Thomas Watson, 1660
An exposition of Matthew 5:1-12
"Blessed are the peacemakers." Matthew 5:9
This is the seventh step of the golden ladder which leads
to blessedness. The name of peace is sweet, and the work of
peace is a blessed work. 'Blessed are the peacemakers'.
Observe the connection. The Scripture links these two
together, pureness of heart and peaceableness of spirit. 'The wisdom from
above is first pure, then peaceable' (James 3:17). 'Follow peace and
holiness' (Hebrews 12:14). And here Christ joins them together 'pure in
heart, and 'peacemakers', as if there could be no purity where there is not
a study of peace. That religion is suspicious which is full of faction and
In the words there are three parts:
1. A duty implied, namely—Peaceable-mindedness.
2. A duty expressed—to be peacemakers.
3. A title of honor bestowed—'They shall be called the
children of God'.
1. The duty implied, 'peaceable-mindedness'.
For before men can make peace among others, they must be of peaceable
spirits themselves. Before they can be promoters of peace, they must be
lovers of peace.
Christians must be peaceable-minded. This peaceableness
of spirit is the beauty of a saint. It is a jewel of great price: 'The
ornament of a quiet spirit which is in the sight of God of great price' (1
Peter 3:4). The saints are Christ's sheep (John 10:27). The sheep is
a peaceable creature. They are Christ's doves (Canticles 2:14),
therefore they must be without gall. It becomes not Christians to be
Ishmaels but Solomons. Though they must be lions for courage—yet
lambs for peaceableness. God was not in the earthquake, nor in the
fire—but in the 'still small voice' (1 Kings 19:12). God is not in the rough
fiery spirit, but in the peaceable spirit.
There is a fourfold peace that we must study and cherish.
 There is a home peace—peace in families.
It is called 'the bond of peace' (Ephesians 4:3). Without this all drops in
pieces. Peace is a belt which ties together members in a family. It is a
golden clasp which knits them together, so that they do not fall in pieces.
We should endeavor that our houses should be 'houses of peace'. It is not
the beauty of the rooms which makes a house pleasant—but peaceableness of
dispositions. There can be no comfortableness in our dwellings, until peace
is the atmosphere of our houses.
 There is a town peace—when there is a sweet
harmony, a tuning and chiming together of affections in a town; when all
draw one way and, as the apostle says, are 'perfectly joined together in the
same mind' (1 Corinthians 1:10). One jarring string brings all the music out
of tune. One bad member in a town endangers the whole. 'Be at peace among
yourselves' (1 Thessalonians 5:13). It is little comfort to have our houses
joined together if our hearts be asunder.
 There is a political peace—peace in a nation.
This is the fairest flower of a prince's crown. Peace is the best blessing
of a nation. It is well with bees when there is a noise; but it is best with
Christians when (as in the building of the Temple) there is no noise of
hammer heard. Peace brings plenty along with it. How many miles would some
go on pilgrimage to purchase this peace! Political plants thrive best in the
sunshine of peace. 'He makes peace in your borders, and fills you with the
finest of the wheat' (Psalm 147:14). 'Peace makes all things flourish'.
The ancients made the harp the emblem of peace. How sweet
would the sounding of this harp be, after the roaring of the cannon! All
should study to promote this political peace. The godly man when he dies
'enters into peace' (Isaiah 57:2). But while he lives peace must enter into
 There is an ecclesiastical peace—a
church-peace, when there is unity and verity in the church of God. Never
does religion flourish more, than when her children spread themselves as
olive-plants round about her table. Unity in faith and conduct is a mercy we
cannot prize enough. This is that which God has promised (Jeremiah 32:39)
and which we should pursue (Zechariah 8:18-23). Ambrose says of Theodosius
the Emperor, that when he lay sick he took more care for the Church's peace
than for his own recovery.
The reasons why we should be peaceable-minded are two:
First, we are called to peace (1 Corinthians 7:15). God
never called any man to division. That is a reason why we should not be
given to strife, because we have no call for it. But God has called us to
Second, it is the nature of grace to change the heart and
make it peaceable. By nature we are of a fierce cruel disposition. When God
cursed the ground for man's sake, the curse was that it should bring forth
'thorns and thistles' (Genesis 3:18). The heart of man naturally lies under
this curse. It brings forth nothing but the thistles of strife and
contention. But when grace comes into the heart, it makes it peaceable. It
infuses a sweet, loving disposition. It smoothes and polishes the most
knotty piece. It files off the ruggedness in men's spirits. Grace turns the
vulture into a dove, the briar into a myrtle tree (Isaiah 55:13), the
lion-like fierceness into a lamb-like gentleness. 'In that day the wolf and
the lamb will live together' (Isaiah 11:6-9). It is spoken of the power
which the gospel shall have upon men's hearts; it shall make such a
metamorphosis that those who before were full of rage and hatred, shall now
be made peaceable and gentle. 'Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy
It shows us the character of a true saint. He is given to
peace. He is the keeper of the peace. He is 'a son of peace'.
Caution: Not but that a man may be of a peaceable
spirit—yet seek to recover that which is his due. If peace has been
otherwise sought and cannot be attained, a man may go to law and yet be a
peaceable man. It is with going to law as it is with going to war, when the
rights of a nation are invaded (as 2. Chronicles 20:2, 3), and peace can be
purchased by no other means than war; here it is lawful to beat the
ploughshare into a sword. So when there is no other way of recovering one's
right but by going to law, a man may commence a suit in law yet be of a
peaceable spirit. Going to law (in this case) is not so much striving with
another—as contending for a man's own. It is not to do another wrong—but to
do himself right. It is a desire rather of equity than victory. I say as the
apostle, 'the law is good if a man uses it lawfully' (1 Timothy 1:8).
You may ask, Is all peace to be sought? how far is peace
lawful? I answer, Peace with men must have this double limitation:
1. The peace a godly man seeks is not to have a league of
amity with sinners. Though we are to be at peace with their
persons—yet we are to have war with their sins. We are to have peace with
their persons as they are made in God's image—but to have war with their
sins as they have made themselves in the devil's image. David was for peace
(Psalm 120:7)—but he would not sit on the ale-bench with sinners (Psalm
26:4, 5). Grace teaches kindness. We are to be civil to the worst—but
not twist into a cord of friendship. That were to be 'brethren in
iniquity'. 'Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness'
(Ephesians 5:11). Jehoshaphat (though a good man) was blamed for this:
'Should you help the ungodly and love those who hate the Lord?' (2
Chronicles 19:2). The fault was not that he entertained civil peace with
Ahab—but that he had a league of friendship and was assistant to Ahab when
he went contrary to God. 'Therefore was wrath upon Jehoshaphat from before
the Lord' (verse 2). We must not so far have peace with others, as to
endanger ourselves. If a man has the plague, we will be helpful to him and
send him our best remedies—but we are careful not to have too much of his
company or suck in his infectious breath. So we may be peaceable towards
all, and helpful to all. Pray for them, counsel them, relieve them—but let
us take heed of too much familiarity, lest we suck in their infection. In
short we must so make peace with men that we do not break our peace with
conscience. 'Follow peace and holiness' (Hebrews 12:14). We must not
purchase peace with the loss of holiness.
2. We must not so seek peace with others as to wrong
truth. 'Buy the truth—and sell it not' (Proverbs 23:23). Peace
must not be bought with the sale of truth. Truth is the ground of faith, and
the rule of life. Truth is the most orient gem of the churches' crown. Truth
is a deposit, or charge that God has entrusted us with. We trust God with
our souls. He trusts us with his truths. We must not let any of God's truths
fall to the ground. Luther says, 'It is better that the heavens fall—than
one crumb of truth perish.' The least filings of this gold are precious. We
must not so seek the flower of peace—as to lose the diamond of
We ought not to unite with error. 'What communion has
light with darkness?' (2 Corinthians 6:14). There are many who would have
peace, by the destroying of truth; peace with Arminian, Socinian, and other
heretics. This is a peace of the devil's making. Cursed be that peace which
makes war with the Prince of peace. Though we must be peaceable—yet we are
bid to 'contend for the faith' (Jude 3). We must not be so in love with the
golden crown of peace, as to pluck off the jewels of truth. Rather let peace
go—than truth. The martyrs would rather lose their lives—than let go the
If Christians must be peaceable-minded, what shall we say
to those who are given to strife and contention? To those who, like flax or
gunpowder, if they be but touched, are all on fire? How far is this from the
spirit of the gospel! It is made the note of the wicked. 'They are like the
troubled sea' (Isaiah 57:20). There is no rest or quietness in their
spirits—but they are continually casting forth the foam of passion and fury.
We may with Strigelius wish even to die to be freed from the bitter strifes
which are among us. There are too many who live in the fire of broils and
contentions. 'If you have bitter envying and strife, this wisdom descends
not from above—but is devilish' (James 3:14, 15). The lustful man is
brutish; the wrathful man is devilish. Everyone is afraid to dwell in
a house which is haunted with evil spirits—yet how little afraid are men of
their own hearts, which are haunted with the evil spirit of wrath and anger.
And then, which is much to be laid to heart, there are
the divisions of God's people. God's own tribes go to war with each other.
In Tertullian's time it was said, 'See how the Christians love one another.'
But now it may be said, 'See how the Christians snarl one at another, They
are like ferocious bears!' Wicked men agree together, when those who pretend
to be led by higher principles are full of animosities and heart-burnings.
Was it not sad to see Herod and Pilate uniting, and to see Paul and Barnabas
arguing? (Acts 15:39). When the disciples called for fire from heaven, 'You
know not (says Christ) what manner of spirit you are of' (Luke 9:55). As if
the Lord had said, This fire you call for is not zeal—but is the wildfire of
your own passions. This spirit of yours does not suit with the Master you
serve, the Prince of peace, nor with the work I am sending you about, which
is an mission of peace. It is Satan who kindles the fire of contention in
men's hearts—and then stands and warms himself at the fire! When men's
spirits begin to bluster and storm, the devil has conjured up these winds.
Discords and animosities among Christians bring their godliness much into
question, for 'the wisdom which is from above is peaceable, gentle, and easy
to be entreated' (James 3:17).
Be of a peaceable disposition. 'If it be possible, as
much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men' (Romans 12:18). The
curtains of the tabernacle were to be looped together (Exodus 26:3, 4). So
should the hearts of Christians be looped together in peace and unity. That
I may persuade to peaceable-mindedness,
let me speak both to reason and conscience.
1. A peaceable spirit seems to be agreeable to the
natural frame and constitution. Man by nature seems to be a
peaceable creature, fitter to handle the plough than the sword. Other
creatures are naturally armed with some kind of weapon with which they are
able to revenge themselves. The lion has his paw, the boar his tusk, the bee
his sting. Only man has none of these weapons. He comes naked and unarmed
into the world as if God would have him a peaceable creature. 'White-robed
peace is befitting to men, fierce anger is fitting for wild beasts.' Man has
his reason given him—that he should live amiably and peaceably.
2. A peaceable spirit is honorable. 'It is a
honor for a man to cease from strife' (Proverbs 20:3). We think it a brave
thing to give way to strife and let loose the reins to our passions. Oh no,
'it is a honor to cease from strife'. Noble spirits are lovers of peace. It
is the bramble which rends and tears whatever is near it. The cedar and
fig-tree, those more noble plants, grow pleasantly and peaceably.
Peaceableness is the ensign and ornament of a noble mind.
3. To be of a peaceable spirit is wise. 'The
wisdom from above is peaceable' (James 3:17). A wise man will not meddle
with strife. It is like putting one's finger into a hornets nest; or to use
Solomon's similitude, 'The beginning of strife is as when one lets out
water' (Proverbs 17:14). To set out the folly of strife, it is as letting
out of water in two respects:
 When water begins to be let out, there is no end
of it. So there is no end of strife when once begun.
 The letting out of water is dangerous. If a
man should break down a bank and let in the sea, the water might overflow
his fields and drown him in the flood. So is he who intermeddles with
strife. He may harm himself and open such a sluice as may engulf and swallow
him up. True wisdom espouses peace. A prudent man will keep off from the
briars as much as he can.
4. To be of a peaceable spirit brings peace along with
it. A contentious person vexes himself and eclipses his own
comfort. He is like the bird which beats itself against the cage. 'A kind
man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings trouble on himself' (Proverbs
11:17). He is just like one who pares off the sweet of the apple and eats
nothing but the core. So a quarrelsome man pares off all the comfort of his
life and feeds only upon the bitter core of trouble. He is a self-tormentor.
The wicked are compared to a 'troubled sea' (Isaiah 57:20). And it follows
'there is no peace to the wicked' (verse 21). The Septuagint renders it
'There is no joy to the wicked'. Angry people do not enjoy what they
possess—but peaceableness of spirit brings the sweet music of peace along
with it. It makes a calm and harmony in the soul. Therefore the psalmist
says, it is not only good—but pleasant, to live together in unity
5. A peaceable disposition is a Godlike disposition.
God the Father is called 'the God of peace'
(Hebrews 13:20). Mercy and peace surround his throne. He signs the articles
of peace and sends the ambassadors of peace to publish them (2 Corinthians
God the Son is called 'the Prince of peace'
(Isaiah 9:6). His name is Emmanuel, God with us, a name of peace. His
office is to be a mediator of peace (1 Timothy 2:5). He came into the world
with a song of peace; the angels sang it: 'Peace on earth' (Luke 2:14). He
went out of the world with a legacy of peace: 'Peace I leave with you, my
peace I give unto you' (John 14:27).
