The Nature and Blessedness of Sonship with God
Adapted from a Sermon by Samuel Davies
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (2) Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:1-2
Though God’s plans with respect to the world are unfolding in perfect harmony, and will at last come to the wisest ends, yet, to the eyes of mortal man, confusion seems to reign everywhere; and nothing, appears in this embryonic state of things, in that light in which eternity, the state of maturity, will show everything to be. As an acorn gives no hints of the great tree that may come of it, so everything in this age will take on a new light in eternity.
A particular example of this, is the work of grace towards the heirs of heaven, the chosen elect of God. Though they are not in such complete darkness, even in this land of ignorance and uncertainty, as to have no evidences at all of their being the objects of divine love, and regenerated by the Holy Spirit, but may, in some shining moments, at least, conclude that they are even now the sons of God; yet even they can form no adequate ideas of the immensity of that love which has adopted them as the sons of God, and made them heirs of heaven, who were by nature the “children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Eph 2:3)
There are indeed such rays of this divine love, that make us stand and pause in delightful astonishment, exclaiming, "Behold! What kind of love is this! How great, how vast, how immense, how unaccountable, how incomprehensible, is that love which has given us, us rebellious sinners and heirs of ruin, the title of the sons of God, and the many privileges of such a wondrous relationship! Behold! What sort of unheard of, unparalleled love is this!"
Behold it with great intensity and grateful wonder!
You insignificant sons of men, abstract your thoughts from the toys of earth, and here fix your attention! Look here and gaze, until you are so elated with the review of this love, as to be driven to the strongest endeavors to be partakers of it.
Our brothers and sisters in grace, who share in the same privilege, you may especially pause, behold, and wonder! Let all your admiring powers pour themselves out in the contemplation of that love which has bestowed upon you so gracious, so honorable a distinction, as that of sons and daughters of the King of heaven!
And the blessed inhabitants of heaven, who know the meaning of this glorious title, and the riches of the inheritance reserved for us; and the angels who are happy in your Maker's goodness, but have not been objects of redeeming grace, look down from heaven, look down to this contemptible earth, and view the greatest achievement of divine, infinite love! For surely no achievement of almighty grace among their various orders through the limitless heavens, can equal this, that we rebellious worms, should be called the sons of God, the highest title which can be imagined. They must behold, and wonder, and adore with us. They see farther into the secrets of this mystery of love than we do in our present state, who can only pause in silent admiration, and see only dimly as through a veil. Behold! What kind of love is this!
More that this, as the sons of God in their present state cannot understand that love which has bestowed this title upon them; so, they do not fully now understand the glorious importance of the title! They only know in general, that when He appears, they shall be like him, but they do not exactly and fully know what that likeness is! It does not yet appear, even to themselves, what they will be. Their liveliest imagination can form no adequate ideas what glorious creatures they will be before long, they are utter strangers to their future selves. They know themselves only at present in their infancy; but when these little children of God, these babies in grace, arrive at their adult age, and grow up to the fullness of the stature of Christ, they will be prodigies to themselves, and mysteries which they cannot now conceive!
In this world we are accustomed to little and obscure things, and our thoughts are like their objects; we see nothing sufficiently glorious to suggest to us any proper images of the glory of the sons of God, when they come to maturity, and enter into the inheritance to which they are born. The splendor of the noonday sun, the wonder of the evening sky, the grandeur of kings, are but obscure shadows of the glory and magnificence of the lowest pious beggar, of the poorest Lazarus that ever languished upon the earth, and is now arrived at heaven! The difference is greater than that between Job lying in ashes, and covered with sores, and Solomon in all his glory.
However, amidst all our ignorance, we may rest confident in this: that if we are now the children of God, then we shall be conformed to him when he appears to us in all his glory, on the other side of death; and especially when he appears in the clouds in all the majesty of the universal judge, when every eye shall see him! And though we should know no more than this in general, we may rest implicitly satisfied, that we shall be inconceivably glorious and happy, since the perfection of our nature consists in conformity to God.
