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of the church in which you are placed, and studiously to act up to the privilege you are admitted to, in being released from the legal Spirit of bondage, and made partakers of the Spirit of adoption. How that is to be done, will be the subject of the next discourse.
THE SPIRIT OF BONDAGE, AND THE
ROM. VIII. 15.
For ye have not received the Spirit of bondage again to fear: but ye have received the Spirt of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
PROCEED to the third general head proposed on these
III. To shew, how our deliverance from the Spirit of bondage, and our having received the Spirit of adoption by the gospel, should influence us. We are released from the bonds of that legal dispensation, which had a visible tendency to promote a servile spirit; and have received the discoveries of gospel grace, representing the love of God as our heavenly Father, and leading us to a more filial disposition. Now to what does this consideration of our case engage us? What should be the effect of this change of circumstances church of God?
The apostle may be understood as summing this up in the words that close the verse. "Hereby we cry, Abba, Father." That is, we consider God hereupon chiefly in the endearing relation of a Father, and our temper and behaviour is filial. We are concerned to see, that we have a filial disposition, and then that we exercise and express it in proper instances.
1. We are concerned to see, that we have a filial temper: or that an ingenuous affection to God as a Father, be the pre
vailing disposition of our souls, suitable to the genius of the gospel; rather than a mere servile fear, suited to a state of bondage. Though all, upon whom gospel light shines, have advantages for a filial temper, yet how many receive this grace of God in vain ?
This is evidently the case of all, who still continue under the bondage of sin. They are destitute of any kindly love to the God of love, though the riches of his grace are set in their view. If conscience force them to pay some regards to God, it is only as the most abject slave regards his master, with disaffection and ill-will, merely from the terror of vengeance; with injurious thoughts of God, and a dislike of him and his service. If they could help it, if they could rid themselves of the fear of punishment, they would have nothing to do with him. The carnal mind which governs them, is enmity against God, and they are alienated from the life of God. Indeed the respect they pay with such an heart, is little better than the poor Indians worshipping the devil, for fear lest he should hurt them. The judge will pronounce to their confusion in the great day, as he did of many of his Jewish hearers during his abode below, "I know you, that you have not the love of God in you," John v. 42. A soul altogether destitute of the love of God, could not be acceptable to him in any dispensation; for it was "the first and great commandment (of the moral law,) that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind."
But to have the true spirit of adoption, suitable to the discoveries of divine grace in the gospel, is not only to have an affection to God; but to have this prevailing above uneasy and tormenting fears of him.
say not to be altogether without fear. For,
A reverential fear of him, importing a high regard and veneration for his excellencies, for his authority and government, is a natural duty. It was the temper of man in innocence; it is the proper disposition of a son, and will be the unchangeable frame of the blessed in heaven. The New as well as the Old Testament, often sums up religion in it. While there is an infinite distance between God and us, this must ever become us, for it is nothing else but a practical ac-. knowledgement of that distance.
Nor are the fears of God's fatherly displeasure in this life, either in outward corrections, or in spiritual judgments, to be extinguished in the minds of Christians. The New Testament leads us to expect these, if we turn again to folly; and without doubt, on purpose to keep awake a fear of caution.
Nor are we discharged in this imperfect state from all fear of hell itself. Amidst the various temptations of life, and while our love to God and conformity to him are very incomplete, we shall have reason, though we have hope that we are in the way to heaven, to entertain such a sense of danger, as there will be no room for, when our warfare is accomplished. The threatenings left upon record in the gospel to apostates, are intended for the admonition of the best; and frequent thoughts of such threatenings are means of their security, and of exciting the caution and diligence necessary to their perseverance. To consider that if we should draw back, it would be unto perdition; to think of the importance of the matter, of the deceitfulness of our own hearts, and the instability of our resolutions, justly raises and maintains some fear in the best during their state of probation such a fear as can have no place in those who are lodged past all danger.
But reverential fear and filial affection are things perfectly harmonious. And for the fear of threatened evils, though neither the obligation, nor the usefulness of it to Christians on earth, is entirely set aside, by the gospel, yet there is sufficient provision made against its being tormenting, and for overbalancing it with the sense of God's fatherly love. Such a fear, as arises from a distrust of God and his promises, as if it were a doubtful thing whether God loves a soul that loves him, whether his grace will be sufficient for us, or whether he will give eternal life to every persevering believer? such a fear I say, is injurious to God, and most unsuitable to the love of God revealed in the gospel. In order to get above such fears, we should often contemplate the riches of his grace in Christ, and look up to him to kindle and inflame in our breasts, an ingenuous affection answerable to such discoveries. And then the more a love to God, founded upon such views of him, grows up in us, the more we shall have of the true spirit of adoption; and all uneasy fears will propor tionably abate, till they be entirely extinguished by the advance
of our love to perfection. This is elegantly represented by St John, 1 John iv. 16. "We have known and believed the love that God hath to us," his love and "his love and grace manifested to us in Christ. Here is the foundation; for hence we know that God is love, not a hard Master, but a loving Father, full of unspeakable good-will and benignity; "and he that dwelleth in love," in the believing view of this love of God, and in the ingenuous actings of love to him thereupon, “dwelleth in God, and God in him." There is a sweet society between God and such a soul, he dwelleth in God by delightful contemplation, and God dwells in him by the Spirit of his grace. If you would know what effect this will have upon tormenting fears, it may be seen in ver. 18. "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath torment; he that feareth is not made perfect in love." A Christian's love being founded on the sense of God's great love to us in Christ, as far as that prevails, it will cast out tormenting fear; for such a fear arises from a sense of guilt and of God's just anger for it, against which the love of God in the gospel, gives sufficient relief to all those who sincerely love him.. If then we loved God perfectly, we should be free from any dismal and affrighting suspicions of his penal displeasure, the. soul would be quieted by it: so it is in heaven, perfect love there casts out all uneasy fear. And it is a sign of the great imperfection of our love now, that our doubts and fears, and black apprehensions of God are so many. But yet in proportion to the advance of our love, it will lessen our dread. And this temper, correspondent to the present liberal state of the church, we should be concerned to have.
2. We should see that we exercise and express such a temper; or that we act from ingenuous love to God as our principle, rather than from a servile dread and terror, in the course of the Christian life. That our temper and walk may shew, that we are governed by a spirit of adoption, and not of bondage. St Paul exhorts, Col. iii. 15. "Let the peace of God rule in your heart." Let it be the grand principle of action with you. Particularly we should discover a filial spirit, instead of the servile.
(1.) In acts of worship. In our coming to God, which is most directly pointed at in the text.
By the frequency of our approaches. A slave cares not