Body of Divinity
By Thomas Watson
The APPLICATION of Redemption
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live,
but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the
Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20
The Spirit applies to us the redemption purchased by
Christ, by working faith in us.
Christ is the glory of the gospel, and faith in Christ
the comfort of the gospel.
What are the kinds of faith? Fourfold:
(1.) A historical or dogmatic faith, which
is believing the truths revealed in the Word, because of divine authority.
(2.) There is a temporary faith, which lasts for a
time, and then vanishes. "Yet has he no root in himself—but endures for a
while." A temporary faith is like Jonah's gourd, which came up in a night
(3.) A miraculous faith, which was granted to the
apostles, to work miracles for the confirmation of the gospel. This Judas
had; he cast out devils—yet was cast out to the devil.
(4.) A true justifying faith, which is called "A
faith of the operation of God," and is a jewel hung only upon the elect. Col
What is justifying faith? I shall show,
(1.) What it is not. It is not a bare
acknowledgment that Christ is a Savior. There must be this acknowledgment,
but that is not sufficient to justify. The devils acknowledged Christ's
Godhead. "Jesus the Son of God." There may be an assent to divine truth, and
yet no work of grace on the heart. Many assent in their judgements, that sin
is an evil thing—but they go on in sin, whose corruptions are stronger than
their convictions. Many assent that Christ is excellent; they cheapen the
pearl—but do not buy.
(2.) What justifying faith is. True justifying
faith consists in three things:
(1:) Self-renunciation. Faith is going out of
one's self, being taken off from our own merits, and seeing we have no
righteousness of our own. "Not having my own righteousness."
Self-righteousness is a broken reed, which the soul dares not lean on.
Repentance and faith are both humbling graces; by repentance a man
abhors himself; by faith he goes out of himself. As Israel in their
wilderness march, behind them saw Pharaoh and his chariots pursuing, before
them the Red Sea ready to devour; so the sinner behind sees God's justice
pursuing him for sin, before, hell ready to devour him; and in this forlorn
condition, he sees nothing in himself to help—but he must perish unless he
can find help in another.
(2:) Reliance. The soul casts itself upon
Jesus Christ; faith rests on Christ's person. Faith believes the promise;
but that which faith rests upon in the promise—is the person of Christ:
therefore the spouse is said to "lean upon her Beloved." Faith is described
to be "believing on the name of the Son of God," namely, on his person. The
promise is but the cabinet, Christ is the jewel in it which
faith embraces. The promise is but the dish, Christ is the food in it which
faith feeds on. Faith rests on Christ's person, "as he was crucified." It
glories in the cross of Christ. Gal 6:14. To consider Christ crowned with
all manner of excellencies, stirs up admiration and wonder; but Christ
looked upon as bleeding and dying, is the proper object of our faith; it is
called therefore "faith in his blood." Rom 3:25.
(3:) Appropriation, or applying Christ to ourselves.
A medicine, though it be ever so sovereign, if not applied, will do
no good. Though the plaster is made of Christ's own blood, it will not heal,
unless applied by faith; the blood of God, without faith in God, will not
save. This applying of Christ is called receiving him. John 1:12. The hand
receiving gold, enriches. Just so, the hand of faith, receiving Christ's
golden merits with salvation, enriches us.
How is faith wrought?
By the blessed Spirit; who is called the "Spirit of
grace," because he is the spring of all grace. Zech 12:10. Faith is the
chief work which the Spirit of God works in a man's heart. In making the
world God did but speak a word—but in working faith he puts forth his
arm. Luke 1:51. The Spirit's working faith is called, "The exceeding
greatness of God's power." Eph 1:19. What a power was put forth in raising
Christ from the grave when such a tombstone lay upon him as the sins of all
the world—yet he was raised up by the Spirit. The same power is put forth by
the Spirit of God, in working faith. The Spirit irradiates the mind, and
subdues the will. The will is like a garrison, which holds out against God:
the Spirit with sweet violence conquers, or rather changes it; making the
sinner willing to have Christ upon any terms; to be ruled by him as well as
saved by him.
Wherein lies the preciousness of faith?
(1.) In its being the chief gospel-grace, the head of the
graces. As gold among the metals, so is faith among the graces.
Clement calls the other graces, the daughters of faith. In heaven,
love will be the chief grace; but, while we are here, love must give place
to faith. Love takes possession of glory—but faith gives a title to it. Love
is the crowning grace in heaven—but faith is the conquering grace upon
earth. "This is the victory which overcomes the world, even our faith."
(2.) In its having influence upon all the graces, and
setting them to work. Not a grace stirs—until faith sets it to
work. Faith sets hope to work. The heir must believe his title to the
glories of heaven, before he can hope for it; faith believes its title to
glory, and then hope waits for it. If faith did not feed the lamp of hope
with oil, it would soon die. Faith sets love to work. "Faith which
works by love." Believing the mercy and merit of Christ, causes a flame of
love to ascend. Faith sets patience to work. "Be followers of those
who through faith and patience inherit the promises." Faith believes the
glorious rewards given to suffering. This makes the soul patient in
suffering. Thus faith is the master-wheel, it sets all the other graces
(3.) Faith is the grace which God honors—to justify and
save. Thus indeed it is "precious faith," as the apostle calls
it. The other graces help to sanctify—but it is faith that justifies. "Being
justified by faith." Repentance or love do not justify—but faith does.
How does faith justify?
(1.) Faith does not justify as it is a work, which would
make a savior of our faith; but faith justifies, as it lays hold of
the object, namely, Christ's merits. If a man had a precious stone in a ring
that could heal, we should say the ring heals; but properly it is not the
ring—but the precious stone in the ring that heals. Thus faith saves and
justifies—but it is not any inherent virtue in faith—but only as faith lays
hold on Christ, that it justifies.
(2.) Faith does not justify as it exercises grace. It
cannot be denied, that faith invigorates all the graces, puts strength and
liveliness into them—but it does not justify under this notion. Faith works
by love—but it does not justify as it works by love—but as it applies
Why should faith save and justify more than any other
(1.) Because of God's purpose. He has
appointed this grace to be justifying; and he does it, because faith is a
grace that takes a man off himself, and gives all the honor to Christ and
free grace. "Strong in faith, giving glory to God." Therefore God has put
this honor on faith—to make it saving and justifying. The king's stamp makes
the coin pass for current. Just so, God having put his sanction, the stamp
of his authority and institution upon faith, makes it to be justifying and
(2.) Because faith makes us one with Christ.
Eph 3:17. Faith is the espousing, incorporating grace, it gives us coalition
and union with Christ's person. Other graces make us like Christ; faith
makes us members of Christ.