We may be sure that that state which the apostle here, by unerring inspiration, calls a likeness to God, the standard of all excellency, must be as perfect as our nature can bear. The apostle having said, that "when he appears we shall be like him;" then adds, "because we shall see him as he is!" This vision of the blessed God in his unveiled glory may be here considered, either as the evidence, or, as the cause of our likeness to God, when he shall appear.
Considering it as an evidence, the meaning is, "It is evident that we will be in some measure like God when he appears, otherwise we could not bear the full vision of his glories; we could not see him and live!" It is also evident the apostle here speaks of the vision of God as a happiness, and the blessed privilege of his sons.
Now to see God could bring no pleasure, to those who are not like him: they would be shocked and confounded at the sight, and shrink from it! And the clearer they would see him, the more they would hate him, because the more they would discover his opposition to them. Therefore, it is a sufficient evidence of our likeness to God, that we can bear the vision of his unveiled perfections with pleasure, for none that are unlike him can bear it.
Considering the passage in the other view, which probably was what the apostle intended, as the cause of likeness to him, it means, that the full and direct views of him will have the effect of transforming, and be powerful to change the one who looks into his likeness. As the sun diffuses its rays into a diamond, and gives it an intrinsic brightness, so the beholding of God’s perfections will impress their image on the minds they illuminate.
Their views will not be superficial and tentative, nor attract an idle gaze, but they will be vital, powerful, and impressive; and no wonder if such views, which we now know so little of, should produce a perfection we can now so little conceive. And if the sons of God are such strangers to the riches of their present title, and the dignity and glory of their future selves, it is no wonder that a blind world should not know them. If it does not yet appear to themselves what they shall be, much less does it appear to others, who are strangers to their heavenly Father, who know nothing of his qualities, and therefore cannot discern his children by their resemblance to him.
This is what the apostle may imply when he says, "what we will be has not yet appeared," (that is, it has not yet appeared to others what we shall be) and we are led to this sense by the previous verse, therefore the world, the general run of mankind, who are strangers to God, do not know us. That is, they do not distinguish, love, and honor us, who are children of God, because they do not know him. As they are ignorant of our Father, and disregard him, so they treat us accordingly. They look upon us with contempt, and are wholly ignorant of our heavenly descent and dignity, and this is how it will be, until we shine in all the glory of the children of so illustrious a king, and “share in the inheritance of the saints in light!” (Col 1:12) Then, to their confusion, they will discover the difference between the righteous and the wicked.
That we may know more of the nature of sonship, I will,
I. First, show you what is the importance of the glorious title: the sons of God.
II. In the second place. I will mention some instances of the present ignorance of the
sons of God, with regard to their future state.
III. And lastly, I will show in what respects they are mistaken and unknown to the world.
I. To begin, I will show what is the importance of this glorious title: the sons of God.
It is evident that the title is used here, not in so general a sense, as elsewhere, where it means no more than the creatures of God, (Acts 17:28, 29,) for here it is mentioned as the peculiar privilege of true Christians, in which the world in general does not participate. In the sense of the text, it implies:
1) that believers are born again of God;
2) that they are admitted to enjoy the privileges of God's children;
3) and that they are the heirs of heaven.
1) To be the sons of God, implies that they are regenerated, or born of him.
He is a son, who is begotten and born; and therefore, to be a child of God, supposes that we are begotten by him. This seems to be the peculiar foundation of that sonship the apostle here has immediately in view; for it is the thought of being born of God, mentioned in the last verse of the preceding chapter, that seems to introduce the text, and bring him to the fourth verse of this chapter, into that elated exclamation, "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God."
This new birth we have often heard described, as a thorough universal change of a corrupt, rebellious sinner, into an affectionate, penitent, obedient servant of God. His views of things, and dispositions towards them, are happily changed, which in turn, produces a corresponding change in his behavior.
