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
4. The fourth particular to be discussed is to show the SIGNS of God’s children. (Continued)
2. The second sign of sonship, is ASSIMILATION. ‘You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator’ (Colossians 3:9-10). The child resembles the father. God’s children are like their heavenly Father. They bear his very image and impress. Wicked men say they are the children of God—but there is too great a dissimilitude and unlikeness. The Jews bragged they were Abraham’s children—but Christ disproves them by this argument, because they were not like him. ‘You are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things’ (John 8:40). “You—Abraham’s children, and go about to kill me! Abraham would not have murdered an innocent. You are more like Satan than Abraham!” ‘You are of your father the devil’ (verse 44). Such as are proud, earthly, malicious may truly say, ‘Our father which art in hell’. It is blasphemy to call God our Father, and make the devil our pattern. God’s children resemble him in meekness and holiness. They are his walking pictures. As the seal stamps its print and likeness upon the wax, so does God stamp the print and image of his own beauty upon his children.
3. The third sign of God’s children is, they have the SPIRIT of God. He is called the Spirit of adoption; ‘you have received the Spirit of adoption.’ (Romans 8:15).
How shall we know that we have received the Spirit of adoption, and so are in the state of adoption? The Spirit of God has a threefold work in those who are made children:
A regenerating work.
A supplicating work.
A witnessing work.
 A REGENERATING work. Whoever the Spirit adopts, he regenerates. God’s children are said to be ‘born of the Spirit’. ‘Unless a man is born of water and of the Spirit—he cannot enter into the kingdom of God’ (John 3:5). We must first be born of the Spirit, before we are baptized with this new name of sons and daughters of God. We are not God’s children by creation—but by recreation; not by our first birth—but by our new birth. This new birth produced by the Word as the instrumental cause (James 1:18), and by the Spirit as the efficient cause, is nothing else but a change of nature (Romans 12:2), which though it is not a perfect change—yet is a thorough change (1 Thessalonians 5:23). This change of heart is as necessary as salvation.
How shall we know that we have this regenerating work of the Spirit? Two ways: by the pangs; by the products.
The new birth is known by the PANGS. There are spiritual pangs before the new birth—some bruisings of soul, some groanings and cryings out, some strugglings in the heart between flesh and Spirit. ‘They were pricked at their heart’ (Acts 2:37). The child has sharp throws before the birth; so it is in the new birth. The new birth is marked by pangs—’more and less’. All do not have the same pangs of humiliation—yet all have pangs; all feel the hammer of the law upon their heart, though some are more bruised with this hammer than others. God’s Spirit is a Spirit of bondage, before he is a Spirit of adoption (Romans 8:15). What then shall we say to those who are as ignorant about the new birth as Nicodemus: ‘What do you mean? How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?’ (John 3:4). Some thank God they never had any trouble of spirit—they were always quiet. These bless God for the greatest curse! It is a sign they are not God’s children. The child of grace is always born with pangs.
The new birth is known by the PRODUCTS, which are:
SENSIBILITY. The new-born infant is sensible of the least touch. If the Spirit has regenerated you, you are sensible of the ebullitions and first risings of sin, which before you did not perceive. Paul cries out of the ‘law of sin at work within my members’ (Romans 7:23). The new-born saint sees sin in the root.
CIRCUMSPECTION. He who is born of the Spirit is careful to preserve grace. He plies the breast of the ordinances (1 Peter 2:1). He is fearful of that which may endanger his spiritual life (1 John 5:18). He lives by faith—yet passes the time of his sojourning in fear (1 Peter 1:17). This is the first work of the Spirit in those who are made children—a regenerating work.
