Romans 8:15

Moses displayed a beautiful absence of jealousy when he cried, "Would to God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them!" His wish is realized under the Christian dispensation, where "the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal." This gift is the fulfilment of Christ's promise that his disciples should not be left "orphans," and our investiture with his Spirit is a testimony to the efficacy of the work of Christ. The Spirit operates silently but powerfully on the heart; though unseen, his presence is most real. Science acquaints us with subtle forces that work on matter. Place a bar of steel in the magnetic meridian with the north end downward, and, if struck with a wooden mallet, the bar will be magnetized. ]No outward difference is perceptible, yet the particles have assumed a uniform direction, have acquired new properties. So does the Spirit impart a new tendency, a new nature, and the whole man is changed. The Spirit works not like the influences of our environment from without inwardly, but from within outwardly.

I. THE LEADING FOR WHICH THAT OF THE SPIRIT IS SUBSTITUTED. It is called "self," or "the flesh," where the inimical power of the great adversary is the chief factor. The aim of the life may not be clear to the man possessed. He may seem to have no definable object of pursuit; led on now by one impulse, now by another, its force and persistency varying in all degrees. Some rely on their own native wisdom for the steerage of their course, others are governed by the maxims and customs of the society in which they move. The "spirit of the age" is a prevalent controlling force. In proportion as any one goal is kept in view, and "reached forth to' perseveringly, is the man esteemed strong and successful. And the Christian is strong according to the heartiness and fidelity with which he surrenders himself to the guidance of the Spirit. He acknowledges that "it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps."

II. THE ROAD TRAVELLED UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF THE SPIRIT. It is a heavenward journey; the affections are "set on things above." It begins with taking up the cross to follow Christ, and implies self-denial in order to please God. It is a pilgrimage. This world is not our rest, or our final home. It involves a warfare, for many foes beset our path, and there is no turning aside to By-path Meadows for the man under the influence of the Spirit. How the natural life is glorified and transfigured by this conception of the unseen hand impelling us! No man is ever harmed by the Spirit's leading, and if he falls into a snare it is because he has mistaken the Divine indications of his route.

III. ASCERTAINING THE MIND OF THE SPIRIT. We are not led blindfold and irresistibly; the reason is illumined, the emotions are quickened. All that strengthens the spiritual life contributes to the clearness with which we recognize the Spirit's prompting, and to the readiness with which we yield to his gentlest touch. Prayer keeps open the communication with the spiritual realm. Ask for guidance before, not after, commencing an enterprise; nor expect the Holy Spirit to come in as a deus ex machina to rectify your errors. Compare your judgment and conduct with the precepts and principles of Scripture, and with the example of good men, especially of Jesus Christ. We are taught in his school. Like an artist intently studying some work of genius and imbibing its spirit, so meditate on Christ till you catch his enthusiasm for goodness and consecration to the will of God. Make the most of the seasons when you are blessedly conscious that you are "in the Spirit," be it on "the Lord's day" or any other. It is sin that darkens our spiritual perceptions, as some accident to the body may blunt the finer sensations, may dull the hearing and dim the sight.

IV. THE FAMILY LIKENESS WHICH THIS GUIDANCE IMPARTS. The Spirit of God enables us to realize our sonship. Hatred and disobedience and fear are exchanged for glad communion and willing service. We become increasingly like our Father, like our elder Brother Christ, and like the rest of the redeemed children. It is not identical sameness, but similarity, which results. Members of the same home may differ much in exact lineaments, yet the stranger can discern a family likeness. By his Spirit is the Saviour preparing his brethren for their heavenly home, to enter with intelligent zest into its enjoyments, the society of the angels and of the blest, into holier worship and higher service than we can render here. - S.R.A.

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage... but... the Spirit of adoption.
I. THE SPIRIT OF BONDAGE. Much of the bondage of our fallen nature is not the work of the Spirit of God at all. Bondage under sin, the flesh, worldly customs, the fear of man — this is the work of the devil.

1. But there is a sense of bondage which is of the Spirit of God. The bondage of —

(1)Conviction of sin.

(2)Assurance of punishment for sin from which there is no escape.

(3)The feeling of the inutility of the works of the law. "By the deeds of the law there shaft no flesh be justified in His sight."

2. The result of this spirit of bondage in the soul is fear. There are five sorts of fears, and it is well to distinguish between them.(1) The natural fear which the creature has of its Creator, because of its own insignificance and its Maker's greatness. From that we shall never be altogether delivered.(2) Carnal fear: i.e., the fear of man. From this God's Spirit delivers believers.(3) Servile fear — the fear of a slave towards his master, lest he should be beaten when he has offended. That is a fear which should rightly dwell in every unregenerate heart.(4) If servile fear be not cast out it leads to a fourth fear, namely, a diabolical fear; that of devils who "believe and tremble."(5) Filial fear which is never cast out of the mind. This is "the fear of the Lord" which is "the beginning of wisdom." When the spirit of bondage is at work there is much of servile fear. The Spirit of truth brings this to us, because we are in a condition which demands it. Would you have the bondsman rejoice in a liberty which he does not possess? Is he not the more likely to be free if he loathes his slavery?