I pray God that you would seriously consider the importance of this spiritual birth, and not vainly consider yourselves as the sons of God, while you are strangers to it. You may as well become the sons of men without being generated by human parents, as the sons of God without being regenerated by supernatural grace! For the Scripture has repeatedly declared the absolute necessity of the new birth in various terms. All who become the children of God are born of him, and not of blood, or by natural generation, nor of the will of the flesh, or by any natural inclinations of theirs, nor of the will of man, or by the best endeavors of others with them. (John 1:12, 13) The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ causes them to be born again, (1 Pet 1:3) and creates them anew, (Eph 2:10) so that they are a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor 5:17)
And Christ himself, who best knows the terms of admission into heaven, has assured us with a "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." (Jn 3:3, 5) And this is the declaration of infallible inspiration, that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any use; that is, a conformity to the externals of the Jewish or Christian religion, is of no use to salvation, but a new creation is needed, (Gal 6:15) a person must be created anew.
2) Those who are the sons of God, are admitted to enjoy the privileges of God's children;
and this is implied in their title.
God here treats us with his usual condescension in expressing divine things, in the humble language of mortals; by metaphors borrowed from the affairs of men, that are familiar to us. Therefore, bring to mind an idea of the usual privileges which a child enjoys from a gracious and powerful father, and leave proper room for the infinitely superior perfections of our heavenly Father to those of the most excellent human parents, and you may from the analogy know something of the peculiar privileges of the children of God.
A son, you know, has free access to his father, however great; he obtains his requests. He has the guardianship and compassion of his father; and is corrected, as needed, by him for his good. And in this way, our heavenly Father deals with the children of his grace.
He gives them liberty of access to him in prayer and the institutions of the gospel. He not only allows them to attend upon his ordinances, which many do who continue to be strangers to him, but at times he enlarges their hearts, so that they find themselves near him; they are admitted into his presence to a free audience with him, and pour out all their hearts before him, vent their complaints, beg relief for their needs, and make their grateful acknowledgments for his mercies.
This frame of mind is so suitable to their relations as the sons of God, that the Holy Spirit, as the author of it, is called the Spirit of Adoption; and the children of God are not able to exercise this freedom at pleasure, but just as he enables them to draw near with humble boldness to the throne of grace. (Rom 8:14,15, 26, 27; Heb 10:22, and 2 Cor 3:17) And the Holy Spirit, is a Spirit of liberty and adoption, which is a privilege granted to the sons of God, and which they at times do consciously enjoy. (Gal 4:5,6)
Again, as the children of God have freedom to address their Father, so they have the privilege of having their petitions graciously heard and answered. A human parent is ready to give good gifts to his children, and much more is our heavenly Father. Thus Christ reasons in the most familiar and moving manner, in Matthew 7:7-11, and Luke 11:11-13; and he seems to say that this privilege is implied in the relation, by repeating the endearing term Father, in Matthew 6:6, 8, 9. "Pray to your Father, … and your Father… will reward you; Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: “Our Father."
Again, the children of God are entitled to his protection and compassion. His guardian care is celebrated in Psalm 92 and Psalm 121, and his tender compassion in Psalm 103:13; Isaiah 63:9, and in numberless passages that speak of his affections of mercy and his compassion.
Another privilege of the children of God is, that they are corrected by his fatherly chastening. This indeed they are too liable to view as a calamity, rather than a privilege; but since his correction is necessary for their reformation; since it comes from the benevolence of a Father, and not from the vengeance of an incensed judge; since it is intended for their good, and not for their destruction; since they are supported under it, and it has a proper measure and appropriate end; and since it will be more than compensated with future rewards, then it follows that their chastisement is one of their blessings, and as such it seems promised rather than threatened, and mentioned in Scripture as a badge of the sons of God; (Psalm 89:30-34, Hebrews 12:5-11) and many of the children of God have found reason to praise him for his wholesome severity. (Psalm 119:67, 68, 71) Based on this principle, James exhorts them to rejoice when they enter into divers temptations; (James 1:2) and Peter tells them that they will take place only if need be. (1 Pet 1:6)
3) The children of God are heirs of the heavenly inheritance, and their relation implies a
title to it.
They are born to a crown, caused to be born again "to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for” them! (1 Pet 1:3, 4) "If children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ." (Rom 8:17) And how vast their inheritance is, you may learn from Revelation 21:7, and 1 Corinthians 3:21, 22, there we are told: “I will be his God and he will be my son.” And “all things are yours.”
