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from what might have been expected from One who had “seen the Father." He had heard the Divine Majesty pronounce the curse on an apostate world; and had witnessed the manifestation of his purity and justice in the punishment of the antediluvians; and had seen his glories burning on the top of Sinai ; and had contemplated, with perfect knowledge and complacency, the depths and mysteries of the Eternal Mind; and yet, when he condescends to put the language of prayer into our lips, he says; “After this manner pray ye, -Our Father.” He does not adyise the use of those epithets which are calculated to impress the mind with dismay; but, anticipating the efficacy of his atonement, and that act of stupendous grace by which God would reconcile all things to himself, he encourages us to approach the eternal throne with filial confidence, and to address the Sovereign of heaven and earth as “Our Father.” Let the condescension of this exalted Being induce you, my brethren, to pour out your desires before him; -- let the thought of his paternal character suppress your fears, confirm your hopes, and excite you to affectionate obedience;--and may “God, even our Father, who hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation, and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts,
every good word and work!”
There is one sense in which God is the Father of all men. He is “the Father of the spirits of all flesh;"_“In him we live, and move, and have our being;” and therefore are not improperly denominated “his offspring.” As a kind Parent, he extends his regards to the whole human family. Among the myriads of which that family is composed, there is no individual so insignificant as to escape his observation; and, amidst the multifarious concerns in which they are engaged, and the various events which relate to them, there is no circumstance so minute as not to be under his immediate control. “The bounds of our habitation” are determined; and “the very hairs of our head are all numbered.'
But there is another, and a still more endearing acceptation of this term. I allude to that relation which the Supreme Being sustains towards those whom he has chosen, and called, and sanctified. He is their Father in a superior sense; he regards them as a portion of his spiritual family; supplies and protects them as his children; and reserves for them, as the heirs of life, an unfading and unalienable possession.
The majority are, indeed, utterly estranged
from their common Parent; they bear no moral resemblance to him, and exhibit no distinct traces of that lovely image which originally constituted the chief dignity of man. They have “ fallen short of the glory of God," and are "enemies to him by wicked works.” As creatures, they have violated the law of creation; as subjects, they have thrown off the bonds of allegiance; and, as children, they have broken all the ties of affection.
But, while we deplore this humiliating fact, we are cheered by the persuasion, that no inconsiderable numbers are recovered from this universal degradation, and can, with unquestionable propriety, adopt the language of St. Peter ;--"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant
mercy, hath begotten us again to a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” By nature, they were involved in the charge of being alienated from the Father of mercies. They were the subjects of that aversion which turns with disgust from Him who is the most amiable of all beings; and of that pride which refuses submission to his paternal government; but God, in his unparalleled benevolence, imparted to them his Holy Spirit, by whose illuminations, and purifying grace, he created them anew in Christ Jesus.
By this merciful act the Eternal Father as
a more intimate relation to his creatures than by all the exhibitions of his providential goodness; for, by removing the native hostility of their hearts, and giving a correct bias to their dispositions, he brings them into a state of holy alliance and filial subjection to himself. He is their God, and they are his people.
The basis of this Divine relation is the mediation of Jesus Christ. “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Apart from this grand interposition, no spiritual blessing would have been conferred on the rebellious children of Adam ;-no heart would have been softened; -no penitential sigh would have been inspired; --no sinner would have been re-admitted to the forfeited regard of Jehovah : but, since the Son of God has become incarnate, and suffered the death of the cross ; since the merits which he presented before the throne, at his ascension, were accepted in our behalf; God can, in full agreement with all the perfections of his character, bestow the renovating influence of his Spirit on vile transgressors, forgive their sins, acquit them of every charge, and exalt them to all the immunities and honours of the heavenly family.
But by what means are we made partakers of these distinguishing privileges ? St. Paul answers this inquiry in the most satisfactory manner;"Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” The words of St. John convey precisely the same idea; -“He” (the Messiah) “came to his own, but his own received him not; but, as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” From these citations it is evident, that faith in Christ is necessary in order to introduce us to the privileges of God's children; and that that faith is an assent, not merely of the understanding, but of the heart also; for, “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” To believe in Christ is, in St. John's view, to receive him; a term which imports a firm persuasion of his ability and readiness to fulfil the promises he has made to penitent sinners; a supreme complacency in him ; and, consequently, a dispoposition to place a simple and steady reliance on his power and grace.
When the Apostles endeavoured to soothe the anguish of their hearers, by exhorting them to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” it must, I conceive, be admitted, that they included