Book 3 - Chapter 10: Of Adoption - by Herman WitsiusThe Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man by Herman Witsius
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Herman Witsius (1636-1708)
Arguably known for the best work on Covenant Theology in print (at least in the top 5).
Herman Witsius (1636-1708) was Professor of Divinity in the Universities of Franeker, Utrecht, and Leyden. A brilliant and devout student, he was fluent in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew by the age of fifteen, when he entered the University of Utrecht. He was ordained at twenty-one and served in several pastorates, filling both the pulpit and the academic chair over the course of his life.
This, his magnum opus, is a reflection of some of the most fruitful and mature thinking on federal theology during the seventeenth century, and still holds a preeminent place in our own day.
Chapter X: Of Adoption
I. WHOM God has admitted into a state of peace and friendship with himself, he has also adopted for his sons; that they may enjoy the benefits both of grace and glory, not only by the favour of friendship, but also by a right of inheritance. There is no friendship more familiar than that between a father and his children; or rather, that natural affection between these exceeds, in familiarity and sweetness, every thing that can be signified by the name of friendship. There is not any one word, any one similitude borrowed from human affairs, that can sufficiently express or represent this most happy band of love; which can hardly be explained by a great number of metaphors heaped together. To express tranquillity of conscience, the Scripture calls it peace; to show us the pleasantness of familiarity, it calls it friendship; and, when it illustrates a right to the inheritance, it speaks of adoption; which is to be the subject of this Chapter.
II. We assert, that believers are the sons of God. The apostle John proclaims it, saying: “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,” 1 Epist. 3:1, 2. This is God’s covenant with them: “And I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty,” 2 Cor. 6:18.
III. But they are not so only on this account, that God, as Creator, gave them being and life, Mal. 2:10; and, as Preserver, supports and provides them with all necessaries, Acts 17:25, 28.
IV. Neither are they called the sons of God on account of any external prerogative only; whether political, as magistrates are called “the children of the Most High,” Psa. 82:6; or ecclesiastical, in respect of an external fœderal communion; according to which some are called “the sons of God,” Gen. 6:2, and “the children of the kingdom,” Matt. 8:12; in this sense also the Lord commanded Pharaoh to be told concerning Israel, “Israel is my son, even my first-born,” Exod. 4:22. For this regarded that national covenant which God entered into with the children of Israel, according to which he preserved them above all other nations, and heaped many blessings upon them, both of a corporeal and spiritual kind, which he did not vouchsafe to other people, Deut. 7:6. He called them his sons, because he managed their concerns with as much solicitous care as any father could possibly do those of his own children. Deut. 32:10, 11. Nay, he called them his first-born, not only because he loved them far better than other people, beyond the measure of common providence, “showing his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel,” Psa. 147:19, as the first-born had a double portion in the paternal inheritance, Deut. 21:17; but also because he had appointed them to have a kind of dominion over other people: “Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren,” &c. Gen. 27:29. Though these words were, indeed, spoken to Jacob, yet they were to be chiefly verified in his posterity: of which we have illustrious evidences in David’s time, 2 Sam. 8.
V. But however excellent these things were, yet they are very far below that dignity for which believers are called the sons of God; for most of those who were called by the name of Israel and the first-born, were such, with whom “God was not well pleased,” and never were promoted to the inheritance of the land of Canaan, much less the heavenly inheritance, but “were overthrown in the wilderness,” 1 Cor. 10:5. That very people, to whom Moses said, “Is not Jehovah thy father? hath he not magnified [established] thee?” are in the same breath called “a foolish people and unwise,” Deut. 32:6. Nay, there are of “the children of the kingdom,” who “shall be cast out into utter darkness,” Matt. 8:12: for that national covenant, without any thing else, did not bestow saving grace, nor a right to possess the heavenly inheritance.
VI. The elect and believers are therefore in a far more eminent sense the sons of God: wherein John observed a love, never enough to be commended, 1 John 3:1. Angels, indeed, have the glorious appellation of sons of God, Job 38:7; with which the Lord honours them, not only because he formed them, but also because he imprinted upon them the image and resemblance of his own holiness, Job 4:18, and because, as children of the family, they familiarly converse with God in his house, which is heaven, Job 1:6: in fine, because something of the dignity and authority of God is vouchsafed unto them, as we have just said, that magistrates are also called “the children of the Most High.” These are “thrones, dominions, principalities, powers,” Col. 1:16: nay, they are also called אלהים, Gods, Psa. 97:7, compared with Heb. 1:6.
VII. In almost the same sense, Adam seems also to be called “the son of God,” Luke 3:38: for seeing that name, which has the article του set before it, denotes father in all the foregoing verses, as the Syriac, in place of του, always puts בר; no reason can be assigned, why here, altering the phrase, we should translate, with Beza, “who was of God,” in which he has followed the Syriac, who translated דמן אלהא, “who is of God.” For no doubt can be made, that Adam may be fitly called the son of God, the reasons of which Philo elegantly explains in the passage adduced by the illustrious Grotius on Luke 3:38; in the manner Josephus has also written, that men “were born of God himself:” namely, 1. God created Adam. 2. In his own image. 3. Eminently loved him. 4. Gave him dominion over the creatures. For these reasons he is deservedly called the son of God, though God had not yet declared him heir of his peculiar blessings. Nor does he seem without reason to mention Adam as the son of God. For this tends, as Grotius has learnedly observed, to raise our mind, by this scale, to the belief of the birth of Christ. For he who from the earth, without a father, could produce man, was able in like manner to make Christ to be born of a virgin without a father.
VIII. But Adam did not long maintain that dignity, on account of which he was called the son of God; for neglecting holiness, and, losing that excellency in which he was created, and suffering himself to be overcome by the devil, he became the servant of Satan, by whom he was foiled, 2 Pet. 2:19; and, at the same time, “a child of wrath,” Eph. 2:3, together with all his posterity. But what the elect have lost in Adam, they recover in Christ; namely, the same, nay, a far more excellent degree of rank among the children. For let the disparity between Christ and believers be ever so great, yet “he is not ashamed to call them brethren,” Heb. 2:11.
IX. But the elect obtain this degree of children of God several ways. First, they become the sons of God by a new and spiritual generation, descending from above. John speaks of this, chap. 1:12, 13: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” This illustrious passage, which is variously explained by interpreters, requires some particular consideration.
X. The apostle describes this generation, or birth, whereby the elect become the sons of God, both negatively and positively. He denies it to be “of blood,” that is, natural or ordinary, like that whereby the children come to be partakers of flesh and blood, Heb. 2:14, and which is judged to be of blood. Neither is it “of the will of the flesh,” that is, from any carnal desire of having children by any means; hence it is, that one, by giving too much indulgence to the corrupt reasoning of the flesh, makes use of means for that end which God never prescribed: something like this we may observe in Sarah, when, from a desire of having children, she gave Hagar to Abraham. Nor in fine, is it “of the will of man,” who, for certain reasons of his own, loves one above others, and so appoints him to the principal part of the inheritance: just as this was the will of Isaac with respect to Esau. Nothing human can give being to this spiritual generation, which is only “of God,” who decreed it from eternity, and actually regenerates at the appointed time.
XI. To those who are thus born of God, he “gave power to become the sons of God.” Εξουσία here denotes right and power. Rev. 22:14, “That they may have εξουσια, right, to the tree of life.” But it may seem strange, how they who are born of God may have a right to become the sons of God, seeing, by their very nativity from God, they are already become his children. To remove this difficulty, three things chiefly have been observed by very learned men. 1st, As γενεσθαι, to become, is the second aorist, it may fitly be taken for the preterperfect; to this effect: He gave them that power, that right, that dignity, that they might become the sons of God, and enjoy the privileges which are suitable to that condition. 2dly, Γενεσθαι τοιοῦτον denotes, in Scripture phrase, “to be such a one,” or “to behave as becomes such a one.” Thus it is used, Matt. 5:45: “Ὁπως γένησθε υἱοὶ τοῦ πατρὸς ὑμῶν, that ye may be the children of your father,” that you may behave yourselves as becomes the children of God. See 1 Thess. 2:7, 10. 3dly, It might also be referred to that perfect filial state, which shall be conjoined with “the redemption of our body,” and which the apostle, Rom. 8:23, enjoins us to “wait for:” and so the meaning may be, that God has granted those who are born of him a right to the heavenly inheritance, and that unparalleled honour by which, both in soul and body, they shall rejoice, as children of the family, in the palace of their Father; in such a manner, that it shall not be in the power of any creature to strip, diminish, or cut them off from that dignity. The reader may adopt which exposition he prefers. We are not a little pleased with the last; but wherein this new birth consists, we have explained at large, Chap. VI., of this Book.
