by Thomas Watson
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (v.9)
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
“Blessed are those who are persecuted, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”
“They shall be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9
3. How we come to be the children of God. There is a double cause of our filiation or child-ship.
The impulsive cause is God’s free grace. We were rebels and traitors, and what could move God to make sinners into his sons—but free grace? ‘Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children according to the good pleasure of his will’ (Ephesians 1:5). Free grace gave the casting voice. Adoption is a mercy spun out of the affections of free grace. It were much for God to take a clod of earth and make it a star—but it is more for God to take a piece of clay and sin and instate it into the glorious privilege of sonship. How will the saints read over the lectures of free grace in heaven!
The instrumental cause of our sonship is faith. Baptism does not make us children of God. The thing which makes God take cognizance of us for children, is faith. ‘You are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:26). Before faith is wrought in us, we have nothing to do with God. We are (as the apostle speaks in another sense) bastards and not sons (Hebrews 12:8). An unbeliever may call God his Judge—but not his Father. Wicked men may hope that God will be their Father—but while they are unbelievers they are bastards, and God will not father them but will lay them at the devil’s door! ‘You are the children of God by faith’. Faith legitimates us. It confers upon us the title of sonship and gives us right to inherit the kingdom of heaven.
How then should we labor for faith! Without faith we are creatures, not children. Without faith we are spiritually illegitimate. This word ‘illegitimate’ is a term of infamy. Such as are illegitimate are looked upon with disgrace. We call them baseborn. You who ruffle it in your silks and velvets—but are in the state of nature, you are illegitimate. God looks upon you with an eye of scorn and contempt. You are a vile person, a son of the earth, ‘of the seed of the serpent’. The devil can show as good a coat of arms as you!
This word ‘illegitimate’ also imports infelicity and misery. Illegitimate people cannot inherit legally. The land goes only to such as are lawful heirs. Until we are the children of God, we have no right to heaven, and there is no way to be children but by faith. ‘You are the children of God by faith’.
Here two things are to be discussed:
1. What faith is.
2. Why faith makes us children.
1. What faith is. If faith instates us into sonship, it concerns us to know what faith is. There is a twofold faith.
 A mere NOTIONAL faith. When we believe the truth of all that is revealed in the Holy Scriptures. This is not the faith which privileges us to sonship. The devils believe all the articles in the creed. It is not the bare knowledge of a medicine, or believing the sovereign virtue of it—which will cure one who is ill. This notional faith (so much cried up by some) will not save. This a man may have, and not love God. He may believe that God will come to judge the living and the dead, and still hate God—as the prisoner believes the judge’s coming to the court, and abhors the thought of him. Take heed of resting in a mere notional faith. You may have this and be no better than devils!
 There is a SPECIAL faith, when we not only believe the report we hear of Christ—but rest upon him, embrace him, ‘taking hold of the horns of this altar’, resolving there to abide. In the body there are sucking veins, which draw the food into the stomach and concoct it there. So faith is the sucking vein which draws Christ into the heart and applies him there. By this faith, we are made the children of God. Wherever this faith is, it is not like medicine in a dead man’s mouth—but is exceedingly operative. It obliges to duty. It works by love (Galatians 5:6).
2. But why does faith makes us children? Why should not other graces, repentance, love etc., do so? I answer: Because faith is instituted by God and honored to this work of making us children. God’s institution gives faith its value and validity. It is the king’s stamp makes the coin pass current. If he would put his stamp upon brass or leather, it would go as current as silver. The great God has authorized and put the stamp of his institution upon faith, and that makes it pass for current and gives it a privilege above all the graces, to make us children.
Again, faith makes us children as it is the vital principle. ‘The just shall live by faith’ (Habakkuk 2:4). All God’s children are living. None of them are stillborn. Now ‘by faith we live’. As the heart is the fountain of life in the body—so faith is the fountain of life in the soul.
Faith also makes us children, as it is the uniting grace. It knits us to Christ. The other graces cannot do this. By faith we are one with Christ, and so we are akin to God. Being united to the natural Son, we become adopted sons. The kindred relationship comes in by faith. God is the Father of Christ. Faith makes us Christ’s brethren (Hebrews 2:11), and so God comes to be our Father.
4. The fourth particular to be discussed is to show the SIGNS of God’s children.
It concerns us to know whose children we are. Augustine says that all mankind are divided into two ranks; either they are the children of God—or the children of the devil.
1. The first sign of our heavenly sonship, is TENDERNESS of heart. ‘Because your heart was tender’ (2 Chronicles 34:27). A childlike heart is a tender heart. He who before had a flinty heart—has now a fleshy heart. A tender heart is like melting wax to God. He may set whatever seal he will upon it. This tenderness of heart shows itself three ways.
 A tender heart grieves for sin. A child weeps for offending his father. Peter showed a tender heart when Christ looked upon him and he remembered his sin, and wept as a child. It is reported that Peter never heard a rooster crow, but he wept. And some tell us that by much weeping there seemed to be as it were, channels made in his blessed face. The least hair makes the eye weep. The least sin makes the heart smite. David’s heart smote him when he cut off the lap of King Saul’s garment! What would it have done if he had cut off his head!
 A tender heart melts under mercy. Though when God thunders by affliction, the rain of tears falls from a gracious eye—yet the heart is never so kindly dissolved as under the sunbeams of God’s mercy. See how David’s heart was melted with God’s kindness: ‘Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?’ (2 Samuel 7:18). There was a gracious thaw upon his heart. So says a child of God, “Lord, who am I–a piece of dust and sin kneaded together–that the orient beams of free grace should shine upon me? Who am I, that You should pity me when I lay in my blood–and spread the golden wings of mercy over me!” The soul is overcome with God’s goodness–the tears drop, and the love flames. God’s mercy has a melting influence upon the soul.
 A tender heart trembles under God’s threatenings. ‘My flesh trembles in fear of you’ (Psalm 119:120). ‘Because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before God when you heard what he spoke against this place and its people, and because you humbled yourself before me and tore your robes and wept in my presence’ (2 Chronicles 34:27). If the father is angry—the child trembles. When ministers denounce the threats of God against sin—tender souls sit in a trembling posture. This trembling frame of heart, God delights in. ‘To this man will I look, even to him who trembles at your word’ (Isaiah 66:2). A wicked man, like the Leviathan, ‘is made without fear’ (Job 41:33). He neither believes God’s promises—nor dreads God’s threatenings. Let judgment be denounced against sin, he laughs. He thinks that God is either ignorant and does not see—or impotent and cannot punish. ‘The mountains quake before him and the hills melt away. The earth trembles at his presence’ (Nahum 1:5). But the hearts of the ungodly are more obdurate than the rocks! A hardened sinner like Nebuchadnezzar has ‘the heart of a beast given to him’ (Daniel 4:16). A childlike heart is a tender heart. The heart of stone is taken away.