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sent them. As a Ruler in his Church; as a Preacher, and Pattern, of Righteousness; he is the great Archetype, of which they are bound to be as exact copies, as it shall be in their power to become. It ought, here, to be observed, that Christ, not improbably to render his example more useful to them by adapting it more to their circumstances, and their capacity of imitation, has, in this respect, acted almost only in the character of a mere man, and not as the Searcher of hearts, nor as the Lawgiver of his Church. Where he has acted otherwise, the distinction is so clearly and successfully made, that it may usually be understood without difficulty. His example in this, as in all his private conduct, is that of a mere, though perfect, man; is, of course, easily transferred to the practical concerns of every Minister, and is both understood, and followed, without perplexity. Ministers, therefore, are peculiarly without excuse, if they are not followers of Christ.
I shall only add, on this part of the subject, that the example of Christ is to all men authoritative. It is not merely a bright and beautiful pattern, which we are invited to copy, because this conduct will be pleasing, honourable, and useful, to us; but it is a law, also; requiring of us, with divine authority, to go, and
a do likewise. Our obligation to obey is indispensable. Nor can any man be excused for a moment, who does not labour faithful. ly to resemble Christ in all the merely personal and moral parts of his character.
III. The Example of Christ was perfect.
By this I intend, that in all cases he did exactly that, and that only, which was right. The truth of this observation I have sufficiently illustrated in a former discourse. Nothing more, therefore, will be necessary on this subject, at the present time, than to show its application, and usefulness, to the concerns of mankind. Regarded in this light, Christ is, to us, a finished standard of moral excellence; and as such has taught us,
1st. What we ought to be.
In the progress of these discourses, I have endeavoured to show the manner, in which Christ walked; in which he glorified God, and did good to men. The two great commands of the moral
law, which regulate, or should regulate, the conduct of all Intelligent creatures, are, Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart; and thy neighbour as thyself.
In conformity with the first of these commands, God held the supreme place in his views and affections. He came into the world, to accomplish a work, which his Father had appointed him. This work, in all its parts, he steadily pursued, while he was in the world; and, when he left the world, his work was done : so that he was able to say at the close of life, Father, I have glorified thee on earth; I have finished the work, which thou gavest me to do. But he did nothing else. When he left the world, he left nothing unfinished, and nothing superadded. The end of all, which he did, or said, or thought, was the glory of his Father. This end he accomplished; and, in the pursuit, left himself out of consideration; cheerfully subordinating to it his own convenience, pleasure, and comfort; and cheerfully undergoing every trouble, difficulty, and danger. The whole language of his heart, on which the whole language of his life was a glorious comment, was, Not my will, but thine, be done! This is the pattern, which we should set always before us ; this the piety, at which we should unceasingly aim.
To Mankind also, he yielded himself, to promote their comfort, relieve their distresses, and secure their salvation. God is always glorified, when good is voluntarily done to mankind; and was in this manner singularly glorified by Christ. He taught men truth and righteousness. He taught them all the doctrines which they needed to know, and all the duties which they were required to perform, for the attainment of eternal life. At all times he prayed for them, even while he was agonizing on the cross ; and wrought for them, with extreme self-denial, many wonderful and beneficent miracles. In a word, he lived in such a manner, that even his hard-hearted, unbelieving, and malignant coun. trymen were compelled to say, He hath done all things well.
In the mean time, he did nothing ill. He never omitted a duty, nor committed a sin. He was neither idle, nor vain. He neither flattered nor slandered, neither deceived nor defrauded, neither corrupted nor neglected, his fellow-men. By their favour he tras not enticed: by their resentment he was not awed. His mind indulged no wrath ; his bosom harboured no revenge. Boldly and uniformly, without fear and without fondness, he told the truth, and did that which was kind, just, and right.
To friends he was never partial; to enemies he was never resentful. In his virtues he was not rigid ; in his doctrines not severe; in his worship not superstitious : but in all was rational, gentle, meek, faithful, self-possessed, and sublimely excellent.
He was born in an age, in which pure, undefiled religion had wonderfully decayed, and given place to an almost absolute round of superstitious and vain externities. Whenever men rely on these observances for acceptance with God, they resign of course all ideas of internal purity. He, who expects, that washing his hands will give him a title to heaven, will never concern himself with cleansing his heart. In such a state of things, wick. edness of every kind will triumph; all the doctrines of Religion will be modelled to the views and feelings of those, who practise it; and the whole system of faith will become a complication of folly, falsehood, authoritative dogmas, and implicit submissions of credulity. But in an age, and country, distinguished by these evils more than, perhaps, any other, Christ uniformly and victoriously resisted them all. He received no doctrine, he required his hearers to receive none, except when known and proved by unanswerable evidence, to be from heaven. All his own instructions he proved in this manner. Not an instance can be produced, in which he used the argument from authority. In his conduct there is not an example of superstition, enthusiasm, or bigotry. Harmless enjoyments he never refused; sinful ones he never indulged. No man was the better, or the worse, treated by him, on account of the sect, party, nor nation, to which he belonged.