Use one: Of EXHORTATION. Let us above all
things labor for faith. "Above all, taking the shield of faith." Faith will
be of more use to us than any grace; as an eye, though dim, was of more use
to an Israelite than all the other members of his body, a strong arm, or a
nimble foot. It was his eye looking on the brazen serpent, which cured him.
It is not knowledge, though angelic, not repentance, though we could shed
rivers of tears which can justify us; only faith, whereby we look on Christ.
"Without faith it is impossible to please God." If we do not please him by
believing, he will not please us in saving. Faith is the condition of the
covenant of grace; without faith—without covenant; and without
covenant—without any hope of salvation. Eph 2:12.
Use two: Of TRIAL. Let us try whether we have
faith. There is something that looks like faith, and is not, as a
Bristol-stone looks like a diamond. Some plants have the same leaf with
others—but the herbalist can distinguish them by the root and taste. Some
faith may look like true faith—but it may be distinguished by the fruits.
Let us be serious in the trial of our faith. Much depends upon our faith;
for if our faith is not good, nothing good comes from us—even our duties and
graces are adulterated.
How shall we know if we have true saving faith?
By the noble fruits and effects of saving faith.
(1.) Faith is a Christ-prizing grace—it puts a high
valuation upon Christ. "To you that believe, he is precious." Paul best
knew Christ. "Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?" He saw Christ with his
bodily eyes in a vision, when he was caught up into the third heaven; and
with the eye of his faith in the Holy Supper; therefore he best knew Christ.
And see how he styles all things in comparison of him. "I count all things
but dung, that I may win Christ." Do we set a high estimate upon Christ?
Could we be willing to part with the wedge of gold—for the pearl of great
(2.) Faith is a refining grace. Faith is in the soul
as fire among metals; it refines and purifies. Morality may wash the
outside, faith washes the inside. "Having purified their hearts by faith."
Faith makes the heart a holy of holies. Faith is a virgin-grace: though it
does not take away the life of sin—yet it takes away the love
of sin. Examine if your hearts are an unclean fountain, sending out the mud
and mire of pride and envy. If there are legions of lusts in your soul,
there is no faith. Faith is a heavenly plant, which will not grow in an
(3.) Faith is an obediential grace. "The obedience of
faith." Faith melts our will into God's. It runs at God's call. If God
commands duty (though cross to flesh and blood) faith obeys. "By faith
Abraham obeyed." Heb 11:1. Faith is not an idle grace; as it has an eye to
see Christ, so it has a hand to work for him. It not only believes God's
promise—but obeys his command. It is not having knowledge that will evidence
you to be believers; the devil has knowledge—but lacks obedience, and that
makes him a devil. The true obedience of faith, is a cheerful obedience.
God's commands do not seem grievous. Have you obedience, and obey
cheerfully? Do you look upon God's command as your burden—or privilege; as
an iron fetter about your leg—or as a gold chain about your neck.
(4.) Faith is an assimilating grace. It changes the
soul into the image of the object; it makes it like Christ. Never did any
look upon Christ with a believing eye—but he was made like Christ. A
deformed person may look on a beautiful object, and not be made beautiful;
but faith looking on Christ transforms a man, and turns him into his
similitude. Looking on a bleeding Christ, causes a soft bleeding heart.
Looking on a holy Christ causes sanctity of heart. Looking on a humble
Christ makes the soul humble. As the chameleon is changed into the color of
that which it looks upon, so faith, looking on Christ, changes the Christian
into the similitude of Christ.
(5.) True faith grows. All living things grow. "From
faith to faith." How may we judge of the growth of faith?
Growth of faith is judged by strength. We can do that
now, which we could not do before. When one is man-grown, he can do that
which he could not do when he was a child; he can carry a heavier burden; so
you can bear crosses with more patience.
Growth of faith is seen by doing duties in a more
spiritual manner, with more fervency; we put coals to the incense, from a
principle of love to God. When an apple has done growing in bigness, it
grows in sweetness; so you perform duties in love and are sweeter, and come
off with a better relish.
But I fear I have no faith.
We must distinguish between weakness of faith—and
no faith. A weak faith is true. The bruised reed is but weak—yet it
is such as Christ will not break. Though your faith is weak, be not
(1.) A weak faith may receive a strong Christ. A weak
hand can tie the knot in marriage, as well as a strong one. A weak
eye might have seen the brazen serpent. The woman in the gospel did but
touch Christ's garment, and received virtue from him. It was the
touch of faith.
(2.) The promise is not made to strong faith—but to true
faith. The promise does not say—whoever has a giant-faith, which
can remove mountains, which can stop the mouths of lions—shall be saved. But
the promise is made to whoever believes, be his faith ever so small.
Though Christ sometimes chides a weak faith—yet that it may not be
discouraged, he makes it a promise. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for
theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:3.
(3.) A weak faith may be fruitful. Weakest things
multiply most; the vine is a weak plant—but it is fruitful. Weak Christians
may have strong affections. How strong is the first love, which is after the
first planting of faith!
(4.) Weak faith may be growing. Seeds spring up by
degrees; first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear.
Therefore, be not discouraged. God, who would have us receive those
who are weak in faith, will not himself refuse them. Rom 14:1. A weak
believer is a member of Christ; and though Christ will cut off rotten
members from his body, he will not cut off weak members.
2. EFFECTUAL CALLING
"And those he predestined, he also called; those
he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." Romans
Question 31: What is the NATURE Effectual Calling?
Answer: It is a gracious work of the Spirit, whereby he
causes us to embrace Christ freely, as he is offered to us in the gospel.
In this verse is the golden chain of salvation, made up
of four links, of which one is effectual calling. This calling is nova
creatio—"a new creation," the first resurrection. There is a two-fold
(1.) An outward call.
(2.) An inward call.
(1.) An OUTWARD call, which is God's offer of
grace to sinners, inviting them to come and accept of Christ and salvation.
"Many are called—but few chosen." This call shows men what they ought to do
in order to salvation, and renders them inexcusable in case of disobedience.
(2.) There is an INWARD call, when God with
the offer of grace, works grace. By this call the heart is renewed, and the
will is effectually drawn to embrace Christ. The outward call brings men to
a profession of Christ, the inward to a possession of Christ.
What are the MEANS of this effectual call?
Every creature has a voice to call us. The heavens
call to us to behold God's glory. Psalm 19:1. Conscience calls to us.
God's judgments call us to repent. "Hear the rod." But every voice
does not convert. There are two means of our effectual call:
(1.) The preaching of the word, which is the
sounding of God's silver trumpet in men's ears. God speaks not by an oracle,
he calls by his ministers. Samuel thought it had been the voice of Eli which
called him; but it was God's voice. So, perhaps, you think it is only the
minister that speaks to you in the word—but it is God himself who speaks.
Therefore Christ is said to speak to us from heaven. Heb 12:25. How does he
speak but by his ministers? as a king speaks by his ambassadors. Know, that
in every sermon preached, God calls to you; and to refuse the message we
bring, is to refuse God himself.
