Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father…
I. Now with regard to these stones. I shall pass Joshua by with his stones, and the heathen soldiers also, and give you a Scriptural proof that ruined sinners with stony hearts are the persons really meant — sinners that are like stones — and I will give you a passage of Scripture that confirms this statement without the possibility of contradiction, because it is God's own. If you turn to the seventh chapter of the Prophet Zechariah you will find what God says about them, "They refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder and stopped their ears that they should not hear, yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone." Why, they are as incapable of feeling as stones — they are as helpless as stones. But mark a little further, for I want you to have a right and an humbling view of the Fall, he is worse than a stone; find a stone where you will, it has got no enmity in it. I grant it is hard and helpless, and immoveable, but it has got no enmity in it. Now, my Bible tells me expressly that, "the carnal mind is enmity against God."
II. But I am very anxious, having said thus much in as concise terms as I could, to lead on your attention to the almighty grace put forth, "God is able." How does He manage to raise up children? Does He do as a mason would, hew out the stones and carve them, and shape them, and cut them? That is the way men make Christians. I know they get hold of these rough stones, and they say they are very rude and very ignorant, perhaps very licentious, perhaps very immoral, perhaps very unjust and dishonest, very ugly rough forbidding stones, such as one hardly likes to have in one's sight; but forth comes one of these skilful masons, and cuts them, and carves them, and polishes them very nicely with the tools of education and superstition. Take your stone, and carve it as handsomely as you can, and work it into a statue as tall as any of you, and give the handsomest features that any of you possess, and throw the most graceful robes around it that can be worn, and paint it what colour you please, it is a stone after all — and that is a striking emblem of thousands who pass for Christians. But when God works, He puts the Spirit of life from God into a poor sinner's heart; it is another and a new principle; a holy life that cannot sin. And observe here, that He invariably exercises His own absolute sovereignty. But just mark further. This new life which God Himself imparts and bestows, this quickening by the power of the Holy Ghost according to the sovereignty of His own will, is nourished and trained up by Him. I should like to detain you a moment longer here to mark, that when Jehovah thus exercises His absolute sovereignty, and quickens sinners to newness of life, He excludes all vain boasting, all creature pretensions.
III. Now let us, for a moment or two, glance at the nature thus bestowed. Peradventure you will say, "You have surely taken up this all along." Well, I must say a little more about it. And, first of all, it is relative, and claims relationship with Abraham — "children unto Abraham." Well, why not unto some Gentile parent? Why not relationship to some among the heathens that surrounded John while he was thus speaking? Why, beloved, if you will consult the statement of the Holy Ghost by the apostle, you will find what is really descriptive of all the children of Abraham, whether Jews or Gentiles. "So then," he says, after a lengthened argument, "they that are of faith are the children of faithful Abraham." Now this is the relationship that is bestowed upon them. Come a little closer into apprehension of it. Abraham's faith "talked with God as a man talketh with his friend"; more than that, — Abraham's faith pleaded with God, and even proposed terms and conditions for the saving of Sodom, because his brother Lot was there. Abraham's faith was such as constituted him "the father of the faithful"; consequently, the sons must be something like him — they must be partakers of like precious faith."
Parallel VersesKJV: Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
WEB: Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and don't begin to say among yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father;' for I tell you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones!