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draw one line, or letter exact as his copy is, yet his eye is still upon it, he is looking unto Jesus, Heb. xii. 2. and labouring to draw all the lines of his lise, as agreeably as he is able, unto Christ his pattern.
Hence the observation is,
Doct. That every man is bound to the imitation of Christ, wir der -penalty of forseiting his claim to Christ.
The saints imitation of Christ is solemnly enjoined by many great and express commands of the gospel; so you find it, 1 Per, i, 15. " But as he that hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in "ail manner of conversation:" So Eph. v. 1,2. " Be ye there"fore followers of God as dear children, and walk in love, as *' Christ also hath loved us." "Christians (faith * Bernard) "receive this name from Christ; and it is very meet that as "they inherit his name, so they should also imitate his holi"ness." Now to state the method of this discourse, it will be needful to discuss, and open three things in the doctrinal part.
1. What the saints imitation of Christ supposes, and com.T prizes.
2. In what particulars they are especially bound to imitate Christ.
3. Why no claim to Christ is valid without this imitation of him.
And then apply the whole in divers uses.
(1.) First, What the saints imitation of Christ fupposeth and compriseth. Now there are divers great, and weighty truths supposed and implied in this imitation of Christ; or walking as he walked, viz.
First, It supposes, that no Christian, is, or may pretend to be a rule to himself, to act accordiog to the dictates of his own will and pleasure, for as no man hath wisdom enough to direct and govern himself; so if his own will were made the rule of his own actions, it would be the highetr. invasion of the divine pierogative that could be imagined: *' I know, O Lord, (faith Je"remy) that the way of man is not in himself, it is not in htm "that walketh to direct his own steps," Jer. x. 23. We may as well pretend to be our own makers as our own guides. It is a pretty observation of Aquinas, that if the workman's hand were the rule of his work, it were impossible he should ever err in working: And if the will of man were the only law and guide
* Christian! a Christo nomen acceperunt, et opent pr-etium est, ytsicut funt kxredtj norrilnh, itastnt imitaHres santtitatis. Bern..' sent. Jib. p. 436. .'
of his way, we might then fay no man would sin in his walking. The apostle indeed, faith of the Heathens, Rom. ii. 14. "That "they are a law to themselves;" but it is not his meaning, that their will is their law, but the law of God engraven upon their hearts; the light and dictates of their own consciences, did oblige, and bind them as a law.
Secondly, This imitation of Christ implies, that as no man is, or may pretend to be his own guide, so no mere man, how wise, or holy soever he be, may pretend to be a rule to other men ; but Christ is the rule of every man's way, and walking. It is true, indeed, the apostle faith," We should be followers of them, who "through faith, and patience, inherit the promises," Heb. vi. 12. And, again, James v. 10. " Take, my brethren, the prophets, "who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of "suffering affliction, and of patience." But you must always remember, that there is a two-fold rule; . 1. Regula, regulans, the rule ruling.
1. Regula regulata, the rule ruled.
The wisest, and holiest among men, may pretend no higher than a ruled rule. The great apostle, though filled with as great a measure of the Spirit of wisdom, and holiness, as ever was pofsessed by any mere man; yet goes no higher than this, 1 Cor. xi. 1. "Be ye followers of me, as I, also, am of Christ." The best of men are but men, at best; they have their errors, aud desects, which they freely acknowledge; and where they differ from Christ, it is our duty to differ from them: We may pot pin our faith upon any man's sleeve, for we know not where he will carry it. It was the commendation which Paul gave of the Thessalonians, 1 Thef. i. 6. "And ye became fol"lowers of us and of the Lord." The noble Bereans were also commended for searching the scriptures, and examining the apostles doctrine by it; and it was a good reply of the father to a clamorous disputant, crying, Hear me, hear me; "* I will nei"ther hear thee, nor do thou hear me; but let us both hear f Christ."
Thirdly, The imitation of Christ implies the necessity of sanctification, in all his followers; forasmuch as it is impoilile there should be a practical conformity, in point of obedience, where there is not a conformity in spirit, and in principle; all external conformity to Christ's practice, depends upon an internal conformity to Christ, in the principle, and Spirit of holiness. It is very plain, from Ezek. xi. Io, 20. that a new heart must be giv
j Ntc ego te, nee tu me, fed amlo audiamus CLriJlum. Aug.
en us, and a new Spirit put iuto us, before we can walk in God'* statutes) we must first live in the Spirit, before we can walk in the Spirit, Gal. v. 25.
