty of sons is from the power of the indwelling Spirit of grace. Or, the liberty of servants is from outward, dead conclusions; the liberty of sons, from an inward, living principle.
(2dly.) Love, as to the manner of their obedience, gives them delight and joy. John xiv. 15, “If ye love me,” says Christ, “keep my commandments.” Love is the bottom of all their duties; hence our Saviour resolves all obedience into the love of God and our neighbour; and Paul, upon the same ground, tells us “that love is the fulfilling of the law,” Rom. xiii. 10. Where love is in any duty, it is complete in Christ. How often doth David, even with admiration, express this principle of his walking with God! “O,” saith he, “how I love thy commandments! “This gives saints delight, that the commandments of Christ are not grievous to them. Jacob’s hard service was not grievous to him, because of his love to Rachel. No duty of a saint is grievous to him, because of his love to Christ. They do from hence all things with delight and complacency. Hence do they long for advantages of walking with God, — pant after more ability; and this is a great share of their son-like freedom in obedience. It gives them joy in it. 1 John iv. 18, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.” When their soul is acted to obedience by love, it expels that fear which is the issue of bondage upon the spirit. Now, when there is a concurrence of these two (life and love), 215there is freedom, liberty, largeness of heart, exceedingly distanced from that strait and bondaged frame which many walk in all their days, that know not the adoption of sons.
2dly. The object of their obedience is represented to them as desirable, whereas to others it is terrible. In all their approaches to God, they eye him as a Father; they call him Father, Gal. iv. 6, not in the form of words, but in the spirit of sons. God in Christ is continually before them; not only as one deserving all the honours and obedience which he requires, but also as one exceedingly to be delighted in, as being all-sufficient to satisfy and satiate all the desires of the soul. When others napkin their talents, as having to deal with an austere master, they draw out their strength to the uttermost, as drawing nigh to a gracious rewarder. They go, from the principle of life and love, to the bosom of a living and loving Father; they do but return the strength they do receive unto the fountain, unto the ocean.
3dly. Their motive unto obedience is love, 2 Cor. v. 14. From an apprehension of love, they are effectually carried out by love to give up themselves unto him who is love. What a freedom is this! what a largeness of spirit is in them who walk according to this rule! Darkness, fear, bondage, conviction, hopes of righteousness, accompany others in their ways; the sons, by the Spirit of adoption, have light, love, with complacency, in all their walkings with God. The world is a universal stranger unto the frame of children in their Father’s house.
4thly. The manner of their obedience is willingness. “They yield themselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead,” Rom. vi. 13; they yield themselves, — give up themselves willingly, cheerfully, freely. “With my whole heart,” saith David. Rom. xii. 1, “They present themselves a living sacrifice,” and a willing sacrifice.
5thly. The rule of their walking with God is the law of liberty, as divested of all its terrifying, threatening, killing, condemning, cursing power; and rendered, in the blood of Jesus, sweet, tender, useful, directing, — helpful as a rule of walking in the life they have received, not the way of working for the life they have not. I might give more instances. These may suffice to manifest that liberty of obedience in the family of God which his sons and daughters have, that the poor convinced Gibeonites are not acquainted withal.
(2.) The second thing which the children of God have by adoption is title. They have title and right to all the privileges and advantages of the family whereinto they are translated. This is the pre-eminence of the true sons of any family. The ground on which Sarah pleaded the ejection of Ishmael was, that he was the son of the bond woman, Gen. xxi. 10, and so no genuine child of the family; and therefore could have no right of heirship with Isaac. The apostle’s arguing is, “We are no more servants, but sons; and if sons, then 216heirs,” Rom. viii. 14–17, — “then have we right and title: and being not born hereunto (for by nature we are the children of wrath), we have this right by our adoption.”
Now, the saints hereby have a double right and title: 1st. Proper and direct, in respect of spirituals. 2dly. Consequential, in respect of temporals:—
[1.] The first, also, or the title, as adopted sons, unto spirituals, is, in respect of the object of it, twofold:— (1st.) Unto a present place, name, and room, in the house of God, and all the privileges and administrations thereof. (2dly.) To a future fulness of the great inheritance of glory, — of a kingdom purchased for that whole family whereof they are by Jesus Christ:—
1st. They have a title unto, and an interest in, the whole administration of the family of God here.
