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complete this great injunction, there was yet wanting an ex. press example of the holiness required, which is not given us but in him, who is the first-born, the image of the invisible God.'
There was a notion even among the philosophers, that the principal endeavour of a wise man was to be like unto God. But in the improvement of it the best of them fell into foolish and proud imaginations. Howbeit the notion itself was the principal beam of our primogenial light, the best relic of our natural perfections. And those who are not some way under the power of a design to be like unto God, are every way like unto the devil. But those persons who had nothing but the absolute essential properties of the divine nature to contemplate on in the light of reason, failed all of them both in the notion itself of conformity unto God, and especially in the practical improvement of it. Whatever men may fancy to the contrary, it is the design of the apostle in sundry places of his writings to prove that they did so, especially Rom. i. 1 Cor.i. Wherefore it was an infinite condescension of divine wisdom and grace gloriously to implant that image of his which we are to endeavour conformity unto, on the human nature of Christ, and then so fully to represent and propose it unto us in the revelation of the gospel.
The infinite perfections of God considered absolutely in themselves, are accompanied with such an incomprehensible glory, as is hard to conceive how they are the object of our imitation. But the representation that is made of them in Christ, as the image of the invisible God is so suited to the renewed faculties of our souls, so congenial unto the new creature, or the gracious principle of spiritual life in us, that the mind can dwell on the contemplation of them, and be thereby transformed into the same image.
Herein lies much of the life and power of Christian religion, as it resides in the souls of men. This is the prevailing design of the minds of them that truly believe the gospel; they would in all things be like unto Jesus Christ. And I shall briefly shew,(1.) What is required hereunto : and, (2.) What is to be done in a way of duty for the attaining that end.
[1.] A spiritual light to discern the beauty, glory, and amiableness of grace in Christ, is required hereunto. We can have no real design of conformity unto him, unless we have their eyes, who' saw his glory, the glory of the onlybegotten of the Father, full of grace and truth ;' John i. 14. Nor is it enough that we seem to discern the glory of his person, unless we see a beauty and excellency in every grace that is in him. “Learn of me,' saith he, · for I am meek and lowly in heart;' Matt. xi. 29. If we are not able to discern an excellency in meekness and lowliness of heart (as they are things generally despised), how shall we sincerely endeavour after conformity unto Christ in them? The like may be said of all other his gracious qualifications. His zeal, his patience, his self-denial, his readiness for the cross, his love unto his enemies, his benignity to all mankind, his faith and fervency in prayer, his love to God, his compassion towards the souls of men, his unweariedness in doing good, his 'purity, his universal holiness ; unless we have a spiritual light to discern the glory and amiableness of them all as they were in him, we speak in vain of any design for conformity unto him. And this we have not, unless God shine into our hearts to give us the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ. It is, I say, a foolish thing to talk of the imitation of Christ, whilst really through the darkness of our minds we discern not that there is an excellency in the things wherein we ought to be like unto bim.
[2.] Love unto them so discovered in a beam of heavenly light, is required unto the same end. No soul can have a design of conformity unto Christ, but his, who so likes and loves the graces that were in him, as to esteem a participation of them in their power, to be the greatest advantage, to be the most invaluable privilege that can in this world be attained. It is the savour of his good ointments for which the virgins love him, cleave unto him, and endeavour to be like him. In that whereof we now discourse, namely, of conformity unto him, he is the representative of the image of God unto us. As if we do not love and prize above all things those gracious qualifications and dispositions of mind wherein it doth consist, whatever we may pretend of the imitation of Christ in any outward acts or duties of obedience, we have no design of conformity unto him. He
who sees and admires the glory of Christ as filled with these graces, as he was fairer than the children of men,' because grace was poured into his lips,' unto whom nothing is so desirable, as to have the same mind, the same heart, the same spirit that was in Christ Jesus, he is prepared to press after conformity unto him. And unto such a soul the representation of all these excellencies in the person of Christ, is the great incentive, motive, and guide, in and unto all internal obedience unto God.
Lastly, That wherein we are to labour for this conformity may be reduced unto two heads.