(2.) The other means of our effectual call is the Holy
Spirit. The ministry of the word is the pipe or organ; the Spirit of God
blowing in it, effectually changes men's hearts. "While Peter spoke, the
Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the word of God." Ministers knock at
the door of men's hearts, the Spirit comes with a key and opens the door. "A
certain woman named Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened."
FROM what does God call men?
(1.) God calls men from sin. He calls them from
their ignorance and unbelief. I Pet 1:14. By nature the understanding is
enveloped with darkness. God calls men "from darkness to light," as if one
should be called out of a dungeon to behold the light of the sun. Eph 5:8.
(2.) God calls men from danger. As the angels
called Lot out of Sodom, when it was ready to rain fire; so God calls his
people from the fire and brimstone of hell, and from all those curses to
which they were exposed.
(3.) God calls men out of the world; as Christ
called Matthew from the collection of taxes. "They are not of the world."
Such as are divinely called, are not natives in this world—but pilgrims;
they do not conform to the world, or follow its sinful fashions; they are
not of the world. Though they live here—yet they trade in the heavenly
country. The world is a place where Satan's throne is. Rev 2:13. It is a
stage on which sin every day acts its part. Now such as are called—are in
the world but not of it.
TO what does God call men?
(1.) He calls them to holiness. "For God did not
call us to be impure, but to live a holy life." 1 Thess 4:7. Holiness is the
silver star which the godly wear. "The people of your holiness." The called
of God, are anointed with the consecrating oil of the Spirit. "You have an
anointing from the Holy One."
(2.) God calls them to glory—as if a man were
called out of a prison to sit upon a throne. "Who has called you to his
kingdom and glory." Whom God calls, he crowns with a weight of
glory. 2 Cor 4:17. The Hebrew word for glory signifies pondus—a
weight. The weight of glory adds to the worth, the weightier gold is, the
more it is worth. This glory is not transient—but permanent, an eternal
weight. This glory will be better felt—than expressed.
What is the CAUSE of the effectual call?
God's electing love. "And those he predestined, he
also called." Romans 8:30. Election is the fountain-cause of our
effectual calling. It is not because some are more worthy to partake
of the heavenly calling than others—for we were "all in our blood." What
worthiness is in us? What worthiness was there in Mary Magdalene, out
of whom seven devils were cast? What worthiness in the Corinthians,
before God called them by his gospel? They were "idol worshipers,
adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people,
drunkards, abusers, and swindlers." "And that is what some of you were. But
you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the
Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Cor 6:9-11. Before
effectual calling, we are not only "without strength," but "enemies to God."
So that the foundation of effectual calling is election, and not
What are the CHARACTERISTICS of this call?
(1.) It is a POWERFUL call. "The words
of God are works," Luther. God puts forth infinite power in calling
home a sinner to himself; he not only puts forth his voice—but his
arm. The apostle speaks of the exceeding greatness of his power, which
he exercises towards those who believe. Eph 1:19. God rides forth conquering
in the chariot of his gospel; he conquers the pride of the heart, and makes
the will, which stood out as a fort-royal, to yield and stoop to his grace;
he makes the stony heart bleed. Oh, it is a mighty call! Why then do the
Arminians seem to talk of a moral persuasion, that God in the
conversion of a sinner only morally persuades and no more; sets his promises
before men to allure them to good, and his threatenings to deter them from
evil; and that is all he does? But surely moral persuasions alone are
insufficient to the effectual call. How can the bare proposal of promises
and threatenings convert a soul? This amounts not to a new creation, or that
power which raised Christ from the dead. God not only persuades—but enables.
Ezek 36:27. If God, in conversion, should only morally persuade, that is,
set good and evil before men—then he does not put forth so much power in
saving men as the devil does in destroying them. Satan not only propounds
tempting objects to men—but incites with his temptations: therefore
he is said to "work in the children of disobedience." The Greek word,
to work, signifies the power Satan has in carrying men to sin. And
shall not God's power in converting, be greater than Satan's power in
seducing? The effectual call is mighty and powerful. God puts forth a
divine energy, nay, a kind of omnipotence; it is such a powerful call, that
the will of man has no power effectually to resist.
(2.) It is a HIGH calling. "I press toward the
mark for the prize of the high calling of God." It is a high calling,
(1.) Because we are called to high exercises of piety—to
be crucified to the world, to live by faith, to love God, to be living
organs of his praise, to hold communion with the Father and the Son.
(2:) It is a high calling, because we are called to high
privileges; to justification and adoption, to be kings and priests unto God.
We are called to be co-heirs with Christ. Heb 12:22. Rom 8:17. Those who are
effectually called, are heirs for heaven—they are princes in all lands,
though princes in disguise. Psalm 45:16.
(3.) It is an IMMUTABLE call. "God’s gracious
gifts and calling are irrevocable;" Rom 11:29. That is, those gifts
that flow from election (as effectual calling and justification) are
irrevocable. God never repents of calling a sinner to be a saint.
Use one: See the NECESSITY of the effectual call.
A man cannot go to heaven without it. We must be called before we are
glorified. Rom 8:30. A man uncalled can lay claim to nothing in the Bible
but threatening! A man in the state of nature is not fit for heaven, no more
than a man in his filth and his rags is fit to come into a king's presence.
A man in his natural state is a God-hater, and is he fit for heaven? Rom
1:30. Will God lay his enemy in his bosom?
Use two: Of TRIAL whether we are effectually called.
This we may know by its antecedent, and its results.
(1.) By the antecedent. Before this effectual
call, a humbling work passes upon the soul. A man is convinced of sin, he
sees he is a sinner and nothing but a sinner; the fallow ground of his heart
is broken up. Jer 4:3. As the farmer breaks up the clods, then casts in the
seed; so God, by the convincing work of the law, breaks a sinner's heart,
and makes it fit to receive the seeds of grace. Such as were never convinced
of sin—are never called. "He shall convince the world of sin." John 16:8.
Conviction of sin is the first step in conversion from sin.
(2.) By the results, which are two.
(1.) He who is savingly called, answers to God's call.
When God called Samuel, he answered, "Speak, Lord, your servant hears." When
God calls you to an act of piety—do you run at God's call? "I was not
disobedient to the heavenly vision." If God calls to duties contrary to
flesh and blood, we obey his voice in everything; true obedience is like the
needle, which points that way which the magnet draws. Such as are deaf to
God's call, show they are not called by grace.
(2) He who is effectually called stops his ears to all
other calls which would call him off from God. As God has his call, so there
are other contrary calls. Satan calls by a temptation, lust
calls, evil company calls; but as the adder stops its ear against the
voice of the charmer, so he who is effectually called stops his ear against
all the charms of the flesh and the devil.