XII. And this is the first foundation of that glorious state. Secondly, We become the children of God by marriage with the Lord Jesus; for when we become his spouse, then we pass with him into his father’s family, and the Father calls us by the endearing name of “daughter,” Psa. 45:10: and the Lord Jesus calls her also his sister, whom he names his “spouse,” Cant. 5:1, 2. God had provided by his law, that if “a man betroth his maid-servant unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters,” Exod. 21:9: in the same manner he is pleased to deal with elect souls. By nature, they were as maid-servants to sin and Satan; lay exposed in the open field, and were a loathing to all. However, he graciously offers them a marriage with his only-begotten Son; they, by faith, accept the proposal, almost in the same manner that Abigail did, when she was invited to marry David, 1 Sam. 25:41: and thus, by the same act by which they become the spouse of Christ, they also become “the daughters of the living God,” 2 Cor. 6:18.
XIII. Thirdly, by adoption, which is an economical act of God, whereby they, who are regenerated after his image, and betrothed by faith to his only-begotten Son, are received into his family, and obtain the right and privileges of children, and the inheritance itself, by an immutable testament. They are “of the household of God,” Eph. 2:19; and “if children, then heirs,” Rom. 8:17; for the communication of the image of God alone does not give a right to the heavenly inheritance. This appears with respect to Adam in this state of innocence, who, indeed, was in the way of acquiring a right, but had not yet obtained it. The alone foundation of that right is the perfect and constant obedience, either of man himself, or of his surety. Christ, therefore, having appeared for us, fulfilled all righteousness, and “was appointed heir of all things,” Heb. 1:2. The elect, being regenerated, receive and claim to themselves, by faith, Christ and all his benefits, even his perfect righteousness; and, being thus adopted by the Father, and become the brethren of Christ, they are “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ,” Rom. 8:17. And in this sense principally we think John speaks: “To them which are born of God, he gave power to become the sons of God,” as explained above, sect. xi.
XIV. For the better understanding of what has been said, we are now to observe, that the Spirit of God, in order to explain these mysteries, uses metaphors borrowed from human things. But these metaphors are to be so adjusted, as one may not destroy, but rather supply the defects of, the other. It would seem in other respects absurd, that the soul which is born of God, should be adopted for a daughter, and joined in marriage to the only-begotten Son of God. Yet the Scripture has wisely ordered matters, when it declares all these things concerning believers. In order to express the original of spiritual life, and of the image of God in man, it says that he was born of God; to set forth our most delightful union with Christ, which is full of mutual affection, it calls it marriage; and to show the ground and firmness of our inheritance, it declares that we are adopted in Christ. And it is on account of each of these things, that we may be called the children of God.
XV. And this adoption is a most precious blessing of the covenant of grace. But it was very different, according to the different economies or dispensations of that covenant. It is, however, not to be doubted, that believers, at all times, were the children of God. Elihu, who was not of the people of Israel, called God “his father,” Job 34:36*. To understand this in that diminutive sense in which the heathen called Jupiter the Father of gods and men, is not suitable to the illustrious faith and piety of a man who was commended by God himself. A celebrated expositor has said well on this place: “God is called Father, as Mal. 1:6, ‘A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour?” And Isa. 64:8. ‘But now, O Lord, thou art our Father.’ By this appellation he sets forth the affection of God in this respect, namely, his paternal care; his own affection in requesting his brotherly love; the end of the trial, and a filial reverence and confidence.”
XVI. All we have thus far said of the grounds of this glorious state, is even applicable to the Old Testament believers. They had likewise a new life by regeneration, and were created again after the image of God. They were, in like manner, betrothed to Christ, Hos. 2:19, 20: “Their Maker was their husband,” Isa. 54:5. And ver. 1, the church of the Old Testament is expressly said to be married: nor were they without their adoption; “who are Israelites, to whom pertaineth the adoption,” Rom. 9:4. And to conclude, “were heirs of all,” Gal. 4:1: heirs of the grace of God in this life, Psa. 16:5; and of the glory of God in the life eternal, Psa. 17:15.
