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his example to the most general use.
He suited himself, as far as he could do without sin, to the common state of human nature, that his pattern might be the more extensively useful. The greatest part of mankind are placed by providence in a low condition: and Christ by exemplifying the graces suited especially to such a state, accommodated himself to the instruction and benefit of the greatest number of men; and yet since it was the result of his own gracious choice, that he appeared in such a condition, though he possessed originally the riches of the Godhead, he loudly speaks humility to the greatest.
His conversation was with all the freedom and familiarity that could be desired. We find no peculiar rigours or singularity in his way of living ; in which he takes notice himself of the difference between him and John the Baptist, Mat. xi. 18, 19. He did not sequester himself from the world to live as a recluse ; but led an active life upon the public stage, appeared in the places where people were used to come together, conversed freely with all sorts, and went about doing good.
This conduct made his example the more grateful, and at the same time to appear such, that every one in common life might feel himself under engagements to imitate him.
Thirdly, His example was perfect, so that it hath the force of a rule. This cannot be said of the best men upon earth ; their actions must be tried by a further rule, before we venture to follow them. But it is the character of Christ's example, that it hath the authority of a rule, as well as the advantage of an example : so that other examples are to be judged of by it, 1 Cor. xi. 1. “Be ye followers of me, even as I am of Christ.”
It is perfect also in another respect, as it exemplifies to us all the graces and duties of the human nature, as it came out of the hands of God; it was a living plan of the regards due from man by the divine law to God, to his fellow-creatures, and to himself. I intend not here to go over the particulars of this great example ; it may be more proper, as we go along in considering the several branches of the Christian temper, to recommend each by the example he gave of it.
Το who atterds to the gospel-history, it must appear, that humility and self denial, zeal for God's glory and compassion to souls, usefulness to all and disinterested goodness, contempt of this world and heavenly-mindedness, patience under sufferings and resignation to the wilt of God in all things, eminently shone out in the man Christ Jesus : that he redeemed his time, improved all opportunities for service, sought the honour of God in all his actions, fervently prayed to him in all difficulties, trusted in him in all dangers ; counted no service, no suffering too hard to which he called him ; and was obedient even down to death. In a word, he acted just as men are obliged to act : and in all the parts of the Christian temper, excepting those which suppose personal guilt, we may derive light and warmth from the steady contemplation of Christ's example.
3. The relations, in which we stand to Christ, and the concern we have with him, lay us under the strongest engagements to endeavour a resemblance.
He is our best friend, vouchsafes to call us his friends, and has engaged us by the most endearing acts of kindness : and how easily do intimate friends run into a similitude of mind and manners ?
He is our Lord and Master, and we profess to be his disciples; and certainly the disciple should be like his master. “ If any man will come after me, (says Christ,) let him follow me,” Matt. xvi. 24. Christ presses this argument with the greatest force upon his disciples, in the days of his abode below, John xii. 13–16. “ Ye call me Master and Lord, and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and, Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, the servant is not greater than his Lord; neither he that is sent, greater than he that hath sent him.” In the several sects of philosophers among the heathen, the practice as well as the precepts of their masters, had a mighty influence upon those who called themselves their disciples: they were used carefully to record the actions of their founders, and to be censured or applauded, by friends or enemies, as they degenerated from their virtues, or copied after them. Christ is the author and finisher of our faith, the head of our religion; and should we not resemble him, if we suffer ourselves to be called Christians from his name? Some of those among the
heathen, who delivered the best precepts, were very far from recommending them by a suitable practice ; and they did more hurt to the world by their ill examples, than service by their wholesome instructions. This was too much the case among the Jewish teachers in Christ's own time : he could
say more in their favor than this, Matth. xxiii. 2, 3. “The scribes and the pharisees sit in Moses' seat ; (they are your stated public instructors :) All therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do.” We must for certain understand him with a limitation, as far as they spoke agreeably to “the law and the testimony;" for he had admonished his hearers more than once, that sometimes they were blind guides · even in their doctrine, and not to be followed absolutely in that. And still he was forced to add farther; “but do not ye after their works; for they say, and do not.”
While their doctrine was amiss in some things, their practice was much more irregular. But Christ was a master, whose doctrine and practice was perfectly harmonious ; and therefore his professed disciples should hear him and follow him in both.