3. This bondage, which causes fear, breaks us off from self-righteousness, and puts an end to certain sins. Many a man, because he is afraid of the consequences, leaves off this and that which would have ruined him; and, so far, the fear is useful to him; and, in after life, will keep him nearer to his Lord.

4. In due time we outgrow this bondage, and never receive it again. Because we are made to be the children of God; and God forbid that God's children should tremble like slaves.


1. The apostle said, "Ye have not received the spirit of bondage." If he had kept strictly to language he would have added, "But ye have received the Spirit of liberty." That is the opposite of bondage. But our apostle is not to be hampered by the rigid rules of composition. He has inserted a far greater word — "Ye have received the Spirit of adoption." If the Son make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

2. The apostle said, "Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear." Should he not have added "but ye have received the Spirit of liberty by which ye have confidence"? He says a great deal more, "Whereby we cry, Abba, Father." This is the highest form of confidence.

3. The Spirit of adoption is a spirit of gratitude. Oh, that ever the Lord should put me among the children!

4. A spirit of child-likeness. It is pretty, though sometimes sad, to see how children imitate their parents.

III. THE SPIRIT OF PRAYER. Whenever the Spirit of adoption enters into a man it sets him praying. And this praying is —

1. Earnest, for it takes the form of "crying."

2. Natural. For a child to say, "Father," is according to the fitness of things.

3. Appealing. True prayer pleads the fatherhood of God.

4. Familiar. Slaves were never allowed to call their masters "abba." That was a word for freeborn children only: no man can speak with God as God's children may. Distance is the slave's place; only the child may draw near.

5. Delightful. "Abba, Father" — it is as much as to say — "My heart knows that thou art my Father."

IV. THE SPIRIT OF WITNESS. In the mouth of two witnesses this shall be established.

1. The man's own spirit. God's own Word declares,"To as many as received Christ to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name"; now, I have received Christ, and I do believe on His name: therefore I have the right to be one of the sons of God. That is the witness of my spirit: I believe, and therefore I am a child.

2. The witness of the Holy Spirit, which works —(1) Through the Word of which He is the Author.(2) By His work in us. He works in us that which proves us to be the children of God; and what is that?

(a)Great love to God. None love God but those that are born of Him.

(b)Veneration for God. We fear before Him with a childlike reverence.

(c)A holy confidence. By His grace we feel in days of trouble that we can rest in God.


(e)Besides which, there is a voice unheard of the outward ear, which drops in silence on the spirit of man, and lets him know that he has, indeed, passed from death unto life.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)


1. A distressing apprehension of danger, arising from the conviction of sin, which is one of the first effects of the law upon the conscience.

2. A sense of our lost and undone condition. A sense of sin is generally attended with a sight of wrath, and a conviction of the worth of the soul; and where the one is deeply felt, the other is greatly feared. Hence the anxious inquiries of the Philippian jailor, and of the multitudes under Peter's sermon.

3. Apprehensions respecting present judgments. Unpardoned guilt fills the mind with continual terrors (Job 15:20-24).

4. An habitual fear of death.

5. The expectation of future punishment.

6. The conviction of utter inability to extricate himself out of his present situation.

II. Inquire IN WHAT RESPECTS BELIEVERS ARE DELIVERED FROM THIS, SO AS NOT TO BE AGAIN IN FEAR. Though believers are not wholly exempt from a spirit of bondage —

1. They seldom feel it in the same degree, nor do they feel it for long.

2. It does not arise from the same source as before, and therefore is not of the same nature. The terror which a sinner feels is from God, but that which a believer often experiences is the work of Satan, taking advantage of a constitutional melancholy, or of some adverse dispensation.

3. They are relieved and sustained by the hopes and promises of the gospel.

4. This servile spirit —(1) Is by no means adapted to the present dispensation, and therefore believers cannot be said to have received it, as forming any part of their real or proper character (2 Timothy 1:7).(2) Is also highly injurious to the practical part of religion. The more we walk in the light of God's countenance, the more readily shall we run in the way of His commandments.


1. The Spirit of adoption is distinct from adoption itself, and is not essential to its existence.

2. Of those who enjoy the Spirit of adoption, some have more of it, and others less.

3. The same saints do not at all times enjoy the same measure of this Spirit, but differ as much from themselves as they do from one another.

4. Wherever this Spirit is received, it must be considered as the fruit of sovereign grace.

5. It more especially consists in the Holy Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. The Spirit is not only a witness to Christ without us, but to Christ within us; and therefore when our conscience bears us witness in the Holy Ghost, it is to be acquiesced in as a faithful and unerring report; for if conscience itself be as good as a thousand witnesses, how much more when its decisions are made under the influences of the Spirit of God.

