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those profefs to believe, who reject the Divinity of our Saviour? That is, that if we believe and obey the Gospel of Christ, God will be a Father to us, and deal with us as with Sons, which is our Adoption in Christ ; that he will forgive our Sins, and bestow an Immortal Inheritance upon us; the only Difference seems to be, that this has less of Mystery in it, but fignifies the fame Happiness, which we expect by our Adoption in Christ; that excepting their Mistakes in Faith, they have the fame Hopes and Expectations, and believe all this as firmly as we do.
Now tho' a Mistake of this Nature is of fatal Consequence, (for it is not enough to believe the Forgiveness of Sins and Immortal Life, unless we believe and hope for it in God's Way, and accept of it, as he has offered it) the Jews believed this, but were rejected by God, because they rejected their Meffias; and if God had made Chrift not only a Preacher of Righteousness, to publish his Will for the Salvation of Mankind, but the Author of eternal Salvation to all them that obey bim, Heb. v. 9. if this be bis Commandment, that we should believe on the Name of his Son Jesus Christ, 1 John iii. 23. if whosoever Mall confess, that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in bim, and be in God, 1 John iv. 15. if this be the Record, that God hath given unto us eternal Life, and this Life is in his Son, and that be that bath the Son bath Life, and be that hath not the Son of God bath not Life, 1 John v. 11, 12. which St. John so often inculcates on us; it is to little purpose to believe other Matters, without believing Jefus to he the Son of God, the eternal Son of the eternal Father; for it is this Son of God alone
in whom we receive the Adoption : But, I say, to set aside this now, there is a vast difference in the Thing it self, between knowing and believing God to be our Father in Chrift his eternal Son, in whom he hath adopted us to be his Sons and Children ; and God's owning himself to be our Father, and us his Children, without any other Reason or Foundation for such a Relation, but only his Promise for Christ's Sake to be kind and merciful to us, as a Father is to his Children. For, 1. Here is the Dignity and Glory of the Relation loft ; for in this Sense, God's being our Father signifies no relation to us, unless that of a Maker, and Sovereign Lord; but it properly denotes the Nature and Administration of his Government, which is kind, affectionate, and merciful, as the Govermment of a Father is or ought to be ; and our being his Sons signifies no more than that we shall be kindly and mercifully used, as Sons are by their Father ; which indeed is great Grace and Favour to Sinners, but no more than what innocent Creatures might expect from God by the right of Creation, and therefore finds no new Relation between God and us. But it is a quite different thing to be united to Christ as the Members of his Body, to be one with Christ the Eternal Son of God, and to be owned by God for his Sons, as the Myftical Body of his Son, as the Brethren of his eternal Son, and therefore his Sons by Adoption and Grace ; this is a Character not inferior to that of Angels; human Nature is advanced above Angels by its personal Union with the Son of God; this Incarnate Jesus is the Lord of Angels,
the Head of all Principalities and Powers, who are but the Ministers of his Kingdom ; and therefore Christians, who have a natural relation to the human Nature of Christ, and are spiritually united in his Mystical Body, who by their relation to the eternal Son of God have God for their Father, and are owned by him for his Sons, are thereby advanced to the Dignity of Angels, which human Nature in its ut, most Glory and Perfection, without such a Relation and Character, could never pretend to ; but the Dignity of the Relation sets an inferior Nature upon the level with them. And therefore the Scripture speaks of our Adoption and Sonship, as the height of Glory and Advancement: To as many as received him, to them gave be Power to become the Sons of God, John i. 12. and, behold what manner of Love the Father bath bestowed on us, that we fould be called the Sons of God, 1 John ïïi. 1. What this is now we cannot tell, for though now we are the Sons of God, it doth not yet appear what we mall be ; as the Glory of the King's Son is not so visible out of his Father's Court and Kingdom ; but when we come into the Kingdom of the Son, and appear under the Character of Sons, we mall then shine forth like the Sun in the Kingdom of our Father ; whatever our external Glory shall then be, which we are assured will be very great, the Glory of our Relation and Character of the Sons of God will give the greatest Brightness and Luftre to it. This I hope may fatisfy you what a vast difference there is between being the Sons of God, and having the Title of Sons without the Relation, which we can never have without the Adoption in the eternal Son of God: If
Christ be not the eternal Son of God, our being adopted the Sons of God in Christ, sounds big, but signifies nothing great ; so that those must never part with the Faith of Father and Son, who would not part with the Glory and Happiness of their Adoption.
2. Those who deny Christ to be the eternal Son of God, and that we are adopted in this eternal Son, lose the best Security of God's Fatherly Love and Affection to them ; which yet is all they mean by God's being our Father in Christ.
Besides the Dignity and Glory of the Relation, the great Happiness of having God for our Father is, that it entitles us to his Fatherly Love, Affection, and Care; and gives us great Affurance of this, as we have of our Relation to him; for Affection springs from Relalation and is such as the Relation is ; so that whatever Promise God makes us of being a Father to us, and of treating us as Sons, if he be not our Father, this cannot give us such full Satisfaction of Mind, and such a firm Hope in God, as to know that he is our Father. When we are assured of this, we need no other Proof of his Fatherly Affection; and all Mankind prefer the Security of Nature before any Promises, which may have such secret Reserves, Limatations, and Conditions, as Nature cannot have. And yet to promise the Love and Affection of a Father without the Relation, is justly thought impracticable ; for such Affections as are due only to such Relations, and naturally result from them, can never be applied to any other Object. A Man may be extremely kind to a Child that is not his own, and may do as much for it, as if it were his own ; but he cannot have the
Affection of a Father for it, which is a very different Passion from all other kinds of Love, and has a peculiar Tenderness and Concernment in it, which nothing but Nature can give, And therefore such a Man wishes, that the beloved Child were his own, and finds a new Pleafure and a new Passion in such a Thought ; and such a Child, if he have Understanding enough, wishes that such a kind Person were his Father, and would think himself more secure in a natural Affection.
This shews us, what a vast Difference there is between God's Promise to be our Father, and his being our Father, and our knowing him to be our Father; and yet as I have shewn you, this is all that God's being our Father can sig. nify, that he promises to deal as kindly and mercifully by us, as a Father deals by his Children, unless Christ be his eternal Son by Nature, and we made the Sons of God by our Adoption in Christ his eternal Son. That God calls himself our Father, and us his Sons and Children, does give us the Security of his Promise, that he will love us, and do good to us, for that is the least these Names can signify ; but yet if there be no such Relation, as that of Father and Sons between God and us, this does not and cannot signify what we properly call a fatherly Love and Affection, which can never be separated from the Relation, nor subsist without it ; which yet as it is the highest Security, so it gives the divinest and most transporting Pleasures to the Mind; for the Love of a Father considered by it self is a mighty Pleasure to a dutiful Child who loves his Father: It is a great pleasure to be beloved, especially with the most natural and tender Affection, which is the Love of a Fa