[1.] An opposition unto all sin, in the root, principle, and most secret springs of it, or original cleavings unto our nature. He did no sin, neither was there any guile found in his mouth.' 'He was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.' He was the · Lamb of God without spot or blemish ;' like unto us, yet without sin. Not the least tincture of sin did ever make an approach unto his holy nature. He was absolutely free from every drop of that fomes, which hath invaded us in our depraved condition. Wherefore to be freed from all sin, is the first general part of an endeavour for conformity unto Christ. And although we cannot perfectly attain hereunto in this life, as we have not already attained, nor are already perfect,' yet he who groaneth not in himself after it, who doth not loath every thing that is of the remainder of sin in him, and himself for it, who doth not labour after its absolute and universal extirpation, hath no sincere design of conformity unto Christ, nor can so have. He who endeavours to be like him, must
purify himself, even as he is pure.' Thoughts of the purity of Christ, in his absolute freedom from the least tincture of sin, will not suffer a believer to be negligent at any time, for the endeavouring the utter ruin of that which makes him unlike unto him. And it is a blessed advantage unto faith in the work of mortification of sin, that we have such a pattern continually before us.
[2.] The due improvement of, and continual growth in every grace, is the other general part of this duty. In the exercise of his own all-fulness of grace, both in moral duties of obedience, and the especial duties of his office, did the glory of Christ on the earth consist. Wherefore to abound
in the exercise of every grace, to grow in the root, and thrive in the fruit of them, is to be conformed unto the image of the Son of God.
2. The following the example of Christ in all duties towards God and men, in his whole conversation on the earth, is the second part of the instance now given concerning the use of the person of Christ in religion. The field is large wbich here lies before us, and filled with numberless blessed instances. I cannot here enter into it; and the mistakes that have been in a pretence unto it, requires that it should be handled distinctly and at large by itself, which, if God will, may be done in due time. One or two general instances wherein he was most eminently our example, shall close this discourse.
(1.) His meekness, lowliness of mind, condescension unto all sorts of persons ; his love and kindness unto mankind, his readiness to do good unto all, with patience and forbearance, are continually set before us in his example. I place them all under one head, as proceeding all from the same spring of divine goodness, and having effects of the same nature. With respect unto them, it is required that 'the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus,' Phil. ii. 5. and that we walk in love, as he also loved us;' Eph.
In these things was he the great representative of the divine goodness unto us. In the acting of these graces on all occasions did he declare and manifest the nature of God from whom he came. And this was one end of his exhibition in the flesh. Sin had filled the world with a representation of the devil and his nature, in mutual hatred, strife, variance, envy, wrath, pride, fierceness, and rage, against one another, all which are of the old murderer. The instances of a cured, of a contrary frame were obscure and weak in the best of the saints of old. But in our Lord Jesus, the light of the glory of God herein first shone upon the world. In the exercise of these graces which he most abounded in, because the sins, weaknesses, and infirmities of men gave continual occasion thereunto, did he represent the divine nature, as love, as infinitely good, benign, merciful, and patient, as delighting in the exercise of these its holy properties. In them was the Lord Christ our example in an especial manner. And they do in vain pretend to be his disciples, to be followers of him, who endeavour not to order the whole course of their lives in conformity unto him in these things.
One Christian who is meek, humble, kind, patient, and useful unto all, that condescends to the ignorance, weaknesses, and infirmities of others, that passeth by provocations, injuries, contempt, with patience, and with silence, unless where the glory and truth of God call for a just vindication ; that pitieth all sorts of men in their failings and miscarriages, who is free from jealousies and evil surmises, that loveth what is good in all men, and all men even wherein they are not good, nor do good, doth more express the virtues and excellencies of Christ, than thousands can do with the most magnificent works of piety or charity, where this frame is wanting in them. For men to pretend to follow the example of Christ, and in the mean time to be proud, wrathful, envious, bitterly zealous, calling for fire from heaven to destroy men, or fetching it themselves from hell, is to cry, “Hail unto him, and to crucify him afresh unto their power.
(2.) Self-denial, readiness for the cross, with patience in sufferings, are the second sort of things which he calls all his disciples to follow his example in. It is the fundamental law of his gospel, that if any one will be his disciple, • he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow him.' These things in him, as they are all of them summarily represented, Phil. ii. 5—8. by reason of the glory of his person, and the nature of his sufferings, are quite of another kind than that we are called unto. But his grace in them all is our only pattern, in what is required of us. Christ hath suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow his steps, who when he was reviled, reviled not again, when he suffered, he threatened not;' 1 Pet. ii. 21-23. Hence are we called to look unto 'Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, and despised the shame.' For we are to
consider him, who endured such contradiction of sinners in himself, that we faint not;' Heb. xii. 2, 3. Blessed be God for this example; for the glory of the condescension, patience, faith, and endurance of Jesus Christ in the extre