[A November 1879 sermon of Rev. Henry Frost Wadsworth, pastor of First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY]
1 John 3:2
Beloved now are we the sons of God.
Adoption is one of the results or privileges that follows the conversion of the soul to God and the nature of adoption may be explained in the following way. For instance, a child is taken by a man from a family not his own, introduced into his own family, regarded and treated as his own child and entitled to the same treatment his own child would have.
This you perceive is one of the most disinterested acts that a human being can perform. Since the adopted child has done nothing to the one who has adopted it to deserve the distinguished privilege and advantage which is conferred upon it – to adopt children after this manner has been a custom of long standing. Children were adopted in this way by the Egyptians, Jews, Romans, and other ancient nations and as we all know, the same custom exists in all Christian countries in our day.
Not infrequently do parents who are in comfortable circumstances adopt the children of them who are poor or those who have no parents out of sympathy and tender regard for their welfare. And after a similar mode, are believer adopted into the Divine family. They were originally strangers to the family of God. Indeed were his enemies, by wicked works. They opposed all his offers of reconciliation. They slighted his invitation and spurned his gracious entreaties.
And yet out of tender regard for human welfare he patiently pressed his invitation upon them till at length by much importunity they are persuaded to enter his family – take his name upon them and henceforth have in his parental care and tenderness. In other words sustained henceforth the spiritual relation of sons and daughters to God. Hence you perceive no one is adopted unto the divine family on the ground of human merit, worth, or personal obedience – but on the ground of Christ’s intercession and righteousness. Thus those that belong to the divine family, so far as human being are concerned were once outcasts, prodigals, publicans, indeed composed of sinners of all ages having contracted different degrees of guilt. For says the apostle to the Ephesians, ye who sometimes were afar off, are brought nigh by the blood of Christ – the procuring cause of our salvation but effectually removes the obstacles in our hearts and to our salvation.
The work of adoption into the divine family commences soon after the fall. Doubtless our first parents were adopted into his family and in the days of Enos we read men began to call on the of the Lord. Which in the margin it reads, men began to be called by the name of the Lord, or to be called his children and take upon themselves the name of God as being now their parent just as adopted children take upon themselves the name of persons who adopted them. They are greatly called in Scripture the sons of God.
In the communications God made to Abraham and his family the same idea in substance is recorded. He said to Abraham, I will be your God and ye shall be my people which is equivalent to saying I will be your Father and ye shall be my children. And Moses was directed to preface his message from God to Pharaoh thus saith the Lord Israel is my Son, even my first born. Ye are the children of the Lord your God. All of you are children of the Most High.
And still later in the history of the Jews, when they had become depraved and openly adjured the authority of Jehovah they still retained the appellation of sons of God even though they manifested a spirit of insubordination and were charged with corruption, falsehood and deceit.
Let us in the next place consider some of the benefits adoption conferred upon the adopted. One advantage is its elevating and ennobling influence. The adopted person is brought out of the society of the evil one and translated into the family of Christ or the household of God. What a great moral distance there is between these two conditions and their associations and surroundings. Once sinners now saints. Once enemies now friends. Once aliens and rebels now children of the Most High God. Once in the world – under the influence and control of the powers of darkness now in the children, in the kingdom of God’s dear son sharing in complacent regards of our heavenly father.
Another advantage is that adoption produces a real relation in us to God and makes us his heirs. As the apostle says heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. So that the believer in consequence of this relationship has in ???? spiritual possession in prospect. Eye hath not seen ear hath not heard neither entered the heart of man the things that God hath laid up for them that love him.
You know that children are ordinarily entitled to the property or state of their deceased parents. The paternal homestead ultimately becomes theirs. But what are a few thousand or hundreds of thousands of dollars to the vast spiritual wealth that God has promised to his household and will distribute to them in his kingdom above. You will never heard anything about poverty in the kingdom of heaven. They are all millionaires there – and all on equality there. There is no distinction of color or age, or by neither male or female bond or free – Christ is all and in all.
All those promises that relate to the future of the believer are calculated to inspire hope and courage in his soul – his fears and anxieties and troubles will cease at death. All tears shall then be wiped away from his eyes and sorrow erased from his heart. Henceforth a child and heir of God of his name of his nature of his eternal favor of his infinite love and joy and glory – what a friend of blessedness in reserve for the humblest and most obscure sons and daughters. For whatever may be ones rank in life there, they will be equally honored – equally favored – equally supplied with the best of all blessings. Besides in natural adoption there is only a change in condition. The child never becomes really the son or daughter of the adopted. But in spiritual adoption the one now under consideration – the child really becomes the partaker of the divine image and nature by virtue of regeneration. He imprints upon his heart his own moral likeness – in consequence of which he communes with him, strengthens and encourages and imparts to him a spirit of grace and wisdom and qualifies him for his own work, service, and kingdom.
