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them, the mind or temper, with which he did them, may be a subject of imitation to us. It is impossible for us to do some of the works which he did, and it would be impious to attempt others. One obvious distinction may carry us through this matter, namely, that we distinguish between what Christ did as Messiah and mediator, and what he did as a partaker of the human nature.
What he did under the character of Messiah, was peculiar to himself, and not designed to put us upon doing likewise.
Some things he performed to qualify himself as man for his extraordinary work; as for instance he fasted forty days and forty nights. This was done upon an extraordinary impulse of the Holy Spirit, Matt. iv. 1, 2. when he had newly been consecrated to his high office at his baptism ; and he must necessarily have had extraordinary supports in it. Moses and Elias, two extraordinary prophets and types of him, had been enabled to do the same before him ; as we read, Exod. xxiv. 18. 1 Kings xix. 8. Now we may consider this act of Christ, as thus far instructive to us, that when we are called out to any peculiar service, fasting and prayer and retirement are very good preparations for it : but if any should pretend, as some enthusiasts have done, without a like extraordinary call, and a reasonable prospect of effectual support, to fast as long as Christ did ; it would be tempting God to the last degree, and must end in their own confusion : or to call the observation of forty days, by fasting some part of every day, or by abstaining only from some sorts of food, an imitation of Christ's fasting, which was for forty days and nights entire without refreshment; is but to ape one of his miracles, without any support from reason or scripture.
All those extraordinary works which he wrought himself, or enabled his apostles and first disciples to perform, in confirmation of his mission and gospel, must also be looked upon as things altogether above us, and which admit not of any imitation.
And the same is to be said of those things, which he did in execution of his peculiar offices. As the great prophet of the church he declared the hidden counsel of God; as the king of it, he sent out extraordinary messengers to be his apostles and ministers, he abolished the Jewish institution, and set up a new one ; and as our high-priest, he offered himself a sacrifice.
It would be blasphemy for any to pretend to copy after him in these things, which were his peculiars.
And when we find him giving severe names to the Scribes and Pharisees, and censuring the hypocrisy and false disguises, of others, who made a fair appearance, which for certain he always did most justly, because he knew perfectly what was in men; yet this will not justify us in calling men hypocrites, and fools, and blind, or in passing a damnatory sentence upon men, who appear conscientious, unless we had his knowledge of hearts, and his special and extraordinary commission. And yet, as was hinted, the mind and disposition he
expressed even in many of his most extraordinary actions, may justly be considered for our imitation in our ordinary state. A cheerful obedience to God and regard to his glory, an unwearied and vigorous application to his work, a zeal against sin and love to mankind, shone forth illustriously in his extraordinary as well as his ordinary actions, and should excite us to be like minded. It is observable to this purpose,
that the very instance given by the apostle immediately after the text, is an action most peculiar to the Lord Jesus himself
, and absolutely imitable in the same kind by us ; that when he was “ in the form of God, and thought it no robbery to be equal with God, [the Father] yet he made himself of no reputation, took upon him the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death." Here the action of Christ, which the apostle singles out for his instance, is only proposed to our faith ; but the mind and temper he shewed in that wonderful course of action is proposed to our imitation, that is, the love to mankind, the humility, the public spirit, which did so signally appear in his voluntary abasement of himself from the highest glory to accomplish the work of our salvation.
The sum of all is this. It should be our endeavour, as near as we can, to resemble the mind of Christ, as we find it described in the gospel ; to express the same mind in like instances, as far as we are in the same circumstances ; or else to shew a conformity of spirit to him, in such other instances as our condition will admit, where we cannot shew it in the
And so I come,
II. To propose some reasons, why Christians should endeavour to copy after the mind and temper of Christ. And to that end will insist upon three general considerations.
1. It was evidently the design of God to set his son before us as the model of the Christian temper.
This was one errand on which he came into the world, though not the only one, to give a living representation of those graces and virtues, which are truly pleasing to God in the human nature. He would not only set out our duty before us in his laws, but also in the more striking way of a living and a strong example. This was not so needful for us in the innocent state, while the mind was sufficiently clear to apprehend the will of God without any prepossessions against it, and the inclination regular, God's law being written in the heart. But in our fallen condition, God saw meet in his wisdom and grace, not only to grant us the light of a supernatural revelation, to revive the 10tices of our duty which were defaced, or greatly obscured by the apostacy ; but also to set a fair transcript of that in our view in the living pattern of his own Son in our nature, that we might be brought thereby at once both to learn and love our duty.