6. The Holy Spirit in becoming a Spirit of adoption, imparts to the adopted a temper suited to that relation.

IV. THE BLESSED EFFECT ARISING FROM OUR HAVING RECEIVED THE SPIRIT OF ADOPTION: Hereby we cry, "Abba, Father." Prayer is the very breath of a child of God; the first effort of Divine grace in the heart. The cry of "Abba, Father," now proceeds from the fulness of his heart, and this includes in it the following particulars —

1. Familiarity and holy boldness at a throne of grace.

2. A comfortable persuasion of the love of God towards us.

3. Reverence and honour (Malachi 1:6).

4. Trust and confidence in God, as our Father and our Friend,

5. Great earnestness and importunity (2 Kings 2:12).

(B. Beddome, M.A.)


1. There are many of you who love money, pleasure, vanity, sin. And yet there are times when you tear yourselves away to say your prayers — to come to church; to read a chapter in the Bible; but whilst engaged in these exercises you long for them to be over. But why do them at all? "Because it is our duty. We know these things must be attended to; if we neglect them we shall go to hell." Then, I need not describe to you "the spirit of bondage" — you feel it.

2. But perhaps "the spirit of bondage" is still more strikingly displayed in those who are just awakened to a sense of their sins. And what does the poor trembling sinner do to mend his case? Labours with all his might to make himself acceptable to God; multiplies his prayers and duties; resolves to mortify his sins. And yet, alas! he goes about feeling that he has undertaken a work which is far beyond his strength. And why has the Lord so ordered it? Evidently to teach the humbling lesson of man's utter inability to save or sanctify himself (see Galatians 3:23, 24).


1. Adoption is an act whereby one person takes another into his family, calls him his son, and treats him as such. Thus Moses was the adopted son of Pharaoh's daughter, and Esther was the adopted daughter of Mordecai. Adoption, then, in a spiritual sense, is that act of grace whereby God chooses into the dear relation of His children every true believer in His Son. The very term implies that they were by nature not His children. No; they were strangers and enemies when He took them in.

2. But a man who adopts a stranger for his child cannot bestow on him a spirit suitable to that relationship. He may give him a son's portion, but he cannot give him a son's feelings. Now this is what the Lord does. He gives them "the Spirit of adoption." He puts into them, by His grace, a fitness for their glorious relationship. They not only are the Lord's children, but they feel as such (ver. 16). Their former terrors drop away, for they view God now as their reconciled Father in Christ, and the uneasiness they felt at their inability to satisfy His law is now changed into a delightful confidence in the satisfaction which His Son hath wrought for them. And in consequence of all His love to them they love Him. They are followers — imitators — of God as dear children. "His commandments are not grievous to them," for they have now both the power and the will to follow them.

3. "Father" is the first word the infant lisps; and how continually it is running to its parent with that word upon its tongue. In beautiful allusion to this the child of God is represented as crying to his heavenly Parent, "Abba! Father!"

(A. Roberts, M.A.)

I. THE GIFT WHICH GOD CONFERS ON HIS CHILDREN. "Ye have received the Spirit of adoption."

1. The Spirit of God seals the children of adoption. This serves to mark the particular property God has in believers; to distinguish them from others of the human family; and to preserve them for the end of their election and faith, even the salvation of their souls.

2. The Holy Spirit is to believers the witness of their adoption (vers. 16). It is reasonable that professors of religion should be anxious to ascertain their own state in God's sight.

3. The Holy Spirit communicates to believers the comfort arising from their adoption into God's family, i.e. He discovers to believers the path of light; qualifies them for their present rank; and supports them during their pilgrimage.

II. THE CHRISTIAN ENJOYS TRUE LIBERTY. Christian liberty is equally opposed to slavery and licentiousness. It is opposed to restraint and violence, but not to subordination and cheerful obedience.

1. They who are adopted into God's family are delivered from the dominion of sin. They now walk at liberty. They feel that they are free to serve God without the fear of wrath. They delight in the law of the Lord after the inward man.

2. Christians are delivered from the power of Satan.

3. Christian liberty implies deliverance from undue human influence (Psalm 119:45; Proverbs 29:25). Independence of mind, and courage in Christian behaviour, are desirable objects. He who attains to them, puts his trust in God, and does not fear what man can do unto him. In matters of right and wrong, the Christian claims to himself, and allows to others, the right of private judgment; but he neither claims to himself, nor guarantees to another, the liberty of contravening in a single instance, the commandment of his God.

III. CONSIDER THE EXPRESSIONS WHICH WE ABE ENABLED BY THE SPIRIT OF ADOPTION TO UTTER — "Whereby we cry, Abba, Father." The repetition, Father, Father, also evidences the earnestness with which a Christian, feeling his deliverance from bondage, recognises his present delightful relation to God as an adopted son.

1. The believer approves of his relation to God in Jesus Christ. "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus."

2. The religious man is soothed in all his afflictions when he contemplates the compassion of his Father who is in heaven.

3. God's children consider Him as their instructor (Psalm 71:17; Isaiah 54:13).

4. God's children submit to such chastisement as He thinks proper to administer (Proverbs 3:11).

5. The children of adoption place themselves under the protection of their heavenly Father (Psalm 31:5, 15).

6. By the Spirit of adoption, we are enabled to approach with boldness the throne of grace, in prayer to God (Ephesians 2:18).