Use three: Of COMFORT to those who are the called of God.
This call evidences election. "Those He predestined, He also
called." Election is the cause of our effectually calling; and
effectually calling is the sign of our election. Election is the
first link of the golden chain of salvation, effectually calling is the
second. He who has the second link of the chain—is sure of the first link!
As by the stream we are led to the fountain, so by effectually
calling we ascend to election. Effectually calling is the pledge of glory.
"God has chosen you to salvation, through sanctification." We may read God's
predestinating love—in the work of grace in our heart.
Use four: Let such as are called be THANKFUL to God for
that unspeakable blessing. Be thankful to all the persons in the
Trinity, to the Father's mercy, to the Son's merit, to the
Spirit's efficacy. To make you thankful, consider, when you had offended
God—he called you. Consider that when God had no need of you—but had
millions of glorified saints and angels to praise him, he called you.
Consider what you were before God called you! "You were dead, doomed
forever because of your many sins!" When God called Paul, he found him
persecuting; when he called Zacchaeus, he found him using extortion. When
God calls a man by his grace, he finds him seeking after his lusts; as when
Saul was called to the kingdom, he was seeking the donkeys. Admire his love,
exalt his praise—that He should call you when you were in the hot pursuit of
sin! What mercy is this—that God should call you, and pass by others! "Even
so, Father, for so it seemed good in your sight!" That God should pass by
wise and noble people, people of sweeter disposition, greater abilities,
guilty of less vice, and that the lot of free grace should fall upon you—oh,
the astonishing love of God!
It was a great favor to Samuel that God called to him,
and revealed his mind to him, and passed by Eli, though a priest and a judge
in Israel. Just so, that God should call to you, a monstrous sinner, and
pass by others of better morals—calls aloud for praise. As God so governs
the clouds, that he makes them rain upon one place, and not upon
another—just so, at a sermon the Lord opens the heart of one, and another is
no more affected with it than a deaf man with the sound of music. Here is
the banner of free grace displayed, and here should the trophies of praise
be erected. Elijah and Elisha were walking together; when suddenly there
came a chariot of fire, and carried Elijah up to heaven—but left Elisha
behind; just so, when two are living together, husband and wife, father and
child, that God should call one by his grace—but leave the other in his
sins; carry up one in a triumphant chariot to heaven—but let the other
perish eternally—oh infinite rich grace! How should they that are called be
affected with God's sovereign love! How should the vessels of mercy run over
with thankfulness! How should they stand upon Mount Gerizim, blessing and
praising God! Oh begin the work of heaven here! Such as are trophies of
mercy, should be trumpeters of praise. Thus Paul, being effectually called
by God, and seeing what a debtor he was to free grace, breaks forth into
admiration and gratitude, "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" 2
Use five: To the called. Walk worthy of your high
calling. "I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you
have received." Ephesians 4:1; in two things.
(1.) Walk compassionately. Pity such as are yet
uncalled. Have you a child, or a wife, or a friend—whom God has not yet
called? Weep over their dying souls; they are "dead, doomed forever because
of their many sins," and "under the power of Satan." Oh pity them! Let their
sins more trouble you—than your own sufferings. If you pity an ox or donkey
going astray, will you not pity a soul going astray? Show your piety,
by your pity.
(2.) Walk holily. Yours is a holy calling. 2 Tim
1:9. You are called to be saints, Rom 1:7. Show your effectual calling by a
Bible life. Shall not flowers smell sweeter than weeds? Shall not those who
are ennobled with grace, have more fragrance in their lives than uncalled
sinners? "As the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all
your conduct." 1 Peter 1:15. Oh dishonor not your high calling by any sordid
life! When Antigonus was going to defile himself with women, one told him,
"You are a king's son!" Oh remember your dignity; "called of God!" of the
royal blood of heaven. Do nothing unworthy of your honorable calling. Scipio
refused the embraces of an harlot, because he was general of an army. Abhor
all motions to sin, because of your high calling. It is not fit for those
who are the called of God, to do as others. Though other Jews drank
wine, it was not fit for the Nazarite, because he had a vow of
separation upon him, and had promised abstinence. Though Pagans and nominal
Christians take liberty to sin—yet it is not fit for those who are called
out of the world, and have the mark of election upon them, to do so. You are
consecrated people, your bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, and your
bodies must be a holy of holies.
"Being justified freely by his grace." Romans 3:24
Question 23. What is Justification?
Answer: Justification is an act of God's free grace,
whereby he pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in his
sight—only for the righteousness of Christ, imputed to us, and received by
Justification is the very hinge and pillar of
Christianity. An error about justification is dangerous, like a defect in a
foundation. Justification by Christ is a spring of the water of life. To
have the poison of corrupt doctrine cast into this spring is damnable. It
was a saying of Luther, "that after his death, the doctrine of justification
would be corrupted." In these latter times, the Arminians and Socinians have
cast a dead fly into this box of precious ointment.
I shall endeavor to follow the star of Scripture, to
light me through this mysterious point.
What is MEANT by justification?
It is a word borrowed from law-courts, wherein a person
arraigned is pronounced righteous, and is openly absolved. God, in
justifying a person, pronounces him to be righteous, and looks upon him as
if he had not sinned.
What is the SOURCE of justification?
The cause, the inward impellant motive or ground of
justification, is the free grace of God: "being justified freely by his
grace." Ambrose expounds this, as "not of the grace wrought within us—but
the free grace of God." The first wheel that sets all the rest running is
the love and favor of God; as a king freely pardons a delinquent.
Justification is a mercy spun out of the affections of free grace. God does
not justify us because we are worthy—but by justifying us makes us worthy.
What is the GROUND, or that by which a sinner is
The ground of our justification is Christ's satisfaction
made to his Father. If it be asked, how can it stand with God's justice and
holiness to pronounce us innocent—when we are guilty? The answer is, that
Christ having made satisfaction for our sins, God may, in equity and
justice, pronounce us righteous. It is a just thing for a creditor to
discharge a debtor of the debt, when a satisfaction is made by the surety.
But how was Christ's satisfaction meritorious, and so
sufficient to justify?
In respect of the divine nature. As he was man he
suffered, as God he satisfied. By Christ's death and merits, God's justice
is more abundantly satisfied than if we had suffered the pains of hell
Wherein lies the METHOD of our justification?
In the imputation of Christ's righteousness to us. "This
is the name whereby he shall be called, Jehovah Tzidkennu, the Lord
our righteousness." "He is made to us righteousness." This righteousness of
Christ, which justifies us, is a better righteousness than the angels; for
theirs is the righteousness of creatures, this righteousness is of God.
What is the MEANS or instrument of our justification?
Faith. "Being justified by faith." The dignity is not in
faith as a grace—but relatively, as faith lays hold on Christ's merits.