God the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of peace. He is
the Comforter. He seals up peace (2 Corinthians 1:22). This blessed dove
brings the olive-branch of peace in his mouth. A peaceable disposition
evidences something of God in a man. Therefore God loves to dwell there. 'In
Salem is God's tabernacle' (Psalm 76:2). Salem signifies 'peace'. God
dwells in a peaceable spirit.
6. Christ's earnest prayer was for peace. He
prayed that his people might be one (John 17:11, 21, 23), that they might be
of one mind and heart. And observe the argument Christ uses in prayer [it is
good to use arguments in prayer. They are as the feathers to the arrow,
which make it fly swifter, and pierce deeper. Affections in prayer are as
the powder in the gun; arguments in prayer are as the bullet]. The argument
Christ urges to his Father is 'that they may be one, even as we are one'
(verse 22). There was never any discord between the Father and Christ.
Though God parted with Christ out of his bosom—yet not out of his heart.
There was ever dearness and oneness between them. Now Christ prays that, as
he and his Father were one, so his people might be all one in peace and
concord. Did Christ pray so earnestly for peace, and shall not we endeavor
what in us lies to fulfill Christ's prayer? How do we think Christ will hear
our prayer, if we cross his prayer?
7. Christ not only prayed for peace—but bled for it.
'Having made peace through the blood of his cross' (Colossians 1:20).
Peace of all kinds! He died not only to make peace between God and man—but
between man and man. Christ suffered on the cross that he might cement
Christians together with his blood. As he prayed for peace—so he
paid for peace. Christ was himself bound—to bring us into the 'bond of
8. Strife and contention hinder the growth of grace.
Can good seed grow in a ground where there is nothing but thorns and briars
to be seen? 'The thorns choked the seed' (Matthew 13:7). When the heart is,
as it were, stuck with thorns and is ever tearing and rending, can the seed
of grace ever grow there? Historians report of the Isle of Patmos that its
natural soil is such that nothing will grow upon that ground. A froward
heart is like the Isle of Patmos. Nothing of grace will grow there—until God
changes the soil and makes it peaceable. How can faith grow in an
unpeaceable heart? For 'faith works by love'. It is impossible that he
should bring forth the sweet fruits of the Spirit, who is 'in the gall of
bitterness'. If a man has received poison into his body, the most excellent
food will not nourish until he takes some antidote to expel that poison.
Many come to the ordinances, but being poisoned with wrath and animosity
they receive no spiritual nourishment. Christ's body mystical 'builds itself
up in love' (Ephesians 4:16). There may be praying and hearing—but no
spiritual growth, no edifying of the body of Christ—without love and peace.
9. Peaceableness among Christians is a powerful loadstone
to draw the world to receive Christ. Not only gifts and miracles
and preaching may persuade men to embrace the truth of the gospel—but peace
and unity among its professors. When as there is one God and one faith, so
there is one heart among Christians—this is as bird-seed, which makes
the doves flock to the windows. The temple was adorned with 'goodly stones'
(Luke 21:5). This makes Christ's spiritual temple look beautiful, and the
stones of it appear goodly, when they are cemented together in peace and
10. Unpeaceableness of spirit is to make professors turn
heathens. It is the sin of the heathens to be 'implacable'
(Romans 1:31). They cannot be pacified. Their hearts are like adamant. No
oil can supple them; no fire can melt them. It is a heathenish thing to be
so fierce and violent, as if with Romulus men had sucked the milk of wolves!
11. To add yet more weight to the exhortation, it is the
mind of Christ that we should live in peace. 'Have peace one with
another' (Mark 9:50). Shall we not be at peace for Christ's sake? If we
ought to lay down our life for Christ's sake, shall we not lay down our
strife for his sake?
To conclude: If we will neither be under counsels nor
commands—but still feed the vile disposition, nourishing in ourselves a
spirit of dissension and unpeaceableness—then Jesus Christ will never come
near us. The people of God are said to be his house: 'Whose house are we . .
.' (Hebrews 3:6). When the hearts of Christians are a spiritual house,
adorned with the furniture of peace, then they are fit for the Prince of
peace to inhabit. But when this pleasant furniture is lacking and instead of
it nothing but strife and debate, Christ will not own it for his house, nor
will he grace it with his presence. Who will dwell in a house which is all
How shall we attain to peaceableness?
1. Take heed of those things which will hinder peace.
There are several impediments of peace which we must beware of, and
they are either outward or inward.
Take heed of OUTWARD destroyers to peace. Such
as whisperers (Romans 1:29). There are some who will be buzzing things in
our ears purposely to exasperate and provoke us. Among these we may rank
talebearers (Leviticus 19:16). The talebearer carries reports up and down.
The devil sends his letters by this post! The talebearer is an incendiary.
He blows the coals of contention. 'Did you hear' (says he) 'what such a one
says of you? Will you put up with such a wrong? Will you allow yourself to
be so abused?' Thus does he, by throwing in his fireballs, foment
differences and set men against each other. We are commanded indeed to
provoke one another to love (Hebrews 10:24)—but nowhere to provoke to
anger. We should stop our ears to such people, as are known to come
on the devil's errand.
Take heed of INWARD destroyers to peace. For
 Self-love. 'Men shall be lovers of
themselves' (2 Timothy 3:2). And it follows they shall be 'fierce'
(verse 3). The setting up of this idol of self has caused so many
lawsuits, plunders, massacres in the world. 'All seek their own interests'
(Philippians 2:21). Nay, it were well if they would seek but their own
interests. Self-love angles away the estates of others, either by force or
fraud. Self-love is a bird of prey which lives upon rapine. Self-love cuts
asunder the bond of peace. We Christians must lay aside self! Even some
heathen could say 'We are not born for ourselves alone'.
 Pride. 'He who is of a proud heart, stirs
up strife' (Proverbs 28:25). Pride and contention are twins—born at the same
time. A proud man thinks himself better than others, and will contend for
superiority. 'Diotrephes, who loves to have the pre-eminence' (3. John 9). A
proud man would have all strike sail to him. Because Mordecai would not bow
to Haman—he gets a bloody warrant signed for the death of all the Jews
(Esther 3:9). What made all the strife between Pompey and Caesar, but pride?
They were too proud to yield one to another. When this wind of pride gets
into a man's heart, it causes sad earthquakes of division. The poets feign
that when Pandora's box was broken open, it filled the world with diseases.
When Adam's pride had broken the box of original righteousness it has ever
since filled the world with debates and dissensions! Let us shake off
this viper of pride! Humility solders Christians together in peace.
 Envy. Envy stirs up strife. The apostle
has linked them together. 'Envy, strife' (1 Timothy 6:4). Envy cannot endure
a superior. An envious man seeing another to have a fuller crop, a better
trade, is ready to pick a quarrel with him. 'Who can stand before envy?'
(Proverbs 27:4). Envy is a vermin which lives on blood. Take heed of it.
Peace will not dwell with this vile inmate.
 Credulity. 'The simple believes every
word' (Proverbs 14:15). A credulous man is akin to a fool. He believes all
that is told him and this often creates differences. As it is a sin to be a
talebearer, so it is a folly to be a tale-believer. A wise man will not take
a report at the first hearing—but will sift and examine it before he gives
credit to it.
2. Let us labor for those things which will maintain and
 Faith. Faith and peace keep house
together. Faith believes the Word of God. The Word says, 'Live in peace' (2
Corinthians 13:11). And as soon as faith sees the King of heaven's warrant,
it obeys. Faith persuades the soul that God is at peace, and it is
impossible to believe this and live in disagreement. Nourish faith. Faith
knits us to God in love, and to our brethren in peace.
 Christian communion. There should be much
familiarity among Christians. The primitive saints had their 'agape meals'
that is, love-feasts. The apostle exhorting to peace brings this as an
expedient: 'Be kind one to another' (Ephesians 4:32).
 Do not look upon the failings of others—but
upon their graces. There is no perfection here on earth.
We read of the 'spots of God's children' (Deuteronomy 32:5). The most
golden Christians are some grains too light. Oh, let us not so quarrel
with the infirmities of others—as to pass by their virtues. If in some
things they fail, in other things they excel. It is the manner of the world
to look more upon the sun in an eclipse—than when it shines in its full
 Pray to God that he will send down the Spirit of
peace into our hearts. We should not as vultures, prey
upon one another—but pray for one another. Pray that God will
quench the fire of contention, and kindle the fire of compassion
in our hearts one to another. So much for the first thing in the text
implied, that Christians should be peaceable-MINDED.
I proceed to the second thing expressed, that
Christians should be peace-MAKERS.
All Christians ought to be peacemakers; they should not
only be peaceable themselves—but make others to be at peace. As in the body
when a joint is out—we set it again, so it should be in the body of Christ.
When a garment is torn—we sew it together again. When others are rent
asunder in their affections—we should with a spirit of meekness sew them
together again. Had we this excellent skill we might glue and unite
dissenting hearts. I confess it is often a thankless office to go about to
reconcile differences (Acts 7:27). Handle a briar ever so gently—and
it may scratch! He who goes to interpose between two brawlers, many times
receives the blow. But this duty, though it may lacks success as from men—yet
it shall not lack a blessing from God. 'Blessed are the peacemakers.'
O how happy were England, if it had more peacemakers! Abraham was a
peacemaker (Genesis 13:8). Moses was a peacemaker (Exodus 2:13).
Constantine, when he called the bishops together at that first Council of
Nicaea to end church controversies, they having prepared bitter invectives
and accusations one against another, Constantine took their papers and rent
them, gravely exhorting them to peace and unanimity.
It sharply reproves those who are so far from being peacemakers
that they are peace-breakers. If 'blessed are the
peacemakers', then cursed are the peace-breakers. If peacemakers are
the children of God, then peace-breakers are the children of the devil.
Heretics destroy the truth of the church by error, and schismatics
destroy the peace of it by division. The apostle sets a brand upon such.
'Mark those who cause divisions—and avoid them' (Romans 16:17). Have no more
to do with them than with witches or murderers. The devil was the first
peace-breaker. He divided man from God. There are too many in England whose
sweetest music is in discord, who never unite but to divide. How many in our
days may be compared to Samson's foxtails, which were tied together only to
set the Philistines' grain on fire! (Judges 15:4, 5). Sectaries unite to set
the church's peace on fire. These are the people God's soul hates—'Sowers of
discord among brethren' (Proverbs 6:19). These are the children of a curse:
'Cursed be he who smites his neighbor secretly' (Deuteronomy 27:24), that
is, who backbites and so sets one friend against another. If there be a
devil in man's shape, it is the incendiary schismatic.
The text exhorts to two things:
1. Let us take up a bitter lamentation for the divisions
of England. The wild beast has broken down the hedge of our
peace. We are like a house falling to ruin, if the Lord does not mercifully
under-prop and shore us up. Will not a sincere child grieve to see his
mother rent and torn in pieces? It is reported of Cato that from the time
the civil wars began in Rome, that he was never seen to laugh. That our
hearts may be sadly affected with these our church and state divisions let
us consider the great harm of divisions.
 They are a prognostic of much evil to a nation. Here
that rule in philosophy holds true, 'All division tends to destruction'.
When the veil of the temple was rent in pieces, it was a sad omen and
forerunner of the destruction of the temple. The rending the veil of the
church's peace betokens the ruin of it. Josephus observes that the city of
Jerusalem when it was besieged by Titus Vespasian had three great factions
in it, which destroyed more than the enemy and was the occasion of the
taking it. How fatal internal divisions have been to this land! How is the
bond of peace broken! We have so many schisms and are run into so many
different churches, that God may justly un-church us, as he did Asia.
 It may afflict us to see the garment of the church's
peace rent, because divisions bring infamy and scandal upon religion. These
make the ways of God to be evil spoken of—as if religion itself, were the
fomenter of strife and sedition. Julian, in his invective against the
Christians, said that they lived together as tigers rending and devouring
one an other. And shall we make good Julian's words? It is unfitting to see
Christ's doves fighting; to see his lily become a bramble.
Alexander Severus, seeing two Christians contending, commanded them that
they should not take the name of Christians any longer upon them, for (says
he) you dishonor your Master Christ. Let men either lay down their
contentions, or lay off the coat of their profession.
 Divisions obstruct the progress of piety. The gospel
seldom thrives where the weed of strife grows. The building of God's
spiritual temple is hindered by the confusion of tongues. Division
eats as a worm and destroys the 'peaceable fruits of righteousness' (Hebrews
12:11). In the Church of Corinth, when they began to divide into parties,
one was for Paul, another for Apollos; there were but few for Christ.
Confident I am, that England's divisions have made many turn atheists.
2. Let us labor to heal differences, and be repairers of
breaches. 'Blessed are the peacemakers.' Jesus Christ was a great
peacemaker. He took a long journey from heaven to earth to make peace. Peace
and unity are a great means for the corroborating and strengthening the
church of God. The saints are compared to living stones, built up for a
spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5). You know the stones help to preserve and bear
up one another. If the stones become loosened and drop out, all the house
falls in pieces. When the Christians in the primitive church were of one
heart (Acts 4:32) what a supporting was this! How did they counsel, comfort,
build up one another in their holy faith! We see while the members of the
body are united, so long they do administer help and nourishment one to
another; but if they are divided and broken off, they are in no way
useful—but the body languishes. Therefore let us endeavor to be peacemakers.
The church's unity tends much to her stability.