And, so far as they are sanctified, they exhibit the disinterested spirit and principles of the parent of the family to whom they belong, upholding and encouraging what is right and proper and condemning what is wrong. Now to be under the fatherly care and protection of such a being is a great favor and ????? such favored one with great occasion for rejoicing. But we in addition to that, his adopted children, are highly favored in having him as their teacher. For whom so competent as he to instruct – infinitely wise, his lessons of wisdom must necessarily be profitable to the instructed – not only as adopted to enlighten the understanding, but to purify the heart and qualify it for a thankful reception and wise and holy use of those blessings that He is disposed to convey.
So impressed was Solomon of the importance of divine instruction that he offered the prayer “So teach us to number our days as to apply our hearts unto wisdom.” He thereby acknowledged his incompetency to direct unaided his own course or guide his own footsteps.
So that every child of God is favored with the best qualified instruction that can be found in the universe. And those, that attend to his instruction must necessarily be wise. In the next place notice some of the characteristics of this adopted family. I need not detain you by speaking further on the characteristics of the head of this family. You are aware of his perfections and qualifications for the important position he holds as our spiritual father – He is infinitely wise, just, impartial, paternal patient and compassionate and most qualified to fill such a position – is acquainted with all the dangers, imperfections and propensities of his children as well as their proneness to evil in every respect then God is thoroughly qualified for the head of this family.
And first, as to the particularities of the family, you perceive it is increasing continually in numbers. The first two doubtless which were adopted unto this family were our first parents – Adam and Eve – That Christ after their fall was revealed to them, sustaining the important office of a savior. For it was written for their encouragement and ours that the seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent and Christ is that seed.
Deliverance came to them in an unexpected direction and way. The next one that was adopted was doubtless Abel. And then we do not heard much more about the adoption till the days of Enos where it is said men began to call on the name of the Lord. So all through the ages the number has increased until there are millions upon millions of adopted sons and daughters. These are found now, among all nations. But let their numbers increase our spiritual Father is abundantly able to provide for call. In my fathers house said the impoverished prodigal there is bread enough and to spare – why should I remained here and starve. Our heavenly Father cannot be impoverished even if he were supplying the whole world.
Again this should be a very intelligent family favored as they are with the instruction of such a father. There are no class of persons who enjoy such opportunities as the children of God. For none others are blest with a parent so competent to instruct both by precept and example as he us. We look for advanced scholars in exist to a greater or less extent in almost every neighborhood community or parish. Let the spirit and principles of the gospel predominate other all other influences and ow marked would be the change in community. No unkind words would be uttered – nor unkind feelings entertained or expressed – for says the apostle – the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep you hearts and minds through Jesus Christ. That is a peace that cometh from God and resteth in him, shall relieve you of all trouble and fill you with all comfort.
Primitive Christians were very happy and united because they faithfully endorsed the instruction of our Lord and largely possessed his Spirit. And so would it be in our day if the same faithfulness and the same charity were entertained now as them. Peace reigns in heaven – not only in the bosom of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, but in the bosoms of the Saints and Angels that are under their control.
Another characteristic we should expect to find in this adopted family is charity or love. And we should expect to find this because the Father of this spiritual family the great distinguished parent of us all is love. It is so recorded in the gospel that God is love. That it is the underlying principle in his moral nature and hence that all his providences and counsels and acts are under the control of this supreme passion or affection. It is no where said in the Gospel that God is anger or wrath. That either of these constitute the essence of his being. Suppose it were so – how long would the sun shine or the rain fall. How long in view of the provocations he receives would the human family be provided with food or seed time and harvest continue and the earth yield her increase. Hence your existence and mind proves that God is love. The food we eat, the air we breathe and the light ???
The greatest and most ???? proof of his love was the gift of is son. God so loved the world as he gave his only begotten son. And faith in him produces our deliverance from deserved punishment and secures to us adoption into his family. Now with such a parent – with such instruction – with such an example, what ought the adopted children to be. How just how kind how Christian how forgiving we should be.