What is the efficient CAUSE of our justification?
The whole Trinity. All the persons in the blessed Trinity
have a hand in the justification of a sinner. God the Father is said
to justify. "It is God who justifies." God the Son is said to
justify. "By him all who believe are justified." God the Holy Spirit
is said to justify. "But you are justified by the Spirit of our God." God
the Father justifies, as he pronounces us righteous; God the Son justifies,
as he imputes his righteousness to us; and God the Holy Spirit justifies, as
he clears up our justification, and seals us up to the day of redemption.
What is the END of our justification? The end is,
(1.) That God may inherit praise. "To the praise of the
glory of his grace." Hereby God raises the everlasting trophies of his own
honor. How will the justified sinner proclaim the love of God, and make
heaven ring with his praises!
(2.) That the justified person may inherit glory. "Whom
he justified, those he also glorified." God in justifying, not only absolves
a soul from guilt—but advances him to dignity. Just as Joseph was not only
loosed from prison—but made Lord of the kingdom. Justification is
crowned with glorification!
Are we justified from eternity? No, for,
(1.) By nature we are under a sentence of condemnation.
John 3:18. We could never have been condemned, if we were justified from
(2.) The Scripture confines justification to those who
believe and repent. "Repent, that your sins may be blotted out." Acts 3:19.
Therefore their sins were uncancelled, and their persons unjustified, until
they did repent. Though God does not justify us for our repentance—yet not
without it. The Antinomians erroneously hold, that we are justified from
eternity. This doctrine is a key which opens the door to all licentiousness;
for what sins do they not commit, so long as they hold they are justified
whether they repent or not?
Before I come to the uses, I shall lay down
four maxims or positions about justification.
 That justification confers a real benefit upon the
person justified. The acquitting and discharging of the debtor,
by virtue of the satisfaction made by the surety, is a real benefit to the
debtor. A robe of righteousness, and a crown of righteousness, are real
 All believers are alike justified.
Justification does not apply to some more than to others. Though there are
degrees in grace—yet not in justification; one is not justified more than
another. The weakest believer is as perfectly justified as the strongest.
Mary Magdalene is as much justified as the Virgin Mary. This may be a
cordial to a weak believer. Though you have but a grain of faith, you are as
truly justified, as he who is of the highest stature in Christ.
 Whoever God justifies, he sanctifies. "But
you are sanctified—but you are justified." 1 Cor. 6:2. The Papists
calumniate Protestants; they report them to hold that men continuing in sin
are justified; whereas all our Protestant writers affirm, that righteousness
imputed, for justification, and righteousness inherent, for sanctification,
must be inseparably united. Holiness indeed is not the cause of our
justification—but it is the attendant; as the heat in the sun is not the
cause of its light—but it is the attendant. It is absurd to imagine that God
should justify a people, and they should still go on in sin. If God should
justify a people and not sanctify them—he would justify a
people whom he could not glorify. A holy God cannot lay a sinner in his
bosom. The metal is first refined, before the king's stamp is put upon it.
Just so, the soul is first refined with holiness, before God puts the royal
stamp of justification upon it.
 Justification is a fixed permanent thing, it can
never be lost. The Arminians hold an apostasy from justification;
today justified, tomorrow unjustified; today a Peter, tomorrow a Judas;
today a member of Christ, tomorrow a child of Satan. This is a most
uncomfortable doctrine. Justified people may fall from degrees of grace,
they may leave their first love, they may lose God's favor for a time—but
not lose their justification. If they are justified they are elected; and
they can no more fall from their justification than from their election. If
they are justified they have union with Christ, and can a member of Christ
is broken off? If one justified person may fall away from Christ, all may;
and so Christ would be a head without a body.
Use one: See from hence, that there is nothing
within us that could justify us—but something without us; not
any righteousness inherent—but righteousness imputed. We may
as well look for a star in the earth, as for justification in our own
righteousness. The Papists say we are justified by works; but the apostle
confutes it, for he says, "not of works, lest any man should boast." The
Papists say, "the works done by an unregenerate man indeed cannot justify
him—but works done by a regenerate man may justify." This is most false, as
may be proved both by example and reason.
(1.) By example. Abraham was a regenerate man; but
Abraham was not justified by works—but by faith. Abraham "believed God, and
it was counted to him for righteousness."
(2.) By reason. How can those works justify us—which
defile us? "Our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." Good works are not an
usher to go before justification—but a handmaid to follow it.
But does not the apostle James say that Abraham was
justified by works?
The answer is easy. Works manifest us to be righteous
before men—but they do not make us righteous before God. Works are
evidences of our justification, not causes. The only name engraved upon
the golden plate of Christ our High Priest must be, the Lord Our
Use two: Of exhortation.
(1.) Adore the infinite wisdom and goodness of God that
found out a way to justify us by "rich grace and precious blood."
We were all involved in guilt; none of us could plead not-guilty; and
being guilty, we lay under a sentence of death. Now that the judge himself
should find out a way to justify us, and the creditor himself contrive a way
to have the debt paid, and not distress the debtor—should fill us with
wonder and love! The angels admire the mystery of free grace in this new way
of justifying and saving lost man, I Pet 1:12, and should not we, who are
nearly concerned in it, and on whom the benefit is devolved, cry out with
the apostle, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of
(2.) Labor for this high privilege of justification.
There is balm in Gilead; Christ has laid down his blood as the price
of our justification; and he offers himself and all his merits to us, to
justify. He invites us to come to him; he has promised to give his Spirit,
to enable us to do what is required. Why then, sinners, will you not look
after this great privilege of justification? Why starve in the midst of
plenty? Why perish, when there is a remedy to save you? Would not he be
thought to be deranged, who having a pardon offered him, only upon the
acknowledgment of his fault, and promising amendment, should bid the prince
keep his pardon to himself; for his part, he was in love with his chains and
fetters, and would die? You who neglect justification offered you freely by
Christ in the gospel, are this deranged person. Is the love of Christ to be
slighted? Is your soul, is heaven worth nothing? Oh then look after
justification through Christ's blood!
(1:) The necessity of being justified. If we are
not justified, we cannot be glorified. "Whom he justified, them he also
glorified." Rom 8:30. He who is outlawed, and all his goods confiscated,
must be brought into favor with his prince before he can be restored to his
former rights and liberties. Just so, we must have our sins forgiven, and be
brought into God's favor by justification, before we can be restored to the
liberty of the sons of God, and have a right to that happiness we forfeited
(2:) The utility and benefit. By justification we
enjoy peace in our conscience; a richer jewel than any prince wears in his
crown. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God." Peace can sweeten
all our afflictions; it turns our water into wine. How happy is a justified
person who has the power of God to guard him, and the peace of God to
comfort him! Peace flowing from justification is an antidote against the
fear of death and hell. "It is God who justifies, who is he that condemns?"