Peace makes the church of God on earth, in some measure like the church in
heaven. The cherubim (representing the angels) are set out with their faces
'looking one upon another' to show their peace and unity. There are no
jarrings or discords among the heavenly spirits. One angel is not of an
opinion differing from another. Though they have different orders, they are
not of different spirits. They are seraphim, therefore burn, not in heat of
contention—but in love. The angels serve God not only with pure
hearts—but united hearts. By a harmonious peace, we would resemble
the church triumphant.
He who sows peace shall reap peace. 'To the counselors of
peace is joy' (Proverbs 12:20). The peacemaker shall have peace with God,
peace in his own bosom, and that is the sweetest music which is made in a
man's own breast. He shall have peace with others. The hearts of all shall
be united to him. All shall honor him. He shall be called 'the repairer of
the breach' (Isaiah 58:12). To conclude, the peacemaker shall die in peace.
He shall carry a good conscience with him and leave a good name behind him.
So I have done with the first part of the text 'Blessed are the
peacemakers'. I proceed to the next part.
"They shall be called the children of God." Matthew 5:9
In these words the glorious privilege of the saints is
set down. Those who have made their peace with God and labor to make peace
among brethren, this is the great honor conferred upon them, 'They shall be
called the children of God'.
'They shall be called', that is, they shall be so
reputed and esteemed by God. God never miscalls anything. He does not call
them children—who are not children. 'You shall be called the prophet of the
Highest' (Luke 1:76), that is, you shall be so. They shall be 'called the
children of God', that is, they shall be accounted and admitted for
The proposition resulting is this: that peacemakers are
the children of the most High. God is said in Scripture to have many
By eternal generation. Christ alone, is the natural Son
of his Father. 'You are my Son—this day have I begotten you' (Psalm 2:7).
By creation. So the angels are the sons of God. 'When the
morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy' (Job
By participation of dignity. So king and rulers are said
to be children of the high God. 'All of you are children of the most High'
By visible profession. So God has many children.
Hypocrites forge a title of sonship. 'The sons of God saw the daughters of
men that they were fair' (Genesis 6:2).
By real sanctification. So all the faithful are
peculiarly and eminently the children of God.
That I may illustrate and amplify this, and that
believers may suck much sweetness out of this gospel-flower, I shall discuss
and demonstrate these seven particulars:
1. That naturally we are not the children of God.
2. What it is to be the children of God.
3. How we come to be made children.
4. The signs of God's children.
5. The love of God in making us children.
6. The honor of God's children.
7. The privileges of God's children.
1. Naturally we are not the children of God.
As Jerome says, we are not born God's children but made so. By nature we are
strangers to God, swine not sons (2 Peter 2:22). Will a man settle his
estate upon his swine? He will give them his acorns, not his jewels. By
nature we have the devil for our father: 'You are of your father the devil
(John 8:44). A wicked man may search the records of hell for his pedigree.
2. What it is to be the children of God. This
child-ship consists in two things. Adoption; infusion of grace.
Child-ship consists in ADOPTION: 'That we
might receive the adoption of sons' (Galatians 4:5).
Wherein does the true nature of adoption consist? In
 A transition or translation from one family to
another. He who is adopted is taken out of the old family of the devil
and hell (Ephesians 2:2, 3), and is made of the family of heaven, of a noble
family (Ephesians 2:19). God is his Father, Christ is his elder-brother, the
saints co-heir, the angels fellow-servants in that family.
 Adoption consists in an immunity and disobligement
from all the laws of the former family. 'Forget also your father's
house' (Psalm 45:10). He who is spiritually adopted has now no more to do
with sin. 'Ephraim shall say, what have I to do any more with idols?' (Hosea
14:8). A child of God has indeed to do with sin as with an enemy to
which he gives battle—but not as with a master to which he yields
obedience. He is freed from sin (Romans 6:7). I do not say he is freed from
duty. Was it ever heard that a child should be freed from duty to his
parents? This is such a freedom as rebels take.
 Adoption consists in a legal investiture into the
rights and royalties of the family into which the person is to be adopted.
These are chiefly two:
The first royalty is a new name. He who is divinely
adopted assumes a new name; before—a slave; now—a son; before—a sinner;
now—a saint. This is a name of honor better than any title of prince or
monarch. 'To him that overcomes I will give a white stone, and in the stone
a new name written' (Revelation 2:17). The white stone signifies remission.
The new name signifies adoption, and the new name is put in the white stone
to show that our adoption is grounded upon our justification; and this new
name is written to show that God has all the names of his children enrolled
in the book of life.
The second royalty is a giving the party adopted an
interest in the inheritance. The making one a heir, implies a
relation to an inheritance. A man does not adopt another to a title
but to an estate. So God in adopting us for his children gives us a glorious
inheritance: 'The inheritance of the saints in light' (Colossians 1:12).
It is pleasant; it is an inheritance in light.
It is safe; God keeps the inheritance for his children (1
Peter 1:4), and keeps them for the inheritance (1 Peter 1:5), so that they
cannot be hindered from taking possession.
There is no disinheriting, for the saints are co-heirs
with Christ (Romans 8:17). Nay, they are members of Christ (Colossians
1:18). Until Christ is disinherited, his members cannot be disinherited.
The heirs never die. Eternity is a jewel of their
crown. 'They shall reign forever and ever' (Revelation 22:5).
Before I pass to the next, here a question may arise. How
do God's adopting, and man's adopting differ?
1. Man adopts to supply a defect, because he has no
children of his own—but God does not adopt upon this account. He had a Son
of his own, the Lord Jesus. He was his natural Son and the Son of his love,
testified by a voice from heaven, 'This is my beloved Son' (Matthew 3:17).
Never was there any Son so like the Father. He was his exact image, 'the
express image of his person' (Hebrews 1:3). He was such a Son as was worth
more than all the angels in heaven: 'Being made so much better than the
angels' (Hebrews 1:4); so that God adopts not out of necessity—but
2. When a man adopts, he adopts but one heir—but God
adopts many: 'In bringing many sons to glory' (Hebrews 2:10). Oh may
a poor trembling Christian say, Why should I ever look for this privilege to
be a child of God! It is true, if God did act as a man, if he adopted only
one son, then you might despair. But he adopts millions. He brings 'many
sons to glory'. Indeed this may be the reason why a man adopts but one,
because he does not have enough estate for more. If he should adopt many,
his land would not hold out. But God has enough land to give to all his
children. 'In my Father's house are many mansions' (John 14:2).
3. Man when he adopts, does it with ease. It is but
sealing a deed and the thing is done. But when God adopts, it puts him to a
far greater expense. It sets his wisdom on work to find out a way to adopt
us. It was no easy thing to reconcile hell and heaven, to make the children
of wrath, into the children of the promise; and when God in his infinite
wisdom had found out a way, it was no easy way. It cost God the death of his
natural Son, to make us his adopted sons. When God was about to constitute
us sons and heirs, he could not seal the deed but by the blood of his own
Son. It did not cost God as much to make us creatures, as to make us sons.
To make us creatures cost but the speaking of a word. To make us sons cost
the effusion of blood!
4. Man, when he adopts, settles earthly privileges
upon his heir—but God settles heavenly privileges, such as
justification and glorification. Men but entail their land upon the people
they adopt. God does more. He not only entails his land upon his
children—but he entails himself upon them. 'I will be their God' (Hebrews
8:10). Not only heaven is their portion—but God himself is their portion!
God's making of children, is by infusion of grace. When
God makes any his children, he stamps his image upon them. This is more than
any man living can do. He may adopt another—but he cannot alter the child's
disposition. But God in making of children, fits them for sonship. He
prepares and sanctifies them for this privilege. He changes their
disposition. He files off the ruggedness of their nature. He makes them not
only sons—but saints. They are of another spirit (Numbers
14:24). They become meek and humble. They are 'partakers of the divine
nature' (2 Peter 1:4).
3. How we come to be the children of God.
There is a double cause of our filiation or child-ship.
The impulsive cause is God's free grace. We were
rebels and traitors, and what could move God to make sinners into his
sons—but free grace? 'Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children
according to the good pleasure of his will' (Ephesians 1:5). Free grace gave
the casting voice. Adoption is a mercy spun out of the affections of free
grace. It were much for God to take a clod of earth and make it a star—but
it is more for God to take a piece of clay and sin and instate it
into the glorious privilege of sonship. How will the saints read over the
lectures of free grace in heaven!
The instrumental cause of our sonship is faith.
Baptism does not make us children of God. The thing which makes God take
cognizance of us for children, is faith. 'You are all the children of God by
faith in Christ Jesus' (Galatians 3:26). Before faith is wrought in us, we
have nothing to do with God. We are (as the apostle speaks in another sense)
bastards and not sons (Hebrews 12:8). An unbeliever may call God his
Judge—but not his Father. Wicked men may hope that God will be
their Father—but while they are unbelievers they are bastards, and God will
not father them but will lay them at the devil's door! 'You are the children
of God by faith'. Faith legitimates us. It confers upon us the title of
sonship and gives us right to inherit the kingdom of heaven.
How then should we labor for faith! Without faith we are
creatures, not children. Without faith we are spiritually illegitimate. This
word 'illegitimate' is a term of infamy. Such as are illegitimate are looked
upon with disgrace. We call them baseborn. You who ruffle it in your silks
and velvets—but are in the state of nature, you are illegitimate. God looks
upon you with an eye of scorn and contempt. You are a vile person, a son of
the earth, 'of the seed of the serpent'. The devil can show as good a coat
of arms as you!
This word 'illegitimate' also imports infelicity and
misery. Illegitimate people cannot inherit legally. The land goes only to
such as are lawful heirs. Until we are the children of God, we have no right
to heaven, and there is no way to be children but by faith. 'You are the
children of God by faith'.
Here two things are to be discussed:
1. What faith is.
2. Why faith makes us children.
1. What faith is. If faith instates us into
sonship, it concerns us to know what faith is. There is a twofold faith.
 A mere NOTIONAL faith. When we believe the
truth of all that is revealed in the Holy Scriptures. This is not the faith
which privileges us to sonship. The devils believe all the articles in the
creed. It is not the bare knowledge of a medicine, or believing the
sovereign virtue of it—which will cure one who is ill. This notional faith
(so much cried up by some) will not save. This a man may have, and not love
God. He may believe that God will come to judge the living and the dead, and
still hate God—as the prisoner believes the judge's coming to the court, and
abhors the thought of him. Take heed of resting in a mere notional faith.
You may have this and be no better than devils!
 There is a SPECIAL faith, when we not only
believe the report we hear of Christ—but rest upon him, embrace him, 'taking
hold of the horns of this altar', resolving there to abide. In the body
there are sucking veins, which draw the food into the stomach and concoct it
there. So faith is the sucking vein which draws Christ into the heart and
applies him there. By this faith, we are made the children of God. Wherever
this faith is, it is not like medicine in a dead man's mouth—but is
exceedingly operative. It obliges to duty. It works by love
2. But why does faith makes us children? Why
should not other graces, repentance, love etc., do so? I answer: Because
faith is instituted by God and honored to this work of making us children.
God's institution gives faith its value and validity. It is the king's stamp
makes the coin pass current. If he would put his stamp upon brass or
leather, it would go as current as silver. The great God has authorized and
put the stamp of his institution upon faith, and that makes it pass for
current and gives it a privilege above all the graces, to make us children.
Again, faith makes us children as it is the vital
principle. 'The just shall live by faith' (Habakkuk 2:4). All God's
children are living. None of them are stillborn. Now 'by faith we live'. As
the heart is the fountain of life in the body—so faith is the fountain of
life in the soul.
Faith also makes us children, as it is the uniting grace.
It knits us to Christ. The other graces cannot do this. By faith we are one
with Christ, and so we are akin to God. Being united to the natural Son, we
become adopted sons. The kindred relationship comes in by faith. God is the
Father of Christ. Faith makes us Christ's brethren (Hebrews 2:11), and so
God comes to be our Father.
4. The fourth particular to be discussed is to show the
SIGNS of God's children. It concerns us to know whose children we
are. Augustine says that all mankind are divided into two ranks; either they
are the children of God—or the children of the devil.
1. The first sign of our heavenly sonship, is TENDERNESS
of heart. 'Because your heart was tender' (2 Chronicles 34:27). A
childlike heart is a tender heart. He who before had a flinty
heart—has now a fleshy heart. A tender heart is like melting wax to
God. He may set whatever seal he will upon it. This tenderness of heart
shows itself three ways.
 A tender heart grieves for sin. A child
weeps for offending his father. Peter showed a tender heart when Christ
looked upon him and he remembered his sin, and wept as a child. It is
reported that Peter never heard a rooster crow, but he wept. And some tell
us that by much weeping there seemed to be as it were, channels made in his
blessed face. The least hair makes the eye weep. The least sin
makes the heart smite. David's heart smote him when he cut off the lap of
King Saul's garment! What would it have done if he had cut off his head!
 A tender heart melts under mercy. Though
when God thunders by affliction, the rain of tears falls from a gracious
eye—yet the heart is never so kindly dissolved as under the sunbeams of
God's mercy. See how David's heart was melted with God's kindness: 'Who am
I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this
far?' (2 Samuel 7:18). There was a gracious thaw upon his heart. So says a
child of God, "Lord, who am I--a piece of dust and sin kneaded
together--that the orient beams of free grace should shine upon me? Who am
I, that You should pity me when I lay in my blood--and spread the golden
wings of mercy over me!" The soul is overcome with God's goodness--the tears
drop, and the love flames. God's mercy has a melting influence upon the
 A tender heart trembles under God's threatenings.