What a promotion this is, for base, sinful, miserable creatures! Out of prison they come, to reign with Christ! They are raised from the dump, and set among the princes of heaven! No wonder the apostle can exclaim, "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God!" (1 Jn 3:1)
And so, I have briefly shown you the glorious meaning of your relation, the children of God; and I hope that you see, that it should be the greatest concern of each of you to ask whether you are so or not. To answer this question, I need only tell you, that if you are the children of God, you have supernaturally been given new life by him, as we have seen before, (James 1:18) and you have the character of dutiful children towards him, and in particular you reverence and honor him; (Mal. 1:6;) you love him and fear to offend him, and cheerfully do his will, and mourn over all your failings; you are partakers of his divine nature, 2 Peter 1:4; and bear the signs of his holiness.
But if this is not the case with you, as I fear it is with many; if you are not conformed to the moral perfections of God and bear his image; if you do not have the dispositions of dutiful children towards him, but the character of the devil, and do his works, then you are of your father the devil!
And though you may resent this, as the Jews did, the charge remains affixed to you. Therefore, awaken all the powers of your souls, and cry to him for regenerating grace, that you also may become the sons and daughters of the living God.
But if you find in yourself these characters of the children of God which I just now mentioned, then "rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!" (Phil 4:4) You are happier than princes, more great and honorable than the children of earthly kings. You cannot now form any ideas what miracles of glory and blessedness your Father will make of such base, guilty, and wretched things as yourselves! Which introduces what I next proposed, in the second place,
II. To mention some instances of the ignorance of the sons of God, with regard to their
It is true indeed, and some of you, I have no doubt, know it by experience, that the children of God in some shining moments enjoy foretastes of heaven; and even now, “rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory," (1 Pet 1:8) Just as a child stumbles upon a manly thought: and as the first awakenings of reason may give a child some obscure hint of the masterly reasonings of a mature genius; so from these foretastes of heaven, the sons of God may form some faint ideas of the perfection of its happiness in full enjoyment.
They find these dispositions feebly working in them now, which, when brought to perfection, will constitute their blessedness; and they now find so much real happiness in the exercise of such dispositions, though in an imperfect degree, as fully convinces them that nothing is necessary to make them completely happy, but the perfection of such exercises, and an entire freedom from opposing principles. But what this perfection is, they have not yet experienced; their highest thoughts fall short of it, and it does not yet appear to them what they shall be, in the following particulars:
1) It does not yet appear what they shall be, with respect to the enlargement of the
faculties of their souls.
That the human soul is capable of vast advancements, that its faculties may expand to great dimensions, is evident. And we find by experience, its improvements from childhood to youth, and from there to the close of life, especially in men of a thoughtful disposition. And we may be sure that when, like a bird out of a cage, it gets loose among its kindred spirits, and flies at large in its proper element, its faculties will be vastly improved! Otherwise it would be over-borne and crushed with the weight of glory; it would be dazzled with the intolerable blaze of heavenly brightness, like a mole that has brought itself into daylight. As a child is utterly incapable of adult matters; so, without a proportionable enlargement of its powers, the soul would be incapable of exercising them with respect to the infinite objects that will then be before it, and of joining in the exalted services of that mature heavenly world. You may therefore rest confident in this, you who are children of God, that your little souls will then be vastly enlarged. But as the infant cannot know beforehand the improvement of later years, so it is with you.
Compare your present selves with your infant selves, and you will see a vast difference even in the present state. And how vast the difference between what you are now, and what you will be, when you enter into a world entirely new, the spiritual heavenly region!
Beloved, you are God’s children; (1 Jn 3:2) and he will make you such beings as befits so near a relation to such a Father; and what prodigies can he make of you! He who could make you what you are out of nothing, in the course of a few years; what then, can he make you, out of what you now are, through the unfolding of everlasting ages! How can he mature and enlarge your souls from one degree of perfection to another! So that, in some future period, you will no more resemble what you are now, than you now resemble what you were in the womb! Your understandings, through an endless duration, may be still brightening, without ever coming to their noonday splendor; and your views be still enlarging, though still infinitely beneath the object of your contemplation. It is fit that souls so improved, should be united to bodies suited to them. Which leads me to observe,
2) It does not yet appear to you what kind of glorious bodies you will have after the
We are sure they will still be material bodies, otherwise they would not be bodies at all. But we have hints of how matter is capable of extraordinary refinements. Consider the sun, essentially made up of the same matter as lump of earth, and differs only in proportions, yet how different it appears.
