Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
I INTEND the words which I have now been reading, only as an introduction to that address to the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty, with which I am now to conclude these lectures; and therefore shall not enter into any critical discussion, either of them, or of the context.
I hope God has made the series of these discourses, in some measure, useful to those for whose service they were immediately intended: but if they have not been so to all, and if with relation to many I have labored in vain from Sabbath to Sabbath, I cannot be surprised at it. What am I better than my fathers? 1 Kings xix.4. It has, in every age, been their complaint, that they have stretched out their hands all the day to a disobedient and gainsaying people; (Isa.1xv.2: Rom. x.21;) that the bellows have been burnt, and the lead consumed of the fire, but the dross has not been taken away: such reprobate silver have multitudes been found. Jer. vi.29, 30. Yea, the Lord Jesus Christ himself, who spake with such unequaled eloquence, with such divine energy, yet met with multitudes, who were like the deaf adder, that would not hearken to the voice of the wisest charmer: (Ps. lviii.4, 5:) and surely the disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. Matt. x.24.
When indeed we consider the infinite importance of the message we address to you, O ye perishing sinners I we hardly know how to give over, or to take a denial. We feel a strong impulse on our hearts to give line upon line, and precept upon precept: (Isa. xxviii.10:) as a physician that loves his patient, when he sees the distemper prevailing, and has run through the whole range of medicines, is ready, while life yet remains, not entirely to give over, but to repeat again what he had prescribed unsuccessfully before. And if God spares our lives, no doubt many of those things which I have before been urging, must in substance be repeated. But at present I will desist: I know not what more or further to say; and if you are utterly unimpressed with what I have already laid before you, especially with regard to the character of the unregenerate -- the nature of regeneration -- the absolute necessity of it -- and of the Divine agency in producing it, with the absolute importance of your securing a part in the kingdom of heaven; I know not what further to urge, and must leave you either to the grace or the judgment of God.
The time will certainly come, when you will see and own the importance of these things. The word of God will, in one sense or another, take hold of every soul that hears it, and, perhaps on some of you in a very terrible manner, and in a very little time. But if it do, I may say with the apostle Paul, when in token of the solemnity with which he spoke, he shook his raiment, and took leave of his obstinate hearers, I am clean from your blood; (Acts xviii.6;) and since you refuse to be instructed, I turn to those who regard what I say. And thus, according to the method I at first proposed, I proceed,
Seventhly, To conclude these discourses with an address to those who, by Divine grace, are experimentally acquainted with this great work of regeneration; to show them how they ought to be affected with the consideration of the truths that have been offered, and what improvement they should make of such a course of sermons as you have lately been attending.
Out of a general regard to the glory of God and the good of souls, you have attended on what has hitherto been spoken to persons of a very different character; and I hope not altogether without some sensible refreshment and advantage; but now hear more immediately for yourselves, and suffer a word of exhortation in such particulars as these: Be thankful to God for what you have experienced; improve it as an engagement to behave in a suitable manner; study to promote the work of God upon the hearts of others; and long for that blessed world where the change that is now begun, and is gradually advancing in your souls, shall be universal and complete. Your own wisdom and piety have, no doubt, anticipated me in each of these particulars; but you will be glad to enter more fully into the reflection than you could do, while it was intermingling itself with other thoughts.
I. Return the most affectionate acknowledgments of praise to the God of all mercy for the experience you have had of a regenerating change.
I would now address this exhortation and charge to every one of you, who, through Divine grace, hope you can say, that you are born again; to all who can say, that God has, of his own will, begotten you with the word of truth, that you may be a kind of first fruits of his creatures. To you I would say, Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness and goodness. Psal. xxx.4. Give thanks to the Father, who has made you meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Col. i.12. Join your voices and your hearts in the most cheerful hymns of praise, whatever your different circumstances are. Let the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the honorable and the mean, rejoice together; if any may be called poor, who are thus enriched; if any may be accounted mean, who are thus honored. Bless the Lord at all times, let his praise be continually in your mouths; (Ps. xxxiv.1;) and endeavor to carry along with you, through the darkest road you travel, and the bitterest sorrows you taste, cheerfulness in your hearts, and praise on your tongues; considering -- how important the blessing is with which the Lord has favored you; how few there are who partake of it; and in the midst of how much opposition the Divine grace has taken hold of your souls, and wrought its wonders of love there.