'My flesh trembles in fear of you' (Psalm 119:120). 'Because your
heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before God when you heard what he
spoke against this place and its people, and because you humbled yourself
before me and tore your robes and wept in my presence' (2 Chronicles 34:27).
If the father is angry—the child trembles. When ministers
denounce the threats of God against sin—tender souls sit in a trembling
posture. This trembling frame of heart, God delights in. 'To this man will I
look, even to him who trembles at your word' (Isaiah 66:2). A wicked man,
like the Leviathan, 'is made without fear' (Job 41:33). He neither believes
God's promises—nor dreads God's threatenings. Let judgment be
denounced against sin, he laughs. He thinks that God is either ignorant
and does not see—or impotent and cannot punish. 'The mountains
quake before him and the hills melt away. The earth trembles at his
presence' (Nahum 1:5). But the hearts of the ungodly are more obdurate than
the rocks! A hardened sinner like Nebuchadnezzar has 'the heart of a beast
given to him' (Daniel 4:16). A childlike heart is a tender heart. The heart
of stone is taken away.
2. The second sign of sonship, is ASSIMILATION.
'You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new
self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator'
(Colossians 3:9-10). The child resembles the father. God's children are like
their heavenly Father. They bear his very image and impress. Wicked men say
they are the children of God—but there is too great a dissimilitude and
unlikeness. The Jews bragged they were Abraham's children—but Christ
disproves them by this argument, because they were not like him. 'You are
determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from
God. Abraham did not do such things' (John 8:40). "You—Abraham's children,
and go about to kill me! Abraham would not have murdered an innocent. You
are more like Satan than Abraham!" 'You are of your father the devil' (verse
44). Such as are proud, earthly, malicious may truly say, 'Our father which
art in hell'. It is blasphemy to call God our Father, and make the devil our
pattern. God's children resemble him in meekness and holiness. They are his
walking pictures. As the seal stamps its print and likeness upon the
wax, so does God stamp the print and image of his own beauty upon his
3. The third sign of God's children is, they have the
SPIRIT of God. He is called the Spirit of adoption; 'you have
received the Spirit of adoption.' (Romans 8:15).
How shall we know that we have received the Spirit of
adoption, and so are in the state of adoption? The Spirit of God has a
threefold work in those who are made children:
A regenerating work.
A supplicating work.
A witnessing work.
 A REGENERATING work. Whoever the Spirit
adopts, he regenerates. God's children are said to be 'born of
the Spirit'. 'Unless a man is born of water and of the Spirit—he cannot
enter into the kingdom of God' (John 3:5). We must first be born of the
Spirit, before we are baptized with this new name of sons and daughters of
God. We are not God's children by creation—but by recreation; not by our
first birth—but by our new birth. This new birth produced by the Word as the
instrumental cause (James 1:18), and by the Spirit as the efficient cause,
is nothing else but a change of nature (Romans 12:2), which though it is not
a perfect change—yet is a thorough change (1 Thessalonians
5:23). This change of heart is as necessary as salvation.
How shall we know that we have this regenerating work of
the Spirit? Two ways: by the pangs; by the products.
The new birth is known by the PANGS. There are
spiritual pangs before the new birth—some bruisings of soul, some
groanings and cryings out, some strugglings in the heart between flesh and
Spirit. 'They were pricked at their heart' (Acts 2:37). The child has sharp
throws before the birth; so it is in the new birth. The new birth is marked
by pangs—'more and less'. All do not have the same pangs of
humiliation—yet all have pangs; all feel the hammer of the law upon their
heart, though some are more bruised with this hammer than others. God's
Spirit is a Spirit of bondage, before he is a Spirit of adoption (Romans
8:15). What then shall we say to those who are as ignorant about the
new birth as Nicodemus: 'What do you mean? How can an old man go back into
his mother's womb and be born again?' (John 3:4). Some thank God they never
had any trouble of spirit—they were always quiet. These bless God for the
greatest curse! It is a sign they are not God's children. The child of grace
is always born with pangs.
The new birth is known by the PRODUCTS, which are:
SENSIBILITY. The new-born infant is sensible of the least
touch. If the Spirit has regenerated you, you are sensible of the
ebullitions and first risings of sin, which before you did not perceive.
Paul cries out of the 'law of sin at work within my members' (Romans 7:23).
The new-born saint sees sin in the root.
CIRCUMSPECTION. He who is born of the Spirit is careful
to preserve grace. He plies the breast of the ordinances (1 Peter 2:1). He
is fearful of that which may endanger his spiritual life (1 John 5:18). He
lives by faith—yet passes the time of his sojourning in fear
(1 Peter 1:17). This is the first work of the Spirit in those who are made
children—a regenerating work.
 The Spirit of God has a SUPPLICATING work in the
heart. The Spirit of adoption is a Spirit of supplication. 'You
have received the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry Abba, Father' (Romans
8:15). While the child is in the womb it cannot cry. While men lie in
the womb of their natural estate, they cannot pray effectually—but
when they are born of the Spirit, then they cry 'Abba, Father'. Prayer is
nothing else but the soul's breathing itself into the bosom of its Father.
It is a sweet and familiar fellowship with God. As soon as ever the Spirit
of God comes into the heart, He sets it a-praying. No sooner was Paul
converted but the next act is, 'Behold, he prays!' (Acts 9:11). It is
reported of Luther that, when he prayed, it was with so much reverence—as
if he were praying to God, and with so much boldness—as if he had
been speaking to his friend. God's Spirit tunes the strings of the
affections, and then we make melody in prayer. For any to say, in derision,
'you pray by the Spirit', is a blasphemy against the Spirit. It is a main
work of the Spirit of God in the hearts of his children to help them to
pray: 'Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into
your hearts, crying, Abba, Father' (Galatians 4:6).
But many of the children of God do not have such
abilities to express themselves in prayer. How then does the Spirit help
Though they do not have always the gifts of the
Spirit in prayer—yet they have the groans of the Spirit (Romans
8:26). Gifts are the ornaments of prayer—but not the life of
prayer. A carcass may be hung with jewels. Though the Spirit
may deny fluency of speech—yet He gives fervency of desire,
and such prayers are most prevalent. The prayers which the Spirit indites in
the hearts of God's children, have these threefold qualifications.
The prayers of God's children are believing
prayers. Prayer is the key. Faith is the hand which turns this key of
prayer. Faith feathers the arrow of prayer, and makes it pierce the throne
of grace. 'Whatever you shall ask in prayer believing, you shall
receive' (Matthew 21:22). Whereupon, says Jerome, I would not presume to
pray unless I bring faith along with me. To pray and not believe is (as one
says) a kind of jeer offered to God, as if we thought either he did not
hear—or he would not grant.
That faith may be animated in prayer, we must bring
Christ in our arms when we appear before God. 'Samuel took a young lamb
and offered it to the Lord as a whole burnt offering. He pleaded with
the Lord to help Israel, and the Lord answered' (1 Samuel 7:9). This young
lamb typified Christ. When we come to God in prayer we must bring the
Lamb—Christ, along with us. Themistocles carried the king's son in his arms
and so pacified the king when he was angry. The children of God present
Christ in the arms of their faith.
The prayers of God's children indited by the Spirit, are
ardent prayers. 'You have received the Spirit, whereby we cry
Abba, Father' (Romans 8:15). 'Father'—that implies faith. We 'cry'—that
implies fervency. The incense was to be laid upon burning coals (Leviticus
16:12). The incense was a type of prayer; the burning coals, of ardency in
prayer. 'Elijah prayed earnestly, James 5:17). That is, he did it with
vehemence. In prayer, the heart must boil over with heat of affection.
Prayer is compared to unutterable groans (Romans 8:26). It alludes to
a woman who is in the pangs of childbirth. We should be in pangs when we are
travailing for mercy. Such prayer 'commands God himself' (Isaiah 45:11).
The prayers of God's children are heart-cleansing
prayers. They purge out sin. Many pray against sin—and then sin against
prayer. God's children not only pray against sin—but pray down
 The Spirit of God has a WITNESSING work in the heart.
God's children have not only the influence of the Spirit—but the witness.
'The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of
God' (Romans 8:16). There is a threefold witness a child of God has—the
witness of the Word, the witness of conscience, the witness of
the Spirit. The Word makes the major proposition—he who is in
such a manner qualified, is a child of God. Conscience makes the
minor proposition—that you are so divinely qualified. The Spirit
makes the conclusion—therefore you are a child of God. The Spirit joins with
the witness of conscience. 'The Spirit witnesses with our spirits' (Romans
8:16). The Spirit teaches conscience to search the records of Scripture and
find its evidences for heaven. It helps conscience to spell out its name in
a promise. The Spirit bears witness with our spirit.
But how shall I know the witness of the Spirit—from a
The Spirit of God always witnesses according to the Word,
as the echo answers the voice. Religious enthusiasts speak much of
the Spirit—but they leave the Word. That inspiration which is either without
the Word or against it—is an imposture. The Spirit of God indited the Word
(2 Peter 1:21). Now if the Spirit should witness otherwise than according to
the Word, the Spirit would be divided against Himself. He would be a spirit
of contradiction, witnessing one thing for a truth in the Word—and another
thing different from it in a man's conscience.
4. The fourth sign of God's children is ZEAL for God.
They are zealous for his truth, and his glory. Those who are born of God are
zealous for his honor. Moses was cool in his own cause—but hot in God's.
When the people of Israel had wrought folly in worshiping the golden calf,
he breaks the tables. When Paul saw the people of Athens given to idolatry
'his spirit was stirred within him' (Acts 17:16). In the Greek it is his
spirit was 'embittered', or, as the word may signify, he was in a burning
fit of zeal. He could not contain himself—but with this fire of zeal, speaks
against their sin. As we shall answer for idle words, so for
sinful silence. It is dangerous in this sense to be possessed with a
'dumb devil'. David says, 'zeal for Your house has consumed me, and the
insults of those who insult You have fallen on me' (Psalm 69:9). Many
Christians whose zeal once had almost consumed them, now they have consumed
their zeal. They are grown tepid and indifferent. The breath of the world
blowing upon them has cooled their heat. I can never believe that he has
the heart of a child in him—who can be silent when God's glory suffers. Can
a loving child endure to hear his father reproached? Though we should be
silent under God's displeasure—yet not under his dishonor.
When there is a holy fire kindled in the heart, it will break forth
at the lips! Zeal tempered with holiness, gives the soul its best
Of all others, let ministers be zealous when God's glory
is impeached and eclipsed. A minister without zeal is like 'salt which has
lost its savor'. Zeal will make men take injuries done to God—as done to
themselves. It is reported of Chrysostom, that he reproved any sin against
God as if he himself had received a personal wrong. Let not ministers be
either shaken with fear—or seduced with flattery. God never made ministers
to be as false looking-glasses, to make bad faces look good. For lack of
this fire of zeal, they are in danger of another fire, even the 'burning
lake' (Revelation 21:8), into which the fearful shall be cast!
5. Those who are God's children and are born of God, are
of a more noble and celestial spirit than men of the world. They
'set their minds on things above, not on earthly things' (Colossians 3:2).
'Whoever is born of God, overcomes the world' (1 John 5:4). The children of
God live in a higher region. They are compared to eagles (Isaiah
40:31), in regard of their sublimeness and heavenly-mindedness. Their souls
are fled aloft. Christ is in their heart (Colossians 1:27) and the
world is under their feet (Revelation 12:1). Men of the world are ever
tumbling in thick clay. They are 'sons of earth'; not eagles—but earthworms.
The saints are of another spirit. They are born of God and walk with God as
the child walks with the father. 'Noah walked with God' (Genesis 6:9). God's
children show their high pedigree in their heavenly life (Philippians 3:20).
6. Another sign of adoption is love to those who are
children. God's children are knit together with the bond of love,
as all the members of the body are knit together by several nerves and
ligaments. If we are born of God, then we 'love the brotherhood' (1 Peter
2:17); He who loves the person, loves the picture. The children of God are
his walking pictures, and if we are of God, we love those who have his
effigy and portraiture drawn upon their souls. If we are born of God, we
love the saints notwithstanding their infirmities. Children love one
another, though they have some imperfections of nature—a squint-eye, or a
crooked back. We love gold in the ore, though it has some drossiness in it.
The best saints have their blemishes. We read of the 'spot of God's
children' (Deuteronomy 32:5). A saint in this life is like a fair face with
a scar in it. If we are born of God we love his children though they are
poor. We love to see the image and picture of our Father, though hung in
ever so poor a frame. We love to see a rich Christ in a poor man.
And if we are children of the Highest, we show our love
to God's children:
 We show our love to the children of God—by prizing
them above others. He who is born of God 'honors those who fear
the Lord' (Psalm 15:4). The saints are the 'dearly beloved of God's soul'
(Jeremiah 12:7). They are his 'jewels' (Malachi 3:17). They are of the true
blood-royal, and he who is divinely adopted sets a higher estimate upon
these, than upon others.
 We show our love to the children of God—by prizing
their company above others. Children love to associate and be
together. The communion of saints is precious. Christ's doves will flock
together in company. 'Like associates with like'. 'I am a companion of all
those who fear you' (Psalm 119:63). A child of God has a love of civility
to all—but a love of delight only to such as are fellow-heirs
with him of the same inheritance.
By this, people may test their adoption. It appears
plainly that they are not the children of God—who hate those who are born of
God. They soil and blacken the silver wings of Christ's doves by their
aspersive reproaches. They cannot endure the society of the saints. As
vultures hate sweet smells, and are killed with them—so the wicked hate to
come near the godly. They cannot tolerate the precious perfume of their
graces. They hate these sweet smells. It is a sign they are of the
serpent's brood—who hate the seed of the woman.