The supreme administration of the house of God in the hand of the Lord Christ, as to the institution of ordinances and dispensation of the Spirit, to enliven and make effectual those ordinances for the end of their institution, is the prime notion of this administration. And hereof they are the prime objects; all this is for them, and exercised towards them. God hath given Jesus Christ to be the “head over all things unto the church, which is his body,” Eph. i. 22, 23: he hath made him the head over all these spiritual things, committed the authoritative administration of them all unto him, to the use and behoof of the church; that is, the family of God. It is for the benefit and advantage of the many sons whom he will bring unto glory that he doth all these things, Heb. ii. 10; see Eph. iv. 8–13. The aim of the Lord Jesus in establishing gospel administrations, and administrators, is “for the perfecting of the saints, the work of the ministry,” etc. All is for then, all is for the family. In that is the faithfulness of Christ exercised; he is faithful in all the house of God, Heb. iii. 2. Hence the apostle tells the Corinthians, 1 Cor. iii. 22, 23, of all these gospel administrations and ordinances, they are all theirs, and all for them. What benefit soever redoundeth to the world by the things of the gospel (as much doth every way), it is engaged for it to the children of this family. This, then, is the aim and intendment of the Lord Christ in the institution of all gospel ordinances and administrations, — that they may be of use for the house and family of God, and all his children and servants therein.
It is true, the word is preached to all the world, to gather in the children of God’s purpose that are scattered up and down in the world, and to leave the rest inexcusable; but the prime end and aim of the Lord Christ thereby is, to gather in those heirs of salvation unto the enjoyment of that feast of fat things which he hath prepared for them in his house.
217Again: they, and they only, have right and title to gospel administrations, and the privileges of the family of God, as they are held out in his church according to his mind. The church is the “house of God,” 1 Tim. iii. 15; Heb. iii. 6; herein he keeps and maintains his whole family, ordering them according to his mind and will. Now, who shall have any right in the house of God, but only his children? We will not allow a right to any but our own children in our houses: will God, think you, allow any right in his house but to his children? Is it meet, to “take the children’s bread and cast it unto the dogs?” We shall see that none but children have any right or title to the privileges and advantages of the house of God, if we consider, —
(1st.) The nature of that house. It is made up of such persons as it is impossible that any but adopted children should have right unto a place in it. It is composed of “living stones,” 1 Pet. ii. 5; — a “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people,” verse 9; — “saints and faithful in Christ Jesus,” Eph. i. 1; — “saints and faithful brethren,” Col. i. 2; — a people that are “all righteous,” Isa. lx. 21; and the whole fabric of it is glorious, chap. liv. 11–14, — the way of the house is “a way of holiness,” which the unclean shall not pass through, chap. xxxv. 8; yea, expressly, they are the “sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty,” and they only, 2 Cor. vi. 17, 18; all others are excluded, Rev. xxi. 27. It is true that oftentimes, at unawares, other persons creep into the great house of God; and so there become in it “not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and of earth,” etc., 2 Tim. ii. 20; but they only creep in, as Jude speaks, verse 4, they have no right nor title to it.
(2dly.) The privileges of the house are such as they will not suit nor profit any other. To what purpose is it to give food to a dead man? Will he grow strong by it? will he increase upon it? The things of the family and house of God are food for living souls. Now, children only are alive, all others are dead in trespasses and sins. What will outward signs avail, if life and power be away? Look upon what particular you please of the saints’ enjoyments in the family of God, you shall find them all suited unto believers; and, being bestowed on the world, [they] would be a pearl in the snout of a swine.
It is, then, only the sons of the family that have this right; they have fellowship with one another, and that fellowship with the Father and the Son Jesus Christ; they set forth the Lord’s death till he come; they are intrusted with all the ordinances of the house, and the administration of them. And who shall deny them the enjoyment of this right, or keep them from what Christ hath purchased for them? And the Lord will in the end give them hearts everywhere to make use of this title accordingly, and not to wander on the mountains, forgetting their resting-place.
2182dly. They have a title to the future fulness of the inheritance that is purchased for this whole family by Jesus Christ. So the apostle argues, Rom. viii. 17, “If children, then heirs,” etc. All God’s children are “first-born,” Heb. xii. 23; and therefore are heirs: hence the whole weight of glory that is prepared for them is called the inheritance, Col. i. 12, “The inheritance of the saints in light.” “If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise,” Gal. iii. 29. Heirs of the promise; that is, of all things promised unto Abraham in and with Christ.
