SERMON VII. GOD'S INHERITANCE
GAL. iv. 6, 7.
Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
This is the second good news of Christmas-day.
The first is, that the Son of God became man.
The second is, why he became man. That men might become the sons of God through him.
Therefore St. Paul says, You are the sons of God. Not--you may be, if you are very good: but you are, in order that you may become very good. Your being good does not tell you that you are the sons of God: your baptism tells you so. Your baptism gives you a right to say, I am the child of God. How shall I behave then? What ought a child of God to be like? Now St. Paul, you see, knew well that we could not make ourselves God's children by any feelings, fancies, or experiences of our own. But he knew just as well that we cannot make ourselves behave as God's children should, by any thoughts and trying of our own.
God alone made us His children; God alone can make us behave like his children.
And therefore St. Paul says, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: by which we cry to God, Our Father.
But some will say, Have we that Spirit?
St. Paul says that you have: and surely he speaks truth.
Let us search, then, and see where that Spirit is in us. It is a great and awful honour for sinful men: but I do believe that if we seek, we shall find that He is not far from any one of us, for in Him we live and move, and have our being; and all in us which is not ignorance, falsehood, folly, and filth, comes from Him.
Now the Bible says that this Spirit is the Spirit of God's Son, the Spirit of Christ:- and what sort of Spirit is that?
We may see by remembering what sort of a Spirit Christ had when on earth; for He certainly has the same Spirit now--the Spirit which proceedeth everlastingly from the Father and from the Son.
And what was that Like? What was Christ Like? What was his Spirit Like? It was a Spirit of Love, mercy, pity, generosity, usefulness, unselfishness. A spirit of truth, honour, fearless love of what was right: a spirit of duty and willing obedience, which made Him rejoice in doing His Father's will. In all things the spirit of a perfect SON, in all things a lovely, noble, holy spirit.
And now, my dear friends, is there nothing in you like that? You may forget it at times, you may disobey it very often: but is there not something in all your hearts more or less, which makes you love and admire what is right?
When you hear of a noble action, is there nothing in you which makes you approve and admire it? Is there nothing in your hearts which makes you pity those who are in sorrow and long to help them? Nothing which stirs your heart up when you hear of a man's nobly doing his duty, and dying rather than desert his post, or do a wrong or mean thing? Surely there is--surely there is.
Then, O my dear friends, when those feelings come into your hearts, rejoice with trembling, as men to whom God has given a great and precious gift. For they are none other than the Spirit of the Son of God, striving with your hearts that He may form Christ in you, and raise up your hearts to cry with full faith to God, 'My Father which art in heaven!'
'Ah but,' you will say, 'we like what is right, but we do not always do it. We like to see pity and mercy: but we are very often proud and selfish and tyrannical. We like to see justice and honour: but we are too apt to be mean and unjust ourselves. We like to see other people doing their duty: but we very often do not do ours.'
Well, my dear friends, perhaps that is true. If it be, confess your sins like honest men, and they shall be forgiven you. If you can so complain of yourselves, I am sure I can of myself, ten times more.
But do you not see that this very thing is a sign to you that the good and noble thoughts in you are not your own but God's? If they came out of your own spirits, then you would have no difficulty in obeying them. But they came out of God's Spirit; and our sinful and self-willed spirits are striving against his, and trying to turn away from God's light. What can we do then? We can cherish those noble thoughts, those pure and higher feelings, when they arise. We can welcome them as heavenly medicine from our heavenly Father. We can resolve not to turn away from them, even though they make us ashamed. Not to grieve the Spirit of the Son of God, even though he grieves us (as he ought to do and will do more and more), by showing us our own weakness and meanness, and how unlike we are to Christ, the only begotten Son.
If we shut our hearts to those good feelings, they will go away and leave us. And if they do, we shall neither respect our neighbours, nor respect ourselves. We shall see no good in our neighbours, but become scornful and suspicious to them; and if we do that, we shall soon see no good in ourselves. We shall become discontented with ourselves, more and more given up to angry thoughts and mean ways, which we hate and despise, all the while that we go on in them.
And then--mark my words--we shall lose all real feeling of God being our Father, and we his sons. We shall begin to fancy ourselves his slaves, and not his children; and God our taskmaster, and not our Father. We shall dislike the thought of God. We shall long to hide from God. We shall fall back into slavish terror, and a fearful looking forward to of judgment and fiery indignation, because we have trampled under foot the grace of God, the noble, pure, tender, and truly graceful feelings which God's Spirit bestowed on us, to fill us with the grace of Christ.
Therefore, my dear friends, never check any good or right feelings in yourselves, or in your children; for they come from the spirit of the Son of God himself. But, as St. Paul says, Phil. iv. 3, 'Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are honourable, whatsoever things are just, what soever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things', . . . 'and the God of peace shall be with you.' Avoid all which can make you mean, low, selfish, cruel. Cling to all which can fill your mind with lofty, kindly, generous, loyal thoughts; and so, in God's good time, you will enter into the meaning of those great words--Abba, Father. The more you give up your hearts to such good feelings, the more you will understand of God; the more nobleness there is in you, the more you will see God's nobleness, God's justice, God's love, God's true glory. The more you become like God's Son, the more you will understand how God can stoop to call himself your Father; and the more you will understand what a Father, what a perfect Father God is. And in the world to come, I trust, you will enter into the glorious liberty of the sons of God--that liberty which comes, as I told you last Sunday, not from doing your own will, but the will of God; that glory which comes, not from having anything of your own to pride yourselves upon, but from being filled with the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, by which you shall for ever look up freely, and yet reverently, to the Almighty God of heaven and earth, and say, 'Impossible as the honour seems for man, yet thou, O God, hast said it, and it is true. Thou, even thou art my Father, and I thy son in Jesus Christ, who became awhile the Son of man on earth, that I might become for ever the son of God in heaven.'
And so will come true to us St. Paul's great words: --If we be sons, then heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ.
Heirs of God: but what is our inheritance? The same as Christ's.
And what is Christ's inheritance? What but God himself?--The knowledge of our Father in heaven, of his love to us, and of his eternal beauty and glory, which fills all heavens and all worlds with light and life.
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