صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

to all men. So he declares himself as to some considerable passages of his life; and thence, by reasonable inference, we may suppose the same of the rest, so far as they might be conducible to the same end; especially, since of some acts no other, or no so probable an account can be given, as that they were done for example sake: this subject enlarged on.

Thirdly, our Saviour's example is especially influential, in that it was, by an admirable temperament, more accommodated for imitation than any others have been; that the perfect copy of his most holy life seems more easy to be transcribed, than the ruder draughts of holy men : this subject dilated on. So suited and tempered by divine wisdom was his life, that all sorts of men might be in an equal capacity to follow him; all might be enamoured with the homely majesty and plain beauty thereof.

Fourthly, the transcendent excellency of our Lord's example appears, in that it is attended with the greatest obligations of gratitude, justice, interest, and duty, engaging us to follow it: it is that of our best friend, who for our sakes voluntarily sustained most bitter pains, and sacrificed his life to redeem us from the extreme of misery. Here are inducements for us to love him, who so loved us; and what a man loves, that he imitates, as much as lies in his power.

These considerations may suffice to show the peculiar excellency of our Saviour's example in virtue, and efficacy on our practice : the same might more abundantly be deduced from a survey of the most considerable particulars, in which we may and ought to imitate him : but time will not permit it. Concluding exhortations.

SERMON XXXV.

ABIDING IN CHRIST TO BE DEMONSTRATED

BY WALKING AS CHRIST DID.

I JOHN, CHAP. II.-VERSE 6.

He that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also so to walk as

he walked.

To abide in Christ, to be in Christ, to put on Christ; and reciprocally Christ's being in us, living, dwelling, being formed in us; and the like expressions occurring in holy Scripture, do not denote any physical inherence, or essential conjunction between Christ and us, (such as those who affect unintelligible mysteries, rather than plain sense, would conceit,) but only that mutual relation accruing from our profession of being Christ's disciples, our being inserted into his body the church, being governed by his laws, partaking of his grace, with all the privileges of the gospel, relying on his promises, and hoping for eternal salvation from him. By virtue of which relation, we may be said, in a mystical or moral manner, to be united to him, deriving strength and sustenance from him, the members from the head, the branches from the tree, the other parts of the building from the foundation ; by which similitudes this mysterious union is usually expressed in Scripture : in effect, briefly, to be in, or to abide in Christ, implieth no more, but our being truly in faith and practice Christians; so that the meaning of St. John's words seemeth plainly and simply to be this: Whoever pretends to be a Christian, (that is, to believe the doctrine and embrace the discipline of Christ,) ought

as

to walk (that is, is obliged to order the whole course of bis life and actions) as Christ walked, (that is, as Christ did live and converse in the world :) .or, it is the duty of every one professing Christianity to conform his life to the pattern of Christ's life, to follow his example, to imitate his practice. This is the importance of the words, this the subject of our present discourse.

I. For illustration and confirmation of which point, we may observe that the holy apostles do on all occasions assume this supposition, when they would persuade their disciples to the practice of any virtue, or performance of any duty; enforcing their exhortations, by representing the practice of Christ as an unquestionable ground of obligation, and an effectual inducement thereto. Hence they incite them to holiness : · But,' saith St. Peter, ‘ as he that hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation :' to charity; · And walk jo love,' saith St. Paul, as Christ also loved us :' to patience; • Because,' saith St. Peter, ' Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow his steps.' And, 'Let us,' saith the Apostle to the Hebrews, 'run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross: to humility: Let,' saith St. Paul, the same mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation :' to charitable compliance, and inoffensive demeanor toward others, intimated by St. Paul, when he says, “Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they might be saved:' • Be ye followers of me, as I am of Christ:' and again, · Let every one please his neighbor for bis good to edification ; for even Christ pleased not himself.' Thus do the apostles take all occasion, from the like practice of Christ, to persuade the performance of duty; and the strength of their argument lieth on the evidence of this supposition, that all professing themselves Christians are especially obliged to imitate Christ's example. And their authority may be backed and enforced by several reasons.