He is our head, and we are his members; and there should be a symmetry of parts. If we are Christians indeed, we are animated by the same spirit: and therefore like fruits of the spirit should be conspicuous in us.
He is to be our final Judge, who will unalterably determine our state for ever : and whatever profession we make of his name, and of relation to him, he will own done for his who are destitute of his likeness. While « will say to him in that day, Lord, Lord; he will profess to them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity,” Matt. vii. 22, 23.
He is to be the model of our final happiness. It is promised us, that “when he shall appear, we shall be like him ; for we shall see him as he is," i John iii. 2. That must refer principally to the holiness and happiness of our souls then. And certainly if we take real delight in the
prospect that future conformity, we cannot forbear aspiring after it, and tending towards it now. So the apostle immediately adds, ver. 3. “And every man that hath this hope in him, [to be like Christ, when he shall appear,] purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” Our future happiness is often described by being with the Lord : and how can we dwell and converse together
for ever, with comfort and satisfaction, unless there be
agree. ment and similitude ?
I would add a few reflections.
1. We may plainly learn, that Christianity in its main design, is a practical thing, and not a mere speculation. As it might be made to appear many other ways, that this is a true character of it; so it is evident, in that the great head of this religion first lived it himself; and the scope of this religion is described in the gospel, to be our copying after that living pattern.
2. We may see the advantages we have by the gospel, beyond any other dispensation, for true goodness. Moses, by whom God delivered his law to the Jews, was not a perfect pattern of obedience to the will of God, as far as it was then made known. But Christ, as he made a fuller revelation of the mind of God to the world, than ever was done before, so he never failed in any one instance of exemplifying the proper duty of man.
3. How inexcusable then must they be, who are not recovered to a godlike temper and conversation by this most excellent dispensation ? Where we have not only the most perfect and plain precepts, and the most exceeding great and precious promises, but also the most full and lively, the most suitable and engaging example.
“ If the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward ; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord ?” Heb. ii. 2, 3. Or, if we neglect to comply with so excellent a constitution, which the Son of God himself not only taught us, but exemplified to us ?
4. With what care and attention should we study the life of Christ, as it is drawn in the gospel-history? Indeed every thing which God hath thought fit to reveal, must be worthy of our diligent and serious consideration.
“ All scripture is written by inspiration of God; and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 2 Tim. iii. 16. And no part of scripture must be magnified to the depreciating of others. But certainly none can be more useful and necessary, more fit for our frequent search and me ditation, than that which gives us the picture of the mind and
life of our Master ; that while we stedfastly “behold in the glass of the gospel the glory of the Lord, we may be changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Cor. ii. 18. And that leads me to infer,
5. We should earnestly pray for the grace of the same divine Spirit, with which Christ was anointed without measure, in order to our being formed to the same mind in our
In vain will the bright representation of the holy mind of Christ, be set before us in the gospel, unless the blessed Spirit open our eyes, and cause the light of the glorious gospel of Christ to shine into our hearts. But this we are directed to ask for, and encouraged to hope we shall not be denied, if we cry to the common l'ather for this great gift, Luke xi. 13.
6. Let us never allow ourselves to rest in any thing short of a real and a growing conformity to our Lord. By this we should judge of our relation to him, and of his complacency in us; and not merely by the name we bear, or the notions that fill our minds.
“ If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his," Rom. viii. 9. Study then so to know him, as to be made conformable to him," Phil. ii. 10. Reckon
you take of him, every thought you have of him, occasioned by reading or hearing concerning him, to be indeed of little service to you, if it has no transforming influence. Go on then, still “ following after this, if that you may apprehend that, for which also you are apprehended of Christ Jesus," ver. 12.
7. As far as this is our aim and scope, we may take comfort from the discovery of his present glory. For, as his heavenly mind and conversation ended in the heavenly glory; so a present imitation of him by us, as he was upon earth, is indeed a pledge of our future conformity to him in the
world. As “if we suffer with him,” so especially if we live with him and like him, “we shall also reign with him.” If, as he did, we live to God, are dead to sin, overcome the world, serve our generation, and persevere to the end in the exercise of Christian graces and virtues, suitable to the conditions and circumstances of life, through which we pass; we shall, at the end of such a course, follow him into his kingdom.