(A. McLeod, D.D.)

I. The state of THE NATURAL MAN.

1. It is a state of sleep: the voice of God to him is, "Awake, thou that sleepest."

2. For this reason he is in some sense at rest: because blind he is secure, he cannot tremble at the danger he does not know. He has no dread of God, because he thinks Him merciful, and that he can at any time repent.

3. From the same ignorance there may arise joy either in congratulating himself on his own wisdom and goodness, or in indulgence of pleasure of various kinds, and so long as he doeth well unto himself men will doubtless speak good of him.

4. It is not surprising if thus dosed with the opiates of flattery and sin, one should imagine among his other waking dreams that he walks in great liberty, being free from all vulgar errors, prejudices, enthusiasm, etc. But all this time he is the servant of sin. He commits it every day. Yet he is not troubled. He contents himself with "Man is frail; every man has his infirmity."

II. The state of a MAN UNDER THE LAW.

1. By some awful providence, or by His Word applied by His Spirit God touches the heart of the slumbering stoner, who awakes into a consciousness of danger — perhaps in a moment, perhaps by degrees.

2. The inward spiritual meaning of the law now begins to glare upon him, and he sees himself stripped of all the fig leaves he had sewn together — of all his pretences to religion or excuses for sin. He now, too, feels that the wages of sin is death.

3. Here ends his pleasing dream, his delusive rest, his vain security, etc. The fumes of these opiates being dispelled, he feels the anguish of a wounded spirit — he fears, indeed — God's wrath, death, etc., almost to the verge of despair.

4. Now truly he desires to break loose from sin and begins to struggle with it. But though he strive with all his might, sin is mightier than he. The more he strives the more he feels his chains. He toils on, sinning and repenting, repenting and sinning, until he cries, "O wretched man that I am," etc. This whole state of bondage is described in chap. Romans 7.

III. The state of a MAN UNDER GRACE.

1. His cry is heard and heavenly healing light breaks in on his soul — the light of the glorious love of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Overpowered by the sight he cries out, "My Lord and my God," for he sees all his iniquities laid on Christ and borne away; God in Christ reconciling him unto Himself.

2. Here end the guilt and power of sin. He can now say, "I am crucified with Christ," etc. Here ends the bondage unto fear. He cannot fear the wrath of God, for it is turned away; the devil, because his power is ended; hell, for he is an heir of the kingdom; death, for that is now but the vestibule of heaven.

3. And "Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty," liberty not only from guilt and fear, but sin. Henceforth he does not serve sin; being made free from sin he is become the servant of righteousness.

4. Having peace with God, and rejoicing in hope, he has the Spirit of adoption who sheds abroad the love of God and man in the heart, and works in him to will and do of His good pleasure. Conclusion: The natural man neither fears nor loves God; one under the law fears: one under grace loves. The first has no light, the second painful light, the third joyous light, He that sleeps in death has a false peace; he that is awakened no peace; he that believes true peace. The heathen baptized or unbaptized has a fancied freedom, the Jew or legalist a grievous bondage, the Christian the glorious liberty of the children of God. An unawakened child of the devil sins willingly; one that is awakened sins unwillingly; a child of God "sinneth not" The natural man neither conquers nor fights; the man under the law fights but cannot conquer; the man under grace is "more than conqueror."

(John Wesley, M.A.)

1. In what sense are we to understand the word "spirit"? Our own spirit, inasmuch as it refers to that filial disposition which prompts us to cry, Abba, Father; yet also God's Spirit, because it is only by His power and inspiration that this temper of mind is produced or sustained (chap. Romans 5:5).

2. To what does "again" refer? No doubt to the former dispensation, Judaism (see the argument in Galatians 4, especially verses 4-7 and 22-31, and again, Hebrews 12:18-24).

3. This Spirit of adoption is a spirit of —

I. REVERENTIAL ADMIRATION AND LOVE. Who so good or wise in the eyes of a son as his beloved parent? Yet our filial partiality may be grossly mistaken. Not thus is it with our regard for God. If His children, we learn to discern in Him every excellence, and each in its highest perfection and purest form.

II. GRATITUDE AND PRAISE. The son acknowledges his obligation to his father, is ever grateful to him, and learns to speak of him with becoming expressions of thankfulness and filial pride. So it is with us and God.

III. DEPENDENCE AND TRUST. While we acknowledge His kindness in the past, we depend on Him at the present moment, and we commit to Him all our care for the future. How little anxiety for the morrow has the confiding child.

IV. MEEK SUBMISSION AND CHEERFUL OBEDIENCE. A father's will is law to a good son; and all that a father reposes or inflicts is submitted to without murmuring, from a persuasion of his wisdom and right to correct us when we do wrong, combined with a firm conviction that he seeks only our welfare and good. How much rather should we be in subjection to the Father of our spirits (Hebrews 12:5-10).