We might reasonably conclude it to be the mind of God, that we should eye the pattern of Christ, when we find the scripture directing us to imitate inferior examples, as far as they are good : to “be followers of them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises, Heb. vi. 22. To animate ourselves in our Christian race, by considering the great cloud of witnesses we have to the like course among the excellent of the earth,” Heb. xii. 1. And to remember inferior pastors, who ministerially spoke to us the word of the Lord; and to "follow their faith, considering the end of their conversation,” chap. xii. 7. Much more therefore, for certain, would he have us attend to the more excellent and instructive pattern of the great shepherd of the sheep.
The care he has taken to make us acquainted with the temper and life of Christ, is a clear evidence how high a place the imitation of him was to bear in Christianity. It ought to be considered by us to this purpose, how great a part of the New Testament the life and actions of our blessed Saviour make. No less than four evangelists were employed and inspired by the Holy Ghost, to leave an account of this for the use of the church in all ages; that by the mouth of so many witnesses,
who had companied with him, all might be established: all of them joining in some things in the same testimony; and in other matters one supplying what the other had omitted. They, who had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, as eye-witnesses, wrote these things in order, that we might know the certainty of them, Luke i. 3, 4. Now as the intention of writing any life should be principally directed to this view, to lead others to imitation as far as there is any excellency in it: so, when the Spirit of God has made so great a part of the New Testament to be a relation of the life of Christ, this is evidently his wise contrivance to draw Christians to a resemblance of him.
But this design is put out of question by the most express declarations to that
purpose. Christ himself took care to lead his disciples to consider him as their teacher, not only by his doctrine but by his practice. “If any man will come after me, he plainly tells his hearers, he must follow me,” Mat. xvi. 24. he must learn of Jesus to be meek and lowly; not only because he inculcated these graces by his doctrine ; [Matt. v. 5, 8.] but because “ he was meek and lowly himself,” Matt. xi. 29. His disciples must “ love one another, as he loved them, John xv. 12. Upon one occasion he chose to do a thing which in itself was not absolutely necessary to be done either by him or by them in the letter of it, to wash their feet; on purpose by that emblem to convey this general instruction to them, that they should tread in his steps : that is the moral he gives of it himself, John xii. 15. “ I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” And when his apostles, after his ascension, had converted people to the Christian faith, they refer them upon all occasions to the temper and actions of Christ, as a copy which they were expected by their Christianity to write after : and they make use of one passage or other in his history, as the most powerful engagement to a correspondent practice. We are declared to be “ predestinated by God to be conformed to the image of his Son,” Rom. viii. 29. Our Christian calling is reduced to this, that we should “ follow Christ's steps,” i Pet. ii. 21. ur abiding in him, in the faith and profession of Christianity, is to be proved by our walking as he also walked, 1 John ii. 6. And we are to have him in our eye, to look unto Jesus and his behaviour, in running the whole of the race set before us, Heb. xii. 2. And
certainly the design of God in giving us the benefit of such an example, claims our closest regard. Especially since,
2. He was a pattern admirably fit to be proposed to our imitation : and that upon the following accounts.
(1.) He was an example in our own nature. We are called to be followers of God; and the new nature is, as hath been shewn, in many respects a godlike nature. But in several particulars of human excellence, God cannot be a proper pattern. The difference between God and the creature, between the relation on his part and on ours, will not allow him to be an example in any of the duties of creatures as such. An independent Being, as the blessed God necessarily is, cannot go before us in fear and reverence, in trust and confidence in another, in subjection and obedience to the authority and law of a superior. His perfect blessedness in himself makes it impossible, that we should have in him a pattern of the temper and behaviour proper for us under afflictions, because he is out of the reach of any. His majesty cannot stoop so low, as to teach us by his own practice our social duties to fellow-creatures, because they are all his subjects, and not his equals.
And if the Son of God had appeared only in the glory of his divinity, he could not have been our example in these things : but since he is become partaker of flesh and blood his example is properly human, accommodate to our condition, fit to shew us how men ought to act.
Upon this account his pattern is more suitable, than an angelical one could have been. The scripture sometimes calls us to imitate the angels, in the purity of their natures, and their vigour and cheerfulness in the service of God: but they are not so apt to affect and influence us, as a pattern in our own nature. Christ had what they have not, like natural affections and passions with us by occasion of an earthly body; he was subject to hunger and thirst, as well as we; capable of weariness and pain, of joy and sorrow, of love and compassion, and anger; and therefore was the more proper to teach us how to govern our appetites and regulate our passions. He was the fitter to be an example to men, as well as a sacrifice for them, in that “ he took not on him the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham,” Heb. ii. 16.
2. His circumstances and conduct in our nature adapted