 The Spirit of God has a SUPPLICATING work in the heart. The Spirit of adoption is a Spirit of supplication. ‘You have received the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry Abba, Father’ (Romans 8:15). While the child is in the womb it cannot cry. While men lie in the womb of their natural estate, they cannot pray effectually—but when they are born of the Spirit, then they cry ‘Abba, Father’. Prayer is nothing else but the soul’s breathing itself into the bosom of its Father. It is a sweet and familiar fellowship with God. As soon as ever the Spirit of God comes into the heart, He sets it a-praying. No sooner was Paul converted but the next act is, ‘Behold, he prays!’ (Acts 9:11). It is reported of Luther that, when he prayed, it was with so much reverence—as if he were praying to God, and with so much boldness—as if he had been speaking to his friend. God’s Spirit tunes the strings of the affections, and then we make melody in prayer. For any to say, in derision, ‘you pray by the Spirit’, is a blasphemy against the Spirit. It is a main work of the Spirit of God in the hearts of his children to help them to pray: ‘Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father’ (Galatians 4:6).
But many of the children of God do not have such abilities to express themselves in prayer. How then does the Spirit help their infirmities?
Though they do not have always the gifts of the Spirit in prayer—yet they have the groans of the Spirit (Romans 8:26). Gifts are the ornaments of prayer—but not the life of prayer. A carcass may be hung with jewels. Though the Spirit may deny fluency of speech—yet He gives fervency of desire, and such prayers are most prevalent. The prayers which the Spirit indites in the hearts of God’s children, have these threefold qualifications.
The prayers of God’s children are believing prayers. Prayer is the key. Faith is the hand which turns this key of prayer. Faith feathers the arrow of prayer, and makes it pierce the throne of grace. ‘Whatever you shall ask in prayer believing, you shall receive’ (Matthew 21:22). Whereupon, says Jerome, I would not presume to pray unless I bring faith along with me. To pray and not believe is (as one says) a kind of jeer offered to God, as if we thought either he did not hear—or he would not grant.
That faith may be animated in prayer, we must bring Christ in our arms when we appear before God. ‘Samuel took a young lamb and offered it to the Lord as a whole burnt offering. He pleaded with the Lord to help Israel, and the Lord answered’ (1 Samuel 7:9). This young lamb typified Christ. When we come to God in prayer we must bring the Lamb—Christ, along with us. Themistocles carried the king’s son in his arms and so pacified the king when he was angry. The children of God present Christ in the arms of their faith.
The prayers of God’s children indited by the Spirit, are ardent prayers. ‘You have received the Spirit, whereby we cry Abba, Father’ (Romans 8:15). ‘Father’—that implies faith. We ‘cry’—that implies fervency. The incense was to be laid upon burning coals (Leviticus 16:12). The incense was a type of prayer; the burning coals, of ardency in prayer. ‘Elijah prayed earnestly, James 5:17). That is, he did it with vehemence. In prayer, the heart must boil over with heat of affection. Prayer is compared to unutterable groans (Romans 8:26). It alludes to a woman who is in the pangs of childbirth. We should be in pangs when we are travailing for mercy. Such prayer ‘commands God himself’ (Isaiah 45:11).
The prayers of God’s children are heart-cleansing prayers. They purge out sin. Many pray against sin—and then sin against prayer. God’s children not only pray against sin—but pray down sin.
 The Spirit of God has a WITNESSING work in the heart. God’s children have not only the influence of the Spirit—but the witness. ‘The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God’ (Romans 8:16). There is a threefold witness a child of God has—the witness of the Word, the witness of conscience, the witness of the Spirit. The Word makes the major proposition—he who is in such a manner qualified, is a child of God. Conscience makes the minor proposition—that you are so divinely qualified. The Spirit makes the conclusion—therefore you are a child of God. The Spirit joins with the witness of conscience. ‘The Spirit witnesses with our spirits’ (Romans 8:16). The Spirit teaches conscience to search the records of Scripture and find its evidences for heaven. It helps conscience to spell out its name in a promise. The Spirit bears witness with our spirit.
But how shall I know the witness of the Spirit—from a delusion?
The Spirit of God always witnesses according to the Word, as the echo answers the voice. Religious enthusiasts speak much of the Spirit—but they leave the Word. That inspiration which is either without the Word or against it—is an imposture. The Spirit of God indited the Word (2 Peter 1:21). Now if the Spirit should witness otherwise than according to the Word, the Spirit would be divided against Himself. He would be a spirit of contradiction, witnessing one thing for a truth in the Word—and another thing different from it in a man’s conscience