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ftrictly requires us to be always imitating, fo far as they are imitable, the Perfections and Actions of our heavenly Father; to endeavour to form our Natures to his, to rectifie the Features and Lineaments of our Souls by his most amiable Idea; to be continually framing our tempers by. the noble pattern of his Mercy and Goodness, his Justice, Purity, and Wisdom; that fo being new caft as it were in the perfect mould of his Nature, we may be transformed into living Images of him. So Ephef. v. 1. Beye therefore puntaì, imitators, or followers of God, as dear Children, i. e. that fo you may resemble him in the Qualities of your Minds,' as Children do their Parents in the Lineaments of their Bodies. And this is the fenfe of all thofe Evangelical Injunctions, which require us to be pure as God is pure, merciful as he is merciful, and perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect; that is, to take example by God in the whole courfe of our lives, and trace and follow him in all his imitable Perfections, by putting on that new, that god-like man, that divine temper and difpofition, which after God, that is, according to the pattern of his Nature, is created in righteoufneß, and true holineß, Ephef. iv. 24. This therefore is an effential part of our Chriftian Life, to fet God always before our Eyes, as the great Pattern of our Lives and Actions, and to endeavour conftantly to write after him, and transcribe his Graces into our Natures; that fo when we go away into the other World, we may carry with us at least a rude and imperfect draught of his bleffed Image upon our Minds, fuch as when we are removed from the manifold impediments of flesh and bloud, and the perpetual
perpetual diverfions of this fenfible World, and admitted to a nearer view of God, may be a prevailing byafs upon our Wills, and incline us to imitate him for ever. For if for the main we are here transformed by imitating God into a godlike Temper and Difpofition, all those involuntary contrarieties to him, which by reafon of our Ignorance of his Nature, of our bodily Temper, and the manifold Temptations we are here expofed to, are still remaining in our Natures, will be immediately extinguished upon our arrival into the other World; where being freed from all our mifconceptions of God, from all the repugnancies of our bodily Temper to him, and from all thofe Temptations that were wont to avert us from him, we fhall have no involuntary Difpofition or Inclination in us; and then our Wills being already predominantly inclined to follow God, and take example by him, and having no contrary inclination to contend with, we fhall presently attend to and imitate his Perfections with the greatest Vigour, Freedom, and Alacrity of Soul. So that now we shall be fo intenfely fixed to chufe and act like God, who is the Example and Pattern of our Natures, that we shall everlastingly regulate all our Motions by thofe very eternal Laws of Reafon, whereby he ever laftingly wills and acts; and there is nothing will be fo abhorrent to our Natures as an ungodlike Will or Action. For if, as the Apoftle tells us, by beholding now the glory of God in a glaß, we are changed into the fame image from glory to glory, 2 Cor. iii. 18. then doubtlefs much more fhall we be fo, when we behold him face to face. 'Tis true, as our Knowledge of God who is
an infinite Truth can never be abfolutely perfect, because if it were it would be an infinite Knowledge; fo neither can our Refemblance of him be, who is an infinite Goodneß, because if it were we fhould be infinitely Good; both which are contradictions to the state of a Creature: yet as we shall be knowing him farther and farther, fo proportionably we shall be imitating him too through infinite Ages of Duration; and ftill every act of our Imitation fhall be fo attentive and vigorous, that it fhall leave a further impreffion of his infinite Perfection on our Natures. So that though our finite Nature can never arrive to a perfect Likeness of that infinitely lovely and amiable Being, because it can never be infinitely amiable; yet it fhall be everlastingly approaching nearer and nearer to him, proportionably as it difcovers more and more of his infinite Beauty and Amabilities, and be still growing more wife and pure, more righteous and benign, according as its profpect of the Wisdom, Purity, Justice, and Goodneß of his Nature is enlarged and extended. So that as his Beauty fhines into us; it will ftill imprint it felf upon us, and transform us into bleffed Images of it felf; and then according as we are affimilated to the divine Nature, we fhall still partake of thofe Joys, and Pleasures which are infeparable to it,and resemble it in Bliss as niuch as we do in Perfection. For as Gods infinite Perfection is the fpring of his infinite Self-fatisfaction, fo from our finite Perfection there fhall ever redound to us a Satisfaction equal to our finite Capacities. For though we shall never attain to abfolute perfection, that is, to all the poffible Degrees of Wisdom and Goodness,
which is the Peculiar of God; yet to Eternity we shall be growing on to it, and in every period of our growth, we fhall be perfectly what we ought to be, that is, we fhall ever know as much of God as is poffible for us, our prefent State and Circumstances confidered; and fo far as we know of him we shall to our utmost power continually imitate and refemble him. And thus in our eternal Race to Perfection, our Wills shall always follow our Understanding, and our Understandings fhall always follow God with their utmost Vigour and Activity; fo that neither the one nor the other fhall ever be deficient of any Degree of Knowledge and Goodness which pro bic & nunc is poffible to them.
Now what an unspeakable Satisfaction must this give to the Mind, when furveying it felf round about, it shall find every thing within it felf exactly as it ought to be, every Faculty to its utmost power and Capacity perfectly corresponding with its original pattern and Exemplar; when upon the strictest Scrutiny it will difcover nothing within it felf, but what the most critical Confcience will be forced to approve of; no Motion or Action, but what will endure the Teft of its feverest Reafon: In a word, when it fhall interchangeably turn its Eyes from God to it felf, and compare. Grace with Grace, and Feature with Feature, and perceive what an amiable Confent and Agreement there is between its own Copy and his fair Original; what a pure Imitation of God its Life is, and how exactly Deiform all its Motions and Actions are: when, I fay, our bleffed Minds shall always find themfelves in this God-like pofture and
and Condition, O! what incomparable Content and Satisfaction will they take in themselves! With what enravishing pleasure will they ever review their own Motions, which being immediately copied from the Nature of God, will be fuch as its feverest Reafon will be always forced to commend and approve of! So that now the happy Mind will be always triumphing in its own Purity, and enjoy within it felf an everlasting Heaven of Content and Peace; now 'twill continually be crowned with the Applaufes of its own Reafon, and all its Actions will have the joyful Echoes of a well-pleafed Confcience continually refounding after them. And thus by imitating Gods Perfections, we fhall imitate his Happiness too, and shall for ever take after him, not only in refpect of the Rectitude of our Natures, but alfo in the most bleffed and comfortable Enjoyment of our felves. Befides that our Refemblance of God will everlastingly difpofe us to love,and our Love to contemplate and adore him. For all these bleffed Acts do reciprocally further and promote each other; juft like contiguous Bodies that are placed in a Circle, the first of which being moved, thrufts on the fecond, the fecond the third, the third the laft, if there be no more between; and then the last thrusts on the first,and fo round again in the fame order. So that if we carry with us into Eternity a Frame and Difpofition of Nature like Gods, we shall always fo imitate as still to love him, fo love as ftill to contemplate him, fo contemplate as ftill to adore him, fo adore as ftill to imitate, and love and contemplate him anew; and in this bleffed Circle we fhall move