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A Cafuiftical Discourse
1 PET. ii. 21. Leaving us an Example, that ye floould fol
low his Steps.
Y Argument here is the Imitation of Christ, or the following Christ's Example.
And in treating of it, I proposed to do these Three Things.
First of all in general, To shew the
great Obligation that lies upon all Chriftians to follow Christ's Exam,
Secondly, To explain the Extent of this Obligation ; How far, and in what
Instances Christ's Life is an Example to us, and doth oblige us to Imitation.
Thirdly, To propose some of those
Virtues that our Saviour was most eminent for, and which are of the greatest Use in human Life, and seriously to recommend them to your Imitation.
The First of these Points I have already dispatched, and shall not now trouble you with a Repetition of any thing about it.
I proceed therefore to the Second, which is to give an Account how far, and in what Instances Christ's Life is an Example to us, and doth oblige us to Imitation.
And here the Case that comes to be difcussed, is this. Are we Christians, so to propose the Life of Christ as the Pattern and Model of ours, as to take ourselves to be obliged to do every Thing that our Saviour did, and in the fame Manner that he did it? or, if we be not bound precisely to do this, What Rules and Measures are we to take in this Matter ?
It is a very weighty Case, and deserves to be very carefully considered, because indeed, upon the well adjusting of it does depend the Resolution of a great many particular Cases of Conscience, which daily
happen in human Life, and which, if Men have not right Notions of this general Point, do frequently bring both Inconveniencies upon themselves, and Harm to the Publick.
Now what I have to offer for the Resolution of this case, I shall, for my more distinct Proceeding, comprize in fix Particulars. And the First of them is this:
I. Our Saviour cannot be supposed to have given us an Example in all the Parlages of his Life, because in some of them it is not possible for us to imitate him. Several of our Saviour's Actions were wholly extraordinary, and the immediate Effects of à fupernatural divine Power. Such were all the Miracles and wonderful Works he wrought for the Confirmation of his Doctrine, and giving Testimony to the World that he was a Prophet sent from God; as his curing all Diseases, cafting out Deờils, opening the Eyes of the Blind, making the Lame to walk, and the Dumb to speak, feeding many Thousands with a very Imali Quantity of Meat, raising the Dead to Life, fasting forty Days and forty Nights, with many more Instances of the like Nature. Now in these Things, I say, we cannot pretend that Jesus Christ was an Example to us, because they are above the Powers of human Nature to perform.
Some of the Quakers indeed heretofore have been so extravagantly vain, as to think they could do these Things by the Power of the Divine Spirit that was in them. And accordingly, as I have read, some of them have attempted to raise a dead Man out of his Grave; and others, to fast forty Days, as our Saviour did. But their shameful Disappointment in the first Enterprize, and their losing their Lives in the second, hath been a Demonstration that it was not the Spirit of God (as they pretended) that they were acted by, but the Spirit of Error and Delusion.
II. But fècondly, neither was our Saviour an Example to us in all those Actions of his Life in which we are capable of imi. tating him. He did several Things which it is not warrantable for us to do; and he did likewise several Things which, tho' we can be supposed to do them lawfully, yet we are not obliged to do them: Nay, oftentimes it would be highly inconvenient if we should. This is
This is my second Proposition ; and the Reason of it is this: Our Saviour was not in the same Circumstances that we are in this world. He had a particular Office committed to him by his Father, for the Discharge of which many Things were necessary, and many other Things highly convenient to be done by him, which would
by no means be allowable in us: and such of them as would be allowable, yet would
indiscreet. As for Instance; Our Saviour, as being a Prophet sent from God, was vested with an Authority to reform Religion, and the Abuse of God's Worship among the Jews; and by Virtue of that Commission and Authority, we see he drove the Buyers and Sellers out of the Temple, and overthrew the Tables of the Money Changers, and the Seats of them that fold Doyes. These being great Profanations of the Temple, which was design'd, as our Saviour tells them, to be a House of Prayer, and not a Place of Merchandize. But now for any of us to do such an Action, who are private Persons, and have no Commission from God, nor Warrant from publick Authority, tho' the Cause of Religion was never so much concerned, would be a Thing highly reproveable. I mention this the rather, because this Fact of our Saviour's hath sometimes been pleaded for the countenancing of all outrageous, tumultuous, leditious Actions, that bold and mistaken Zeal could prompt a Man to.. Men have thought, that by this Precedent they were warranted to affront the Ministers of Religion, even when they were doing their Office, to disturb the publick Service, to tear the Liturgy, to deface Church Windows and Monuments, to de