In his beneficence he was a glorious example to all men. His affections were literally universal: and his beneficence was an exact expression of his aflections. As it was dictated by no idle dreams of Philosophy, by no cobweb system of abstraction, but by plain, practical truth; it was real, useful, uniformly honourable to himself, and invariably profitable to mankind. He never spent his time in sending his thoughts abroad to distant countries, to inquire what errors, abuses, or sufferings, existed
there, which demanded correction, reformation, or relief. He did not sit down in the exercise of vain philanthropy, to employ life in unavailing sighs, and tears, for the sufferings of distant countries, and ages; nor give himself up to the useless despair of doing any good to mankind, because he could not do all which their circumstances required. He did not satisfy himself with lamenting the distresses of his fellow-men, and teaching others to relieve them. In a manner, directly opposed to this visionary, useless philosophy, he made his whole life a life of the most active beneficence. Instead of seeking for objects of charity in Persia, or at Rome, he found them in his own Country; on the spot, where he was ; among the sufferers, daily presented to his eyes.
. During his private life, he contributed by his daily efforts to support, and befriend, the family of his father. Throughout his ministry, he took an effectual and daily charge of his own family of disciples; and travelled unceasingly from one place to another, to find new objects, on whom his kindness might be successfully employed. Thus he loved mankind, not in word, neither in tongue, but in deed, and in truth. The weight of his example is, in this respect, singular; because the great purposes of his mission were more extensive, more absolutely general, than any, which ever entered into the human mind. Like his views, his benevolence, also, was in the absolute sense universal. Yet he spent his life in doing good within the sphere, in which he lived, and to the objects, within his reach. Thus he has taught us irresistibly, that, instead of consuming our time in wishes to do good, where we cannot, the true dictate of universal good-will is to do it where we can.
At the same time, he denied all ungodliness and worldly lusts. No avaricious, ambitious, proud, or sensual desire found a place in his mind. Every selfish aim was excluded from his heart; every unworthy act, from his life. Omniscience itself, looking into his soul with a perfect survey, saw nothing but pure excellence, supreme beauty, and divine loveliness : a sun without a spot : a splendour, formed of mere diversities of light and glory.
The perfection of this wonderful example we cannot expect, nor hope, to attain : but a character of the same nature we may, and, if we would be interested in the favour of God, we must, acVol ll.
quire. Like him, we must consecrate ourselves absolutely to the glorification of God. Like him, we must willingly, and alway, do good. Like him, we must steadily resist temptation, and overcome iniquity.
Obedience, and not pleasure, must be the commanding object of our purposes. The pleasure, at which we supremely aim, must be, not the pleasure of sense; but the peace, which passeth all understanding; the joy, which no stranger meddles withal; a self-approving mind; the consciousness of personal worth ; the enjoyment of virtuous excellence; accompanied, and cherished, by a glorious hope of the final approbation of God, and an eternal residence in his house, in the heavens.
2dly. The example of Christ teaches us how far the character of mankind is from what it ought to be.
We are often told very flattering things concerning the dignity and worth of man; the number and splendour of his virtues ; and the high moral elevation to which he has attained. The errors, into which we fall in forming this estimate of the human character, are, together with many others respecting our own character, the consequence of referring the conduct of ourselves, and our fellow-men, to a false standard of moral excellence. No man ever intends to rise above the standard, which he prescribes for himself. All men expect to fall below it. If the standard, then, be too low; their character will be lower still. If it be imperfect; their life will be more imperfect. If it be erroneous ; their conduct, under its influence, will err still more extensively. The true aim of every man ought to be pointed at perfection. Of perfection he will, indeed, fall short; but his life will be more excellent, than if he aimed at any inferior mark. For this reason, probably, among others, the Scriptures have directed us to make the attainment of perfection our daily, as well as ultimate, aim.
The formation of a defective standard of excellence was one of the predominant errors, and mischiefs, of the ancient philosophy. The wise man of the Stoics, Platonists, and Peripatetics, felt himself to be all that he ought to be, because he so grossly misconceived of what he ought to be. Proud ; vain; impious @ the Gods; a liar; an adulterer; and even a Sodomite ; he