There are three things that in this regard the children of God are said to be heirs unto:—
(1st.) The promise; as in that place of Gal. iii. 29 and Heb. vi. 17. God shows to “the heirs of the promise the immutability of his counsel;” as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are said to be “heirs of the same promise,” Heb. xi. 9. God had from the foundation of the world made a most excellent promise in Christ, containing a deliverance from all evil, and an engagement for the bestowing of all good things upon them. It contains a deliverance from all the evil which the guilt of sin and dominion of Satan had brought upon them, with an investiture of them in all spiritual blessings in heavenly things in Christ Jesus. Hence, Heb. ix. 15, the Holy Ghost calls it a “promise of the eternal inheritance.” This, in the first place, are the adopted children of God heirs unto. Look, whatever is in the promise which God made at the beginning to fallen man, and hath since solemnly renewed and confirmed by his oath; they are heirs of it, and are accepted in their claim for their inheritance in the courts of heaven.
(2dly.) They are heirs of righteousness, Heb. xi. 7. Noah was an heir of the righteousness which is by faith; which Peter calls a being “heir of the grace of life,” 1 Pet. iii. 7. And James puts both these together, chap. ii. 5, “Heirs of the kingdom which God hath promised;” that is, of the kingdom of grace, and the righteousness thereof. And in this respect it is that the apostle tells us, Eph. i. 11, that “we have obtained an inheritance;” which he also places with the righteousness of faith, Acts xxvi. 18. Now, by this righteousness, grace, and inheritance, is not only intended that righteousness which we are here actually made partakers of, but also the end and accomplishment of that righteousness in glory; which is also assured in the next place, —
(3dly.) They are “heirs of salvation,” Heb. i. 14, and “heirs according to the hope of eternal life,” Tit. iii. 7; which Peter calls an “inheritance incorruptible,” 1 Pet. i. 4; and Paul, the “reward of the inheritance,” Col. iii. 24, — that is, the issue of the inheritance of light and holiness, which they already enjoy. Thus, then, distinguish 219the full salvation by Christ into the foundation of it, the promises; and the means of it, righteousness and holiness; and the end of it, eternal glory. The sons of God have a right and title to all, in that they are made heirs with Christ.
And this is that which is the main of the saints’ title and right, which they have by adoption; which in sum is, that the Lord is their portion and inheritance, and they are the inheritance of the Lord: and a large portion it is that they have; the lines are fallen to them in a goodly place.
[2.] Besides this principal, the adopted sons of God have a second consequential right, — a right unto the things of this world; that is, unto all the portions of it which God is pleased to intrust them here withal. Christ is the “heir of all things,” Heb. i. 2; all right and title to the things of the creation was lost and forfeited by sin. The Lord, by his sovereignty, had made an original grant of all things here below for man’s use; he had appointed the residue of the works of his hands, in their several stations, to be serviceable unto his behoof. Sin reversed this whole grant and institution, — all things were set at liberty from this subjection unto him; yet that liberty, being a taking them off from the end to which they were originally appointed, is a part of their vanity and curse. It is evil to any thing to be laid aside as to the end to which it was primitively appointed. By this means the whole creation is turned loose from any subordinate ruler; and man, having lost the whole title whereby he held his dominion over and possession of the creatures, hath not the least colour of interest in any of them, nor can lay any claim unto them. But now the Lord, intending to take a portion to himself out of the lump of fallen mankind, whom he appointed heirs of salvation, he doth not immediately destroy the works of creation, but reserve them for their use in their pilgrimage. To this end he invests the whole right and title of them in the second Adam, which the first had lost; he appoints him “heir of all things.” And thereupon his adopted ones, being “fellow-heirs with Christ,” become also to have a right and title unto the things of this creation. To clear up this right, what it is, I must give some few observations:—
1st. The right they have is not as the right that Christ hath; that is, sovereign and supreme, to do what he will with his own; but theirs is subordinate, and such as that they must be accountable for the use of those things whereunto they have a right and title. The right of Christ is the right of the Lord of the house; the right of the saints is the right of servants.
2dly. That the whole number of the children of God have a right unto the whole earth, which is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof, in these two regards:—
220(1st.) He who is the sovereign Lord of it doth preserve it merely for their use, and upon their account; all others whatever being malæ fidei possessores, invading a portion of the Lord’s territories, without grant or leave from him.
(2dly.) In that Christ hath promised to give them the kingdom and dominion of it, in such a way and manner as in his providence he shall dispose; that is, that the government of the earth shall be exercised to their advantage.
