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mortal body, but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead. For sin shall not have dominion over you.-God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin,-But being made free;" -the plain meaning is, God be thanked, that though ye were in time past the servants of sin, yet now "being free from sin, ye are become the servants of righteousness.' 3.99
5. The same invaluable privilege of the sons of God, is as strongly asserted by St. John; particularly, with regard to the former branch of it, namely, power over outward sin. After he had been crying out, as one astonished at the depth of the riches of the goodness of God. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God! Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him: for we shall see him as he is," 1 John iii. 1, &c.; he soon adds, "Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God," ver. 9. But some men will say, "True whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin habitually." Habitually! whence is that? I read it not. It is not written in the Book. God plainly saith, "He doth not commit sin." And thou addest, habitually! Who art thou that mendest the Oracles of God? That "addest to the words of this Book?" Beware, I beseech thee, lest God "add to thee, all the plagues that are written therein!" Especially when the comment thou addest is such, as quite swallows up the text: so that by this
dodec vns, this artful method of deceiving, the precious promise is utterly lost; by this vße avega, this tricking and shuffling of men, the Word of God is made of none effect. O beware, thou that thus takest from the words of this book, that taking away the whole meaning and spirit from them, leavest only what may indeed be termed a dead letter, lest God take away thy part out of the Book of Life!
6. Suffer we the Apostle to interpret his own words, by the whole tenor of his discourse. In the fifth verse of this chapter, he had said, "Ye know that he [Christ] was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin." What is the inference he draws from this?"Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him," ch. iii. 6. To his enforcement of this important doctrine, he premises an highly necessary caution: "Little children, let no man deceive you," ver. 7. (For many will endeavour so to do; to persuade you that you may be unrighteous, that you may commit sin, and yet be children of God.) "He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning" Then follows, "Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin: for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this," adds the Apostle, "the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil." By this plain mark (the committing or not committing sin) are they distinguished from each other. To the same effect are those words in his
fifth chapter, "We know that whosoever is born of God, sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one touched him not," ver. 18.
7. Another fruit of this living faith is Peace. For, "being justified by faith," having all our sins blotted out, "we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ," Rom. v. 1. This indeed our Lord himself, the night before his death, solemnly bequeathed to all his followers. "Peace," saith he, "I leave with you;" (you who be lieve in God, and believe also in me;) "my peace I give unto you.” "Not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid," John xiv. 27. And, again, "These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace," ch. xvi. 33. This is that "peace of God, which passeth all understanding," that serenity of soul, which it hath not entered into the heart of a natural man to conceive, and which it is not possible for even the spiritual man to utter. And it is a peace which all the powers of earth and hell are unable to take from him. Waves and storms beat upon it, but they shake it not; for it is founded upon a Rock. It keepeth the hearts and minds of the children of God, at all times and in all places. Whether they are in ease or in pain, in sickness or in health, in abundance or want, they are happy in God. In every state they have learned to be content, yea, to give thanks unto God through Christ Jesus: being well assured, that "whatso ever is, is best;" because it is his will concerning them. So that in all the vicissitudes of life, their "heart standeth fast, believing in the Lord."
II. 1. A second scriptural mark of those who are born of God is Hope. Thus St. Peter, speaking to all the children of God, who were then scattered abroad, saith, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope," 1 Pet. i. 3. Eida Cerav, a lively or living hope, saith the Apostle : because there is also a dead hope, (as well as a dead faith,) a hope which is not from God, but from the enemy of God and man; as evidently appears by its fruits: for, as it is the offspring of pride, so it is the parent of every evil word and work; whereas, every man that hath in him this living hope, is "holy as he that calleth him is holy:" every man that can truly say to his brethren in Christ, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and we shall see him as he is, purifieth himself, even as he is pure."
2. This hope, termed in the epistle to the Hebrews, chap. x. 22, πληροφερια πιστεως, and elsewhere, πληροφορια ελπιδα, chap. vi. 11, (in our translation, "the full assurance of faith, and the full assurance of hope;" expressions the best which our language could afford, although far weaker than those in the original,) as described in Scripture, implies, First, The testimony of our own spirit or conscience, that we walk "in simplicity and godly sincerity:" but Secondly and chiefly, The testimony of the Spirit of God, "bearing witness with, or to, our spirit, that we are the children of God;
and if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ."
3. Let us well observe, what is here taught us by God himself, touching the glorious privilege of his children. Who is it, that is here said to bear witness? Not our spirit only, but another; even the Spirit of God: he it is who "beareth witness with our spirit." What is it, he beareth witness of? That we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ," Rom. viii. 16, 17,-"if so be that we suffer with him, (if we deny ourselves, if we take up our cross daily, if we cheerfully endure persecution or reproach for his sake,) that we may also be glorified together." And in whom doth the Spirit of God bear this witness? In all who are the children of God. By this very argument does the Apostle prove in the preceding verses that they are so: "As many (saith he) as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of Adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father!" It follows, "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God," ch. viii. 11. 15, 16.
4. The variation of the phrase in the 15th verse, is worthy our observation. "Ye have received the Spirit of Adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father!" Ye, as many as are the sons of God, have, in virtue of your sonship, received that self-same Spirit of Adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. We, the apostles, prophets, teachers, (for so the word may not improperly be understood,) we, through whom you have believed, the "ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God." As we and you have one Lord, so we have one Spirit: as we have one faith, so we have one hope also. We and you are sealed with one Spirit of Promise, the earnest of yours and of our inheritance: the same Spirit bearing witness with yours and with our spirit, "that we are the children of God."
