Is it so that believers are the offspring and issue of the house of God? Then it concerns everyone to try himself, whether he be of that blessed progeny. We read in Hebrews 12 of bastards in the visible church, who cannot be reckoned among this number They are indeed called the children of the kingdom; but they are such as do not inherit the kingdom of God, because they will be cast into utter darkness. And therefore it concerns us to see whether or not we be the lawfully begotten children of Zion, the true offspring and issue of God’s household and family. I remember, in the doctrinal part, I told you why they are called the offspring and issue; and now I would offer you two or three marks whereby they may be known.
1. All the offspring and issue of God’s family have passed through the strait gate of regeneration, or the new birth; for, says Christ, “Except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God”. But, say you, how may I know if I be a partaker of the new birth? I answer, The new birth brings a new state or standing with it. You have quit your standing upon the law bottom of works, and all foundations of sand, and taken up your only stand upon the foundation laid in Zion, which is Christ Jesus. The new birth brings a new heart along with it: “A new heart will I give them . . . ” (Ezek 36:26). The new birth brings with it new principles of action, a principle of life, of faith and love; new motives and ends; self-love constrains the sinner, but the love of Christ and the glory of God constrain the true convert to duty. The new birth makes a man to love the new covenant, even a covenant of rich grace and promise, saying, “This is all my salvation”. The new birth makes a man to love new laws. He was formerly under the law of sin and death, but now he delights in the law of the Lord, and approves of it as holy, just and good; he delights in the law of the Lord after the inner man. The new birth brings a new language along with it; the man gets a new tongue; formerly he spoke the language of Ashdod, but now the language of Canaan. The new birth produceth new views, both of things temporal and eternal. So then, try yourselves by these whether you be among the true offspring and issue of the house of God: for “he is not a Jew, who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God”.
2. All the offspring and issue of the house have seen their Father’s countenance; and they are always glad at the sight of it, like David: “Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased”.
3. All the offspring of God’s family, each one of them resembles the children of a king, because they bear a likeness unto their Father, and His first-born Son; by beholding His glory, we “are changed into the same image”. And they hate themselves, because of their dissimilitude through remaining sin and indwelling corruption; saying, with Paul, “Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from the body of this death!” (Rom 7:24).
4. All the offspring of God’s family have great trust and faith to put in Christ, the great Manager of the family – hence called believers, because they believe in, and believe on, His name: “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name” (John 1:12). The very name of Christ is so sweet to them that it is like ointment poured forth; and if they had all the souls that ever sprang of Adam dwelling in their bodies, they could commit the keeping of them all to Him.
5. All the offspring of the house are acquainted with the Manager’s voice, the voice of His word, and the voice of His rod, “My sheep know My voice”. When they hear His promising voice, they are filled with joy and peace in believing it. When they hear His commanding voice, they are ready to say, I will run the ways of thy commandments; only give grace to obey, and command what Thou wilt. When they hear His threatening voice, they tremble at His word. When they hear His correcting voice, in worldly trials and crosses, they are ready to say with David, “I was dumb with silence, I opened not my mouth, because thou didst it”.
6. All the offspring and issue of the family, they love to lisp out their Father’s name, crying, Abba, Father (Rom 8:15). It is true, through the prevalency of unbelief, and a sense of guilt and filth, they blush when they speak to Him as a Father; but yet, now and then, as faith gets up its head, they will be ready to cry, as the Church, “Doubtless Thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: Thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer, Thy name is from everlasting” (Is 63:16).
7. If you be the true offspring of this family, your Father’s presence will be your delight, and His absence, hiding, and frowns will be an intolerable affliction. Christ, the first-born of the family, never complained so much of all His other troubles as when His Father looked down upon Him, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Ps 22:1). Just so is it with all the genuine offspring, as you see in David, Asaph, Heman, and others.
8. You will dearly love all that bear their Father’s image, and the image of Him who is the express image of the Father; and the more resemblance they have unto Him, you will love them the better: “By this we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (1 John 3:14). You will esteem them, as David, the excellent ones of the earth; with them will be all your delight.
9. All the offspring and issue of God’s house, they have a zeal for the standing of their Father’s house; they “love the habitation of His house, and the place where His honour dwells, and therefore will have something of the Spirit of the First-born, of whom it is said, “The zeal of Thine house hath eaten Me up”. Is it possible that a true child of a family can be unconcerned when he sees robberies committed on his house, or the house of his father turned into a den of thieves? Or will a true born child harden and associate himself with such, without opposing them and witnessing against them? A true child of the family will be ready to say of such, as Jacob said of Simeon and Levi, “They are brethren in iniquity: O my soul, come not thou into their secret . . . “.
1. The name of Ebenezer Erskine has always been associated with spiritual, Christ-centred preaching. His works have long been out-of-print, and their price in a recent second-hand catalogue – £130 – is a measure of their scarcity. However, this three-volume set containing more than 1500 pages altogether, is now being reprinted by Free Presbyterian Publications at a much lower price. They will, we hope, be available again in February, DV. The cost of the set is to be £55, but if ordered from the Free Presbyterian Bookroom, they will cost £45 until March 31; £19.95 for individual volumes. The Works of Ralph Erskine are still available at £89.50 for the six-volume set.
This article is an extract from volume 3, from a series of sermons on Isaiah 22:24: “And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father’s house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons”. The preacher states his theme as follows: “As the Church is the house of God, so Christ is the sole manager of it, and all its concerns hang upon Him as a nail fastened in a sure place”.