7. The seventh sign of God's children is to delight to be
much in God's presence. Children love to be in the presence of
their father. Where the king is—there is the court. Where the presence of
God is—there is heaven. God is in a special manner present in his
ordinances. They are the ark of his presence. Now if we are his children, we
love to be much in holy duties. In the use of ordinances we draw near to
God. We come into our Father's presence. In prayer we have secret
conference with God. In the Word we hear God speaking from heaven to
us, and how does every child of God delight to hear his Father's voice! In
the sacraments God kisses his children with the 'kisses of his lips'. He
gives them a smile of his face and a secret seal of his love. Oh it is 'good
to draw near to God' (Psalm 73:28). It is sweet being in his presence. Every
true child of God says, 'Better is one day in your courts, than a thousand
elsewhere' (Psalm 84:10). Slighters of ordinances are not God's
children, because they care not to be in his presence. They love the
tavern better than the temple! 'Cain went out from the presence
of the Lord' (Genesis 4:16); not that he could go out of God's sight (Psalm
139:7)—but the meaning is, Cain went from the church of God where the Lord
gave the visible signs of his presence to his people.
8. The eighth sign sign of God's children is compliance
with the will of our heavenly Father. A childlike heart answers
to God's call—as the echo answers to the voice. It is like the flower which
opens and shuts with the sun. So it opens to God—and shuts to
temptation. This is the motto of a new-born saint, 'Speak, Lord, for
your servant is listening' (1 Samuel 3:9). When God bids his children pray
in their closets, mortify sin, suffer for his name—they are ambitious to
obey. They will lay down their lives at their Father's call. Hypocrites
court God and speak him fair—but refuse to go on his errands. They are not
9. The last sign sign of God's children is—he who is a
child of God will labor to make others the children of God. The
holy seed of grace propagates (Galatians 4:19; Philemon 10). He who is of
the seed royal will be ambitiously desirous to bring others into the
kindred. Are you divinely adopted? You will studiously endeavor to make your
child a child of the most High.
How Christians should bring up their children
There are two reasons why a godly parent will endeavor to
bring his child into the heavenly family:
 Out of conscience. A godly parent sees the
injury he has done to his child. He has conveyed the plague of sin to him,
and in conscience he will endeavor to make some recompense. In the old law,
he who had smitten and wounded another was bound to see him healed and pay
for his cure. Parents have given their children a wound in their souls, and
therefore must do what in them lies by admonition, prayers, and tears—to see
the wound healed.
 Out of flaming zeal to the honor of God.
He who has tasted God's love in adoption, looks upon himself as engaged to
bring God all the glory he can. If he has a child or acquaintance who are
strangers to God, he would gladly promote the work of grace in their hearts.
It is a glory to Christ when multitudes are born to him.
How far are they from being God's children who have no
care to bring others into the family of God! To blame are those masters, who
mind more their servants' work than their souls. To blame are those parents
who disregard the spiritual welfare of their children. They do not drop in
principles of knowledge into them—but allow them to have their own way. They
will let them lie and swear—but not pray for them. They will let them read
play-books—but not Scripture.
'These words which I command you this day, you shall
teach them diligently to your children' (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7). 'Train up a
child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from
it' (Proverbs 22:6). 'Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead,
bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord' (Ephesians 6:4).
This threefold cord of Scripture is not easily broken.
The saints of old were continually grafting principles of
holy knowledge in their children. 'I know that Abraham will command his
children, and they shall keep the way of the Lord' (Genesis 18:19). 'And you
Solomon, my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a perfect
heart' (1 Chronicles 28:9). What need is there of instilling holy
instructions to overtop the poisonful weeds of sin which grow in our
children's hearts! As farmers, when they have planted young trees, they set
stays to them to keep them from bending. Children are young plants. The
heavenly precepts of their parents are like stays set about them, to keep
them from bending to error and profaneness. When can there be a fitter
season to disseminate and infuse knowledge into children, than when they are
young? Now is a time to give them the breast and let them suck in the
'sincere milk of the word' (1 Peter 2:2).
But some may object that it is to no purpose to teach our
children the knowledge of God. They have no sense of spiritual things, nor
are they the better for our instructions. I answer:
We read in Scripture of children who by virtue of
instruction have had their tender years sanctified. Timothy's mother and
grandmother taught him the Scriptures from his cradle: 'And that from a
child you have known the holy Scriptures' (2 Timothy 3:15). Timothy sucked
in Scripture, as it were with his milk. We read of young children who cried
'Hosanna' to Christ and trumpeted forth his praises (Matthew 21:15).
And again, suppose our counsel and instruction does not
at present prevail with our children, it may afterwards take effect. The
seed a man sows in his ground does not immediately spring up—but in its
season it brings forth a crop. He who plants a tree does not see the full
growth until many years after. If we must not instruct our children because
at present they do not reap the benefit, by the same reason ministers should
not preach the Word, because at present many of their hearers have no
Again, if our counsels and admonitions do not prevail
with our children—yet 'we have delivered our own souls'. There is comfort in
the discharge of conscience. We cannot control the outcome of our
instructions. Duty is our work; success is God's work.
All which considered, should make parents persevere in
giving holy instructions to their children. Those who are of the family of
God and whom he has adopted for children, will endeavor that their children
may be more God's children than theirs. They will 'travail in birth until
Christ is formed in them'. A true saint is a loadstone that will be drawing
others to God. Let this suffice to have spoken of the signs of adoption. I
5. The fifth particular to be discussed is the love of
God in making us children. 'Behold! How great is the love the
Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!' (1
John 3:1). God showed power in making us his creatures—but his
love in making us his sons. Plato gave God thanks that he had made him a
man and not a beast—but what cause have they to adore God's love, who has
made them his children! The apostle adds a 'Behold!' to it. That we
may the better behold God's love in making us children, consider three
1. We were deformed—so did not DESERVE to be made God's
children. 'When I passed by you and saw you polluted in your own
blood, it was the time of love' (Ezekiel 16:6, 8). Mordecai adopted Esther
because she was lovely—but we were in our blood, and then God adopted us. He
did not adopt us when we were clothed with the robe of innocence in
paradise, when we were hung with the jewels of holiness; but when we were in
our blood and had our leprous spots upon us! The time of our loathing—was
the time of God's loving!
2. As we did not deserve to be made God's children, so
neither did we DESIRE it. No rich man will force another to
become his heir against his will. If a king should go to adopt a beggar and
make him heir of the crown, if the beggar should refuse the king's favor and
say, 'I had rather be a beggar still—I do not want your riches'; the king
would take it in high contempt of his favor, and would not adopt him against
his will. Thus it was with us. We had no willingness to be made God's
children. We desired to be beggars still—but God out of his infinite mercy
and indulgence, not only offers to make us children—but makes
us willing to embrace the offer (Psalm 110:3). What stupendous love was
3. It is the wonder of love that God should adopt us for
his children, when we were ENEMIES. If a man would make another
heir of his land, he would adopt one who is near akin to him. No man would
adopt an enemy. But that God should make us his children—when we were his
enemies; that he should make us heirs to the crown—when we were traitors to
the crown—oh amazing, astonishing love! What stupendous love was this! We
were not akin to God. We had by sin lost and forfeited our pedigree. We had
done God all the injury and spite we could, defaced his image, violated his
law, trampled upon his mercies—but when we had angered him, he adopted us.
What stupendous love was this! Such love was never shown to the angels! When
they fell (though they were of a more noble nature, and in probability might
have done God more service than we can)—yet God never gave this privilege of
adoption to them. He did not make them children—but prisoners.
They were heirs only to 'the treasures of wrath'! (Romans 2:5).
Let all who are thus nearly related to God, stand
admiring his love. When they were like Saul, breathing forth enmity against
God; when their hearts stood out as garrisons against him, the Lord
conquered their stubbornness with kindness, and not only pardoned—but
adopted them. It is hard to say which is greater—the mystery, or the
mercy. This is such amazing love as we shall be searching into and
adoring to all eternity! The bottom of it cannot be fathomed by any angel in
heaven. God's love in making us children is a rich love. It is love
in God to feed us—but it is rich love to adopt us! It is love
to give us a crumb—but it is rich love to make us heirs to a
It is a distinguishing love, that when God has passed by
so many millions, he should cast a favorable aspect upon you! Most are made
vessels of wrath, and fuel for hell. And that God should say to you, 'You
are my son', here is the depth of mercy, and the height of love! Who, O who,
can tread upon these hot coals, and his heart not burn in love to God!
6. The sixth particular, is the honor and renown of God's
children. For the illustration of this, observe two things:
I. God makes a precious account of them.
2. He looks upon them as people of honor.
1. God makes a PRECIOUS account of them.
'Since you were precious in my sight' (Isaiah 43:4). A father prizes his
child above his estate. How dearly did Jacob prize Benjamin! His 'life was
bound up in the life of the lad' (Genesis 44:30). God makes a precious
valuation of his children. The wicked are of no account with God. They are
vile people. 'I will prepare your grave, for you are vile' (Nahum 1:14).
Therefore the wicked are compared to chaff (Psalm 1:4), to dross (Psalm
119:119). There is little use of a wicked man while he lives—and no loss
of him when he dies! There is only a little chaff blown away, which may
well be spared. But God's children are precious in his sight. They are his
jewels (Malachi 3:17). The wicked are but lumber which serves only to
'cumber the ground'. But God's children are his jewels locked up in the
cabinet of his decree from all eternity. God's children are 'the apple of
his eye' (Zechariah 2:8), very dear and very tender to him, and the eyelid
of his special providence covers them. The Lord accounts everything about
his children, to be precious.
Their NAME is precious. The wicked leave their
name for a curse (Isaiah 65:15). The names of God's children are embalmed
(Isaiah 60:15). So precious are their names that God enters them in the book
of life, and Christ carries them on his breast. How precious must their name
needs be, who have God's own name written upon them! 'Him who overcomes, I
will write upon him the name of my God' (Revelation 3:12).
Their PRAYERS are precious. 'O my dove, in the
clefts of the rock, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet'
(Canticles 2:14). Every child of God is this dove. Prayer is the voice of
the dove, and 'this voice is sweet'. The prayer of God's children is as
sweet to him as music. A wicked man's prayer is as the 'howling' of a dog
(Hosea 7:14). The prayer of the saints is as the singing of the bird. The
finger of God's Spirit touching the lute-strings of their hearts—they make
pleasant melody to the Lord. 'Their sacrifices shall be accepted upon my
altar' (Isaiah 56:7).
Their TEARS are precious. Their tears drop as
pearls from their eyes. 'I have seen your tears' (Isaiah 38:5). The tears of
God's children drop as precious wine into God's bottle. 'You keep track of
all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have
recorded each one in your book' (Psalm 56:8). A tear from a broken heart, is
a present for the King of heaven!
Their BLOOD is precious. 'Precious in the
sight of the Lord is the death of his saints' (Psalm 116:15). This is the
blood which God will chiefly make inquisition for. Athaliah shed the blood
of the king's children (2 Kings 11:1). The saints are the children of the
most High God, and such as shed their blood shall pay dear for it. 'You have
given their murderers blood to drink. It is their just reward' (Revelation
2. God looks upon his children as people of HONOR.
'Because you are precious in My sight and honored, and I love you.'
God esteems them honorable. He calls them a crown and a
royal diadem (Isaiah 62:3). He calls them his glory: 'Israel my glory'
God makes them honorable. As a king creates dukes,
marquises, earls, barons etc., so God installs his children into honor. He
creates them noble people, people of renown. David thought it no small honor
to be the king's son-in-law. 'Who am I that I should be son-in-law to the
king?' (1 Samuel 18:18). What an infinite honor is it to be the children of
the High God, to be of the blood-royal of heaven! The saints are of an
ancient family. They are sprung from 'the Ancient of days' (Daniel 7:9).
That is the best pedigree, which is fetched from heaven! Here the youngest
believer is an heir, a co-heir with Christ who is heir of all (Hebrews 1:2;
Romans 8:17). Consider the honor of God's children positively and
Consider the honor of God's children POSITIVELY. They
have TITLES of honor. They are called 'kings' (Revelation 1:6); 'the
excellent of the earth' (Psalm 16:3); 'vessels of honor' (2 Timothy 2:21).
They have their ESCUTCHEON. You may see the saints'
escutcheon or coat of arms. The Scripture has set forth their heraldry.
Sometimes they give the lion in regard of their courage (Proverbs
28:1). Sometimes they give the eagle in regard of their sublimeness.
They are ever flying up to heaven upon the two wings of faith and love.
'They shall mount up with wings as eagles' (Isaiah 40:31). Sometimes they
give the dove in regard of their meekness and innocence (Canticles
2:14). This shows the children of God, to be people of renown.
Consider the honor of God's children COMPARATIVELY.
This comparison is double. Compare the children of God with Adam; with the
Compare the children of God with Adam in a state
of innocence. Adam was a person of honor. He was the sole monarch of the
world. All the creatures bowed to him as their sovereign. He was placed in
the garden of Eden, which was a paradise of pleasure. He was crowned with
all the contentments of the earth. Nay more, Adam was God's living picture.
He was made in the likeness of God himself. Yet the state of the lowest of
God's children by adoption—is far more excellent and honorable than the
state of Adam was, when he wore the robe of innocence, for Adam's condition,
though it was glorious yet it was mutable—and was soon lost!
Adam was a bright star—yet a falling star.