5. And thus is the Scripture fulfilled, "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." For it is easy to believe, that though sorrow may precede this witness of God's Spirit with our spirit, (indeed must, in some degree, while we groan under fear, and a sense of the wrath of God abiding on us,) yet, as soon as any man feeleth it in himself, his "sorrow is turned into joy." Whatsoever his pain may have been before, yet, as soon as that "hour is come, he remembereth the anguish no more, for joy" that he is born of God. It may be, many of you have now sorrow, because you are "aliens from the common-wealth of Israel;" because you are conscious to yourselves that you have not this Spirit, that you are "without hope and without God in the world.” But when the Comforter is come, "then your heart shall rejoice; yea, your joy shall be full, and that joy no man taketh from you," John xvi. 22. "We joy in God," will ye say, "through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement:" "by whom we have access into this grace," this state of grace, of favour, or reconcilia
tion with God, "wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God," Romans v. 2. "Ye," saith St. Peter, "whom God hath begotten again unto a lively hope, are kept by the power of God unto salvation:" "Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations that the trial of your faith may be found unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ: In whom, though now ye see him not, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory," 1 Pet. i. 5, &c. Unspeakable indeed! It is not for the tongue of man to describe this joy in the Holy Ghost. It is "hidden manna, which no man knoweth, save he that receiveth it." But this we know, it not only remains but overflows in the depth of affliction. "Are the consolations of God small" with his children, when all earthly comforts fail? Not so. But when sufferings most abound, the consolation of his Spirit doth much more abound; insomuch, that the sons of God "laugh at destruction when it cometh;" at want, pain, hell, and the grave; as knowing him who "hath the keys of death and hell," as hearing even now the great voice out of heaven, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying; neither shall there be any more pain ; for the former things are passed away," Rev. xxi. 3, 4.
III. 1. A third scriptural mark of those who are born of God, and the greatest of all, is love; even "the love of God shed abroad in their hearts, by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto them," Rom. v. 5. "Because they are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into their hearts, crying, Abba, Father!" Gal. iv. 8. By this Spirit, continually looking up to God, as their reconciled and loving Father, they cry to him for their daily bread, for all things needful, whether for their souls or bodies. They continually pour out their hearts before him, knowing "they have the petitions which they ask of him," 1 John v. 15. Their delight is in him. He is the joy of their heart: their shield, and their exceeding great reward." The desire of their soul is toward him: it is their "meat and drink to do his will;" and they are "satisfied as with marrow and fatness, while their mouth praiseth him with joyful lips," Psalm lxiii. 5.
2. And, in this sense also, "Every one who loveth him that begat, loveth him that is begotten of him," 1 John v. 1. His spirit rejoiceth in God his Saviour. He "loveth the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity" he is so "joined unto the Lord," as to be one Spirit. His soul hangeth upon him, and chooseth him as altogether lovely, "the chiefest among ten thousand." He knoweth, he feeleth what that means, "My beloved is mine, and I am his." "Thou art fairer than the children of men; full of grace are thy lips, because God hath anointed thee for ever!" Psalm xlv. 2.
3. The necessary fruit of this love of God, is the love of our neighbour, of every soul which God hath made; not excepting our enemies, not excepting those who are now "despitefully using and persecuting us:" a love, whereby we love every man as ourselves, as we love our own souls. Nay, our Lord has expressed it still more strongly, teaching us to "love one another even as he hath loved us." Accordingly, the commandment written in the hearts of all those that love God, is no other than this, "As I have loved you, so love ye one another." Now, "herein perceive we the love of God, in that he laid down his life for us," 1 John iii. 16. "We ought" then, as the Apostle justly infers, "to lay down our lives for our brethren." If we feel ourselves ready to do this, then do we truly love our neighbour Then we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we thus love our brethren," ver. 14. Hereby know we" that we are born of God, that we "dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his [loving] Spirit." ch. iv. 13. For "Love is of God, and every one that thus loveth, is born of God, and knoweth God," 1 John iv. 7.
4. But some may possibly ask, does not the Apostle say, "This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments?" I John v. 3. Yea, and this is the love of our neighbour also, in the same sense as it is the love of God. But what would you infer from hence? That the keeping the outward commandments, is all that is implied in loving God with all your heart, with all your mind, and soul, and strength, and in loving your neighbour as yourself? That the love of God is not an affection of the soul, but merely an outward service? And that the love of our neighbour is not a disposition of heart, but barely a course of outward works! To mention so wild an interpretation of the Apostle's words, is sufficiently to confute it. The plain indispu table meaning of that text is, this is the sign or proof of the love of God, of our keeping the first and great commandment, to keep all the rest of his commandments. For true love, if it be once shed abroad in our hearts, will constrain us so to do; since, whosoever loves God with all his heart, cannot but serve him with all his strength.
5. A second fruit then of the love of God, (so far as it can be distinguished from it,) is universal obedience to him we love, and conformity to his will: obedience to all the commands of God, internal and external: obedience of the heart and of the life, in every temper, and in all manner of conversation. And one of the tempers most obviously implied herein is, the being "zealous of good works;" the hungering and thirsting to do good in every possible kind, unto all men; the rejoicing to "spend and be spent for them," for every child of man, not looking for any recompense in this world, but only in the resurrection of the just.
1. Thus have I plainly laid down those marks of the New-Birth, which I find laid down in Scripture. Thus doth God himself answer that weighty question, What is it to be born of God? Such, if the appeal be made to the Oracles of God. is "every one that VOL. 5.-Y