Rom 8:33, 34. Therefore labor for this justification by Christ. This
privilege is obtained by believing in Christ. "By him all who believe are
justified." "Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in
his blood." Faith unites us to Christ; and having union with his person—we
partake of his merits, and the glorious salvation which comes by him.
Use three: Comfort to the justified.
(1.) It is comfort in case of failings. Alas! how
defective are the godly! they come short in every duty; but though believers
should be humbled under their defects, they should not despond. They are not
to be justified by their duties or graces—but by the righteousness of
Christ. Their duties are mixed with sin—but that righteousness which
justifies them is a perfect righteousness.
(2.) Comfort in case of hard censures. The world censures
the people of God as proud and hypocritical, and the troublers of Israel.
But though men censure and condemn the godly—yet God has justified them, and
as he has now justified them, so at the day of judgement he will openly
justify them, and pronounce them righteous before men and angels. God is so
just and holy a judge, that having once justified his people he will never
condemn them. Pilate justified Christ, saying, "I find no fault in him;" yet
after this he condemned him; but God having publicly justified his saints,
he will never condemn them; for "whom he justified, them he also
"As many as received him, to them gave he power to become
the sons of God, even to those who believe on his name." John 1:12.
Having spoken of the great points of faith and
justification, we come next to adoption.
The qualification of the people is, "As many as received
him." Receiving is put for believing, as is clear by the last words, "to
those who believe in his name." The specification of the privilege is, "to
them gave he power to become the sons of God." The Greek word for power,
exousia, signifies dignity and prerogative: he dignified them to become
the sons of God.
Our sonship differs from Christ's. He was the Son of God
by eternal generation, a son before time; but our sonship is,
(1.) By creation. "We are his offspring." This is no
privilege; for men may have God for their Father by creation, and yet have
the devil for their father.
(2.) Our sonship is by adoption. "He gave them power to
become the sons of God." Adoption is twofold.
External and federal: as those who live in a visible
church, and make a profession of God, are sons. "The children of the
kingdom shall be cast out."
Real and gracious: as they are sons who are God's
favorites, and are heirs of glory. Before I proceed to the questions, I
shall lay down three positions.
I. Adoption takes in all nations. A first
adoption was confined to the people of the Jews, who alone were grafted into
the true olive tree, and were dignified with glorious privileges. "Who are
Israelites, to whom pertains the adoption and the glory." But now, in the
time of the gospel, the charter is enlarged, and the believing Gentiles are
within the line of communication, and have a right to the privileges of
adoption as well as the Jews. "In every nation he who fears God and works
righteousness is accepted with him."
II. Adoption takes in both sexes, females as well as
males. "I will be a father unto you, and you shall be my sons and
daughters." I have read, that in some countries, females are excluded from
the supreme dignity, as by the Salique law in France, no woman can inherit a
crown; but of spiritual privileges, females are as capable as males. Every
gracious soul (of whatever gender) lays claim to adoption, and has an
interest in God as a father. "You shall be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty."
III. Adoption is an act of pure grace. "He
predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance
with His pleasure and will." Ephesians 1:5. Adoption is a mercy spun out of
the affections of free grace. All by nature are strangers to God, therefore
have no right to sonship. God is pleased to adopt one, and not another; to
make one a vessel of glory, another a vessel of wrath. The adopted heir may
cry out, "Lord, how is it, that you will show yourself to me, and not unto
What is this filiation or adoption?
It is taking a stranger into the relation of a son and
heir; as Moses was the adopted son of King Pharaoh's daughter, Exod 2:10,
and Esther was the adopted child of her cousin Mordecai. Esth 2:7. Thus God
adopts us into the family of heaven, and God in adopting us does two things:
(1.) He ennobles us with his name. He who is adopted
bears the name of him who adopts him. "I will write on him the name of my
(2.) God consecrates us with his Spirit. All whom he
adopts—he anoints. All whom he makes sons, he makes saints. When a man
adopts another for his son and heir, he may put his name upon him—but he
cannot put his disposition into him; if he is of a morose rugged nature, he
cannot alter it. But those whom God adopts, he sanctifies; he
not only gives a new name but a new nature. 2 Pet 1:4. He turns the wolf
into a lamb; he makes the heart humble and gracious; he works such a
change—as if another soul dwelt in the same body.
From what state does God take us when he adopts us?
From a state of sin and misery. Pharaoh's daughter took
Moses out of the ark of bulrushes in the water, and adopted him for her son.
God did not take us out of the water—but out of our blood, and adopted us.
Ezek 16:6. He adopted us from slavery; it is a mercy to redeem a
slave—but it is more to adopt him!
To what does God adopt us?
(1.) God adopts us to a state of excellence.
It would be much for God to take a clod of dust, and make it a star. But it
is more for him to take a piece of clay and sin, and adopt it for his
(2.) God adopts us to a state of liberty.
Adoption is a state of freedom; a slave being adopted, is made a free man.
"You are no more a servant, but a son." How is an adopted son free? Not to
do what he wants; but he is free from the dominion of sin, the tyranny of
Satan, and the curse of the law. He is free in the manner of worship. He has
God's free Spirit, which makes him free and cheerful in the service of God;
he is "joyful in the house of prayer."
(3.) God adopts us to a state of dignity. He
makes us heirs of promise, he installs us into honor. "Since you were
precious in my sight, you have been honorable." The adopted are God's
treasure; Exod 19:5; his jewels; Mal 3:17; his first-born;
Heb 12:23. They have angels for their life-guards. Heb 1:14. They are of the
royal blood of heaven. I John 3:9. The Scripture has set forth their
spiritual heraldry; they have their escutcheon or coat-armor; sometimes the
lion for courage; Prov 28:1; sometimes the dove for meekness;
Cant 2:14; sometimes the eagle for flight; Isa 40:31. Thus you see
their coat of arms displayed.
(4.) God adopts us to a glorious inheritance.
God adopts all his sons to an inheritance. "It is your father's good
pleasure to give you the kingdom!" Luke 12:32. It is no disparagement to be
the sons of God. To reproach the saints, is like when Shimei had reproached
David when he was going to be made king. Adoption ends in
coronation. The kingdom God gives to his adopted sons and heirs, excels
all earthly monarchies.
(1:) In riches. "The gates are of pearl, and the
streets of pure gold, as it were transparent glass."
(2:) In tranquility. It is peaceable, and the
white lily of peace is the best flower in a prince's crown. One peace is
better than innumerable triumphs. No divisions at home, or invasions abroad;
no more the noise of the drum or cannon; but the voice of harpers harping is
the emblem of peace. Rev 14:2.
(3:) In stability. Other kingdoms are corruptible;
though they have heads of gold, they have feet of clay; but the kingdom into
which the saints are adopted runs parallel with eternity, it is a kingdom
that cannot be shaken. Heb 12:28. The heirs of heaven reign forever and
ever. Rev 22:5.