But God's children by adoption are in an unalterable
state. Adam had a possibility of standing—but believers have an
impossibility of falling; once adopted, they are forever adopted. As Isaac
said, when he had given the blessing to Jacob, 'I have blessed him—and he
shall be blessed!' (Genesis 27:33). So may we say of all God's children,
they are adopted, and they shall be adopted! So that God's children
are in a better and more glorious condition now than Adam was, in all his
regal honor and majesty.
Let us ascend as high as heaven and compare God's
children with the glorious and blessed angels. God's children are
equal to the angels, in some sense above them, so that they must be people
God's children are equal to the angels. This is
acknowledged by some of the angels themselves. 'I am your fellow-servant'
(Revelation 19:10). Here is a parallel made between John and the angel. The
angel says to John, 'I am your fellow-servant.'
The children of God by adoption are in some sense
above the angels, and that two ways.
The angels are servants to God's children (Hebrews 1:14).
Though they are 'glorious spirits'—yet they are 'ministering
spirits'. The angels are the saints' servants. We have examples in Scripture
of angels attending the people of God's children. We read of angels waiting
upon Abraham, Moses, Daniel, Mary etc. Nor do the angels only render service
to God's children while they live—but at their death also. Lazarus had a
convoy of angels to carry him into the paradise of God. Thus we see the
children of God have a pre-eminence and dignity above the angels. The angels
are their servants both living and dying; and this is more to be observed,
because it is never said in Scripture that the children of God are servants
to the angels.
God's children are above the angels, because Christ by
taking their nature has ennobled and honored it above the angelic nature.
'He in no wise took the nature of angels' (Hebrews 2:16). God by uniting us
to Christ has made us nearer to himself than the angels. The children of God
are members of Christ (Ephesians 5:30). This was never said of the angels.
How can they be members of Christ, who are of a different nature from him?
Indeed metaphorically Christ may be called the head of the angels, as they
are subject to him (1 Peter 3:22). But that Christ is head of the angels in
that near and sweet conjunction, as he is head of the believers, we nowhere
find in Scripture. In this respect therefore I may clearly assert that the
children of God have a superiority and honor even above the angels! Though
by creation they are 'a little lower than the angels'—yet by
adoption and mystical union, they are above the angels!
How may this comfort a child of God in the midst either
of calumny or poverty! He is a person of honor. He is above the angels. A
gentleman who is fallen to decay will sometimes boast of his parentage and
noble blood. Just so, a Christian who is poor in the world—yet by virtue of
his adoption—he is of the family of God. He has the true blood-royal running
in his veins. He has a fairer coat of arms to show than the angels
7. The seventh particular to be explained is to show the
glorious PRIVILEGES of God's children. And what I shall say now
belongs not to the wicked. It is 'children's bread'. The fruit of
paradise was to be kept with a flaming sword. So these sweet and
heart-ravishing privileges are to be kept with a flaming sword—that impure
worldly people may not touch them. There are twelve rare privileges which
belong to the children of God.
1. If we are his children, then God will be full of
tender love and affection towards us. A father compassionates his
child. 'Like as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who
fear him' (Psalm 103:13). Oh the yearning of God's affections to his
children! 'Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he a pleasant child? My affections are
troubled for him, I will surely have mercy upon him, says the Lord'
(Jeremiah 31:20). Towards the wicked God's wrath is kindled (Psalm 2:12).
Towards those who are children, God's repentings are kindled (Hosea 11:8).
Mercy and pity as naturally flow from our heavenly Father—as light from the
Some may object: But God is angry and writes bitter
things. How is this consistent with his love?
God's love and his anger towards his
children are not in opposition. They may stand together. He is angry in
love. 'As many as I love—I rebuke and chasten' (Revelation 3:19). We
have as much need of afflictions as ordinances. A bitter pill
may be as needful for preserving health, as a cordial. God afflicts with the
same love as he adopts. God is most angry when he is not angry! His
hand is heaviest when it is lightest (Hosea 14:4). Affliction is a proof of
sonship. 'If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons'
Why, it is a sign of child-ship to be sometimes under the
rod. God had one son without sin—but no son without stripes! God puts
his children to the school of the cross—and there they learn best.
God speaks to us in the Word, 'Children, do not be proud, do not love the
world; walk in wisdom.' But, we are 'dull of hearing'; nay we 'stop our
ear'. 'I spoke to you in your prosperity—but you said, I will not hear'
(Jeremiah 22:21). 'Now,' says God, 'I shall lose my child if I do not
correct him.' Then God in love smites—that he may save.
Aristotle speaks of a bird which lives among thorns—yet
sings sweetly. God's children make the best melody in their heart, when God
'hedges their way with thorns' (Hosea 2:6). Afflictions are refining. 'The
refining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold' (Proverbs 17:3). Fiery
trials make golden Christians. Afflictions are purifying. 'Many shall
be tried and made white' (Daniel 12:10). We think God is going to destroy
us—but he only lays us a-whitening. Some birds will not hatch but in time of
thunder. Christians are commonly best in affliction. God will make his
children at last bless him for sufferings. The eyes that sin
shuts—affliction opens! When Manasseh was in chains, 'then he knew the
Lord was God' (2 Chronicles 33:13). Afflictions fit for heaven.
First the stones of Solomon's temple were hewn and
polished—and then set up into a building. First the saints (who are
called 'living stones') must be hewn and carved by sufferings,
as the corner stone was, and so made fit for the celestial building
(Colossians 1:12). And is there not love in all God's Fatherly
But there may be another objection, that sometimes God's
children are under the black clouds of desertion. Is not this far
Concerning desertion, I must needs say that this is the
saddest condition that can betide God's children. When the sun is gone—the
dew falls. When the sunlight of God's countenance is removed—then the dew of
tears falls from the eyes of the saints. In desertion God rains hell out of
heaven (to use Calvin's expression). 'The arrows of the Almighty are within
me, the poison whereof drinks up my spirit, Job 6:4). This is the poisoned
arrow that wounds to the heart. Desertion is a taste of the torments of the
damned. God says, 'In a little wrath I hid my face from you' (Isaiah 54:8).
I may here gloss with Bernard, 'Lord, do you call that a little wrath
when you hide your face? Is it but a little? What can be more bitter to me
than the eclipsing of your face?'
God is in the Scripture called a light and a
fire. The deserted soul feels the fire but does not see the light. But
yet you who are adopted may see love in all this. They say of Hercules'
club, that it was made of wood of the olive tree. The olive is an emblem of
peace. So God's club, whereby he beats down the soul in desertion, has
something of the olive tree. There is peace and mercy in it. I shall hold
forth a spiritual rainbow wherein the children of God may see the love of
their Father, in the midst of the clouds of desertion.
Therefore I answer:
 In time of desertion God leaves in his children a
seed of comfort. 'His seed remains in him' (1 John 3:9). This
seed of God is a seed of comfort. Though God's children in desertion lack
the seal of the Spirit—yet they have the unction of the Spirit
(1 John 2:27). Though they lack the sun—yet they have a daystar in their
hearts. As the tree in winter, though it has lost its leaves and fruit—yet
there is sap in the root; so in the winter of desertion there is the
sap of grace in the root of the heart. As it is with the sun masking
itself with a cloud when it denies light to the earth—yet it gives forth its
influence; so though God's dear adopted ones may lose sight of his
countenance—yet they have the influence of his grace.
What grace appears in the time of desertion? I answer:
A high prizing of God's love. If God should say to
the deserted soul, 'Ask what will you, and it shall be granted' he would
reply, 'Lord that I might see you; that I may have one golden beam of your
love!' The deserted soul slights all other things in comparison. It is not
gardens or orchards, or the most delightful objects which can give him
contentment. They are like music to a sad heart. He desires, as Absalom, 'to
see the king's face'.
A lamenting after the Lord. It is the saddest day for
him when the sun of righteousness is eclipsed. A child of God can better
bear the world's stroke—than God's absence. He is even melted into tears;
the clouds of desertion produce spiritual rain, and whence is this
weeping—but from love?
Willingness to suffer anything so he may have sight of
God. A child of God could be content with Simon of Cyrene to carry the
cross—if he were sure Christ were upon it. He could willingly die—if with
Simeon he might die with Christ in his arms. Behold here, 'the seed of God'
in a believer, the work of sanctification, when he lacks the wine of
 I answer, God has a design of mercy in hiding his
face from his adopted ones.
First, it is for the TRIAL of grace, and there are
two graces brought to trial in time of desertion, faith and love.
Faith: When we can believe against sense and feeling;
when we are without experience—yet can trust to a promise; when we do not
have the 'kisses of God's mouth'—yet can cleave to 'the word of his mouth';
this is faith indeed. Here is the sparkling of the diamond.
Love: When God smiles upon us—it is not difficult to
love him. But when he seems to put us away in anger (Psalm 27:9), now to
love him—this is love indeed. That love sure is as 'strong as death'
(Canticles 8:6) which the waters of desertion cannot quench.
Secondly, it is for the EXERCISE of grace. We are
all for comfort. If it be put to our choice, we would be ever upon Mount
Pisgah, looking into Canaan. We are loath to be in trials, agonies,
desertions—as if God could not love us except he had us in his arms. It is
hard to lie long in the lap of spiritual joy—and not fall asleep. Too much
sunshine causes a drought in our graces. Oftentimes when God lets down
comfort into the heart, we begin to let down our efforts. As it is with
musicians, before they have money they will play you many a sweet lesson—but
as soon as you throw them down money they are gone. You hear no more of
them. Before joy and assurance, O the sweet music of prayer and repentance!
But when God bestows the comforts of his Spirit, we either leave off duty or
at least slacken the strings of our violin, and grow remiss in it. You are
taken with the money—but God is taken with the music. Grace
is better than comfort. Rachel is more beautiful—but Leah
is more fruitful. Comfort is fair to look upon—but grace
has the fruitful womb. Now the only way to exercise grace and make it
more vigorous and lively, is sometimes to 'walk in darkness and have no
light' (Isaiah 50:16). Faith is a star which shines brightest in the night
of desertion. 'I said, I am cast out of your sight; yet will I look again
toward your holy temple' (Jonah 2:4). Grace usually puts forth its most
heroic acts at such a time.
 I answer: God may forsake his children in regard of
vision—but not in regard of union. Thus it was with
Jesus Christ when he cried out, 'my God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?'
There was not a separation of the union between him and his Father,
only a suspension of the vision. God's love, through the
interposition of our sins, may be darkened and eclipsed—but still he is our
Father. The sun may be hidden in a cloud—but it is not out of the sky. The
promises in time of desertion may be, as it were, sequestered. We do not
have the comfort from them as formerly—but still the believer's union holds
 I answer: when God hides his face from his
child—his heart may be towards him. As Joseph, when he
spoke roughly to his brethren and made them believe he would take them for
spies, still his heart was towards them and he was as full of love as ever.
He had to go aside and weep. So God is full of love to his children even
when he seems to appear withdrawn. And as Moses' mother when she put her
child into the basket in the river, and went away a little from it—yet still
her eye was toward it. 'The babe wept'; yes, and the mother wept too. So
God, when he goes aside as if he had forsaken his children—yet he is full of
sympathy and love towards them. God may change his countenance—but
not break his covenant. It is one thing for God to desert,
another thing to disinherit.
'Oh, how can I give you up, Israel? How can I let you go?
My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows.' (Hosea 11:8). It
is a metaphor taken from a father going to disinherit his son, and while he
is setting his hand to the deed, his affections begin to melt and to yearn
over him and he thinks thus within himself, 'Though he is a prodigal
child—yet he is my child; I will not disinherit him.' So says God, 'How
shall I give you up? Though Ephraim has been a rebellious son—yet he is my
son, I will not disinherit him.' God's thoughts may be full of love
when there is a veil upon his face. The Lord may change his
dispensation towards his children—but not his disposition. He may
have the look of an enemy—but still, the heart of a Father. So
that the believer may say, 'I am adopted; let God do what he will with me;
let him take the rod or the staff; it is all the same; He loves me.'
2. The second privilege of adoption is this—if we are his
children, then God will bear with many infirmities. A father
bears much with a child he loves. 'I will spare them as a father spares an
obedient and dutiful child' (Malachi 3:17). We often grieve the Spirit, and
abuse his kindness. God will pass by much disobedience in his children. 'He
has not seen iniquity in Jacob' (Numbers 23:21). His love does not make him
blind. He sees sin in his people—but not with an eye of revenge. He
see their sins with an eye of pity. He sees sin in his children as a
physician does a disease in his patient. He has not seen iniquity in Jacob,
so as to destroy him. God may use the rod (2 Samuel 7:14), not
the scorpion. O how much is God willing to pass by in his children,
because they are his children!
God takes notice of the good that is in his
children, and passes by the infirmity. God does quite contrary to us. We
often take notice of the evil that is in others and overlook the good. Our
eye is upon the flaw in the diamond—but we do not observe its sparkling. But
God takes notice of the good that is in his children. God sees their
faith—and winks at their failings (1 Peter 3:6). 'Sarah obeyed
Abraham, calling him Lord'; the Holy Spirit does not mention her unbelief
and laughing at the promise—but takes notice of the good in her, namely, her
obedience to her husband. 'She obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord'. God
puts his finger upon the scars and infirmities of his children! How much
did God wink at—in Israel his firstborn! Israel often provoked him with
their murmurings (Deuteronomy 1:27)—but God answered their murmurings
with mercies. He spared them as a father spares his son.