Yet our bodies will changed in a more amazing manner, and yet, in some real sense, continue to be the same.
Paul tells us, that they will be spiritual bodies (1 Cor 15:44); that is, so exquisitely refined, that they will resemble proper spirits, as near as it is possible, while they retain their link to the material world. And elsewhere he says, that the Lord Jesus “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body." (Phil 3:21)
Such is the glory of Christ's body in its presently exalted state, that the splendors breaking from it struck Paul and his fellow travelers to the ground, and deprived him of sight for three days! How illustrious, then, must those bodies be that resemble his, though his must be even greater! This, the apostle hints at, by describing the change of the bodies of saints at the resurrection as a mighty exploit of God's all-subduing power in Philippians 3:21.
We can be sure that the body will not then be a hindrance to the active spirit, but a proper instrument for the employments of heaven. It may be free from the law of gravity, and capable of moving every way with equal speed; it may be as nimble and quick as a flash of lightning; it may be adorned with a visible glory brighter than the sun in its noonday brilliance, like the body of Christ on the mount of transfiguration. (Matt17:2; Dan7:3; and Matt 13:53) It will then be incapable of pain, sickness, and death, (Is 33:24; 1 Cor15:33) and will never again feel hunger and thirst, nor any of the appetites of animal nature. (Rev 7:16) It will be capable of the most excellent sensations of pleasure through every sense; and a suitable companion to an improved and glorified soul. Such are the bodies that the saints will have! But what it is to have such bodies, we have no experience now; and shall never know until the glorious morning of the resurrection!
3) It does not yet appear to us what it is to be perfect in holiness.
However enlarged and glorious our souls and bodies will become, we would be still miserable without an accompanying elevation in holiness. Now this, regrettably! we do not know as yet. We humbly hope some of us know what it is to feel the spark of divine love in our hearts. We hope we have tasted some small drops of heavenly joy, though intermingled with pain and sorrow. We know what it is to exert our feeble powers in the service of the blessed God, and in contemplating and admiring his excellencies. But, unfortunately! sin still sticks to us, and deadens our powers! Numberless imperfections come with our best moments.
But to have all the powers of soul and body enlarged; to exert them to the full extent in the exercises of heaven; to find them animated and directed by the most perfect holiness, and free from even the least taint of sin, what an inconceivable state is this! And how unlike the present! Surely, in such a state we would hardly know ourselves! It would astonish us to find that we, who had been so long accustomed to be assaulted and perplexed with some guilty thought or sinful inclination, should at once awaken perfectly free from them! It will amaze us that we, who have so long made such feeble attempts, should find all our powers full of unwearied, immortal vigor! What a happy surprise will this be!
4) It does not yet appear what will be the employments and services of the heavenly world.
We know, from the plain declarations of Scripture, that the contemplation of the divine perfections, and their displays in the works of nature and grace and celebrating the praises of God will be a great part of the happiness of a future state. But we have no reason to suppose that it will consist entirely in contemplation and adoration. A state of activity will be a proper heaven for vigorous immortals. A philosophic curiosity would pry into these things, and even a pious thirst for knowledge would seek to be satisfied: but, since Scripture is silent on these matters, we will not know what the answer is to these questions, until the light of eternity breaks upon us! But,
5) The sons of God, in consequence of their improvements, natural and moral, and of their exalted services and employments, will be made so exquisitely happy, as they can have no ideas of the joy at present.
We cannot know what it is, in our present state, to have every need supplied, every desire satisfied, and all our vast capacity of happiness filled to the utmost; and therefore, we can have no right idea of our future selves, when we will be perfectly happy in this way!
Behold, you who are children of God; behold the wonders that open before you! See to what vast things you are born! Can you survey this mystery, and not be lost in pleasing wonder, and exclaim, "See what kind of love the Father has given to us!" (1 Jn 3:1)
And can you forget your own eternal happiness; and let your thoughts and affections run out upon the things of this world, as if these trifles were your portion? Shall the King's sons thus degrade their dignity, and belittle their eternal inheritance?