V. COMMUNION AND FELLOWSHIP. It cries, "Abba, Father." It is natural for a son to seek his father's society, and to tell him all his wishes, all his wants. So do the sons of God come to Him in supplication and prayer (Matthew 6:6.) Further, a good son is interested in his father's pursuits, knowing that he himself will be enriched by his father's successes and advanced by his father's promotion. So do we know, as God's children, that He conducts all the affairs of His empire for our honour and welfare, and we constantly pray, "Father, Thy kingdom come," etc.

VI. CONFIDENCE AND HOPE. A child who incidentally does wrong can come to his father in penitence and sorrow, assured of readily obtaining acceptance and forgiveness. So likewise we can come to God when we have sinned against Him, believing that He will quickly restore us to His favour, and not vindictively cast us off for ever. Therefore, we shall at length be brought home to our Father's house above. A wealthy parent may send his child away for a season, and place him under tutors and governors, but it is to receive him back eventually with increased honour and joy. Thus will Jehovah act with regard to us.

(T. G. Horton.)

See yonder little bird. It floats fearlessly in the spray that arises out of the thunders of Niagara. It cleanses its plumage in that ever-ascending and radiant mist. It flies through the rainbow which spans that awful presence. It is not afraid. The colours of its wings are kindred to the tints in that rainbow. It sings its gayest songs as it darts back and forth in front of that terrible glory. It has no controversy with Niagara. It gains its living along its banks. It builds its nest and rears its nestlings in the tree that overhangs the cataract. The believer in revelation has ended his controversy with God, and is, like that flying, floating, singing bird, without fear.

The question has been raised whether this means the Holy Ghost, or a consciousness of being a child of God. It is both, and we cannot distinguish between the two. But we must not confound "adoption" and the "Spirit of adoption," though they are never very far apart.

1. "Adoption" is that act whereby we are received into the family of God. And the way in which this is brought about is thus: Christ is the one Son of God. Into the Son, God elects and engrafts members. As soon as the union takes place, God sees the soul in the relationship in which He sees Christ. He gives it a partnership in the same privileges.

2. But this "adoption," if it stood alone, would be no blessing. A rich man, well educated, "adopts" a poor illiterate child. The child moves in the social circle of his adopted father, and shares his wealth. Now, if his benefactor be a wise man, he will endeavour to give him a filial spirit, and the qualifications which are necessary for his elevation. But if not, the "adoption" will only issue in disappointment and unhappiness to all parties. 3 We cannot, therefore, sufficiently thank God that wherever He gives "adoption," He follows by "the Spirit of adoption." But, as in nature, as soon as ever a branch is grafted into a tree the sap begins to flow into that branch; and however dissimilar the graft to the parent stock, the passing of the graft into that stock gradually makes them one: — so in Christ, the "Spirit of adoption" following the "adoption," seals the union by making the affinity close, happy, and eternal!

4. Of all words that which comprises most of wisdom, tenderness, and love, is "Father." What a repose lies in that, "My Father." And as soon as the Spirit begins to work in a sinner's heart, the very first thing He plants there is, "I will arise and go to my Father," etc. And if only we could take in the simple conception that God is a "Father," well-nigh the whole work of our religion would be done. Thousands acknowledge it is true; but few think of how much has passed in the deepest councils and sublimest operations of God, that we might use that paternal function. All heaven had to come down to earth that we might stand to God again in that lost relationship. The blood of Christ only could purchase it; and no man could ever frame his heart to conceive, or his lips to utter it, but by the power of the Holy Ghost.

5. Now let me examine what a "Spirit of adoption" is. It is not a spirit of doubt and anxiety, in which I say, "Does God really love me? Am I forgiven? How shall I overcome all my difficulties?" That is not what a little child ever feels, if he has got an affectionate father. The "Spirit of adoption" is all hope. Hence, prayer becomes a very bold thing where there is the "Spirit of adoption." A child does not ask a father as a stranger asks him. He goes as one who has a right. If he finds his father's door for a moment closed, see how he knocks. He does not want wages; but he receives rewards. All creation is his Father's house, and he can say, "Everything in it is mine, on to death itself." The "Spirit of adoption" longs to go home. For, if the love of an unseen Father has been so sweet, what will it be to look in His face?

(J. Vaughan, M.A.)

We are not merely criminals unwhipped of justice, but since Christ has met the demands of the law for us we are entirely acquitted; and then there is implanted in us, by the Holy Spirit, the sweet, glad consciousness of sonship.

I. Therefore THE COWERING FEARFULNESS OF SIN IS SUPPLANTED BY A LOVING FILIALNESS. Very beautiful is that word, "Abba" just here. It is a little up-thrusting of the Apostle's mother tongue. Though we be adepts in any other language, the speech we use to express overflowing feeling is always that which we learned at our mother's knee. And there is such a swell and throb of filialness in the apostle's heart toward the heavenly Father, that even though he must immediately translate it, there is no word to tell his consciousness of his close, free sonship but the word that used to be prattle on his lips when he was a child. So swept away is the bad fear which comes from sin, so dear and deep is his sense of a holy familiarity with God, that the only word that can in the least even shadow it forth is the nursery word back there in Tarsus, Abba.