XVII. Though the condition of believers under the Old Testament was very illustrious, if compared with that of unbelievers, who continue children of wrath, and heirs of the treasures of divine indignation; yet all that splendour comparatively speaking was eclipsed to an almost incredible degree, before the august majesty of believers under the New Testament, as the light of the stars before that of the sun: as will appear by comparing them together.
XVIII. Believers under the Old Testament were, indeed, sons; but sons who were subject to their father, and to the severity and discipline of tutors, “who bound heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and laid them on their shoulders;” nevertheless, their father said with respect to these tutors: “All whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do,” Matt. 23:3, 4; namely, as long as they commanded nothing that was contrary to, or inconsistent with, the will of the father. They were obliged to be subject to the weak and beggarly elements of the world, and, like children, to be engaged all the day in the trifling ceremonies of the Mosaic institution, which were, in a manner, the playthings of the church. They were taught like infants, without being left to their own choice, not knowing how to conduct themselves, or what was fit for them; “touch not, taste not,” Col. 2:21.
XIX. Besides, they were not admitted to that familiarity with their father, as to penetrate into the mysteries of his will. “The mighty God did then hide himself,” Isa. 45:15. Their tutors, indeed, at times, acquainted them with some things relating to God’s purpose of grace, but that only rarely, and in mysterious expressions, and under enigmatical or parabolical representations. And though many prophets and righteous men desired to see and hear many things, yet they were not gratified, Matt. 13:17.
XX. None of them was allowed to approach the holy of holies, which was, as it were, the secret place of their father: nay, they had not access to the temple itself, which was the father’s house, but by means of the altar, sacrifices, and priests, without which, if they took upon them to approach to God, instead of a blessing, which they sought after, they incurred their father’s displeasure. Neither was it lawful for them to omit the constant morning and evening sacrifice, Exod. 26:28, 42.
XXI. Their inheritance was the land of Canaan, a pledge, indeed, of the heavenly inheritance, but somewhat obscure, and such as they were commanded to be in some measure subjected to, and which the godly themselves were sometimes obliged to be destitute of, when forced into banishment. However they were to have such a tender regard to this land, that, when banished from their dear country, they were, in their prayers, to turn their faces thitherward, nor were they to pay their vows to heaven, without directing their eyes to that country, 1 Kings 8:48. Dan. 6:11, In all this, there was a notable subjection to this pledge.
XXII. The case of believers under the New Testament, is quite different. For after our elder brother, having taken upon him human nature, had visited this lower world, and freely undergone a state of various servitude for us, he brought us into true liberty, John 8:36, removed the tutors, blotted out the hand-writing of ordinances, which was contrary to us, declared us to be dead with himself, set free from the elements of the world, so as they never after should have any dominion over us, Col. 2:16, 20. He would no longer have us subject to these minute observances, but called us to a reasonable service, Rom. 12:1, and, having broken and removed that troublesome yoke which was laid on the jaws of the ancients, Hos. 11:4, laid his own upon us, which is easy and light, Matt. 11:30.
XXIII. He introduced us into the father’s secret counsels, and, sucking the breasts of our mother, taught us the things he so much desired the spouse should be taught, Cant. 8:2: declared to us what he had seen in the bosom of the Father, nay, and even the Father himself, John 1:18, and in himself presented the Father to our view, so that we have no longer any occasion to say, “Show us the Father,” John 16:9. He brought along with him those times, of which Jeremiah prophesied, chap. 31:34. He abundantly poured out upon us “the unction from the holy one, which teacheth all things,” 1 John 2:20, 27. In a word, he does not now account us as servants; “for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth; but he hath called us friends: for all things that he hath heard of his Father, he hath made known unto us,” John 15:15.
XXIV. He has also obtained for us a free access to the Father, having “consecrated for us a new and living way,” in which we may walk “in full assurance of faith,” Heb. 10:20, 22. By his death, the veil of the inmost sanctuary was rent, and all believers are made a royal priesthood, 1 Peter. 2:9; none is excluded the holy of holies; and though the Father still sits on a throne of majesty, yet it is at the same time a throne of grace, to which we are invited to approach with boldness, Heb. 4:6, without sacrifice, without priests, trusting only in the alone offering of Jesus our High Priest, “whereby he hath for ever perfected them that are sanctified,” Heb. 10:14: and this is “that better hope, by the which we draw night unto God,” Heb. 7:19.