What is the organic or instrumental cause of adoption?
Faith interests us in the privilege of adoption. "You are
all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." Before faith is wrought,
we are spiritually illegitimate, we have no relation to God as a father. An
unbeliever may call God judge—but not father. Faith is the
affiliating grace; it confers upon us the title of sonship, and gives us
right to inherit.
Why is faith the instrument of adoption more than any
Faith is a quickening grace, the vital artery of the
soul. "The just shall live by faith." Life makes us capable of adoption;
dead children are never adopted. It makes us Christ's brethren, and so God
comes to be our Father. "How great is the love the Father has lavished on
us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The
reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him." 1 John 3:1.
"He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in
accordance with his pleasure and will." Ephesians 1:5
Use one: (1.) See the amazing love of God, in making us
his sons. Plato gave God thanks that he had made him a man, and
not only a man but a philosopher; but it is infinitely more, that he should
invest us with the prerogative of his sons! It is love in God to feed
us—but more to adopt us. "Behold, what manner of love the Father has
bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!" Behold the
wonder! The wonder of God's love in adopting us will appear the more if we
consider these six things:
(1:) That God should adopt us, when he had a Son of his
own. Men adopt because they have no children, and desire to have
some to bear their name; but that God should adopt us when he had a Son of
his own, the Lord Jesus—is a wonder of love. Christ is called "God's dear
Son." A Son more worthy than the angels. "Being made so much better than the
angels." Now, since God had a Son of his own, and such a Son—how wonderful
God's love in adopting us! We needed a Father—but he did not need sons!
(2:) Consider what we were before God adopted us.
We were very deformed; and a man will scarcely adopt one for his
heir—who is crooked and ill-favored. He will rather one who has some beauty.
Mordecai adopted Esther, because she was fair. When we were in our blood,
God adopted us. "When I saw you polluted in your blood, it was the time of
love." God did not adopt us when we were bespangled with the jewels of
holiness—but when we were black as Ethiopians, diseased as lepers—it was the
time of his love.
(3:) That God should be at so great expense in adopting
us. When men adopt, they have only some deed sealed, and the
thing is effected; but when God adopts, it puts him to a far greater
expense; it sets his wisdom to work to find out a way to adopt us. It was no
easy thing to make heirs of wrath, into heirs of the promise and of glory.
When God had found out a way to adopt, it was no easy way. Our adoption was
purchased at a dear rate; for when God was about to make us sons and heirs,
he could not seal the deed but by the blood of his own Son. Here is the
wonder of God's love in adopting us, that he should be at all this expense
to accomplish it.
(4:) That God should adopt his enemies. If a
man adopts another for his heir, he will not adopt his mortal enemy; but
that God should adopt us, when we were not only strangers—but enemies, is
the wonder of his love! For God to have pardoned his enemies would
have been much; but to adopt them for his heirs, astonishes the angels in
(5:) That God should take great numbers out of the
devil's family, and adopt them into the family of heaven. Christ
is said to "bring many sons to glory." Men usually adopt but one
heir—but God is resolved to increase his family, he brings many
sons to glory. God's adopting of millions—is the wonder of love. Had but
one been adopted, all of us might have despaired; but he brings many
sons to glory, which opens a door of hope to us.
(6:) That God should confer so great honor upon us, in
adopting us. David thought it no small honor that he should be a
king's son-in-law. But what honor to be the sons of the high God! The more
honor God has put upon us in adopting us, the more he has magnified his love
towards us. What honor—that God has made us so near in alliance to him, sons
of God the Father, members of God the Son, temples of God the Holy Spirit!
that he has made us as the angels; nay, in some sense, superior to the
angels! All this proclaims the wonder of God's love in adopting us.
(7:) See the dreadful condition of such as live and die
in unbelief. They are not the sons of God. "To as many as
received him, he gave power to become the sons of God, even to those who
believe on his name." No faith—no sonship. Unbelievers have no sign of
sonship—they know not God. All God's children know their Father—but the
wicked do not know him. "They proceed from evil to evil, and know not me,
says the Lord." Unbelievers are "dead in trespasses and sins." God has no
dead children; and not being children, they have no right to inherit the
glories of heaven.
Use two: Try whether you are adopted. The
whole world is divided into two classes—the sons of God, and the heirs of
hell. "To them he gave power to become the sons of God." Let us put
ourselves on a trial. It is no sign we are adopted sons, because we are sons
of godly parents. The Jews boasted that they were of Abraham's seed, and
thought they must needs be good, because they came of such a holy line. But
adoption does not come by blood. Many godly parents have wicked sons;
Abraham had an Ishmael; Isaac had an Esau. The corn that is sown pure,
brings forth grain with a husk. Just so, from him who is holy, an
unholy child springs. We are only God's sons by adoption and grace—not as we
are born of godly parents. Well, then, let us test ourselves, to see
if we are the adopted sons and daughters of God.
1. The first sign of adoption is obedience. A
son obeys his father. "I set cups and jugs of wine before them and
invited them to have a drink, but they refused. "No," they said. "We don't
drink wine, because Jehonadab son of Recab, our ancestor, gave us this
command: You and your descendants must never drink wine." Jeremiah 35:5-6.
So, when God says "drink not in sin's enchanted cup," an adopted child says,
"my heavenly Father has commanded me, and I dare not drink." A gracious soul
not only believes God's promise—but obeys his command. True
child-like obedience must be regular, which implies five things:
(1.) It must be done by a right RULE. Obedience must
have the Word of God for its rule. This is the touchstone. "To the law and
to the testimony!" If our obedience is not according to the Word, it is
offering up strange fire; it is will worship; and God will say, "Who has
required this at your hand?" The apostle condemns worshiping of angels,
which had a show of humility. Col 2:18. The Jews might say that they were
reluctant to be so bold as to go to God in their own persons; they would be
more humble, and prostrate themselves before the angels, desiring
them to be their mediators to God. Here was a show of humility in their
angel worship; but it was abominable, because they had no word of God to
warrant it; it was not obedience—but idolatry. Child-like obedience is that
which is consistent with to our Father's revealed will.
(2.) It must be done from a right PRINCIPLE, from the
noble principle of faith. "The obedience of faith." "All acceptable
works proceed from faith," Augustine. A crab-tree may bear fruit fair to the
eye—but it is sour because it does not come from a good root. A moral person
may give God outward obedience, which to the eyes of others may seem
glorious; but his obedience is sour because it comes not from the sweet and
pleasant root of faith. A child of God gives him the obedience of faith, and
that meliorates and sweetens his services, and makes them come off with a
better relish. "By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain."
(3.) It must be done to a right END. The end
determines the value of the deed; the end of obedience is glorifying God.
