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GALATIANS iv. 5—7.
That we might receive the adoption of sons. And because
ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son ; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
On the last Lord's day we considered the important doctrine of justification, and showed that the sinner might be accepted as righteous before God, through the merits of Christ received by faith. The privilege of adoption is closely united with justification; no one is pardoned who is not received into the family of God. At the same time that the precious blood of Christ blots out our offences, it writes down our names as heirs of God, joint-heirs with Christ.
Yet as there is a difference between pardoning a criminal, and receiving him to favour; between delivering him from merited death, and adopting him into the family of the sovereign; we may regard adoption as a distinct blessing from justification, though inseparable from it.
Without attending to the context, let us consider the three points which the apostle presents to us in the text.
I. An exalted privilege; the adoption of sons.
II. A blessed effect of this privilege; we become heirs of God.
III. The evidence of our adoption; the reception and indwelling of the Spirit of the Son, crying in our hearts, Abba, Father.
I. The relation of believers to the great and glorious God. They have received the adoption of
In one sense all men are the sons of God; for he is by creation the universal Parent; and the derivation of our life and all our powers from Him, renders us his offspring. Thus the prophet (Mal. ii. 10.) asks, “ Have we not all one Father? Hath not one God created us?” But this is not the relation referred to in the text; indeed it is so far from being a distinguishing privilege, and an infallible security of our bliss, that devils, and the lost, who are groaning under the indignation of the God against whom they have rebelled, are thus related to him. Yes! there are those who are experiencing, and who ever will experience, the truth of that most awful denunciation, “ He that made them will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them will show them no favour."
God is also said to be the Father of those to whom he has been a benefactor, preserver, and supporter, in the course of his providence. “Is he not thy Father that bought thee?” that delivered thee from slavery, and crowned thee with mercies ? is the question of Moses to the Israelites. But this also does not constitute the relation to which the apostle
alludes; for many have thus been encompassed by the favours of God's providence, who have abused his mercies, and whose guilt and perdition will be aggravated by those kindnesses for which they have : made so ungrateful a return.
The text speaks of those who are the sons of God, in a nobler, more spiritual, and peculiar sense; who are united to the Lord by a tenderer and more sacred bond than that which connects the Father of Spirits with the whole human race, or that which unites the munificent Benefactor, who causes his sun to rise and the rain to descend on the evil and the good, with all the objects of his bounty.
There are two special senses in which believers are the sons of God: they are so,
1. By regeneration: they are born from above; and a principle of spiritual life is implanted within them: they are so also,
2. By adoption.
These, though always communicated to the same persons, are yet distinct blessings: the one is a change of nature, the other is a change of relation; the one qualifies us for heaven, the other secures it to us; the one makes us like God, the other admits us to his family: it is the last of these invaluable blessings of which the apostle is speaking.
By adoption, we who were wandering about in this wilderness, desolate, ruined, perishing, without any covenant Father, are received into the family of God, and have a right to all the privileges, immunities, and blessings of his children,
It is an act of God; ascribed in the scriptures, like all the external acts of Jehovah, to all the persons of the blessed Trinity. Thus of the Father, , Paul says, (Eph. i. 5.) - He predestinated us unto
the adoption of children by Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will." Of the incarnate Redeemer, John tells us, (John i. 12.) “ To as many as received him, to them gave he power or authority (egovrim) to become the sons of God :" and it is the Holy Ghost who comes and dwells in believers as the spirit of adoption. (Rom. viii. 15.)
It is an act of God's mercy and free grace. Even in human adoptions undeserved favour is displayed ; though the person adopted may possess lovely and attractive qualities, which will reflect honour upon his benefactor. What then must we say of God's adoption of those who had no loveliness to excite affection; who were polluted, guilty, rebellious ? This grace appears both in the general purpose of God to adopt some of the race of Adam; for God might justly have left us all to perish in our guilt; and also in the conferment of this blessing upon individual believer. Christian, when with holy boldness and sacred joy thou lookest up to God as thy Father; when thou seest the freeness and riches of adopting love illustrated by thine unworthiness; when thou beholdest so many as good by nature as thyself, still at a distance from God; dost thou not with a heart full of gratitude acknowledge, that thy privilege is the fruit of divine grace; and cry, while overwhelmed with wonder at the immensity of that mercy which the most powerful efforts of thy mind in vain labour to comprehend, · Behold what manner of love the Father hath showed unto me, that I should be called the son of God!'
Believe it, my brethren, this adoption is not a mere empty name; there is a solemn and a sweet reality in the happiness and dignity it confers.
What felicity to reflect that, as the sons of God,
we are under the peculiar protection, and enjoying the special favour and blessing of Him who, while he rules the universe, feels for us all the tenderness of a Father! What an unfailing source of consolation in our afflictions, which we receive as the corrections of our faithful God, knowing that “ whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth !" What an encouragement to draw near with boldness to the throne of grace in all our doubts, and fears, and sorrows! What a warrant to look forward with composure to the future; knowing that all the vicissitudes of our lives are ordered by unerring wisdom, directed by a kindness infinitely more vigilant, more lively, more tender, than that which ever warmed the heart of an earthly parent!
And it is a relation conferring no less dignity than felicity. What an unspeakable honour to be thus related to the All-Perfect; to belong thus to the family of the God of heaven, and to be numbered with his children! It is a dignity superior, I do not say merely to human distinctions and honours, to the crown of monarchs, the laurel of conquerors, or the fame of philosophers; but to any of which the human mind can conceive! Range in imagination through the universe of God; contemplate 66 the thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers, which are found among the sublime spiritual intelligences, whose faculties and state are so superior to those of men; after examining them all, you will acknowledge that nothing can be found or conceived superior to this glorious distinction—the sons of God!
But this is not all, my brethren; for the apostle teaches us,
II. The blessed consequences of this relation.