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6. But in the Christian dispensation God more signally representeth himself in this quality and notion. God herein treateth us, not so much as our Lord and Master, with imperious rigor and awfulness, as our Father, with most gracious condescension, and allurements of kindness : •Our Lord (the only Son of God in a sense infinitely most peculiar and high) was not,' saith the Apostle, ashamed to call us brethren ;' Go,' said our Lord, for instance of that gracious condescension, 'to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and to your Father ; both my God, and your God:' and such are the advantages peculiar to Christians, grounding this relation toward them, that St. Paul, comparing our state in regard to God with that of the Jews, doth thus infer; So that thou (O Christian) art not now a servant, but a son:' so it is asserted, and accordingly (which is worth our while distinctly to observe) all the performances of God toward us, and in our behalf, are of such a nature, and are set out in such terms, as do ground and import this relation : for,
1. The reception of a believer into the participation of the privileges and advantages which Christianity tendereth, is termed violesia, the making him a son; the adopting him into God's family, the conferring on him the title and quality of God's child; together with the internal disposition of mind, and the liberty of access and intercourse, which do suit that relation : · Whosoever,' saith St. John, did receive him, to them he gave the power (or privilege) to become the sons of God, even to them who believed in his name:' and, 'Ye are all,' saith St. Paul, “the sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus;' that is, by sincerely embracing Christianity: and, Behold,' saith St. John again, 'what manner of love the Father hath given us, that we should be called the sons of God:' and, “Ye have not received the spirit of servitude unto fear, but
have received the spirit of adoption, by which we cry, Abba, Father :' that is, by which in our prayers with humble affection we freely, confidently, and readily, according to our Saviour's institution, do say, Our Father.'
2. That renovation of our nature, and qualifying our minds, as the Gospel prescribeth and requireth, is called regeneration,
a new creation, a new birth, the begetting a new man within us: · If a man be not born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God;' that is, he cannot be a good Christian : · Whoever is begot of God doth not sin ;' that is, good Christians do not live in a course of disobedience : 'We are aŭroŨ noinua, God's work,' or production, being created in Christ Jesus to good works :' “Ye have been taught—to put on the new man, that is created according to the image of God in righteousness and true holiness. In such terms is the effect of the Christian dispensation on our hearts and lives described ; and that with the greatest reason; for no act of God toward us can be more fatherly, than working in us by his grace the principles of Christian life, and the practices springing from it; nothing doth nearer advance us to a similitude with God, and a 'participation of the Divine nature ;' nothing doth conciliate from God a more tender affection to us, or worketh in us a more dutiful affection toward him, answerable to this relation, than doth a hearty compliance with the grace of the Gospel.
3. The resurrection of good Christians after death to a better state of life, their entering into immortal bliss and glory, is worthily styled maliyyeveola, a being generated and born again; whereby they receive from God another more excellent life aud state of being, more like and conformable to God : for,. We know,' saith St. John, “ that if he shall appear, (or, that when he shall appear, as some copies read it,) we shall be like him ;' and, · As,' saith St. Paul, ‘we have borne the image of the earthly (Adam,) we shall also bear the image of the heavenly :' • We shall,' saith he,' be metamorphosed,' or transfigured into the same image :' and, · They,' saith our Saviour, ‘which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection of the dead are the sons of God, being the sons of the resurrection :' that state of bliss is therefore styled a portion or inheritance, allotted to sons, and consequent on such a relation : • If sons,' saith St. Paul, then heirs; heirs of God, and coheirs with Christ, receiving the reward and promise of an eternal inheritance :' • Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,' saith St. Peter, who according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resur
rection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for us.'
4. I might adjoin, that Christian men do become the sons of God by the intervention of our Saviour, assuming our nature, and conforming himself to the likeness of men ; whereby he becomes the firstborn of many brethren :' God,' saith St. Paul, “sent forth his son, born of a woman, that we might receive the privilege of being made sons :' and, Children,' saith the Apostle to the Hebrews, 'partake of flesh and blood;' whence (as he meaneth to infer) our Lord being the Son of God, we on conjunction of nature with him, and as his brethren, become also such: he farther intimateth, that on this score we do surpass angels themselves; for that · he took not on him the nature of angels, but took on him the seed of Abraham :' they were not, as we, dignified with a fraternal relation to the -Son of God.
