« PreviousContinue »
even to satisfy himself for those sins which were committed against him; which he did, by undergoing that death which he had threatened to us in our own nature, united to the person of his own and only Son, God co-equal, co-essential, co-eternal with himself, who is therefore said to be a propitiation for sins." Neither can there any reason imaginable be alleged, why the Son of God himself should suffer death, unless it was upon our account, and in our stead, whose nature he assumed, and in which he suffered it. But not to insist upon that now: the human nature in general having thus suffered that death in the person of the Son of God, which all mankind was otherwise bound to have undergone in their own persons; hence it comes to pass, that we are all in a capacity of avoiding that death which we have deserved by our sins, if we do but rightly believe in Christ, and apply his suffering to ourselves.
And as Christ by his death and passion hath thus satisfied for our sins, so hath he by his life and actions given us an exact pattern of true piety and virtue. And although I cannot say, it was the only, yet questionless one great end wherefore he continued so long on earth, and conversed so much amongst men, and that so many of his actions are delivered to us with so many circumstances as they are, was, that we, by his example, might learn how to carry and behave ourselves in this lower world. For as from that time to this, so from the beginning of the world to that time, there had never been a man upon the face of the earth, that had lived so conformably to the law of God,
1 1 John, ii. 2.
that it was safe or lawful for another to follow him in all things. For all flesh was corrupt, and the very best of men were still but men, subject to failures in their lives, as well as errors in their judgments; yea those very persons whom the Scriptures record, and God himself attesteth to have been eminent in their generation for piety and justice, did oftentimes fail in both. Noah is asserted by God himself to have been righteous in his generation, Abraham to be the father of the faithful, Moses to be the meekest man upon earth, David to be a man after God's own heart, Solomon to have been the wisest man that ever lived, and Job to be a' perfect and upright man, one that feared God and eschewed evil:' yet none of these most excellent persons but had their vices as well as virtues : and it is observable that the more eminent any were in piety, the more notorious sins God hath sometimes suffered them to slip into, to keep them humble. So that from the first to the second Adam, there never lived a man of whom it could be said, this man never sinned, never transgressed the laws of God, and therefore may in all things be imitated by men.
But now as the first was made, the second Adam continued all along most pure and perfect, both in thought, word, and action: for he did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth." Never so much as a vain thought ever sprang up in his most holy heart, not so much as an idle word ever proceeded out of his divine lips, nor so much as an impertinent or frivolous action was ever performed by his sacred and most righteous hands; his whole
' 1 Pet. ii. 22.
life being nothing else but one continued act of piety towards God, justice towards men, love and charity towards all. And as himself lived, so would he have all his disciples live whilst they are here below; and therefore enjoins them that go after him, not only to deny themselves, and take up their crosses, but also to follow, or imitate him to the utmost of their power in their life and actions. So that he now expects that all those who profess themselves to be his disciples, do first deny themselves whatsoever is offensive unto him; and then take up their cross so as to be ready and willing to do or suffer any thing for him that hath done and suffered so much as he hath for us. And then, lastly, that they write after the copy that he hath set them, and walk in the steps wherein he hath gone before them; even that they follow him through all duties and difficulties whatsoever, so as still to do unto the utmost of their power as he did, otherwise they in vain pretend to be his disciples: For he that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also to walk even as he walked;'' that is, he that professeth to believe in Jesus Christ, should live as he lived while he was upon earth. Hence St. Paul, a true disciple of Christ, saith, followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.' As he followed Christ, he would have others to follow him; but he would have them follow him no further than as he followed Christ.
It is true we were bound to be holy and righteous in all our ways, whether we had ever heard of Christ's being so or no, the law of God first obliged
1 John, ii. 6.
21 Cor. xi. 1.
us to be so; but howsoever, we have now an additional obligation upon us to be holy, as he who hath called us was holy in all manner of conversation' For the Scripture tells us expressly, that Christhath left us an example that we should follow his steps' And our Saviour himself commands all that come to him, to learn of him.3 And therefore we can never expect that he should own us for his disciples, unless we own him for our Lord and Master, so far as to obey and follow him; he having commanded all those that come to him, to deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow him. And seeing we all, I hope, desire to be Christians indeed, as I have explained the two former of these duties, I shall now endeavour to give the true meaning of the latter too, that we may all so follow Christ here, as to come to him hereafter.
Now for the opening of this, we must know that we neither can nor ought to follow Christ in every thing he did when he was here below; for even whilst he was here below, he was still the most high and mighty God, the same that he had been from eternity, and often manifested his power and glory to the sons of men, whilst he was conversing with them in their own nature, wherein it would be horrid presumption for us to pretend to follow him. As for example, He knew the very thoughts of men,' which I suppose is something past our skill to do. Hence also he judged and censured others, 'Woe unto you,' saith he, 'Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye are like to painted sepulchres,
11 Pet. i. 15.
21 Pet. ii. 21.
4 Matt. xii. 25.
which indeed appear heautiful outwardly, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.'' But this we could not do though we might, not being able to search into others' hearts; neither may we do it, though we could, Christ himself having expressly commanded the contrary, saying, 'Judge not, that ye be not judged." Our Saviour also, as God, foretold future events, and wrought miracles, such as were clear demonstrations of his infinite power and Godhead; but in this he is to be believed and admired, not followed or imitated by us. Thus also when he sent his disciples to loose another man's colt, and bring him away, that he did as Lord and Sovereign of the world, or as the supreme Possessor and universal Proprietor of all things; as when he commanded the Israelites to spoil the Egyptians, and carry away their jewels and raiment; for, all things being his, he may give them to whom he pleaseth; and though it would have been a sin to have taken them away without his command, yet his command gave them a property in them, a right and title to them, and they had sinned unless they had obeyed the command. So here our Saviour sent for the colt, as if it had been his own, for so really it was, as he is God, which he manifested himself to be at the same time, in that he inclined the heart of the civil owner thereof to let him go, only upon the disciple's saying, 'that the Lord had need of him.' But this he did not for our example, but to show forth his own power and glory.
There are some things also which our blessed
1 Matt. xxiii 27, 28.
3 Luke, xxi. 6. 4 Luke, xix. 30.
2 Matt. vii. 1.
5 Luke, xix. 33, 34.