And you, unhappy sinners; you who are not the children of God by regeneration; what do you think of your case, when it is the very reverse of all this! Your souls, indeed, will be enlarged, but enlarged only that they may be larger vessels for torment! And your bodies shall be made strong and immortal; but it will be to bear strong, immortal misery! Instead of becoming perfect in holiness, you will arrive to a horrid perfection in sin. As all sin will be rooted out from the hearts of the children of God, so all the virtuous and amiable qualities you might retain in this world, will be rooted out from you! And as the children of God will be transformed into pure unmingled holiness, so you will degenerate into pure unmingled wickedness! And consequently, you must be as exquisitely miserable, as they will be exquisitely happy! And all your enlarged capacities will be as full of torment, as theirs of bliss.
I may therefore adapt the text to you, sinners: "Now you are the children of the devil; but it does not appear what you shall be; you know not what phenomena of vengeance, what miracles of misery you shall be made!" Therefore, awake from your carelessness and neglect, and seek earnestly to become the children of God.
III. And now lastly, I move on to show in what respects the sons of God are unknown to the world, and mistaken by them.
The ungodly world may see a considerable difference between those that are, by God’s grace, the children of God, and themselves; but this they rather look upon as a hateful reproach, than as a peculiar glory and excellency. They may see that their life is not according to the course of this world; and, if they were witnesses to their secret devotions, or could penetrate their hearts, they would see an even greater difference; but by how much the greater difference, by so much the more they hate them. And though they may still profess a mighty veneration for religion, yet, wherever it truly appears, they hate, oppose, and attack it; not indeed under that honorable name, but under some reproachful character that will hide their wickedness. They love religion, they say, and God forbid they should speak a word against it; but wherever a person appears remarkably pious, they will be sure to brand him with some of their hateful names. And so it is that living Christians have always met with more contempt and hatred in the world, than easy and pliable, or even the most reckless and abandoned of sinners.
Now this is all due to the ignorance of the world as to what the sons of God will be before long. They don’t see them as such favorites of heaven; otherwise they would not dare to despise them as they do. The sons of God are princes in disguise; and therefore, they are not known by a blind world; who, as they are ignorant of their Father, cannot make out his features in them.
Consider this, you who are yet sinners! could you but see in all his future glory, the lowest saint whom you now despise and ridicule, how would it astonish you! It would tempt you rather to the extreme of adoration, rather than contempt; how willingly would you change place with him!
Well, stay a little, and there will be a full revealing of the sons of God. (Rom 8:19) You will then see those whom you now count as stupid, silly creatures, who have no taste for the pleasures of life, then shining more glorious than the sun; happy as their natures can allow, and, in their humble sphere, resembling God himself.
It is, however, all things considered, an instance of divine wisdom, that it does not yet appear to themselves or to others what the sons of God shall be. Such a manifestation would quite stun and confound the world, and strike it into a silent dismay. It would make the children of God utterly impatient of the present life and its enjoyments, and even of the low devotion of the church on earth; it would put an end to the necessary activity about the things of time, break off the designs of Providence, and quite alter the form of administration in this world. Therefore, the manifestation is wisely put off, to the most proper season.
And now, I will close with a few practical reflections:
First. What a state of darkness and imperfection is this present world in! We slipped into being we know not how, and remember nothing of our own formation: and we shall be, before long, we know not what. Sadly! how limited are our views! Everything in front of us is impenetrable darkness, and we can see but a very little way behind us. What small cause, then, have the wisest of us to be elated with our own knowledge! In comparison to angels, and even of our future selves, we see no more than the mole groveling in the earth, compared with the keen-eyed soaring eagle high above.
In the second place. But what surprising discoveries will flash upon us when we enter the eternal world! You who are the children of God, when you ascend to heaven, and take large surveys all around of the immensity of the works of God; when the unveiled perfections of God suddenly shine upon our eyes in all their glory, the moment you wake from the sleep of death, how shall you be lost in wonders!
