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here, and thrive, and blossom, and bear fruit, and bear it abundantly.
In the church, the family named after Christ,' are assembled the objects of brotherly love, or evangelical complacency. Here such as are the subjects of this exalted attribute find those presented to them, on whom it may be exercised and repeated. Accordingly here, and in the nature of things here only, can this affection live and prosper. Here, on the one hand, virtue is daily seen, approved, and loved; and, on the other, complacency interchanged, strengthened, and enjoyed while those who are thus the objects of love are by every motive which can reach a virtuous mind, invited animated, and compelled to render themselves more deserving of this affection, by improving and adorning those excellencies which are its immediate objects. Brotherly love becomes here a peculiarly refined and glorious friendship, a bond of perfection, uniting them more and more unto the end. Thus, by the establishment of a church in the world, has Christ provided for the existence, continuance, and improvement of this elevated affection. In the mean time, as brotherly love exists in this heaven-appointed family, so in the bosom of the same family it operates unceasingly in all the amiable and useful methods directed by the Scriptures, and pointed to by itself with a magnetic influence. Here it reproves all the variations from truth, all the deviations from rectitude, to which imperfect man, even in his best estate, is liable on this side of the grave. Here it approves and confirms every thing that is vindicable and lovely. Here it prays for the strength, amendment, comfort, peace, and joy of its brethren. Here it weeps with them in their sorrow, rejoices in their joys, and smiles on all their delightful progress in holiness; refines in the view of their refinement, exults in their advancement to immortal life, and expands its wings for the final flight to everlasting glory.
3. This subject forcibly impresses on our minds the excellence, glory, and happiness of heaven.
In this apostate and melancholy world, wise men in all ages have seen and felt that virtue has been a stranger, a pilgrim, and in many instances an outcast also. Her friends have
been few, and commonly powerless; her enemies mighty and strong, bitter and distressing; her cause unpopular and hated; her arguments lost in deaf ears, and her entreaties repelled by hearts of marble. It is reasonable, it is desirable, it is “ devoutly to be wished," and prayed for, that virtue may somewhere find a home, a settled residence' a kind welcome, real friends, and final safety. These blessings she has rarely found in this foreign region, this unnatural climate; and, at the best, she has found them but for a moment. Accordingly, she has ever cast her eyes upward, towards another and better country. From that country she has received tidings which cannot deceive, and which assure her of a welcome and final reception. She is informed, that there she was born and nursed; and that in this world she is only a visitor and stranger, destined to finish the pilgrimage allotted, and then to return to her native residence, there to dwell for ever. With rapture she has learned, that there all her friends will be finally gathered; and that her Father and everlasting friend is there ready to receive her to the arms of infinite and unchangeable love.
In that glorious world, a vast and immortal church, formed of those who are all brethren, inhabits the delightful regions destined to be its eternal residence. In the innumerable millions of which this great assembly, this nation of brethren, this kingdom of Jehovah, is composed, brotherly love is the commanding principle of action. In angels it has glowed and brightened ever since the morning of creation dawned over the vast abyss of darkness and solitude. In the general assembly of the firstborn' it is made a test of their character, and a foundation of their admission into Heaven. Inasmuch as ye have done good unto one of the least of these my brethren,' is by Christ himself announced as the peculiar term of admission; and Inasmuch as ye did it not,' as the term of final exclusion. In the cold and dreary region of this world the spark was scarcely kindled, and prolonged its existence with difficulty. The flax,' in which it was kept from final extinction, smoked' merely, without rising into a flame: but it was never finally quenched.' At the great examination, it was found still a living spark; and its existence was seen, acknowledged, and proclaimed. Transferred to heaven, it began there to kindle with new and immortal lustre, and was
set in that constellated firmament of living and eternal splendours, which are all glorious with inherent light, although one star differeth from another star in glory.'
Of that brilliant world, that region where all things shine, and live, and flourish, and triumph for ever, the beauty, the glory, the excellence, is eminently this divine affection. All are brethren, all are loved as brethren. All are divinely amiable and excellent friends. Every one possesses the virtue which is loved, and the complacency by which it is loved. Every one, conscious of unmingled purity within, approves and loves himself for that divine image, which in complete perfection and with untarnished resemblance is instamped on his character. Each, in every view which he casts around him, beholds the same glory shining and brightening in the endless train of his companions; one in nature, but diversified without end, in those forms and varieties of excellence by which the original and eternal beauty delights to present itself to the virtuous universe. Here every one, conscious of being entirely lovely, and entirely loved, reciprocates the same love to that great multitude, which no man can number, of all nations, kindreds, and tongues,' and which fills the immeasurable regions of heaven. Out of this character grows a series ever varying, ever improving, of all the possible communications of beneficence, fitted in every instance only to interchange and increase the happiness of all. In the sunshine of infinite complacency, the light of the new Jerusalem, the original source of all their own beauty, life, and joy, all these happy nations walk for ever; and, transported with the life giving influence, unite in one harmonious and eternal hymn to the great Author of their enjoyment; Blessing, and honour, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, be unto him that sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb, for ever and ever. Amen.
BELOVED, NOW ARE WE THE SONS OF GOD.
1 JOHN III. 2.
In a series of Discourses, I have considered the attendants of regeneration : viz. Faith (formerly explained) repentance; love to God; love to mankind; and brotherly Love. I shall now proceed, according to the scheme formerly proposed, to examine the consequences of this change of cha
Of these the first in the natural order is adoption. That adoption is a consequence of regeneration will not be denied. The observations which I shall make concerning the subject, will be included under the following heads:
I. The nature,
II. The reality,
III. The importance,
IV. The consequences, of adoption.
I. The nature of adoption may be explained in the following manner :
A child is, in this act, taken by a man from a family not his own, introduced into his own family, regarded as his own
child, and entitled to all the privileges and blessings belonging to this relation. To adopt children in this manner has, it is well known, been a custom generally prevailing in all ages, and probably in all nations. Thus children were adopted among the Egyptians, Jews, Romans, and other ancient nations; and the same custom exists in the Christian nations of Europe, in our own country, among the American aborigines, and, so far as my knowledge extends, throughout the world.
Of the same general nature is that transaction in the divine economy, by which mankind become the children of God.
II. The reality of adoption may be thus illustrated :
Mankind are originally strangers to the family of God; enemies to him, to his law, to his kingdom, and to all his interests. From this situation they are invited to come, and enter into his family; to take his name upon them, to share in his parental care, tenderness, and blessings. Such of them as comply with the invitation are received into his family, and become entitled to his parental love, and all the offices of affection to which it gives birth. From this period they are styled the children of God. From this period they are permitted and required to address him as their Father, a character which he has been pleased to assume, and to consider themselves as his children, and as entitled to the character of his children.
Of this subject the Scriptures give us the following exhibi
1. God announced the adoption of mankind into his family soon after the apostasy.
At the birth of Enos, we are told, that men began to call upon the name of the Lord.' In the margin, and, as it would seem, with greater correctness, men began to be called by the name of the Lord: that is, they began to be called his children, and to take upon themselves the name of God, as being now their parent; just as adopted children take upon themselves the names of those human parents by whom they have been adopted. The style, by which they began to be known at this early period, has been continued through every