1. How easy prayer is to a God, who thus reinstating us in sonship, will allow from us such address.

2. How "in everything" (Philippians 4:6) may we make request of Him.

II. THERE IS SUCH A THING AS AN ASSURANCE OF THIS SONSHIP. "The Spirit itself beareth witness."


1. I have title to illimitable Divine possession.

2. I may dismiss fear that I shall fail to enter upon my unimaginable wealth.

IV. SUCH ADOPTION DOES NOT PRECLUDE THE NECESSITY OF DISCIPLINE, It compels it rather. For so great a destiny and glory I must be prepared. But there is this infinite solace under chastisement — it is not punitive; it is educative. Its intention is to fit me for the splendid destiny God intends for me. It is thus quite possible to be glad and thankful for my pain.

(Wayland Hoyt, D.D.)

The spiritual connection of the true disciple with God is repeatedly represented to us in Paul's Epistles under the figure of sonship. The idea of simple sonship, indeed, is brought prominently forward by St. John; as 1 John 3:1; 1 John 4:6; 1 John 5:9, 10, etc. But whereas St. John always represents this idea in its simplest form, St. Paul, and St. Paul only, describes this sonship more artificially as adoptive. This illustration is not taken from any Jewish custom; the law of Moses contains no provision for such a practice. Adoption was essentially a Roman usage, and was closely connected with the Roman ideas of family. The son was declared to be the absolute property of his father from his birth to his father's decease. In order to being adopted out of his own family into that of another man it was necessary that he should undergo a fictitious sale. But if a son had been thus sold by his father and had again recovered his liberty, he fell again under the paternal dominion, and it was not till he had been thus sold, emancipatus, three times, that he became finally free from this paramount authority. Accordingly, the adopter required that the fiction of sale should be three times repeated, before the son could be received into his new family, and fall under the dominion of his new father. When, however, these formalities had been complied with, the adopted son became incorporated into the family of his adopter, identified, as it were, with his person, made one with him; so that on the adopter's decease he became not so much his representative as his second self, the perpetuator of his legal personality. He assumed, moreover, on adoption, the burdens or privileges incident to the performance of the rights of his new family. He relinquished his former rites, and attached himself to those of his new parent. All this appears to have been in the apostle's mind when he addressed the Roman disciples in this passage. The Spirit of God, he says, bears witness with our spirit, or confers upon us an inward persuasion, that we are now by adoption the children of God Himself, whereas we were before the children of some other father — namely, the world or the Evil One. But henceforth we are relieved from the bondage of corruption, from the state of legal subjection to this evil parent, and admitted to the glorious liberty of the happy children of a good and gracious father, even God. And how was this escape from bondage to be effected? God paid a price for it. As the Roman adopter paid, or made as though he paid down a certain weight of copper, so God gave His Son as a precious sacrifice, as a ransom to the world, or the Evil One, from whom He redeemed His adopted children. Henceforth we became the elect, the chosen of God. The same illustration is indicated in Galatians 4:3: "When we were children we were in bondage under the elements of the world," addicted to the rites of our original family; "but when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son," etc. But now, after ye have known God... how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements," such as the sacra of your original family, "whereunto ye desire to be again in bondage" (Ephesians 1:5).

(Dean Merivale.)

Betwixt civil and sacred adoption there is a two-fold agreement and disagreement. They agree in this, that both flow from the pleasure and good will of the adoptant; and in this, that both confer a right to privileges which we have not by nature; but in this they differ: one is an act imitating nature, the other transcends nature: the one was found out for the comfort of them that had no children, the other for the comfort of them that had no Father. Divine adoption is in Scripture either taken properly for that act or sentence of God by which we are made sons, or for the privileges with which the adopted are invested. We lost our inheritance by the fall of Adam: we receive it by the death of Christ, which restores it again to us by a new and better title.

(J. Flavel.)


1. Naturally fallen creatures have a "spirit of bondage" — the temper of a slave towards God.(1) All the systems of heathenism are marked by this spirit. The love of God never enters into them, but either their self-love is addressed by certain hopes which appeal to their natural feelings, or else they are under the constraining influence of a dread of those misfortunes which the gods are supposed to have the power and will to inflict.(2) Among Mohammedans we find the same spirit prevailing. They are sometimes told that, if they obey the admonitions of the Koran, they shall have a sensual paradise. They are more frequently told that, if they violate the same directions, they shall expose themselves to the anger of God.(3) In the Roman Catholic Church, although there may be sometimes a reference to the promises of the gospel, how much more frequently and powerfully the fear of its votaries is addressed. They dread the church censures, the indignation of their priest, and their fancied purgatory. Nay, they dare not approach the merciful Mediator unless there be some other mediator.(4) Nor is Protestantism by any means free from this unhappy spirit. For what is a fashionable religion but a compromise between men's passions and their fears? Anything of loving Him is often absolutely ridiculed.