What amazing scenes will then open up to our gazing minds! How shall we be astonished at ourselves, and ready to express our surprise perhaps in words such as these!
"Is this I, who so recently was groveling in another world? how changed! how ennobled! how glorified! Is this the soul that was once so overrun with the leprosy of sin! once so blind and dark! once so perverse and depraved! so feeble and weak! so tormented with vain anxieties and trifling cares, or transported with empty joys and delusive prospects! Is this the soul that had so many hard conflicts with temptations, that felt such shocks of jealousy, and so often languished under desponding fears of ever seeing this glorious place! How changed! how free from every anxious care! unmolested by so much as one guilty thought! nobly triumphant over sin and sorrow, and all that is feared in its mortal state! And is this my once frail, mortal body? my encumbrance in the previous world? how amazingly transformed! how gloriously fashioned! To what an amazing degree of excellency and bliss, can almighty grace raise the lowest worm! And in what outpouring of praise should I celebrate this grace through all eternity!"
These are the thoughts with which we may imagine the glorified saint would express his wonder. But at present, we know effectively nothing about it. The sensations and language of immortals are beyond our comprehension. But,
Thirdly. We are just on the brink of this surprising state. A few years, perhaps a few moments, may open to our eyes these amazing scenes! The next day, or the next hour, they may flash upon us; and consider! where are we then? In what a strange world! among what new beings! And what shall we then be? How amazingly transformed! Should you see a clod from beneath your feet, rising and brightening into a star, or shining like the noon-day sun, the transformation would not be half so astonishing! Then we will be done with all beneath the sun; all the little things of this trifling world will vanish at once like a mist; and all before us will be the most important and majestic realities! Therefore,
Fourthly, how astonishing is it that we should think so little of what is before us! that we should still stumble on in the dark, thoughtless of these approaching wonders! You children of God, what are you doing, that you do not think more of your relation to God, and your heavenly inheritance? If a large estate, or the government of the kingdom should fall to you tomorrow, and you were told of it beforehand, would it not always dwell upon your thoughts, and keep you awake this night with the eager prospect? What! would these comparatively worthless things fix your attention? and can you be thoughtless of a glory and bliss that infinitely surpass all your present conceptions? And you, unregenerate sinners, though I cannot say you are near to glory, yet I may assure you, you are near to the eternal world, and all its solemn wonders: this night perhaps you may be there; and if you land there in your present condition, you are undone, you are ruined, you are inconceivably miserable forever! Therefore,
Fifthly, O sinners, why do you not endeavor to become the children of God now while you can? Consider what prodigies of misery, what monuments of vengeance you will soon be, if you continue unregenerate! Regrettably, it does not yet appear what you shall soon be, otherwise you could no more rest in your present case, than upon the top of a mast, or in a burning building. And, poor creatures, have you a mind to be initiated into those horrid mysteries of misery, and be taught them by experience? Will you not believe the repeated declarations of eternal truth, that they are intolerably dreadful, and that, until you are the children of God, until you are born again, and have the dispositions of children towards him, you cannot have a moment's security for escaping them? I must pity you; and I call upon all the children of God to pour out the tears of their compassion over you!
Sixthly. Let me call upon all the children of God in this assembly to admire his love in ascribing this dignity to them. "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God!" (1 Jn 3:1) Consider what you were: guilty, rebellious creatures, condemned to everlasting tortures; and you will own, that to be just delivered from hell, though it had been by annihilation, would be an inconceivable favor for you! But for you to be the children of God, to be made glorious beyond the reach of thought, to be transformed into blissful beings, that you can now form no ideas of, and this, too, at the expense of the blood of God; what love is this! Go home, and forget it, if you can. I may as well tell you live without breathing, if you can!
Seventhly. Let me conclude with this reflection: how honorable, how happy, how glorious, are the children of God! how immense their privileges! how rich their inheritance! Why then are they so slow to enter into it? How unaccountable, how absurd is their eager attachment to this world, and their unwillingness to die! Why so much afraid of ascending to their Father's house? Why so shy of glory and perfect happiness? Why so fond of slavery and imprisonment? You, who are children of God, be always prepared, ready for flight, and be always looking out and crying, Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!