1. Consider, my Christian friends, how important this favor is which God has bestowed upon you, in thus begetting you as a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
Justly indeed may we say, Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be regenerated by his grace, and so be called, and that with propriety, the sons of God! 1 John iii.1. Justly may I say to you, now you are assembled in the courts of the Lord, in those emphatical words of David, O come, let us worship, and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; (Psal. xcv.6;) for it is he that has made us and not we ourselves, with regard to this second, as well as the first creation; and we, in consequence of it, are in the noblest sense, his people, and the sheep of his pasture: enter, therefore, into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise; be thankful unto him, and bless his name. Ps. c.3, 4.
My brethren, it is a favor in which the salvation of your souls is concerned; and can that be small? or ought it ever to be thought of but with the highest emotion and enlargedness of heart? The gracious purposes of God towards his children are to make every one of them higher than the kings of the earth, (Psal. lxxxix.27,) to jive them more solid satisfaction than crowns and kingdoms can afford, and at length to raise them to a diadem of immortal glory. Oh what reason have you with the Apostle, to say, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy, has begotten us again to a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, even to the hope of an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for us, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation! 1 Pet. i.3-5. Survey this great privilege which God has already given you, this high security, these glorious hopes. Has he not brought the beginning of glory already into your souls? Has he not wrought you to a filial temper, and taught you to cry, Abba, Father? Gal. iv.6. Has he not, in some measure, formed and fashioned your minds to a meetness to dwell with angels and perfected spirits in heaven? So that you can now say, even with relation to that which you already feel, that you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God. Eph. ii.19. You are even now the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what you shall be; (1 John iii.2;) but there is enough appears, and enough known at present, of what you are, and what you shall be, to revive, to delight, to transport the heart.
And is not this too, O thou afflicted soul, who art called to encounter the most painful difficulties, enough to be the means of thy support, and to afford thee matter for thy strong consolation? You that are tossed with tempests, (Isa. liv.11,) and obliged to struggle under various and long continued burdens, have you not here a joy that the world can neither bestow nor impair, a pleasure in public and in secret duties, and a hope, which is as the anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast, entering into that within the vail, (Heb. vi.19,) and so enabling you to outride these storms and tempests? How glorious does your lot appear when viewed in the light of scripture! You are expressly told, All things are yours: (1 Cor. iii.21:) the Lord will give grace and glory, and no good thing will he withhold from you: (Psal. lxxxiv.11:) all the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth to you; (Psal. xxv.10;) and ere long you shall see how they are so. You have a sight by faith of the inheritance appointed for his children; but he does not intend merely a distant prospect for you: you shall go in and possess that good land, (Deut. iv.22,) and shall ere long be absent from the body, and present with the Lord: (2 Cor. v.8:) yea, the Lord Jesus Christ, ere long, shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe, (2 Thess. i.10,) to be glorified and admired, in and by you in particular; when bearing the image of your heavenly Father, you shall rise far beyond this earth and all its vain anxieties, and vainer amusements, to dwell forever in his presence. And what is there in this world that you imagine you want, which is by any means to be compared with these enjoyments and hopes? Surely, sirs, in such a view, you should be much more than content; and should feel your inward admiration, love, and joy, bursting the bonds of silence, and turning your voices, that have been broken by sighs, into the most cheerful and exalted anthems of praise: especially when you consider,
2. How few there are who partake of this important favor, which God has extended to you.
I hope I need not, after all I have said, remind you at large, that I intend not by any means to speak, as excluding those of different forms and different experiences; as if, in consequence of that diversity, they had neither part nor lot in this matter. Acts viii.21. I hope. that many who are not so ready, as it were to be wished, to receive one another, are nevertheless, in this respect, received by Christ to the glory of God. Rom. xv.7. Yet the temper and conduct of the generality of mankind, even under a Christian profession, too plainly show, that they have the marks of eternal ruin upon them: and one can form no hope concerning them, consistent with the tenor of the whole word of God, any other than this, that possibly they may hereafter be changed into something contrary to what they are, and in that change be happy.
Now that you are not left among the wide extended ruins of mankind, but are set as pillars in the building of God, is what you have been taught by the preceding discourses to refer to the grace of God, which has taken and polished you to the form you now bear. Or, as the Evangelist expresses it, in language more suitable to the subject before us, the power, or privilege, to become the sons of God, is what he gives to as many as receive him; and it is manifest as to your regeneration, that you are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God: (John i.12, 13:) for we love him, because he first loved us; (1 John iv.12;) and whatsoever our attainments be, there is no true believer but will be ready, with the Apostle Paul, to say, By the grace of God I am what I am.1 Cor. xv.10.