XXV. Nor hath he burdened us with any subjection to a typical inheritance; but hath called us directly to an inheritance of spiritual and heavenly good things, and “appointed unto us a kingdom, as his Father hath appointed unto him,” Luke 22:29. There is now no corner of the earth which we should desire, as more holy and more acceptable to God than another; for, “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof,” Psa. 24:1. Nor does he disdain an altar in the midst of Egypt, Isa. 19:19. And thus “he hath made us partakers of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises,” Heb. 8:6.
XXVI. On account of those excellent prerogatives, believers under the New Testament are eminently and emphatically called “the sons of God,” 1 John 3:2: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God,” namely, by a much better right and title than before. To this the apostle has undoubtedly an eye, Gal. 4:4–7: “But when the fulness of the time was come;” namely, that appointed time, till which the children were to be under tutors, ver. 2, “God sent forth his Son, to redeem them that were under the law,” setting them free from the infantile use of ceremonies; “and that we might receive the adoption,” not only that adoption whereby we are distinguished from the children of the devil and of wrath, but also that whereby we excel infants, not much differing from servants: “wherefore thou art no more a servant,” as formerly, “but a son.” That this is Paul’s meaning, the whole connextion of the discourse and the scope of the writer evince. For the whole tends to show, that believers under the New Testament are set free from, nor ought they any longer to be oppressed with, the yoke of the old servitude, which the false judaising teachers, with the utmost endeavours, struggled to lay on their necks.
XXVII. Certainly the condition of the sons of God is most excellent. If David put such a value on being called the son-in-law of such a king as Saul, 1 Sam. 18:23, how highly should we esteem it, to be called the sons of the living God! 1st, How unparalleled is that royalty, by which we derive the origin of our pedigree, not from any earthly prince or monarch, but from the King of heaven! 2. What can be more glorious than that divine nature we obtain by a new generation? 2 Pet. 1:4. God himself glories in his sons, as his peculiar property; nay, calls them “the first-fruits of his increase,” Jer. 2:3, who may be to him “in praise, and in name, and in honour,” Deut. 26:19. Almost as parents who glory before others in those of their children who are remarkable for their beauty. 3. What can be more desirable than that marriage-relation to the only-begotten Son of God, than which thought itself can conceive nothing more honourable, more advantageous, and, in a word, more glorious? “He is white and ruddy, the chiefest (standard-bearer) among ten thousand,” Cant. 5:10. When David, though not yet come to the crown, sent his men to Abigail, to procure her in marriage, that prudent widow “bowed herself on her face to the earth, and said, Behold let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord,” 1 Sam. 25:41. And what may our soul say, whenever it reflects that, having broke off the former marriage with Nabal, which was not a state of marriage, but of adultery, it is joined to the heavenly David in a marriage-covenant that cannot be broken? 4, and lastly, Nothing can be more excellent, than that inheritance, which, in right of adoption, the sons of God obtain, and which is bequeathed to them by an irrevocable testament.
XXVIII. It will not be unprofitable to insist a little on this point, and, having opened the testament of our Father, to inquire what, and how considerable the goods, and under what stipulations he has bequeathed them to us. By the testament we mean, the last and immutable will of God, recorded in the writings of the Holy Scripture, and ratified by the death and blood of Jesus, whereby he hath declared his chosen and believing people to be his heirs of the whole inheritance. I say the testament is the will of God, or that “counsel of his will,” Eph. 1:11, by which he has appointed both the heirs and the inheritance, and of which our Saviour was speaking, Luke 12:32, εὐδοκησεν ὁ Πατὴρ, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom:” I add, it is the last and irrevocable will of the Father; for as this is required to a valid testament, Gal. 3:15, so it is not deficient in this respect: “wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation,” Heb. 6:17, 18. By this his will, he appointed or settled both the inheritance as well of grace as of glory, of which we shall speak just now; and also the heirs, not indefinitely, whosoever believes; but by name, this and the other persons, “whose names are written in heaven,” Luke 10:20, and “graven upon the palms of God’s hands,” Isa. 49:16. This his will he has expressed in the sacred writings of both instruments, which for that reason are also called “testament,” 2 Cor. 3:14. In fine, that nothing might be wanting, the whole is confirmed and sealed by the blood and death of the Lord Jesus, Heb. 9:16, 17. In order to understand this, we must observe, that God the Father did, by testament, give and bequeath that honour to his Son Jesus Christ, to be the head of the elect in glory, and have a right to bestow upon them all his goods; Psa. 2:8. Jesus again does, by the power made over to him by the Father, dispose by testament of his goods to be communicated to the elect: “and I διατιοεμαι, appoint by testament, unto you a kingdom, as may Father hath, διέθετό, appointed by testament, unto me,” Luke 22:29. So that this making of the testament is, indeed, originally from the Father, yet immediately from Christ the mediator; who died, not to vacate or annul, by his death, the inheritance; for, “he is alive for ever more,” Rev. 1:18; but to seal the promises, and acquire for his people a right to the inheritance. Hence the blood which he shed is called “the blood of the testament,” Zach. 9:11, Matt. 26:28.