2. Now, if we turn to this Book for the explanation of that universal feeling, we find that it is truly reasonable. The account which St. Paul gives of it in chap. Romans 7 is applicable to all the world. It is obvious that, in proportion as this is comprehended, men must "fear." A man may sometimes contrive, either by forgetfulness of God, or by forming to himself false notions respecting God, to escape from the influence of fear, but then his mind is sunk into a state of torpor and death-like slumber. When once the light is let in on the understanding, and the man sees anything of the attributes of God and what they demand, and finds that he has violated all, and that his own nature is opposed to that Holy God, he "dies." In the language of the apostle, it is the law which "shuts us up," allows us no hope,

3. But when a man finds the gospel, that spirit is changed. Then all the sources of dread are gone. How can he dread God any more? Do you think that the poor prodigal, when, all ragged and worn as he was, he came back to his father's house, and felt his father's arms around him, and his father's kiss upon his pale and withered cheek — think you that he dreaded that father then?

4. And now the whole of the sinner's future course is characterised by love; he is no longer a slave, but he is become a child. This is seen doubtless, and seen very mainly, in the character of the Christian's obedience, which is now wholly changed. The child of God has the law written on his heart — loves every one of its requisitions, because he loves the wise and just Parent that enacted them — and would obey them all. His obedience is now unfettered, unrestricted, unreserved, cheerful, grateful, and generous.

5. The filial spirit prevails in the whole of the experience of every one of the children of God. If he receives any temporal blessings, he receives them from the hand of his Father; if he looks at the promises of the gospel, they come to him as the promise of his heavenly Father; if he receives any of the painful events of life, it is a wise and gracious Father who has sent them, and it is his inclination and his pleasure to submit. So, likewise, this same filial spirit pervades all the exercises of religion; if others pray because conscience compels them to pray, the child of God rejoices that he may come to "his Father, who seeth in secret." If he looks forward to death, when no other being can go with him and sustain his faltering spirit, he feels his Father can; and when he looks to glory, it is with the same feelings; he is going to the house of his Father.

II. THE ORIGIN OF THIS SPIRIT. It is characterised in our text as a gift; it is not spoken of as an attainment. "Ye have received." It is a gift received from God; therefore His favour and His blessing must have preceded it. If, then, we are told that the sinner must first love God, must first serve God, and then he may hope for the favour of God — this is just a sentence of despair to any man who knows himself. How can he love God? The source of that "Spirit of adoption" is in adoption itself, and the source of that adoption is the sovereign, unmerited, bounty and mercy of God.

1. Its meritorious cause is the Cross of Christ. There is no ether reason why a sinner deserves to be a child of God but this, that Jesus Christ has deserved it. "When the fulness of the time was come," etc.

2. The instrumental cause is faith. "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus."

3. The Agent is the Spirit of God. He only it is who implants faith, and He it is who alone communicates "the Spirit of adoption."

4. The means is that view of the love of God which none but an adopted child can have. "We love Him because He first loved us."

(Baptist Noel, M.A.)

Consider this —

I. BY WAY OF CONTRAST, as it is opposed to any form of obedience performed in a slavish and unready mind.

1. With the severe discipline of the law. On this point the apostle is the best exponent of his own views in that allegory of Agar and Sarah (Galatians 4:22-26). To the same purport there is another illustration of the two dispensations, addressed to the same Church (Galatians 4:3-7). These distinct tendencies of the two dispensations are discoverable in almost every circumstance. Contrast —(1) The method of their introduction, the thunderings of Sinai with the stillness of Bethlehem; the voice of the trumpet with the melody of angels; the blackness and darkness and tempest with the mild halo of glory which played around the wondering shepherds as they kept watch over their flocks by night.(2) The miracles of the two dispensations. Look at the earth opening her mouth to swallow up the rebellious, the fiery serpents, the pestilence, and compare with these the blind receiving their sight, the multitudes fed with bread, and the widow receiving from death her child.(3) In their outward ordinances — those of the one multitudinous, obscure, oppressive; those of the other easy, refreshing, simple. Of course we do not mean that this servile temper extended to every individual worshipper. The Spirit is not bound. Enoch's was no servant's walk, nor could fear have wrought Abraham's faith. Neither do we speak disparagingly of that dispensation itself. The law is a system of progressive teaching (Galatians 4:1, 2). We must be disciplined to habits of reverence and subjection, The law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.

2. With the service of the man who is trying to work out a righteousness for himself. This fault first discovered itself in the newly-converted Jews, who could but feel a rude shock to their ancient sympathies when they were required to pass from the pride-fostering works of the ancient ritual to the simple faith and self-abasing truths of the gospel. And many now feel the stirrings of an alarmed conscience, and are urged on by an unresting anxiety to feel that their souls are safe, and yet God is not satisfied with them, neither are they satisfied with themselves. Now what is the secret of such painful experience happening to men who are taking more pains to be miserable than it would cost them to be happy? They will be servants, and not sons; they will be labouring to obey, and not trying to believe. If, then, you are in earnest about your souls' salvation, take Heaven's simple answer, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ," etc. Then the works will follow. But all attempts to get peace before or without this will be mere labour in vain. This one thing done, the whole character of our obedience becomes changed. It is not the spirit of bondage again to fear; it is the filial obedience of those who, having received the Spirit of adoption, are enabled to cry, Abba, Father.

