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tions, which make the Government of our Thoughts to be à necessary Duty in us : He has told us, My Thoughts are not as your. Thoughts:: And where is no Şimilitude in the Cases, no Example can be drawn from the one to the other. So that in this, and in many other Instances which might be given, we have a Duty incumbent on us, towards the due Performance of which we can draw no Example from the divine Perfections. Since then the Exhortation to imitate the divine Perfections cannot reach to all Parts of our Duty, I see no Reason why it should be extended to any upon the Authority of our Saviour, to which he himself has not extended it; and as the Use of it is peculiarly reserved in Holy Writ to the Case of Mercy and Forgiveness, it ought by no means to be drawn into a general Precept, to the perplexing as well the Understandings, as the Consciences of the Weak. St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Ephesians, exhorts them to be Followers of God, as dear Children : But then it is with regard to this very Case; for he had said immediately before, Chap. iv. 32. Be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's Sake hath forgiven you; and, with reference to
this Duty, he adds, ver. Ift of the next Chapter, Be ye therefore Filowers of God, as dear Children; to which he subjoins, And walk in Love, as Christ also bath loved us, giving himself for us, ver. 2. So that his Exhortation to follow God stands inclosed on both Sides with the Precepts of Love and Charity, as if he intended to secure it from being applied to any thing else. And if our Saviour meant any thing more in the Text, if he had a View to any other Duties or Commands than that of Love and Mercy only, when he placed before us the Example of our heavenly Father, St. Luke, I am sure, has done him great Injury in reporting his Doctrine. He, in the sixth Chapter of his Gospel, gives us the Sermon on the Mount; when he comes to the Topick of Love and Forgiveness, he introduces the Example of God, who is kind to the Unthankful, and to the Evil. He concludes also with an Exhortation referring to the Example, as St. Matthew does : But instead of the general Phrase used by St. Matthew, Be ye perfeet, as your Father is perfe&t; St. Luke has it only, Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. The two Evangelists are giving an Account of the fame Sermon, and of the
fame XIII. 315 fame Passage; and if they are consistent, St. Matthew's, Be ye perfect, as God is perfeft, can relate only to that particular Perfection of Mercy and Forgiveness, which our Saviour had been recommending, and is of no greater Extent than St. Luke's, Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. The Holy Writers often require of us that we thould be perfect and blameless; that is, as St. Paul expresses it in the fourth of the Coloffians; and twelfth Verse, that we should stand perfeet and complete in all the. Will of God: But it is one thing to be perfect in all the Will of God, and another to be perfect even as he is perfect. The Will of God, however manifested to us, is the proper Rule of the Perfection we ought to aim at; but the transcendent Perfections of the Deity are to be reverenced and adored, but never attained to by any Creature. · It is true, that as the moral Perfections of the Deity afford us the truest Image of Holiness and Purity, so are they the best Patterns to place before our Eyes for the Conduct of our own Lives. It is praise-worthy to imi, tate a Perfection as far as we are able, though we can never hope to come up to the great Original: And though there is no
room to exhort. Men to be perfect as God is perfect, yet it is reasonable to press them to imitate their heavenly Father. For neither hę who advises the Imitation, nor he who attempts it, go upon the Supposition, that it is either necessary or poflible to be as perfect as he; But this they both agree in, that the nearer any one can come to the Pattern, the more perfect he will be ; and therefore the Imitation of God has not for its End the attaining to the Perfections of God, but the attaining to the greatest Perfection we are capable of. In this Senfe St. Peter exhorts us to be holy, because God is holy: For as be, says the Apostle, which bath called you is boly, fo be ye boly in all manner of Conversation, 1 Pet. i. 15. And St. John in his first Epistle, Chap. iii. 3. to the same Purpose: Every Man that hath this Hope in him, purifieth him· self even as he is pure. The Notion we have of the Purity and Holiness of God is a very powerful Motive to us to be holy and pure, since nothing but Holiness and Purity can recommend us to the Favour and Protection of a Being, who is holy and pure. A Conformity therefore to the divine Nature in the moral Perfections of it, is the utmost Excellence and Happiness of human Souls, and
that which we ought to labour to atttain with the greatest Ardor and Contention of Mind. It is a noble Subject for the Entertainment of our Thoughts; but it has had the Misfortune to owe more to the Power of Imagination than to the Light of Reason; and has had so great a Place allowed it in fome enthusiastical Writers, as to be less cultivated than it deserves by soberer inquirers. And yet this Conformity to the Divine Nature was a Lefson taught by some few wise Heathens, who found, by the Light of Reason and Nature, wherein the true Dignity and Happiness of Man consisted : For the Imitation of God is not a new Principle introduced into Religion by the Revelation of the Gospel, but has its Foundation in the Reason and Nature of Things.
And this was the Second Thing I proposed to consider.
That we should endeavour to be perfect, even as God is perfect, in the strict Meaning of the Words, is no more the Direction of Reason than it is of Revelation: He knows but little of himself, and less of God, who is capable of such a Thought. But that we should aim at the Resemblance of the divine Perfections, as far as our present State will