Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
I. Notice THE HEAD of this family. He is the great and everlasting God. He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the family is named, after whom it is named — the great originator of it, the great compactor together of it. In various passages of Scripture, as I need scarcely remind you, God presents Himself in the character of a parent — the head of a numerous offspring, all entirely dependent upon Him.
II. Let us next proceed to observe its MEMBERS. They are numerous and varied. The language of our text speaks of a "family in heaven and in earth." Here are comprehended the inhabitants of regions visible and invisible; and they must now, as each is presented here, briefly pass under our review. There are those, who compose the family in heaven — for we take the term "heaven" without debate or controversy, as signifying really and truly the celestial world. And these, my brethren, are the holy angels — those lofty and dignified spirits, who were the first handiwork of the glorious Creator, possessing vast capacities, sustained in perfect holiness, and endowed with deathless existence. According to the language of inspiration, we find that they reside constantly in the celestial regions, in hosts bright and innumerable, all depending on God, and all owning God as being their Father. There are also other beings, who were once the inhabitants of our own world, but who reside with the angels in those celestial mansions — "the spirits of just men that are made perfect"; men whose spirits rose at death to that higher state, and men who in that higher state are made perfect in holiness and in felicity. By these, "the family in heaven" has been constantly multiplied and augmented, from the commencement of time until now; and these must be regarded as the most precious trophies which the infinite love of the Father has made, or can make, His own. As to the members of this "family on earth," the persons who compose this department are men now living, who have been redeemed from their original corruption and depravity, and who have been brought into a state of reconciliation and acceptance before God. They are constituted the children of God by a direct operation of the Holy Spirit on their hearts.
III. From noticing the head of this family, and its members, we proceed now to notice its DUTIES. We can form no idea of a family, without an associated idea of duties: one is indispensable in its connection with the other. These duties are owing to God, and they are owing to each other. As to the duties which are owing to God: the great Head of the household has demanded a certain tribute from His children, which it is their obligation cheerfully and unreservedly to pay. They are to adore His majesty; they are to be grateful for their goodness; they are to obey and perform His will: these are His unchanging and eternal obligations. As to the duties which are owing to each other: there are reciprocal obligations, extending throughout the whole of the family; and these obligations may be regarded as comprehended and summed up under the one noble impulse of love.
IV. From this notice of the duties belonging to the family, let us proceed now to notice their PRIVILEGES — the privileges of this family. We have already, from the statements we have made, indicated those privileges as numerous and eminent: and we now must enumerate them more distinctly. We do not now direct your attention to those privileges which are enjoyed by the "family in heaven" — these will be noticed subsequently; we merely remark now, that they are made partakers of perfect and inviolable felicity; our attention is to be pointed towards the privileges possessed by the "family" of God yet dwelling "on the earth."
1. And we observe there is the privilege of instruction. As a wise parent administers instruction to his household in all matters which are right and important for the welfare of those who compose it, so is it in the family, of which God Himself is the Head. He administers instruction to His children upon all the great matters on which it is essential for them to be informed.
2. Again, there is also the privilege of communion — we mean, that the children have intercourse, fellowship, or communion with God. They see not His glory, and they hear not His voice; but through His written word, and through the ordinances and means of grace He has been pleased to appoint, there is an interchange of mind — their minds go forth and ascend to Him, and His mind comes forth and descends to them. There is a special intercourse of mind between the children and the Parent.
3. And there is the privilege of discipline. God has placed in action a certain order of administration, which is intended for the subjugation of what in the character of His children is impure and unholy, and also for the growing assimilation of their attributes and state to the moral purity and grandeur of His own likeness. Here, brethren, of course we refer to that order of administration which is comprehended under the title of afflictions — events which transpire in the course of our earthly probation, from time to time, and which, in themselves, are painful and distressing to endure. But how, it may be asked, can such an order of dispensations as these be numbered among our privileges? Is it not a solecism, a contradiction in fact, as well as in terms? No, brethren, when we consider the design of our Father, in imposing this order of administration, and when we consider the results which invariably follow under His grace, it must be secure.
4. And yet, once more, there is the privilege of protection. Many, ingenious, and malignant are the enemies with which we are surrounded; constantly at work, in order to retard our progress, and to prevent out attainment of happiness. Against these God has been pleased to provide an ample protection. He stands as by our side in time of conflict and peril, and says, "Fear not, for I am with you!" He protects us against sin; He permits not the "law in the members" to gain the victory over the "law of the mind." Sin "has no dominion over us." He makes us "free from sin, and servants unto righteousness, bringing forth fruit unto holiness, that the end may be everlasting life." He protects us against the world. The world in its blandishments and attractions is emasculated and paralyzed — for "greater is He that is for us than he that is in the world." He protects us against Satan — his wiles and his fiery darts are alike impotent and harmless, and "the very God of peace shall bruise Satan under our feet shortly." He protects us against death. Death to us is no more the king of terrors.
5. And then, and more especially, the whole family will be united in the enjoyment of final and imperishable happiness.It will he the happiness arising from holiness, from mutual recognition and intercourse, from the vision of God, from pure and dignified employments, and from the consciousness of security and immortality.
1. Let us be grateful for having been introduced into this family. There is no position like that, brethren, which is occupied by us. From what evils are we relieved, to what blessings are we entitled, by being rendered "the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus"! Nothing in the honours of earth can be compared to it.
2. Let us rejoice over those, who from "the family on earth," have gone to unite with the "family in heaven." Multitudes of men have already been transferred from the probationary to the permanent state; and not a few of those who are present now, have had friends once dear to them in the flesh and in the Lord, who have also made the step of transit, and are now before the throne on high.
3. And then, finally, let us anticipate the various events, through which we are to unite with the "family in heaven" ourselves. We are all brethren and sisters in Christ. We are all tending towards our home. Our march is constantly in rapid progress. And when the last enemy rears himself before us, we shall find that, though he may come in harsh costume, and with a rugged accent, he can but administer to us one message — "Child of God, I am sent by thy Parent to summon thee to His home." How, then, shall we not welcome him and tell him to strike, knowing, that "when the earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens"? It will be but the sigh, or, it may be, the convulsion and agony of a moment, and then all is past, and the child of God has gone from the "family on earth," and is numbered with the "family in heaven."
Parallel VersesKJV: Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,