And now, when these two thoughts are taken in this comparison with each other, how deeply should they impress our minds! And how should it excite us to the most lively gratitude, to consider that when so many of our fellow-creatures perish, even under the sound of the gospel; that when they live and die under the power of a corrupt and degenerate nature, despising all the means which God has given them of becoming better, and turning them into the occasion of greater mischief; God should graciously incline our hearts to a wiser and better choice! It is indeed a melancholy reflection, that the number of those who are made wise to salvation should be so small; yet it is an endearing circumstance in the Divine goodness to us, that when it is so small, we should be included in it: as no doubt it would appear to every truly religious person in the ark, that when but eight souls were saved from the deluge, he should be one. There is now a remnant, says the Apostle, according to the election of grace: (Rom. xi.5:) to that grace therefore should we render the praise. We have indeed chosen him; but it is in consequence of his choosing us. John xv.16. We have said, The Lord is my portion; but let us remember to bless him that he has given us that counsel, (Psal. xvi.5, 7,) in consequence of which we have been inclined to do it. Again,
3. Consider, in the midst of how much opposition the grace of God has laid hold on your souls, and wrought its wonders of love there.
Christians, look into your own hearts; yea, look back upon your own lives, and see whether many of you have not reason to say, with the great Apostle, It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief: (1 Tim. i.15:) and yet to me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this given, (Eph. iii.8,) that I should be a regenerate, adopted child of God, begotten to an inheritance of eternal glory.
"Oh," may one Christian say, "how obstinately did I strive against my own happiness! like a poor creature that, having received some dangerous wound, and being delirious with a fever attending it, struggles with the hand that is stretched out to heal him. How did I draw back from the yoke of God! How did I trifle with convictions, and put them off from one time to another! So that God might most righteously have awakened any heart rather than mine. He admonished me by his word, and by his providence; he sent afflictions; he wrought out deliverances for me; and yet I went on to harden my heart, as if I had been afflicted and delivered, that I might work greater abominations; (Jer. vii.10;) till the Lord being merciful to me, laid hold upon me, and drew me out of Sodom." Gen. xx.16.
And here another Christian will be ready to say within himself, ''If the grace of God wrought sooner upon me, when my soul was more pliant, when my heart was comparatively tender in infancy or childhood, or in early youth; yet what ungrateful returns have I since made for his mercy I How defective have I been in those fruits of holiness which might reasonably have been expected from me, who have so long a time been planted in the house of the Lord! Alas for me! that I have flourished no more in the courts of my God. Psal. xcii.13. How often have I forgotten and forsaken him; how cold and negligent has my spirit been, how inconstant my walk, how indolent my behavior, for these many years that have passed since I was first brought into his family! How little have I done in his service in proportion to the advantages I have enjoyed! All this he foresaw; all the instances in which my goodness would be as a morning cloud, and as the early dew; (Hos. vi.4;) all the instances in which this perverse heart of mine, so prone to backslide, should turn aside, and start back from him like a deceitful bow: (Psal. lxxviii.57:) and yet he has mercy upon me, I know not why. I cannot pretend to account for it any otherwise than by saying, Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight: (Matt. xi.26:) thou hast mercy on whom thou wilt have mercy, and thou hast compassion on whom thou wilt have compassion. Rom. ix.15. I have revolted deeply from thee again and again; yet thou sufferest me not to be lost to this very day, nor wilt thou ever suffer it: Thou restorest my soul; thou leadest me in the paths of righteousness for thy name's sake. Psal. xxiii.3. Having therefore obtained help from God, I continue to this day; (Acts xxvi.2;) and surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and unworthy as I am so much as to enter into thine house below, I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever above. Psal. xxiii.6. Thus, Lord, thou makest me, as it were, a wonder to myself; and I hope to express my admiration and my gratitude throughout eternal ages: and if I can vie with the rest of thy redeemed ones in nothing else, I will at least do it in bowing low before thy throne, and acknowledging that I am of the number of the most unworthy, in whom my Lord has been pleased to glorify the riches of his mercy, and the freedom of his grace."
In the mean time, Christians, I call you often to entertain yourselves with such views as these, often to excite your hearts by such lively considerations; I call you, in the name of your Father and your Saviour, to a whole life of gratitude and praise. And this leads me to add,
II. Improve those experiences you have had of Divine grace, as an engagement to behave in a suitable manner.
Remember the lively admonition of the text, that you were begotten by him for this very purpose, that you should be a kind of frst-fruits of his creatures. See, therefore, that ye be entirely consecrated to him; and behave as becomes the children of God, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation: being not only harmless and blameless among them, but shining as lights in the world, and holding forth that word of life, (Phil. ii.16,) by which he has begotten you to himself, and quickened you when you were dead in trespasses and sins. Eph. ii.1, 5.
God has now brought you into a most honorable relation: he may therefore well expect more, much more from you than from others. He has made you as his children, kings and priests to himself, (Rev. i.6,) and you are therefore to offer up spiritual sacrifice, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.1 Pet. ii.5. You were once darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord; walk, therefore, as children of light. Eph. v.8. Remember you are not your own; (1 Cor. vi.19;) your time, your possessions, and all your capacities for service, are the property of your heavenly Father. And permit me to remind you, that if you desire to see this doctrine of regeneration prevail, you, who profess to be experimentally acquainted with it, must take great care that your behavior may not only be innocent, but exemplary: otherwise many will be ready to blaspheme the holy name of that God, (2 Sam. xii.14,) whom you call your Father; and you are like to bring a reproach upon the household of faith, which probably you will never be able to roll away.
Christians, the dignity of our birth and our hopes is too little considered and regarded; and the reason why the world thinks so meanly of it, is because we ourselves are so insensible of its excellency. Did we apprehend it more, we should surely be more solicitous to walk worthy of that calling wherewith we are called, (Eph. iv.1,) that high and holy calling. Let me, therefore, exhort you to endeavor to loosen your affections more from these entanglements of time and sense, which so much debase our minds, and dishonor our lives. Yield yourselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead: (Rom. vi.13:) employ, with a growing zeal, to the honor of God, that renewed life which he has given you: Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds: (Rom. xii.2:) and let your conversation and behavior be like those who feel the constraining influences of Divine love, (2 Cor. v.14;) who are, not in form, but in reality, devoted to God; and who would be continually waiting for his salvation, (Gen. xlix.18,) with that temper in which you could most desire that salvation to find you when it comes.
III. Let those who have experienced the power of Divine grace themselves, study to promote the work of God upon the hearts of others.
Labor, as much as possible, to spread this temper which God has wrought in your hearts; for you cannot but know that with it you spread true happiness, which alone is to be found in that intercourse with the great Author of our being, for which this lays the foundation, and in the regular exercise of those powers which are thus sanctified. No sooner was Paul converted himself, but he presently set himself to bring others to Christ, and to preach the faith which once he destroyed. Gal. i.13. And David speaks of it as the effects of God's pardoning love to him, Then will I teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners shall be converted unto thee. Psal. li.13.
If, therefore, God has called us to the office of the ministry, as the experience of this change on our own hearts will be our best qualification for our public work, and indeed such a qualification that nothing else can supply the want of it; so it will surely excite us in a very powerful manner to apply vigorously to this care. That which we have not only heard, but seen with our eyes, and looked upon, and handled of the word of life, let us declare to others; that their fellowship also may be with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.1 John i.1, 3. Let us declare it in our public discourses, and never be ashamed to bear our testimony to that grace to which we are so much indebted; to that grace by which we are what we are.1 Cor. xv.10. Let us warn every man, and teach every man the absolute necessity of regeneration; and expose the vanity of all those hopes which are built upon any fair outside, on any moral decency of behavior, or any humane turn of temper, on any warm flight of imagination or emotion of the passions, while the soul continues unrenewed and unsanctified. Let us endeavor to save men with fear, pulling them out of the fire, (Jude ver.23,) which, if they are yet unregenerate, is just ready to kindle upon them. And let us be often reviewing our respective flocks, that we may see who they are, concerning whom there is reason to entertain this fear; that proper applications may be made to them in private, as well as in public; that joining our admonitions to our sermons, and our prayers and examples to both, we may at least deliver our own souls, (Ez. xxxiii.9,) if we cannot deliver theirs. But in proportion to the degree that such a spirit prevails in us, there is very great encouragement to hope it will be propagated to them, and that our labor shall not be in vain in the Lord.1 Cor. xv.58.
And let me beseech you, my beloved hearers in other stations of life, that you would not imagine the work is so entirely ours that you have nothing to do with it. Are we alone redeemed by the blood of the Son of God? Are we alone renewed and sanctified by his grace? Are we alone the brethren and friends of mankind, that the generous care and endeavor to promote their eternal happiness should be entirely devolved upon us? We wish so well to the world, and permit us to say, we wish so well to you, to your own religious consolation and establishment, to your comfortable account, to your eternal reward, that we can not but earnestly exhort you all, even as many as have tasted that the Lord is gracious, (1 Peter ii.3,) that in this respect you join, not only as I trust you do, your prayers with ours, but that you also join your endeavors.
Let me particularly address this exhortation to those of you who bear any distinguished office in the society, to whom therefore its religious interests are dear by additional ties Let me address those of you whose age and experience, in the human and the divine life, give you something of a natural authority in your application, and command a distinguished regard. Look round about you and observe the state of religion in your neighborhood; and labor to the utmost to propagate, not so much this or that particular opinion or form of worship, but real vital Christianity in the world. Bear your testimony to it on all proper occasions: be not ashamed of it in your familiar discourse; and above all, labor to adorn it by your actions. And when you see any under serious impressions, as it is certain they will have a great deal discouraging and difficult to break through; and as the devil and his instruments, among whom I must necessarily reckon licentious company, will be doing their utmost to draw them back into the snare of the fowler; let me exhort and charge you to be as solicitous to save as others are to destroy. I know how many excuses our cowardly, and indolent hearts are ready to find out upon such an occasion: but I think those words of Solomon are a sufficient answer to all, and I beg you would seriously revolve them; If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain: if thou sayest, Behold we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, thine, Oh Christian, with such peculiar and gracious care, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works? Prov. xxiv.11, 12. He will assuredly remember, and will abundantly reward, every work of faith, and every labor of love; (1 Thes. i.3;) and we are insensible of our own true interest, if we do not see how much it is concerned here.
Let me especially leave this exhortation with you who are parents and heads of families. And one would imagine there should need but little importunity in such a case as this: one would think your own hearts should speak to you, upon such an occasion, in very pathetic language. Look upon your dear children, to whom you have conveyed a nature which you know to be degenerate and corrupt; and be earnest in your prayers before God, and your endeavors with them, that it may be renewed. And take care that you do not in this sense despise the soul of your manservant, or of your maid-servant. Job xxxi.13. God has brought them under your care, it may be in those years of life in which, on the one hand, they are most capable of being instructed and seriously impressed; and in which, on the other hand, they are also most in danger of being corrupted. Perhaps their relation to you, and abode with you, is the most advantageous circumstance which may occur in their whole lives: see therefore that you seize it with a holy eagerness; and amidst all the charges you give them relating to your own business, neglect not that of the one thing needful; (Luke x.42;) and labor heartily to bring them to the honor and happiness which is common to all God's servants, and peculiar to them alone.
Let me conclude this part of my address with entreating you all to express your concern for the souls of others, by your importunate prayers to God for them. Pray for the success of gospel ordinances: and for a blessing on the labors of all God's faithful servants throughout our whole land, of one or another denomination in religion. Yea, pray that throughout the whole world, God would revive his work in the midst of the years; (Hab. iii.2;) that the religion of his Son, by which so many souls have been regenerated, refined and saved, may be universally propagated; and that all who are vigorously engaged in so important, though so self-denying a work, may find that the hand of the Lord is with them, and multitudes believe and turn unto the Lord; (Acts xi.21;) so that his sons may be brought from far, and his daughters from the ends of the earth; (Isaiah xliii.6;) that the barren may rejoice, and she that did not travail with child, may break forth into singing, and cry aloud; that the children of nations now strangers to Christ, may be more than of those that are already espoused to him. Isa. liv.1; Gal. iv.27. And then,
IV. Let all that are born again, long for that blessed world, where the work of God shall be completed, and we shall appear with a dignity and glory becoming his children.
As for God, his work is perfect; (Deut. xxxii.4;) and the time, the happy time is approaching, when we shall know, and the whole world shall know, in another manner than we now do, what our heavenly Father has intended for us in begetting us to himself. Whatever our attainments here may be, we know at present but in part: (1 Cor. xiii.9;) and with whatever integrity of soul we now walk before God, we are sanctified but in part: and hereupon we find, and must expect to find, the flesh striving against the Spirit, as well as the Spirit against the flesh: so that, in many respects, we cannot do the things that we would. Gal. v.17. In proportion to the degree in which our nature is refined and brightened, we are more sensible of the evil of these corruptions that remain within us; so that though we are not, in a strict propriety of speech, carnal and sold under sin, but do indeed delight in the law of God after the inward man, (Rom. vii.14, 22,) yet in the humility of our hearts we are often borrowing that pathetic complaint, Oh, wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Verse 24.
