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First, and principally, a profession of faith. I believe that God the Father is a father in Christ Jesus to all them that believe, and my Father in particular. The Creed is our confession of the assured and steadfast belief we have of the truth of the Gospel, that is, of God, as he has manifested himself in mercy unto us by, Jesus Christ. Consequently to say, I believe in the Father, is to say, I believe that he is reconciled, no longer a consuming God, but an affectionate Parent unto his church, in and for the sake of his dear Son. Now, do we believe this? Are we fully and unquestionably persuaded, that “ when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, that we might receive the adoption of sons ?” That notwithstanding our guilt, and the curse of the law, yet coming humbly to God, and pleading the merits of Jesus Christ, God actually receives us ? As far as we fail here, it is manifest we come short of a full belief of the sufficiency of the Gospelmethod of salvation. But as far as we are steadfast herein, that God is the Father of all them that believe, we shall also believe that he is our Father too in particular, confessing our sins, and coming to him by Jesus Christ. It is true, if we do not confess our sins, and come to God in his own way, he is no Father to us. But then it is not less certain, that if we do confess our sins, and humbly sue for his mercy in Christ, he is actually our Father; and if so doing we yet do not believe him to be our Father, the real reason of it is, that we do not steadfastly, as we ought, believe the reconciliation that is in Christ Jesus, and that, for his sake, God is a Father to the Lord's people. It is an artifice, I suppose, of the devil, to get a charge of presumption to be laid upon any that shall think God to be reconciled to them, and their Father. And what makes me the rather suspect his hand to be in it is, that this false notion, covered over. with a show of humility, does secretly strike at the sufficiency of Gospel-salvation, the truth of God's promises, the comfort and growth of God's people. The faith of God's church is, “I acknowledge God to be the Father of all them that believe.” And shall it then be said, it is presumption for any man to apply this personally and particularly to himself? Should any one say, I do indeed believe that God is a Father to his church, but I am a vile unworthy sinner, how can he be my Father ? let such an one know, that he does not steadfastly, as he imagines he does, believe that God in Christ is reconciled and a Father to his church ; and that in reality his want of a particular faith respecting himself is owing to a defect in his general faith concerning the church. I do not say that God is not a Father to such, because I am told the contrary, none that come are cast out, though they come trembling. Have they but so much faith as engages them to come, they are received. But then this does not afford a proof that there is no sin in such misbelief and doubting suspicion of the Gospel-declarations. It is very dishonourable to God's mercy, truth, wisdom, and justice, set forth to our faith in the Gospel. And every one that confesses with his mouth, “I believe in God the Father," ought at the same time to be able to say in his heart, I believe he is actually the Father of all that believe ; and, seeing this is the faith which I therefore confess, because I rest my own soul upon it, I believe him to be my Father also. Let us not seek excuses for the great sin of unbelief, but, confessing our sins, let us pray that we may steadfastly believe God's promises, that he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and is a Father unto us for his Son Jesus Christ's sake, to the glory of his grace, and to the comfort and establishment of our souls.
Secondly.—“ I believe in the Father” implies a child-like confidence. I look upon God as a Father, and as such I have confidence in him. “ Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” The spirit under the law was ministered according to the peculiar design of that dispensation, which was to be a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. And what there was in that dispensation suited to beget bondage and fear, the apostle tells us when he says, “ Ye are not [now under the Christian dispensation] come unto the mount that might not be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words, which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more (for they could not endure that which was commanded); and if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart. And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake.” Now, says he, out of this dispensation ye are passed, ye have not received again the spirit of bondage to fear. Under the Gospel all breathes love, and suitably therewith the Spirit is ministered as a Spirit of adoption, whereby with the confidence of children we call God Father. Confidence in God becomes this last and fullest publication of the Gospel by the Son of God in person. Hereof the believer speaking in the Creed is supposed to be sensible, and to profess his belief that God is his Father with the confidence of a child. Be sensible then of your privilege, ye that believe in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ ; cast away your fears, that are dishonourable to a God that “spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all ;” strive earnestly for the spirit of children, that, in a manner becoming the Gospel of his Son, ye may serve God without fear. Hear what he says,
" Come out from among them and be ye separate :” now this call you have complied with, as many as are joined to the Lord. Then it follows, speaking to you, “ I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” We disgrace the free and rich love of God, and the infinite merit of the Redeemer's righteousness and blood, as far as we come short of walking with God in the humble confidence of children. Let the believer therefore remember, that he is “no more a servant, but a son,” and pray for that spirit of faith which shall enable him to say “I believe in God the Father" with that joyful confidence which the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ not only warrants but requires, and which the person here confessing his faith in God is supposed to be possessed of.
