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though we are daily offending God by our transgressions, yet “ he is still waiting to be gracious, not willing that we shonld perish, but come to repentance.” And shall we not turn to him from whom we have revolted, and say unto him, if other gods have had dominion over us; henceforth we will love thee with all our heart, and soul, and cleave unto thee with full purpose of heart; and endeavour after new obedience.
2. Let us examine, whether we regard God as the supreme object which should engage our affection. Is he not more worthy of our estimation, than the enjoyments of the world; or our fellow-creatures on whom our hearts are set ? Have we not received every thing we enjoy from his bounty; and is he not able to bestow upon us still more abundant mercies? Is he not, therefore, entitled to the first place in our affections, and shall we not pay him that homage which is his due, by loving him more than any other being with whom we are connected?
3. Consider, that the love of God would have such an influence on our minds, as to banish all pursuit of objects incompetent to produce our happiness. When the divine favour in this world, and everlasting bliss in the world to come are proposed to our acceptance, shall we spurn them as beneath our regard ? Nay, shall we not rather esteem them as the only desirable enjoyments which we can possess; which will remain as our never failing portion, when the world, and the things of the world shall have passed away?
4. Let us recollect that the love of God, like every other principle, can only be cherished and matured in the soul by the use of those means which may be effectual for inspiring it. Let us be persuaded, that our understanding must be enlightened in religious knowledge, our wills disposed to obey God's commandments, and our affections set on things above; if we would improve in this heavenly grace. To conclude, if we would secure the blessing of God both here and hereafter, let us continue to love him with our whole heart; then shall we experience the truth of that sacred promise : " I love them that love me; and they that seek me early shall find me.”
ON THE IMITATION OF CHRIST.
1 PETER II. 21. Leaving us an example, that ye should follow
IT is an observation no less true than it is common, that example is better than precept. For, the very best rules may be given for directing human actions, which have little or no influence ; either because they are in a great measure impracticable, or because they have not been exemplified in the lives of those who delivered them. Such was the case among the sages of antiquity, who, indeed, conveyed many useful lessons to their disciples ; but failed in the application of their instructions, since their practice did not correspond with their professions. Such also has been the fate of all human teachers of morality, in every age of the world. No one was found, who could live with that degree of rectitude, which his precepts inculcated; but some infirmity sullied the lustre of the most perfect character, which ever appeared among mankind.–And it is nothing wonderful, that it should be so; since human nature is now in a degraded and degenerate condition; incapable of arriving at that height of virtue, which reason and conscience dictate to be our duty. Though our understanding is still persuaded of the manifold obligations incumbent upon us, yet our wills, alas ! are averse to act according to the decisions of the
judgment; and “ we have within us à carnal mind, which is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Hence it is, that none among the sons of men are free from imperfections, none who doeth good and sinneth not, none righteous, no, not one. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God; so that a perfect example of virtue is not to be met with among the human race.
But, while we look in vain, for a model of excellence among mere human characters; we Christians are furnished with an unerring standard of duty, in the life and actions of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath left us an example, that we should follow his steps. Such a pattern is highly useful to instruct us in the manner which we may successfully adopt, in living such lives as becometh saints. For, when we see the graces and virtues which we are required to practise, delineated in the character of our Redeemer; when we see him executing himself what he recommends to others; and regulating both his public and private conduct, according to the strictest rules of propriety; we are enabled to discover in what mamper we also should act, if we would imitate his conduct. We are then convinced, that the precepts of the gospel are practicable ; since we observe one in our own nature, adhering to them without wavering, through good report, and through bad report, till he had finished the work which was given him to do. We are emboldened to hold fast the profession of our faith, and continue stedfast and immoveable, in the practice of our duty ; since we know, “ that in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."—We are moreover taught to consider the necessity of resembling our Saviour, by lives of piety and holiness on earth, if we would be glorified together with him in heaven. As the example of Christ is a perfect model, for directing the conduct of us his disciples; and since it is proposed as such in the words of the text: it may be a useful exercise to investigate more particularly in detail, the several particulars implied in the proposition before us.
Jn farther treating of this subject, it is therefore intended to shew, in the following discourse,
I. That our Lord hath left us a perfect example, which may be followed with safety.
II. That he hath left us a universal example of every virtue, for the imitation of his disciples.
III. The obligations which lie upon us to follow this example.
And then conclude the subject.
1. The life of our Lord was a perfect example of excellence, and may therefore be followed with unerring safety. Never did any teacher before him appear, who was not liable to error in judgment, and defect in practice. But his understanding was infinite, and capable of comprehending all truth, necessary to be revealed, for the instruction of mankind. He was in the bosom of the Father from eternity, and intimately acquainted with the counsels of heaven; therefore, whatever he declares, may be relied on as infallible. As he was unerring in wisdom, so was he no less perfect in holiness and goodness. Being possessed of a divine nature, he was thereby enabled to act with undeviating rectitude, and to perform every obligation incumbent on an intelligent being. “He was God manifested in the flesh;" and therefore inherited all the excellencies, which constitute the character of a divine person. As such, he was free from all the imperfections which necessarily attach to finite and created beings ; " he was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." As such, he was more perfect than an angel from heaven could have been ; for these exalted beings, though superior to man in wisdom and dignity, are still charged by their immaculate Creator with folly. But our Lord Jesus Christ “ did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth;" for it was necessary that he, who was the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person, should be altogether “without spot and blemish.”—Accordingly, in order that he might possess the exact lineaments of a godlike nature, the Holy Ghost was employed to communicate the properties which belong to the Supreme Divinity, and therefore he was called the son of God. He was thereby
qualified to exhibit, in the form of humanity, such an example of rectitude, as God himself manifests in the celestial regions, to the imitation of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect. And, if we examine the life and character of our blessed Lord, we shall find that it was completely perfect, in every respect; and that he performed every duty requisite in the several relations in which he was placed.
Thus, in his early years, he was subject to his parents; and rendered that dutiful obedience, which filial piety imposes on those who are under the controul of parental discipline. Herein, he hath furnished an example to children, worthy of universal imitation. For, though he was far superior to his parents in intellectual capacities, and knew better than they, every obligation suitable to his station in life; yet we do not find, that he resisted their authority; but when, at the age of twelve years, he discovered consummate wisdom, which astonished the most learned rabbies; yet at the command of his mother, he returned again to domestic privacy, and submitted to live in the humblest manner. How ought such an instance of condescension to stimulate those who reside under their father's roof, “ to be obedient in all things to their parents, according to the flesh;” not presuming to set up their judgments, in opposition to the wiser and better counsels, dictated by parental solicitude? Let children consider, that when their Divine Master dwelt on earth, full of grace and truth, he was submissive to the natural "guardians of his infant years; and therefore much inore ought they, who cannot lay claim to such a share of wisdom, to be directed by their parents in all things, as this is well pleasing in the sight of God.
Another instance, by which our Lord fulfilled the part assigned him in his human condition, was in carning his subsistence, by pursuing a lawful occupation; till the time
when he began bia: