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, which consists of two branches.
(i) Let us prove ourselves to be the children of God.
(ii) Let us carry ourselves as the children of God.
(i) Let us prove ourselves to be the children of God. There are many false and unscriptural evidences.
Says one, The gravest divines in the country think me to be godly, and can they be mistaken? Are the seers blind?
Others can but see the outward carriage and deportment. If that be fair, they may by the rule of charity judge well of thee. But what say God and conscience? Are these your compurgators? Are you a saint in God's calendar? It is a poor thing to have an applauding world and an accusing conscience.
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 corn 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 bottle 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 consecrated person? This argues the heart of a child. God will never reject those who have his image and superscription upon them.
(ii) Let us carry ourselves as becomes the children of God, and let us deport ourselves as the children of the High God.
In obedience: As obedient children' (1 Peter 1:14). If a stranger bid a child to do a thing, he regards him not. But if his father command, he presently obeys. Obey God out of love, obey him readily, obey every command. If he bid you part with your bosom-sin, leave and loathe it. I set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites pots full of wine, and cups, and I said unto them, Drink ye wine; but they said, we will drink no wine, for Jonadab, the son of Rechab our father, commanded us saying, Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye nor your sons for ever' (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 carry ourselves as God's children in humility. Be ye clothed with humility' (1 Peter 5:5). It is a becoming garment. Let a child of God look at his face every morning in the 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 suffers them to fall into sin, as he did Peter, that their plumes may fall, and that they may learn to go on lower ground.
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.
In their speeches; not rash, not unseemly. Let your speech be seasoned with salt' (Colossians 4:6). Grace must be the salt which seasons our words and makes them savoury. 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 an 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 Saint Basil says, is a spiritual intoxication, a kind of frenzy. If Christ were upon the earth again, he might have patients enough. There are abundance of spiritual lunatics among us which need healing.
The children of God must be sober in their attire. Whose adorning, let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair and of wearing of gold . . . but let it be the hidden man of the heart' (1 Peter 3:3). 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 glass in which you may see a vain heart? What is spotting of faces, but learning the black art? God may turn these black spots into blue. Walk soberly.
Let us carry ourselves as the children of God in sedulity. 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 shalt thou labour'. God sets all his children to work. They must not be like the lilies which toil not, neither do they spin'. Heaven indeed is a place of rest. They rest from their labours' (Revelation 14:13). There the saints shall lay aside all their working tools, and take the harp and viol, but while we are here, we must labour in a calling. God will bless our diligence, not our laziness.
Let us carry ourselves as the children of God in magnanimity and heroicalness. 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 humours of men? The children of the most High should do nothing to stain or dishonour their noble birth. A king's son scorns to do anything that is below him.
Let us carry ourselves 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 more casts a reflection on our heavenly Father than the irregular actings of such as profess themselves his children. What will others say? Are these the children of the Most High? Is God their Father? The Name of God is blasphemed through you Gentiles' (Romans 2:24). Oh let us do nothing unworthy of our heavenly Father.
Let us carry ourselves as the children of God in cheerfulness. It was the speech of Jonadab to Amnon, Why art thou, being the king's son, lean?' (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 is son and heir, and has a great estate in his own country; 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.
And lastly, let us carry ourselves as the children of God in holy longings and expectations. Children are always longing to be at home. We groan earnestly . . .' (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. Saint Paul therefore desired to be dissolved. It is comfortable dying when by faith we can resign up our souls into our Father's hands. Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit' (Luke 23:46).