Thirdly.-" I believe in the Father” implies a child-like disposition towards God. I own God to be my Father, and I profess myself to be his son, ready to pay him all dutiful and child-like obedience. It is the sure proof of our relation to God as a Father that we have the spirit of children wrought in us; a spirit of love, and of a ready mind to do the will of God. They that are God's children have some measure of the spirit of Jesus, their elder Brother, whose meat and drink it was to do the will of Him that sent him, without murmuring at any of his orders, or thinking his commandments grievous. The grief of a true child of God is that he should sin against him, and thereby dishonour and displease him ; his greatest lamentation is over that body of sin which lurks in his members, and suffers him not to be that dutiful child he would be. I believe God to be my Father,' he says, “ and I regard myself as his child, cheerfully to subject myself unto his holy will in all things. O how love I thy law ! all the day long is my study in it. Take notice, all ye that hear me, while I say these words, I believe in God the Father, I think myself obliged by every tie of duty and gratitude, and I am fully and gladly determined, to keep the commandments of my God.' And if we cannot say this in the sincerity of our hearts; if God's commandments are hated or despised by us, and we will not walk in them; where is there even the spirit of a servant ? But should we endeavour to keep them while it is merely through fear of punishment, and are only restrained from sin lest it should bring us to ruin, and forced upon duties because otherwise we cannot be easy, where is the spirit of children? It is plain that the most of those who call themselves Christians are living in a flat contrariety to the temper and conduct of one truly believing in God as a Father; and it is not less manifest, that there are many of those that may well enough be termed serious people, who, through want of deep humbleness of mind, and from a degree of ignorance respecting the freedom of Gospel-salvation, and the privileges that belong to it, are serving God more like slaves than children. It is in an increasing knowledge of God's free love to us in Jesus Christ, and in a growing confidence in him as our Father, that we become followers of God as dear and obedient children, not fashioning ourselves according to the former lusts in our ignorance, but ready to every good word and work.
Lastly.—To believe in God as a Father implies a readiness to submit to all his disposals of and dispensations towards us. This is indisputable. Is God my Father ? then he loves me. And is my Father infinitely wise ? then he cannot mistake in his management of me. Therefore I say, let him have the whole direction of me; else I should not truly believe in him as my Father. Let him provide for me as he sees best ; and whether the provision he allots me be more or less, it is the portion he gives me, and I will be content. If he takes from it, I will not complain, because I know him to be a loving Father. If he corrects me,
shall I murmur against him? This were to suspect his fatherly love. Foolishness, I know, is bound in my heart, and the rod of correction must drive it far from me. When I call God my Father, I declare an implicit and reverent submission to all his disposals. In all our possessions, and in all our afflictions, to sanctify the Lord God in our hearts is an eminent branch of believing in God as our Father. If we are dissatisfied with his allotment of the things of the world unto us, if we murmur under his corrections, how can we believe him to have the bowels of a Father, how do we treat him in correspondence with what we profess? Really, to believe in God as our Father, you see goes into the dispensations and troubles, as well as the duties, of every day. “ Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from me; nevertheless, not my will but thine be done." Behold there the true spirit of a child.
By this time you may see something of the true sense and meaning of this word, “I believe in God the Father," and that whoever says it, according to the full intention thereof as a point of Christian faith, doth thereby declare, “I believe that the Father is in a peculiar sense so entitled, as bearing the relation of a Father to his only-begotten Son, but I believe also that in and for the sake of that only-begotten Son manifest in the flesh, he is a Father to all those among the fallen race of mankind, who believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ. As one of that happy number I glory in him as my Father, and with the whole church do profess my humble but assured confidence in him in the delightful character of their and my Father. As such I desire and determine to honour and reverence him, delighting to do his will, whatever it be, and in all things to submit to his fatherly guidance, without hypocrisy, partiality, disputing, or complaining ; in everything willing to approve myself the child of this my heavenly Father, to his glory, and to my peace and happiness.'
And now what say we ? Do we thus believe in God the Father ? No; the most are not thus related to him. Their consciences and their lives proclaim they are not. What! do they believe God to be their Father ; and do they rejoice in him as their God ? Should they fancy they do these things, yet do they walk with him as dear children, and submit to his