In so many several respects is God our Father; we are his children, as being his creatures, made, preserved, and maintained by him; as we are intellectual creatures, being placed in degree and quality of nature so near him; as we by virtue and goodness (produced in us by his grace) do anywise approach him, resemble him, and partake of his special favor ; as we are Christians, adopted into his heavenly family, renewed by his holy grace, and destinated to a participation of his eternal glory.
Now the consideration of these grounds, (each one of them, and all of them together,) on which this relation of God unto us is founded, hath manifold good uses; it is apt to inform and admonish us concerning many necessary duties resulting from it; and to enforce on us the practice of them. 1. It in general may teach, and should mind us,
what reverence, honor, and observance is due from us unto God, in equity and justice, according to ingenuity and gratitude : saith God in the Prophet, “I be a Father, where is my honor ?' Our believing and acknowleging this relation is vain, if we do not yield the respects, and perform the duties answerable thereto. And if indeed we are obliged to love, to respect, to observe those, who have been the instruments of God in pro
ducing, in nourishing, in breeding us, how much more are we bound to yield the same to him, who principally did, who continually doth, bestow on us our being, together with all the supports, the conveniences, the comforts thereof; from whose free bounty we derive not only the benefits of this transitory life, but the inestimable privileges and blessings relating to the future incomparably better state ? If we neglect our duty so grounded, may not God justly expostulate with us, as he did of old with those children of his : Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people, and unwise :' Is he not thy Father, , who bought thee?' (or rather, who got thee, ös éktúgaró , saith the Greek ; and both that and the Hebrew do
in expression of that thing with our common manner of speech ;) • hath not he made thee, and established thee?' It is, as is there intimated, a part of extreme folly, no less than of injustice and ingratitude, to disregard and disobey him, to whom by such bands of duty and obligation we are allied : indeed the excellency of God's nature doth justly require honor and reverence to him; his sovereign power may also reasonably extort obedience from us; but his paternal benevolence and beneficence are the most obliging grounds, the most kindly inducements, to the practice of all piety toward him : we are foolishly unworthy in not being good on the other accounts; in not being so for these reasons we are monstrously base.
2. This consideration may instruct and admonish us what we should be, and how we should behave ourselves; for that, if we be God's children, it becometh us, and we are obliged, in our disposition and demeanor, to resemble, to imitate him: it is natural and proper for children to resemble their parents in their complexion and countenance ; to imitate them in their actions and carriage : ‘If ye,' argueth our Lord, ‘were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham ;' ye would imitate him in readily believing and obeying God : and, 'Ye,' saith he again, 'are of your father the Devil, because ye perform the lusts of your father :' because in his envious, treacherous, murderous disposition and practice, ye resemble him : so if we be God's children, we must, according to St. Paul's exhortation, imitate God, as dear children ;' we must, in all imitable perfections, strive to be like him; so doth the Scrip
ture frequently (both in general, and as to particular cases or matters) apply and inculcate this point : God is holy and pure, so therefore ought we to be ; • As obedient children,' saith St. Peter, not fashioning yourselves according to the former Justs in your ignorance, but as he which hath called
is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation ;' and, • That,' saith St. Paul, “ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke, (or irreprehensible sons of God,) in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation ;' and, · Beloved, now are we the sons of God,' saith St. John, subjoining—and every one that hath this hope (a hope grounded on, or springing from, such a relation) purifieth himself, as God is pure:' God is perfectly just and righteous, thence we likewise should labor to be such; for, "Every one,' saith St. John, that
• doeth righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous :' God is perfect in all goodness ; so must we endeavor to be, as our Saviour enjoineth us; • Be ye,' saith he, therefore perfect, as your Father is perfect :' God is bountiful, gracious, and merciful unto all; we thence should learn to be so also ; · I say unto you, (they are our Saviour's lessons to us,) Love your enemies, bless those that curse you, do good to those that bate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you, and perse
ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven ; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust;' and again ; • Love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again ; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest ; for he is kind to the unthankful and to the evil; be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.' So are we admonished by the holy writers of our engagements to be good on this account. And reason indeed showeth this relation to be inconsistent with our being otherwise ; for similitude only can preserve cognation ; things very unlike become formally different in kind and nature thereby; diversity of manners signify a difference in blood : if therefore we be closely affixed to material things, or pronely addicted to brutish pleasures, how can we be the children of him, that is purely spiritual, altogether intellectual ? If we be fierce, hardhearted, unmerciful, or uncharitable, how can we BAR. VOL. V.