XXIX. The goods or blessings bequeathed by this testament, are of all others the most excellent: as became, 1st, The riches and liberal bounty of our heavenly Father, from whom we may expect so extraordinary goods or blessings, which neither eye hath seen, nor ear heard, nor hath entered into the heart of man to conceive any like them, 1 Cor. 2:9. Concerning this the Psalmist deservedly sings, “O how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men! Psa. 31:19. 2dly, The glory of our elder brother, whose joint heirs we are, Rom. 8:17, and who glories in his heritage, Psa. 16:6. 3dly, As became that dignity to which God hath raised us, having adopted us for his sons! for to them he gives “great and precious promises,” 2 Pet. 1:4. Did we minutely prosecute these points, we should write a large volume: at present we will reduce the whole to three principal heads.
XXX. The first is the possession of the whole world: for, it was promised to Abraham, and his seed, that they should be “heirs of the world,” Rom. 4:13. On which place let us hear the commentary of Ludovicus de Dieu: “As sin, by separating us from God, and subjecting us to his curse, banished and disinherited us, so that we have no spiritual right or dominion, as became sons of God, over the meanest creature; so, on the other hand, when God becomes our God, and we his blessed people, we are restored as sons, to the right and dominion of all our paternal inheritance: and seeing there is nothing besides God and the world, we are made heirs of the world, both the earthly, the heavenly; the present, and the world to come.” When God introduced Adam into the habitable earth, he constituted him lord of the world, and gave him a right and claim to use the rest of the creatures for his own advantage, Gen. 1:28. But Adam, by his sin, lost that right; so that neither himself nor any of his posterity, while in a state of sin, have any true and spiritual right, which can stand in the court of heaven, to touch any creature. But Christ has made a new purchase of it, for himself and his brethren. Psa. 8:6. Whence, 1 Cor. 3:21, “all things are yours;” and among these all things, the world is mentioned, ver. 22, and whatever is in it, “things present and things to come. For,” adds the apostle, ver. 23, “ye are Christ’s.”
XXXI. Now this possession of the world consists in these following things: 1st, That every son of God does possess so much of the good things of this world, as the wisdom of his heavenly Father has ordained, to be so sufficient for the support of his animal life, that his spiritual may suffer no detriment, and that he truly possess it in such a manner, as, in the use and enjoyment thereof, he may taste the love of his Father bestowing that upon him as an earnest of a far better good, and of his elder brother who became poor that his people might be rich, 2 Cor. 8:9. This love of God the Father and of Christ, when added to the least crumb of bread or drop of cold water, makes these preferable in the highest degree to all the most exquisite dainties of the rich of this world: “a little that a righteous man hath, is better than the riches of many wicked,” Psa. 37:16. 2dly, That all the creatures ought to serve them as steps, by which to ascend to the Creator. For in all of them they view, as in a bright mirror, his adorable perfections, Psa. 104:24, and in that meditation they exult, Psa. 92:4, 5. Above all, they perceive in them the love of God towards them. When they view the sun, the moon, the stars, they rejoice, that their Father has lighted up so many tapers for them, by the light of which they may perform what becomes the sons of God: nor do they less admire this, than if every one had his own sun, or his own moon, shining upon him. Neither do they exceed the bounds of decency, Psa. 8:3, 4, when they think, that the world remains in its present state on their account, and that the wicked are indebted to them for this: for the holy seed is the substance (support) of the world, Isa. 6:13. 3dly, That all the creatures, and the whole government of God about them, “may work together for their good,” Rom. 8:28. This is so extensive, that both angels and devils are obliged to this service: as to angels, are they not ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? Heb. 1:14. Psa. 34:7. and Psa. 91:11. And with respect to that infernal spirit, the teacher of arrogance, was he not constrained, by his buffetings, in spite of himself, and acting from a different view, to teach Paul humility? 2 Cor. 12:7. 4thly, If this world, which is subjected to vanity because of sin, shall not suffice them; from its ashes, when perished, God is to form another; to make “a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness,” 2 Pet. 3:13. There is none of these things, which may not be included in that general promise of the inheritance of the world.