II. BY WAY OF COMPARISON. Four marks of Roman civil adoption you will find exactly paralleled in the spiritual adoption. Did the child among the Romans share in the privileges of the natural children? It is affirmed of the believer that "if children then heirs, heirs with God and joint heirs with Christ." Did the Roman bestow his own name on the child he adopted? "Thou, O Lord, art in the midst of us, and we are called by Thy name." Did the civil law exact from the adopted all honour and reverence to the parent? "If I be a Father, where is Mine honour?" "God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints," etc. Did the new father engage to treat the stranger with parental care and kindness? "I will receive you and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." From this view of the condition of the believer we may infer three characteristics of evangelical service.

1. Reverence.

2. Cheerfulness. No labour in the Lord can be in vain; no commandment of God can be grievous.

3. Confidence.

(D. Moore, M.A.)

Whereby we cry, Abba, Father
I. THE FACT. "We cry, Abba, Father."

1. In one aspect this seems little. It is only a cry, a name named, and that a child's lisp of the first two sounds of the alphabet. True, but I am not anxious to get from you more than what all Christians confess. "We" cry, Abba, Father. Visions and revelations are exceptional, but we all cry, "Abba, Father."

2. This is not a small thing. It means carrying the clear proof of our being God's children. True, we are infants, but no infant would ever cry "Abba" unless it were a child. Here are weakness and strength, but the one is linked to the other by a bond that cannot be broken. And what a distance between us in our helplessness and God in His glory, but "Father" reaches all the way. Only a cry! God hears nothing else. Observe the refrain of Psalm 107. Mark the reason why universal power is given to the Mediator (Psalm 72:11, 12).

3. This cry is the product of the Holy Spirit (see also Galatians 4:6). This is the Divine side of the matter, of which we have both the human and Divine sides in John 1:12-13).


1. You have the witness of the Spirit. The cry and the groaning (ver. 26) are His work; the natural man knows nothing of them.

2. You are heirs of God (ver. 19; Matthew 13:43).

3. You are joint heirs with Christ.

(1)An interest in all His glory.

(2)He has entered on the inheritance as our Forerunner (Hebrews 6:20).

III. BUT WHAT OF THE PRESENT? "If we suffer with Him." Suffer we must; but —

1. These pangs are hopeful; they are of birth, not death, and prove a heaven-sent longing after home and God.

2. The Saviour is with us in them. His Spirit causes them. Christ sympathises and succours (Hebrews 2:17, 18).

(A. M. Symington, D.D.)

The expression is used once by Christ, twice by Paul. Why should the Saviour in Gethsemane employ two languages, and Paul when speaking of the free Spirit which animates believers? Is it conformity to the custom of giving to persons a variety of names? Or is the one name an interpretation of the other? and Calvin think that it is to show that both Jews and Greeks each in their own respective language would call on God as a Father. Dr. Morison says that "the dual form is delightfully fitted to suggest that in His great work Christ personated in His single self not Jews only, but Gentiles." And not only fitted, but designed. And so Paul may have caught the spirit and aim of the Master's words. And thus we have a speaking testimony to the fusion of Jew and Greek which prepared the way for the preaching of the gospel to the heathen. The idea of Father clasps not only the languages, but the people. What other word so fitted as a basis for all the nations to meet on and be made one! Grandly prophetic of the time, to bring about which the Saviour died and the apostle laboured, is "Abba, Father." The term illustrates how the idea of Fatherhood —

I. EVOKES THE DEEPEST FILIAL FEELING. In the only instances in which we have the words there is every. thing to justify this. It is the child-cry coming not from the surface, but from the depths. How much larger and more tender the word than master, magistrate. king, etc.

II. Begets THE MOST CHILDLIKE FAMILIARITY. Only in the home circle can such feelings play. It is the child, not the subject or servant, that cries "Abba, Father." Refinement of feeling and manner is always beautiful in a child, but it is not natural that it should express itself in courtly language. The charm of the family is in the freedom which love imparts. The parental heart, shining like a warm sun in the centre of the home, draws young affection to it as the flowers turn to the heat and light.

III. Stirs THE INTENSEST EARNESTNESS. So it did in Christ and Paul. There are moments in Christian experience when the language of familiarity rises into the language of anguish. Though in the Divine family, men are still on earth — not the most congenial place, and even Jesus seems to have had quite enough of it when He said, "And now I come to Thee," The definition suggests emphasis or urgency. As a child's whisper will sometimes wake the family, even the gentlest ruffle on the heart will not pass the heavenly Father's notice. How much more shall a cry of anguish reach Him and bring Him to our relief.

(R. Mitchell.)

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