3. The third privilege of adoption is this—if we are his
children then God will accept of our imperfect services. A parent
takes anything in good part from his child. God accepts of the will for the
deed (2 Corinthians 8:12). Often times we come with broken prayers—but if we
are children, God spells out our meaning and will take our prayers as a
grateful present. A father loves to hear his child speak, though he but
lisps and stammers. Like a 'crane, so did I chatter' (Isaiah 38:14). Good
Hezekiah looked upon his praying as chattering—yet that prayer was heard
(verse 5). A sigh and groan from a humble heart, goes up as the smoke of
incense to God. 'My groaning is not hidden from you' (Psalm 38:9).
When all the glistening shows of hypocrites
evaporate and come to nothing—a little that a child of God does in sincerity
is crowned with acceptance. A father is glad for a letter from his young
son, though there are blots in the letter, though there are wrong spellings
and broken English. O what blottings are there in our holy things! What
broken English sometimes! Yet coming from broken hearts it is accepted.
Though there be weakness in duty—yet if there be willingness, the Lord is
much taken with it. Says God, "It is my child, and he would do better if he
could!" 'He has accepted us in the beloved!' (Ephesians 1:6).
4. If we are his children—then God will provide for us.
A father will take care for his children. He gives them allowance
and lays up a portion (2 Corinthians 12:14). So does our heavenly Father.
He gives us our allowance: 'The God who fed me all
my life long unto this day' (Genesis 48:15). Whence is our daily bread—but
from his daily care? God will not let his children starve, though our
unbelief is ready sometimes to question his goodness and say, 'Can God
prepare a table in this wilderness?' See what arguments Christ brings to
prove God's paternal care for his children. 'Look at the birds of the air;
they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father
feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?' (Matthew 6:26). Does
a man feed his bird—and will he not feed his child? 'See how
the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that
not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that
is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow
is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you?' (Luke 12:27).
Does God clothe the lilies—and will he not clothe his lambs?
'Cast all your cares on him—because he cares for you' (1 Peter 5:7). As long
as his heart is full of love—so long his head will be full of care for his
children. This should be as medicine—to kill the worm of unbelief.
As God gives his children a portion along the way—so he
lays up a portion for them in eternity. 'It is your Father's good pleasure
to give you the kingdom' (Luke 12:32). Our Father keeps the purse and will
give us enough to bear our charges here—and when at death we shall be set
upon the shore of eternity, then will our heavenly Father bestow upon us an
eternal and glorious kingdom upon us! Lo, here is a portion which can never
be summed up!
5. If we are his children—then God will shield off
dangers from us. A father will protect his child from injuries.
God ever lies sentinel to keep off evil from his children—both temporal evil
and spiritual evil.
 God screens off TEMPORAL evil. There are
many casualties and contingencies which are incident to life. God mercifully
prevents them. He keeps watch and ward for his children. 'My defense is of
God' (Psalm 7:10). 'He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep'
(Psalm 121:4). The eye of providence is ever awake! God gives
his angels charge over his children (Psalm 91:11). A believer has a guard of
angels for his lifeguard. We read of the wings of God in Scripture. As the
breast of his mercy feeds his children—so the wings of his power
cover and protect them. How miraculously did God preserve Israel his
firstborn! He with his wings sometimes covered, sometimes carried them. 'He
bore you as upon eagles wings' (Exodus 19:4), an emblem of God's
providential care. The eagle fears no bird from above to hurt her young,
only the arrow from beneath. Therefore she carries them upon her wings that
the arrow must first hit her before it can come at her young ones. Thus God
carries his children upon the wings of providence, and they are such that
there is no clipping these wings, nor can any arrow hurt them.
 God shields off SPIRITUAL evils from his children.
'There shall no evil befall you' (Psalm 91:10). God does
not say that no affliction shall befall us—but no evil.
But some may say, that sometimes evil in this sense
befalls the godly. They spot themselves with sin. I answer:
But that evil shall not be fatal. As sin is in itself
deadly—but being tempered with repentance and mixed with the sacred ointment
of Christ's blood, the venomous damning nature of it is taken away!
6. If we are his children—then God will reveal to us the
great and wonderful things of his Word. 'I praise you, Father,
Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise
and learned, and revealed them to little children' (Matthew 11:25). A father
will teach his children. The child goes to his father, saying, 'Father,
teach me my lesson'. So David goes to God: 'Teach me to do your will, for
you are my God' (Psalm 143:10). The Lord glories in this title, 'I am the
Lord your God—who teaches you to profit' (Isaiah 48:17). God's children have
that anointing which teaches them all things necessary to salvation. They
see those mysteries which are veiled over to carnal eyes, as Elisha saw
those horses and chariots of fire which his servant did not see (2 Kings
6:17). The adopted see their own sins, Satan's snares, and Christ's
beauty—but those whom the god of the world has blinded, cannot discern these
Whence was it that David understood more than the
ancients? (Psalm 119:100) He had a Father to teach him. God was his
instructor. 'O God, you have taught me from my youth' (Psalm 71:17). Many a
child of God complains of ignorance and dullness. Remember this—your Father
will be your tutor. He has promised to give 'his Spirit to lead you into all
truth' (John 16:13). And God not only informs the understanding—but
inclines the will. He not only teaches us what we should
do—but enables us to do it. 'I will cause you to walk in my statutes'
(Ezekiel 36:27). What a glorious privilege is this, to have the star of the
Word pointing us to Christ, and the loadstone of the Spirit drawing us to
7. If we are his children—this gives us boldness in
prayer. The child goes with confidence to his father, and he
cannot find in his heart to deny him: 'How much more shall your heavenly
Father give his Holy Spirit to those who ask him!' (Luke 11:13). All the
father has, is for his child. If you come to God for pardon, for brokenness
of heart—God cannot deny his child. Whom does he keep his mercies in store
for—but his children?
And that which may give God's children holy boldness in
prayer is this; when they consider God not only in the relation of a
father—but as having the disposition of a father. Some parents are of
a morose, rugged nature—but God is 'the Father of mercies and the God of
all comfort' (2 Corinthians 1:3). He begets all the affections
which are in the world. In prayer we should look upon God under this notion,
'a Father of mercy', sitting upon a 'throne of grace'. We should run to
this heavenly Father in all conditions!
We should run to our heavenly Father with our sins—as
that sick child who, as soon as he found himself ill, he ran to his father
to support him—'My head! My head!' (2 Kings 4:19). So in case of sin, run to
God and say: "My heart, my heart! O this dead heart, Father, quicken it!
This hard heart, Father, soften it! Father, my heart, my heart!"
In our temptations: A child, when another strikes
him, runs to his father and complains. So when the devil strikes us by his
temptations, let us run to our Father: 'Father, Satan assaults and hurls in
his fiery darts at me! He would not only wound my peace—but your glory.
Father, take off the tempter! It is your child who is assaulted by this 'red
dragon'. Father, will you not 'bruise Satan' under my feet?' What a sweet
privilege is this! When any burden lies upon our hearts, we may go to our
Father and unload all our cares and griefs into his loving bosom!
8. If we are God's children—then we are in a state of
freedom. Claudius Lysias valued his Roman freedom at a high rate
(Acts 22:20). A state of sonship is a state of freedom. This is not to be
understood in an Antinomian sense—that the children of God are freed from
the rule of the moral law. This is such a freedom as rebels take. Was
it ever heard that a child should be freed from duty to his parents? But the
freedom which God's children have, is a holy freedom. They are freed
from 'the law of sin' (Romans 8:2).
It is the sad misery of an unregenerate person, that he
is in a state of vassalage. He is under the tyranny of sin. Justin Martyr
used to say, 'It is the greatest slavery in the world for a man to be a
slave to his own passions!' A wicked man is as much a slave as he who works
in the galley! Look into his heart and there are legions of lusts ruling
him. He must do what sin will have him to do. A slave is at the service of a
usurping tyrant. If he bids him dig in the mine, or hew in the quarries, or
tug at the oar—he must do it. Thus every wicked man must do what corrupt
nature inspired by the devil, bids him to do. If sin bids him be drunk, be
unchaste—he is at the command of sin, as the donkey is at the command of the
driver. Sin first enslaves—and then damns!
But the children of God, though they are not free from
the indwelling of sin—yet they are freed from the dominion of
sin. All sin's commands are like laws repealed, which are not in force.
Though sin lives in a child of God—it does not reign. 'Sin shall not have
dominion over you' (Romans 6:14). Sin does not have a coercive power over a
child of God. There is a principle of grace in his heart which gives check
to corruption. This is a believer's comfort—though sin is not removed—yet it
is subdued; and though he cannot keep sin out—yet he keeps sin under.
The saints of God are said to 'crucify the flesh'
(Galatians 5:24). Crucifying was a lingering death. First one member died,
then another. Every child of God crucifies sin. Some limb of the old man is
ever and anon dropping off. Though sin does not die totally—it dies daily.
This is the blessed freedom of God's children, they are freed from the
dominion of sin. They are led by the Spirit of God (Romans 8:14). This
Spirit makes them free and cheerful in obedience. 'Where the Spirit of the
Lord is, there is liberty' (2 Corinthians 3:17).
9. If we are God's children then we are heirs to all the
promises. The promises are called precious (2 Peter 2:4). The
promises are a cabinet of jewels. They are breasts full of the milk of the
gospel. The promises are enriched with variety—and are suited to a
Christian's every condition. Does he need pardoning grace? There is a
promise which carries forgiveness in it (Jeremiah 31:34). Does he need
sanctifying grace? There is a promise of healing (Hosea 14:4). Does he need
assisting grace? There is a promise of strength (Isaiah 41:10). And these
promises are the children's bread. The saints are called 'heirs of the
promise' (Hebrews 6:17). There is Christ and heaven in a promise; and there
is never a promise in the Bible but an adopted person may lay a legal claim
to it and say, 'This is mine!'
The natural man who remains still in the old family has
nothing to do with these promises. He may read over the promises (as one may
read over another man's will or inventory) but has no right to them. The
promises are like a garden of flowers, guarded in and enclosed, which no
stranger may gather, only the children of the family. Ishmael was the son of
the bond-woman. He had no right to the family. 'Cast out the bond-woman and
her son,' as Sarah once said to Abraham (Genesis 21:10). So the unbeliever
is not adopted, he is not of the household, and God will say at the day of
judgment, 'Cast out this son of the bond-woman into utter darkness, where
there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
10. If we are children, then we shall have our Father's
blessing. 'They are the seed which the Lord has blessed' (Isaiah
61:9). We read that Isaac blessed his son Jacob: 'May God give you of
heaven's dew and of earth's richness-- an abundance of grain and new wine'
(Genesis 27:28), which was not only a prayer for Jacob—but (as Luther says)
a prophecy of that happiness and blessing which should come upon him and all
his posterity. Thus every adopted child has his heavenly Father's
benediction. There is a special blessing distilled into all that he
possesses. 'The Lord will bless his people with peace' (Exodus 23:25; Psalm
29:11). He will not only give them peace—but they shall have it with a
blessing. The wicked have the things they enjoy with God's permission—but
the adopted have them with God's love. The wicked have them by
providence; the saints by promise. Isaac had but one blessing to
bestow. 'Have you but one blessing, my father?' (Genesis 27:38). But God has
many blessings for his children. He blesses them in their souls, bodies,
names, estate, posterity. He blesses them with the upper springs and the
nether springs. He multiplies to bless them and his blessing cannot be
reversed. As Isaac said concerning Jacob, 'I have blessed him, yes and he
shall be blessed' (Genesis 27:33), so God blesses his children and they
shall be blessed.
11. If we are God's children, then all things which
happen to them, shall turn to our good. 'All things work together
for good to those who love God' (Romans 8:28). Both good things and evil
things work to their eternal good.
 GOOD things work for good to God's children.
Mercies shall do them good. The mercies of God shall
SOFTEN them. David's heart was overcome with God's mercy. 'Who am I, O
Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?'
(2 Samuel 7:18). I who was of a poor family, I who held the shepherd's
staff—that now I should hold the royal scepter! Nay, you have spoken of your
servant's house for a great while to come. You have made a promise that my
children shall sit upon the throne; yes, that the blessed Messiah shall come
of my line and race. And is this the manner of man, O Lord God! As if he had
said, 'Do men show such undeserved kindness?' See how this good man's heart
was dissolved and softened by mercy! The flint is soonest broken upon a soft
Mercies make the children of God more FRUITFUL. The
ground bears the better crop for the labor which is spent upon it. God gives
his children health—and they spend and are spent for Christ. He gives them
estates—and they honor the Lord with their substance. The backs and bellies
of the poor are the field where they sow the precious seed of their charity.
A child of God makes his estate a golden clasp to bind his heart faster to
God, a footstool to raise him up higher towards heaven.
Ordinances shall work for good to God's children. The
Word preached shall do them good. It is a savor of life; it is a lamp to the
feet and a laver to their hearts. The word preached is a means of spiritual
health, a chariot of salvation. It is an engrafting and a transforming word;
it is a word with unction, anointing their eyes to see that light. The
preaching of the Word is that lattice where Christ looks forth and shows
himself to his saints. This golden pipe of the sanctuary conveys the water
of life. To the wicked the Word preached works for evil; even the Word of
life becomes a savor of death. The same cause may have divers, nay, contrary
effects. The sun dissolves the ice—but hardens the clay. To
the unregenerate and profane, the Word is not humbling—but
hardening. Jesus Christ, the best of preachers, was to some a rock of
offence. The Jews sucked death from his sweet lips. It is sad that the
breast should kill any. The wicked suck poison from that breast of
ordinances, where the children of God suck milk and are nourished unto
The sacrament works for good to the children of
God. In the Word preached the saints hear Christ's voice; in the
sacrament they have his kiss. The Lord's Supper is to the saints 'a
feast of fat things'. It is a healing and a sealing ordinance. In this
chalice, a bleeding Savior is brought in to revive drooping spirits. The
sacrament has glorious effects in the hearts of God's children. It quickens
their affections, strengthens their faith, mortifies their sin, revives
their hopes, increases their joy. It gives a foretaste of heaven.