II. Doing so hath a reasonableness and decency grounded on

Lord;

our relations to Christ: it is fit and comely that the manners of the disciple should be regulated by those of his master ; that the servant should not, in his garb and demeanor, dissent or vary from his lord ; that the subject should conform his humor to the fashion of his prince; especially that we should thus comply and conform to such a Master, such a Lord, such a Prince, whom (on highest considerations) by a most voluntary choice, and in a most solemn manner, we have absolutely devoted ourselves unto; this reason our Lord doth himself urge: ‘Ye,' saith he to his disciples, *call me Master, and and ye say well, for so I am : if I then,

your

Lord and Master, bave washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet.'

III. Following Christ's example is requisite to demonstrate the sincerity of our faith, love, and reverence to him. It is the most natural way of testifying affection and respect, to imitate the manners of those persons, who are the objects of those acts and dispositions, to esteem what they approve, to delight in what they affect, and consequently (since actions do proceed from affections) to do as they do. Contrary actions are plain arguments of contrary judgments, inclinations, and affections. Who can imagine we sincerely believe in Christ, or heartily love him, or truly honor him, that seeth us to loathe what he liked, or affect what he detested; to contemn what he prized, or value what he despised ; to neglect what he pursued, or embrace what he avoided ? But if our lives resemble his, any man will thence collect our respect and affection to him : this argument our Saviour doth also intimate : * By this,' saith he, shall all men know ye are my disciples, if ye love one another:' that is, it will be an evident sign and strong argument, that ye really do believe in, love, and honor me, if ye imitate me in my charity.

IV. By pretending to be Christians we acknowlege the transcendent goodness, worth, and excellency of our Saviour ; that he was incomparably better and wiser than any person ever was, or could be; that he always acted with the highest reason, out of the most excellent disposition of mind, in order to the best purposes; and that his practice therefore reasonably should be the rule and pattern of ours. For the best and

[ocr errors]

exactest in every kind is the measure of the rest. All that would obtain exquisite skill in any art or faculty, think best to imitate the works of the best masters therein : a painter, to draw after the pieces of Zeuxis or A pelles, of Raphael or Titian; an orator, to speak in the style of Cicero or Demosthenes; a soldier, to emulate the military achievements of Hannibal or Cæsar : in like manner, reason requireth, if we would live well and happily, that we should endeavor to conform our practice to that of our Saviour, the most perfect mirror of all virtue and goodness.

V. The practice of our Saviour did throughly agree with his doctrine and law; he required nothing of us, which he did not eminently perform himself. He fulfilled in deed, as well as taught in word, all righteousness. He was not ignava opera, philosopha sententia ; like those masters of philosophy, so frequently taxed and derided by the satirists; who, by a horrid garb, supercilious looks, and loud declamations, would seem to discountenance those vices which themselves practised; nor like those hypocritical lawyers in the gospel, who laded other men with heavy burdens, such as themselves would not touch with one of their fingers : no, he imposed nothing on us, which he did not first bear on his own shoulders : the strictness of his life did, in all respects, correspond with the severity of his precepts, or rather did indeed much exceed them. They therefore who pretend to believe his doctrine, and avow themselves bound to observe his law, are consequently engaged to follow his practice, in which bis doctrine and law are signally exemplified.

VI. It being the design of divine goodness, in sending our Saviour, to render us good and happy, to deliver us from sin and misery, to instruct us in the knowlege and excite us to the practice of all virtue, and thereby to qualify us for the enjoyment of a blessed immortality; effecting all this in a way agreeable to our natural condition and capacity; there could not be devised any more powerful means, or more convenient method, of accomplishing those excellent purposes, than by propounding such an example, and obliging us to comply therewith : the which may appear, 1. by considering in general the advantage and efficacy that good example is apt to have

« السابقةمتابعة »