But let it be remembered, Christians, as the matter of your joy, that the struggle shall not be perpetual, that it shall not indeed be long. Look up with pleasure then, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. Luke xxi.28. The time is approaching, when that which is perfect shall come, and that which is in part shall be done away.1 Cor. xiii.10. You are now the children of GOD; but it does not appear to every eye that you are so: the world knows us not.1 John iii.1, 2. Nor are we to wonder at it: for even Christ our Lord was once unknown, and appeared in so much meanness, and so much calamity, that an undiscerning and carnal eye could not have discovered who and what he was. But there is a day appointed for the manifestation of the sons of GOD, (Rom. viii.19,) as the apostle Paul most happily expresses it; when he will manifest them to each other, and manifest them also to the whole world. They shall not always live thus at a distance from their Father's house, and under those dispensations of Providence that look so much like disregard and neglect; but he will take them home, and gather them to himself. Ere long, Christians, he will call these heaven-born spirits of yours, that are now aspiring towards him, to dwell in his immediate presence: he will receive you to himself; and you shall stand, where no sinner shall have a place, in the congregation of the righteous, (Ps. ii.5,) and shall have an inheritance among the saints in light, the saints in holiness and glory.
O happy day! when dropping this body in the grave, we shall ascend pure and joyful spirits to that triumphant assembly, where there is not one vitiated affection, not one foolish thought to be found among the thousands and ten thousands of God's Israel! O blessed period of a regenerate state I Though all the schemes of the Divine love were to rest here, and these bodies were forever to be laid aside, and utterly to be lost in the grave; the rejoicing soul might say, "Lord, it is enough!" And it might be indeed enough for us; but it is not enough to answer the gracious purposes of God's paternal love. God will show, in the most conspicuous manner, what a family he has raised to himself among the children of men; and therefore he will assemble them all in their complete persons, and will do it with solemn pomp and magnificent parade. He will for this purpose send his own Son, with all his holy angels, (Matt. xxv.31,) and will cause the bodies of millions of his children, that have long dwelt in the dust, to spring out of it, at once in forms of beauty and lustre, worthy their relation to him. This, therefore, is, with beautiful propriety, called by the apostle the adoption, even the redemption of our body; (Rom. viii.23;) alluding to the public ceremony, with which adoptions among the ancients were solemnly confirmed and declared, after they had been more privately transacted between the parties immediately concerned.
O, Christians, how reasonable is it that our souls should be rising with a secret ardor towards this blessed hope, this glorious abode! -- It is pleasant for the children of God to meet and converse with one another upon earth; so pleasant, that I wonder they do not more frequently form themselves into little societies, in which, under that character, they should join their discourses and their prayers. It is delightful to address those that, we trust, through grace are born of God. No discourses are more pleasant than those that suit them: and could we, that are the ministers of Christ, reasonably hope, that we had none but such to attend our labors, we should joyfully confine our discourses to such subjects. Yet while we are here, we see imperfections in others, we feel them yet more painfully in ourselves: and as there is no pure, unmixed society, no fellowship on earth that is completely holy and without blemish, so there is now no pure delight, no perfect pleasure to be met with here. Oh when shall I depart from this mixed society, and reach that state where all is good, all glorious: where I shall see my heavenly Father, and all my brethren in the Lord; and shall behold them all forever acting up to their character! All giving thanks to the Father, who has made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light! Col. i.12. All forever blessing and serving the great Redeemer; and without one ungenerous action, one reflecting word, one suspicious thought, forever serving each other in love, rejoicing in each other's happiness, and with the most prudent and steadfast application forever studying and laboring to improve it!
With the most earnest desire that you, my dear brethren and friends, may at length attain to this state of perfection and glory; and with a cheerful expectation, through Divine grace, that I shall ere long meet many of you in it, I close this sermon, and these discourses: not without an humble hope, that when we arrive at this blessed world, these hours, which we have spent together in the house of God, in attending them, will come into a pleasant remembrance; and that the God of all grace, to whose glory they are faithfully devoted, and to whose blessing they are humbly committed, will honor them as the means of increasing his family, as well as of feeding and quickening those who are already his regenerate children! -- Amen.