XXXII. The second good thing in this testament is a spiritual kingdom: “I appoint unto you a kingdom,” Luke 22:29. To which, even the most despicable of the children of God in other respects, even man-servants and maid-servants, are called; “Hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he hath promised to them that love him?” James. 2:5. To this belong, 1. The excellency of the sons of God, whereby they surpass all other men, Prov. 12:26. 2. Victory over sin, and the unruly lusts of the flesh, to which kings themselves and the most dreaded tyrants are subjects and enslaved, Rom. 6:14, 18. 3. The bruising of Satan under their feet, Rom. 16:20. 4. Triumph over a whole conquered world, for, notwithstanding its rage, they shall be for ever saved, 1 John 5:4, 5. 5. Inestimable riches of spiritual gifts, Psa. 45:9, even in the midst of poverty, Rev. 2:9. 6. Holy peace of soul and joy in the Holy Ghost, Rom. 14:17. All these begin here in grace, and shall be consummated hereafter in glory.
XXXIII. The third benefit is God himself, Rom. 8:17. “Heirs of God.” Here is a mutual inheritance; believers are God’s portion, and God is their portion, for these are made reciprocal, Jer. 10:16: “The portion of Jacob is the former of all things, and Israel is the rod (tribe) of his inheritance.” In this possession of God, his children find, 1. Protection against every evil, Psa. 91:2: “I will say of the Lord, he is my refuge and my fortress.” Why? “He is my God, in whom I will trust.” See Psa. 27:1, 2. Isa. 43:2, 3. 2. Communication of every good, Psa. 36:7. for, first, all that infinity of perfections which are in God himself, will appear glorious and admirable in the children of God, and be enjoyed by them to complete their consummate happiness. And what can the soul desire beyond that infinity? Psa. 73:25. Secondly, What will not God give those, to whom he gives himself? 1 Cor. 3:22, 23.
XXXIV. There are no proper stipulations in this testament, if considered in its whole extent, together with all its promises; for it consists of absolute and mere promises, which depend on no condition, to be performed in our own strength. Yet Divine Providence hath so disposed every particular in it, as to have a certain and wise order among themselves, and the practice* of the former benefits, which are promised, is to pave the way for the possession of further blessings. We have at large treated of this, chap. i., sect. x., seq. of this book. To which I now add the words of Ames, in his Coronis ad Collectionem Hagicensem, Art. v. c. 2: “The whole of the disposition hath the nature of a testament, as considered simply, either in the whole or its parts; but if the benefits bequeathed are compared together, then one bears to the other the relation, as it were, of a condition.”
XXXV. In the same books, therefore, in which the testament is contained, God commanded, that whoever would take comfort from the promised inheritance, should, 1st, Love, search into, meditate upon, and keep in his heart the writings exhibiting the testament, as no contemptible part of his inheritance, Deut. 32:4; nay, esteem them beyond his necessary food, Job 23:12, Deut. 6:6. 2dly, Highly value, as it deserves, the promised inheritance, 1. That he hunger and thirst after it, and be satisfied with nothing short of it, Matt. 5:6. 2. Reckon all other things, in comparison thereof, as dross and dung, Phil. 3:8. Most readily part with every thing, in order to procure this pearl of inestimable value, Matt. 13:46. 3. Glorify God for the greatness of his love, Psa. 31:19. 4. Diligently keep what he has received, Rev. 2:25, 3:11. 3dly, So walk, as becometh his condition, and the expectation of so great an inheritance, 1 Thess. 2:12, 1 John 3:3. 4thly, Be ready to impart to his brethren what he has received from his Father, both in temporals and spirituals, Rom. 12:13 1 Thess. 2:8. And endeavour that others also may be brought to enter on the same inheritance with himself, Acts 26:29. For none suffers any loss for the numbers that partake with him: he has rather an additional pleasure, his joy being greatly heightened from the abundance of love.