 EVIL things work for good to God's children.
'Unto the upright arises light in the darkness' (Psalm 112:4).
Poverty works for good to God's children. It starves
their lusts. It increases their graces. 'Poor in the world—rich in faith'
(James 2:5). Poverty tends to prayer. When God has clipped his children's
wings by poverty—they fly swiftest to the throne of grace.
Sickness works for their good. It shall bring the
body of death into a consumption. 'Though our outward man perishes—yet the
inward man is renewed day by day' (2 Corinthians 4:16). Like those two
laurels at Rome—when the one withered the other flourished.' When the body
withers—the soul of a Christian flourishes. How often have we seen a lively
faith—in a languishing body! Hezekiah was better on his sick bed—than upon
his throne. When he was upon his sickbed he humbles himself and weeps. When
he was on his throne he grew proud (Isaiah 39:2). God's children recover
spiritual health, by physical sickness. In this sense, 'out of weakness they
are made strong' (Hebrews 11:34).
Reproach works for good to God's children; it
increases their grace and their glory.
Disgrace increases their grace. The farmer by
fertilizing his ground makes the soil more rich and fertile. God lets the
wicked fertilize his people with reproaches and calumnies, that their hearts
may be a richer soil for grace to grow in.
Reproach increases their glory. He who unjustly takes
from a saint's credit, shall add to his crown. The sun shines brighter after
an eclipse. The more a child of God is eclipsed by reproaches, the brighter
he shall shine in the kingdom of heaven.
Persecution to God's children works for good. The
godly may be compared to that plant which grows by cutting. The zeal
and love of the saints is blown up by sufferings. Their joy flourishes.
Tertullian says the primitive Christians rejoiced more in their persecutions
than in their deliverances.
Death works for good to the children of God. It is
like the whirlwind to the prophet Elijah, which blew off his mantle—but
carried him up to heaven. So death to a child of God is like a boisterous
whirlwind which blows off the mantle of his flesh (for the body is but the
mantle the soul is wrapped in)—but it carries up the soul to God. This is
the glorious privilege of the sons of God. Everything which happens, shall
do them good. The children of God, when they come to heaven, shall bless God
for all cross providences.
12. And lastly, if we are children of God, we shall never
finally perish (John 5:24; 10:28). Those who are adopted—are out
of the power of damnation. 'There is no condemnation to those who are in
Christ' (Romans 8:1). Will a father condemn his own son? God will never
disinherit any of his children. Earthly fathers may disinherit for some
fault. Reuben for incest lost his birthright (Genesis 49:4). What is the
reason parents disinherit their children? Surely this, because they can make
them no better. They cannot make them fit for the inheritance. But when we
are bad—our heavenly Father knows how to make us better. He can make us fit
to inherit. 'Giving thanks to the Father who has made us fit for the
inheritance' (Colossians 1:12). Therefore it being in his power to make us
better, and to work in us fitness for the inheritance, certainly he will
never finally disinherit.
Because this is so sweet a privilege, and the life of a
Christian's comfort lies in it, therefore I shall clear it by arguments that
the children of God cannot finally perish. The curse of hell and damnation
is cut off. Not but that the best of God's children have that guilt which
deserves hell—but Christ is the friend at court, who has purchased their
pardon. Therefore the damning power of sin is taken away, which I prove
The children of God cannot finally perish, because God's
justice is satisfied for their sins. The blood of Christ is the price paid
not only meritoriously—but efficaciously for all those who believe. This
being the 'blood of God' (Acts 20:28), justice is fully satisfied and cannot
condemn those for whom this blood was shed, and to whom it is applied. Jesus
Christ was a substitute. He stood bound for every child of God as a surety.
He said to justice, 'Have patience with them and I will pay you all', so
that the believer cannot be liable to wrath. God will not require the debt
twice, both of the surety and the debtor (Romans 3:24, 26). God is not only
merciful in pardoning his children—but righteous, 'He is just
to forgive' (1 John 1:9). It is an act of God's equity and justice—to spare
the sinner when he has been satisfied in the surety.
A damnatory sentence cannot pass upon the children of
God, because they are so God's children, as also they are Christ's
spouse (Canticles 4:11). There is a marriage union between Christ and
the saints. Every child of God is a part of Christ. Now, shall a member of
Christ perish? A child of God cannot perish—unless Christ perishes. Jesus
Christ who is the Husband, is the Judge, and will he condemn his own spouse?
Every child of God is transformed into the likeness of
Christ. He has the same Spirit, the same judgment, the same will. He is a
living picture of Christ. As Christ bears the saints' names upon his
breast, so they bear his image upon their hearts (Galatians 4:19).
Will Christ allow his own image to be destroyed? Theodosius counted them
traitors, who defaced his image. Christ will not let his image in believers
be defaced and rent. He will not endure to see his own picture take fire.
The sea has not only stinking carrion—but jewels thrown into it—but none of
God's jewels shall ever be thrown into the dread sea of hell.
If God's children could be capable of final perishing,
then pardon of sin is no privilege. The Scripture says, 'Blessed is he whose
transgression is forgiven' (Psalm 32:1). But what blessedness is there in
having sin forgiven, if afterwards a final and damnatory sentence should
pass upon the heirs of promise? What is a man the better for the king's
pardon—if he were condemned after he were pardoned?
If the children of God should be finally disinherited,
then the Scripture could not be fulfilled which tells us of glorious
rewards. 'Truly there is a reward for the righteous' (Psalm 58:11). God
sweetens his commands with promises. He ties duty and reward together. One
part of the Word carries duty in it, and another part of the Word carries
reward. Now if the adopted of God should eternally miscarry, what reward is
there for the righteous? And Moses was deceived, in looking to the
'recompense of the reward' (Hebrews 11:26). And so by consequence there
would be a door opened to despair.
By all which it appears that the children of God cannot
be disinherited or reprobated. If they should lose eternal happiness—then
Christ would lose his purchase and would die in vain.
Thus we have seen the glorious privileges of the children
of God. What an encouragement is here to true religion! How may this tempt
men to turn godly! Can the world vie with a child of God? Can the world give
such privileges as these? Can the world do that for you, which God does for
his children? Can it give you pardon of sin and eternal life? Is not
godliness gain? What is there in sin that men should love it? The work of
sin is drudgery—and the wages death! Those who see more in sin, than in the
privileges of adoption—let them go on and have their ears bored to the
1. There is a bill of indictment against those who
declare to the world they are not the children of God—all profane
people. These have damnation written upon their forehead.
Scoffers at religion. It were blasphemy to call these the
children of God. Will a true child jeer at his Father's picture?
Drunkards, who drown reason and stupefy conscience. These
declare their sin as Sodom! They are children indeed—but 'cursed children!'
(2 Peter 2:14).
2. Exhortation to believers, which consists of two
 Let us prove ourselves to be the children of God.
 Let us carry ourselves as the children of God.
 Let us prove ourselves to be the children of God.
There are many false and unscriptural evidences.
Says one, 'The minister thinks me to be godly, and can he
Others can but see the outward carriage and deportment.
If that is fair, the minister may by the rule of charity, judge well of you.
But what does God say? He is your judge. Are you a saint in God's calendar?
It is a poor thing to have an applauding world—and an accusing God.
'Oh but,' says another, 'I hope I am a child of God; I
love my heavenly Father.'
Why do you love God? Perhaps because God gives you
food and wine. This is a mercenary love, a love to yourself more than to
God. You may lead a sheep all the field over with a bunch of hay in your
hand—but throw away the hay, now the sheep will follow you no longer. So the
squint-eyed hypocrite loves God only for the provender. When this fails, his
affection fails too.
But leaving these vain and false evidences of adoption,
let us enquire for a sound evidence. The main evidence of adoption
is sanctification. Search, O Christian, whether the work of
sanctification has passed upon your soul! Is your understanding
sanctified to discern the things which are excellent? Is your will
sanctified to embrace heavenly objects? Do you love where God
loves—and hate where God hates? Are you a holy person? This argues
the heart of a child of God. God will never reject those who have his image
and superscription upon them!
 Let us walk as befits the children of God, and let us
deport ourselves as the children of the holy God.
Let us walk as the children of God, in OBEDIENCE.
'As obedient children' (1 Peter 1:14). If a stranger bids a child to
do a thing, he regards him not. But if his father commands—he presently
obeys. Obey God out of love, obey him readily, obey every command. If he
bids you to part with your bosom-sin, leave and loathe it. '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). Thus when Satan and your own heart would be
tempting you to a sin and set cups of wine before you, refuse to drink. Say,
'My heavenly Father has commanded me not to drink!' Hypocrites will obey God
in some things which are consistent either with their credit or profit—but
in other things they desire to be excused. Like Esau who obeyed his father
in bringing him venison, because probably he liked the sport of hunting—but
refused to obey him in a business of greater importance, namely, in the
choice of his wife.
Let us walk as the children of God, in HUMILITY.
'Be clothed with humility' (1 Peter 5:5). Humility is a lovely garment. Let
a child of God look at his face every morning in the looking-glass of God's
Word and see his sinful spots. This will make him walk humbly all the day
after. God cannot endure to see his children grow proud. He allows them to
fall into sin, as he did Peter, that their plumes of pride may fall off, and
that they may walk humbly.
Let us walk as the children of God, in SOBRIETY.
'But let us who are of the day be sober' (1 Thessalonians 5:8). God's
children must not do as others. They must be sober.
Our speech must be sober—not rash, not unfitting.
'Let your speech be seasoned with salt' (Colossians 4:6). Grace must be the
salt which seasons our words and makes them savory. Our words must be solid
and weighty, not feathery. God's children must speak the language of Canaan.
Many pretend to be God's children—but their speech betrays them. Their lips
do not drop as a honeycomb—but are like the sink, where all the filth of the
house is carried out.
The children of God must be sober in their opinions;
hold nothing but what a sober man would hold. 'Error,' as Basil says, 'is a
spiritual intoxication, a kind of frenzy.' If Christ were upon the earth
again, he would have patients enough. There are an abundance of spiritual
lunatics among us which need healing.
The children of God must be sober in their attire.
'Don't be concerned about the outward beauty that depends on fancy
hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should be known for
the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet
spirit, which is so precious to God' (1 Peter 3:3-4). God's children must
not be conformed to the world (Romans 12:2). It is not for God's children to
do as others, taking up every fashion. What is a naked breast but a
looking-glass in which you may see a vain heart? Walk soberly.
Let us walk as the children of God, in our LABORS.
We must be diligent in our calling. Religion does not seal warrants to
idleness. It was Jerome's advice to his friend, to be always well employed.
'Six days shall you labor'. God sets all his children to work. They must not
be like the 'lilies which neither toil nor spin'. Heaven indeed is a
place of rest. 'They rest from their labors' (Revelation 14:13). There the
saints shall lay aside all their working tools, and take the harp and
violin—but while we are here, we must labor in a calling. God will bless our
diligence, not our laziness.
Let us walk as the children of God, in MAGNANIMITY and
courage. The saints are highborn. They are of the true
blood-royal, born of God. They must do nothing sneakingly or
sordidly. They must not fear the faces of men. As said that
brave-spirited Nehemiah, 'Shall such a man as I flee?' (Nehemiah
6:11) so should a child of God say, Shall I be afraid to do my duty?
Shall I unworthily comply and prostitute myself to the lusts and
desires of men? The children of the most High should do nothing to stain or
dishonor their noble birth. A king's son scorns to do anything that is below
Let us walk as the children of God, in SANCTITY
(1 Peter 1:16). Holiness is the diadem of beauty. In this let us
imitate our heavenly Father. A debauched child is a disgrace to his father.
There is nothing which more casts a reflection on our heavenly Father, than
the unholy lives of such as profess themselves his children. What will
others say? 'Are these the children of the holy God? Can God be their
Father?' 'The world blasphemes the name of God because of you' (Romans
2:24). Oh let us do nothing unworthy of our heavenly Father.
Let us walk as the children of God, in CHEERFULNESS.
'Why should the son of a king look so dejected morning after morning?' (2
Samuel 13:4). Why do the children of God walk so pensively? Are they not
'heirs of heaven'? Perhaps they may meet with hard usage in the world—but
let them remember they are the seed-royal, and are of the family of God.
Suppose a man were in a strange land, and should meet there with unkind
usage—yet he rejoices that he has a great estate in his own country. Just
so, should the children of God comfort themselves with this, though they are
now in a strange country—yet they have a title to the Jerusalem above; and
though sin at present hangs about them (for they still have some relics of
their disease) yet shortly they shall get rid of it. At death they shall
shake off this viper!
Let us walk as the children of God, in holy LONGINGS and
expectations. Children are always longing to be at home.
'Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling.' (2
Corinthians 5:2). There is bread enough in our Father's house. How should we
long for home! Death carries a child of God to his Father's house! Paul
desired 'to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far!' It is
comfortable dying, when by faith we can resign up our souls into our
Father's hands. 'Father, into your hands I commend my spirit' (Luke 23:46).