3dly. This right is a spiritual right, which doth not give a civil interest, but only sanctifies the right and interest bestowed. God hath providentially disposed of the civil bounds of the inheritance of men, Acts xvii. 26, suffering the men of the world to enjoy a portion here, and that oftentimes very full and plenteous; and that for his children’s sake, that those beasts of the forest, which are made to be destroyed, may not break loose upon the whole possession. Hence, —
4thly. No one particular adopted person hath any right, by virtue thereof, to any portion of earthly things whereunto he hath not right and title upon a civil interest, given him by the providence of God. But, —
5thly. This they have by their adoption; that, —
(1st.) Look, what portion soever God is pleased to give them, they have a right unto it, as it is re-invested in Christ, and not as it lies wholly under the curse and vanity that is come upon the creation by sin; and therefore can never be called unto an account for usurping that which they have no right unto, as shall all the sons of men who violently grasp those things which God hath set at liberty from under their dominion because of sin.
(2dly.) By this their right, they are led unto a sanctified use of what thereby they do enjoy; inasmuch as the things themselves are to them pledges of the Father’s love, washed in the blood of Christ, and endearments upon their spirits to live to his praise who gives them all things richly to enjoy.
And this is a second thing we have by our adoption; and hence I dare say of unbelievers, they have no true right unto any thing, of what kind soever, that they do possess.
They have no true, unquestionable right, I say, even unto the temporal things they do possess; it is true they have a civil right in respect of others, but they have not a sanctified right in respect of their own souls. They have a right and title that will hold plea in the courts of men, but not a right that will hold in the court of God, and in their own conscience. It will one day be sad with them, when they shall come to give an account of their enjoyments. They shall not only be reckoned withal for the abuse of that they have possessed, that they have not used and laid it out for the glory of him whose it 221is; but also, that they have even laid their hands upon the creatures of God, and kept them from them for whose sakes alone they are preserved from destruction. When the God of glory shall come home to any of them, either in their consciences here, or in the judgment that is for to come, and speak with the terror of a revengeful judge, “I have suffered you to enjoy corn, wine, and oil, — a great portion of my creatures; you have rolled yourselves in wealth and prosperity, when the right heirs of these things lived poor, and low, and mean, at the next doors; — give in now an answer what and how you have used these things. What have you laid out for the service and advancement of the gospel? What have you given unto them for whom nothing was provided? what contribution have you made for the poor saints? Have you had a ready hand, and willing mind, to lay down all for my sake?” — when they shall be compelled to answer, as the truth is, “Lord, we had, indeed, a large portion in the world; but we took it to be our own, and thought we might have done what we would with our own. We have ate the fat, and drank the sweet, and left the rest of our substance for our babes: we have spent somewhat upon our lusts, somewhat upon our friends; but the truth is, we cannot say that we made friends of this unrighteous mammon, — that we used it to the advancement of the gospel, or for ministering unto thy poor saints: and now, behold, we must die,” etc.:— so also, when the Lord shall proceed farther, and question not only the use of these things, but also their title to them, and tell them, “The earth is mine, and the fulness thereof. I did, indeed, make an original grant of these things to man; but that is lost by sin: I have restored it only for my saints. Why have you laid, then, your fingers of prey upon that which was not yours? why have you compelled my creatures to serve you and your lusts, which I had set loose from under your dominion? Give me my flax, my wine, and wool; I will set you naked as in the day of your birth, and revenge upon you your rapine, and unjust possession of that which was not yours:” — I say, at such a time, what will men do?
(3.)352352 See division, p. 211. Boldness with God by Christ is another privilege of our adoption. But hereof I have spoken at large before, in treating of the excellency of Christ in respect of our approach to God by him; so that I shall not re-assume the consideration of it.
(4.) Affliction, also, as proceeding from love, as leading to spiritual advantages, as conforming unto Christ, as sweetened with his presence, is the privilege of children, Heb. xii. 3–6; but on these particulars I must not insist.
This, I say, is the head and source of all the privileges which Christ hath purchased for us, wherein also we have fellowship with 222him: fellowship in name; we are (as he is) sons of God: fellowship in title and right; we are heirs, co-heirs with Christ: fellowship in likeness and conformity; we are predestinated to be like the first-born of the family: fellowship in honour; he is not ashamed to call us brethren: fellowship in sufferings; he learned obedience by what he suffered, and every son is to be scourged that is received: fellowship in his kingdom; we shall reign with him. Of all which I must speak peculiarly in another place, and so shall not here draw out the discourse concerning them any farther.
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