That which has spoiled many splendid services, is, that the end has been
wrong. "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to
be seen by them. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with
trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to
be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward
in full." Matthew 6:1-2. Good works should shine—but not blaze. "If I give
my body to be burnt, and have not love, it profits me nothing." The same I
must say of a sincere aim; if I obey ever so much, and have not a sincere
aim, it profits me nothing. True obedience looks at God in all things. "That
Christ may be magnified." Though a child of God shoots short—yet he takes a
(4.) True child-like obedience must be UNIFORM. A
child of God makes conscience of one command, as well as another. All things
done for God, are done with equal zeal. All God's commands have the same
stamp of divine authority upon them; and if I obey one precept because my
heavenly Father commands me, by the same rule I must obey all. As the blood
runs through all the veins of the body—just so, true child-like obedience
runs through the first and second table. "I have respect unto all your
commandments." Psalm 119:6. To obey God in some things—and not in others,
shows an unsound heart; like Esau, who obeyed his father in bringing him
venison—but not in a greater matter, as the choice of his wife. Child-like
obedience moves towards every command of God, as the needle points that way
which the loadstone draws. If God call to duties which are cross to flesh
and blood, if we are children, we shall still obey our Father. "I have kept
my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word." Psalm 119:101.
But who can obey God in all things?
Though an adopted heir of heaven cannot obey every
precept perfectly—yet he does evangelically. He approves of every command.
"I consent to the law, that it is good." Rom 7:16. He delights in every
command. "O how love I your law!" Psalm 119:97. His desire is to obey every
command. "Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!" Psalm
119:5. Wherein he comes short, he looks up to Christ's blood to supply his
defects. This is evangelical obedience; which, though we are not satisfied
with it, God accepts it.
(5.) True childlike obedience is constant. "Blessed
is he who does righteousness at all times." Child-like obedience is not
fitful—but abides; and like the fire on the altar, which was kept always
burning. Lev 6:13.
2. The second sign of adoption is to love to be in our
Father's presence. The child who loves his father is never so
well as when he is near him. Are we children? We love the presence of God in
his ordinances. In prayer we speak to God, in the preaching of
his word he speaks to us; and how does every child of God delight to hear
his Father's voice! "O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul
thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there
is no water." Psalm 63:1, 2. Such as disregard ordinances are not God's
children, because they care not to be in God's presence. "Cain went out from
the presence of the Lord." Gen 4:16. Not that he could go out of God's
sight—but the meaning is, "Cain went out from the church and people of God,
where the Lord gave visible tokens of his presence."
3. The third sign of adoption is to have the guidance of
God's Spirit. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are
the sons of God." Rom 8:14. It is not enough that the child have life—but it
must be led every step by the nurse. Just so, the adopted child must not
only be born of God—but have the anointing of the Spirit to lead him in a
course of holiness. "I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their
arms." As Israel was led by the pillar of fire, so God's children are led by
the Spirit. The adopted ones need God's Spirit to lead them, since they are
apt to go wrong. The fleshy part inclines to sin; the understanding and
conscience are to guide the will—but the will is imperious and rebels;
therefore, God's children need the Spirit to check corruption and lead them
in the right way. As wicked men are led by the evil spirit—the spirit
of Satan led Herod to incest, Ahab to murder, Judas to
treason; just so, the good Spirit leads God's children into virtuous
But enthusiasts pretend to be led by the Spirit, when it
is a delusion.
The Spirit's guidance is agreeable to the Word;
enthusiasts leave the Word. "Your Word is truth." "The Spirit guides into
all truth." The Word's teaching and the Spirit's leading agree
4. The fourth sign is, that if we are adopted we have an
entire love to all God's children. "Love the brotherhood." We
bear affection to God's children, though they have some infirmities. There
are spots in God's children; Deut 32:5; but we must love the beautiful face
of holiness, though it has a scar in it. If we are adopted, we love the good
we see in God's children—we admire their graces, we pass by their
imprudences. If we cannot love them because they have some failings, how
do we think God can love us? Can we plead exemption? By these signs we know
Use three: Rejoice in the BENEFITS of adoption.
What are the benefits which accrue to God's children?
(1.) They have great privileges. King's
children have great privileges and freedoms. They do not pay custom. Matt
17:25. God's children are privileged people, they are privileged from the
hurt of everything. "Nothing shall by any means hurt you." Luke 10:19.
Hit you it may—but not hurt you. "There shall no evil
befall you." Psalm 91:10. God does not promise that no affliction
shall befall his children—but no evil; the hurt and poison of
affliction is taken away. Affliction to a wicked man has evil in it, it
makes him worse; it makes him curse and blaspheme. "Men were scorched with
great heat, and blasphemed the name of God." But no evil befalls a child of
God; he is bettered by affliction. Heb 12:10. The furnace makes gold purer.
Again, no evil befalls the adopted, because no
condemnation. "It is God who justifies; who is he who condemns?" What a
blessed privilege is this, to be freed from the sting of affliction,
and the curse of the law! to be in such a condition that nothing can hurt
us! It is fabled—when the dragon has poisoned the water, the unicorn with
his horn extracts and draws out the poison. Just so, Jesus Christ has drawn
out the poison of every affliction, that it cannot injure the saints.
(2.) The second benefit, if we are adopted, is that we
have an interest in all the promises. The promises are children's
bread. "Believers are heirs of the promises." The promises are sure.
God's truth, which is the brightest pearl in his crown, is pawned in a
promise. The promises are suitable, like a medical garden, in which
there is no disease but there is some herb to cure it. In the dark night of
desertion, God has promised to be a sun; in temptation, to tread down Satan.
Rom 16:20. Does sin prevail? He has promised to take away its kingly power.
Rom 6:14. Oh the heavenly comforts which are distilled from the promises!
But who has a right to these? Believers alone, are heirs of the promise.
There is not a promise in the Bible but a believer may say, "This is mine!"
Use four: Extol and magnify God's mercy, who has adopted
you into his family! They were slaves of Satan—but God has made
them his sons! They were heirs of hell—but God has made them heirs of the
kingdom! Adoption is a free gift. He gave them power, or dignity, to become
the sons of God. As a thread of silver runs through a whole piece of work,
so free grace runs through the whole privilege of adoption. Adoption is a
greater mercy than Adam had in paradise; he was a son by creation—but
here is a further sonship by adoption. To make us thankful consider,
in civil adoption there is some worth and excellence in the person to be
adopted; but there was no worth in us, neither beauty, nor parentage, nor
virtue; nothing in us to move God to bestow the prerogative of sonship upon
us. We have enough in us to move God to correct us—but nothing to
move him to adopt us, therefore exalt free grace; begin the work of
angels here; bless him with your praises, who has blessed you in making you
his sons and daughters.