Fourthly, The imitation of Christ plainly holds forth this, that christian religion is a very precise, and strict religion; na way countenancing licentiousness, or indulging men in their lusts; it allows no man to walk loosely, and inordinately; but rejects every man's claim to Christ, who studies and labours not to tread exactly in the foot-steps of his holy, and heavenly example. Prophaneneis, and licentiousness, therefore, can find no shelter, or protection under the wing of the gospel; this is the universal rule, laid upon all the prosessors of the christian re'igfon; "Let eveiy one that nameth the name of Christ, de** part from iniquity," 2 Tim. ii. To, (i. e.) let him either put on the lise of Christ, or put off the name of Christ; let him fhew the hand of a Christian, in works of holiness, and obedience, or else the tongue, and language of z Christian, must gain no belief, or credit.
Fifthly, The imitation of Christ necessarily implies the desectiveneft, and impersection of the best of men in this lise; for if the Use of Christ be our pattern, the best, and holiest of men must consess they come short in every thing, of the rule of their duty. Our pattern is still above us, the best of men are ashamed, when they compare their lives with the lise of Christ: It is true, a vain heart may swell with pride, when a man compares himself with other men; thus measuring ourselves by ourselves, and comparing ourselves among ourselves, we shew our folly, and nourish our pride; but if any man will compare his own lise with Christ's, he will find abundant cause, at every time, and in every thing, to be humbled. Paul was a great proficient in holiness, anj obedience; he had been long striving to come up to the top of holiness: yet when he looks up, and sees the lise of Christ, and rule of duty, so sar above him, he reckons himself still but at the foot of the hill. Phil, iii. 12. "Not as though I had already attained, either were al"ready persect, but I follow after, if that 1 may apprehend, "that for which, also, I am apprehended of Christ Jesus." q.d. Alas! I am not come up to my duty; lama great way behind: but I am following after, if at last I may attain it: Perfection is in my expectation, and hope, at last, not in my attainment here.
Sixthly, The imitation of Christ, as our general rule, and pai tern, necessarily implies the transcending holiness of th6 Lord Jesus; his holiness is greater than the holiness of all creatutei, "For only that which is first, and best, in every kind, is the *' rBle, and measure, of all the rest *." It is the height of saint's ambition, to be made conformable to Christ, Phil. iii. 10. Christ hath a double persection, a persection of being, and a persection of working: His lise was a persect rule; no blot or error could be found therein; for he was " holy, harmless, un"defiled, separate from sinners:" And seen an high-priest, became us, as the apoflle speaks, Heb. vii. 26. The conformity of prosessors to Christ's example, is the test, and measure of all their graces; the nearer any man comes to this pattern, the nearer he approaches towards persection.
Seventhly, The Christian's imitation of Christ, under penalty of losing his claim to Christ, necessarily implies sanctificati' on, and obedience, to be the evidences of our justification, and interest in Christ: Assurance is unattainable, without obedience; we can never be comfortable Christians, except we be strict, and regular Christians. Gal. vi. 16. "As many as walk "according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy; and up"on the Israel of God." A loose, and careless conversation, can never be productive of true peace, and consolation. 2 Cor. i. 12. "This is our rejoicing, the testimony of our conscience; "that in simplicity, and godly sincerity; not with fleshly wis"dom, but by the grace of God; we have had our conversation ** in the world." Let men talk what they will, of the immediate sealings, and comforts of the Spirit, without any regard to holiness, or respect to obedience: Sure I am, whatever delusion they meet with in that way, true peace, and consolation, is only to be expected, and found here: "The fruit of righteousness "fhall be peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness, and "assurance for ever." We have it notfor our holiness, but we always have it in the way of holiness. And so much of the first particular, namely, what the imitation of Christ implies and comprizes in it.
Secondly, In the next place, we are to enquire, in what things all, who prosess Christ, are obliged to~the imitation of him; or what those excellent graces, in the lise of Christ, were, which are propounded as patterns to the saints.
The lise of Christ was a living law; all the graces, and virtaes of the Spirit, were represented in their glory, and brightest lustre in his conversation upon earth f: Never Man spake,
* Primum et optimum in unoquoquegenere est regula et mensura cwterorum,
f What have you to do with virtues, who are ignorant of Christ's
vutue? as he (pake; never any lived, as he lived. "We beheld his "glory (faith the evangelist) as the glory of the only begotten *' of the Father, full of grace, and truth," John i. 14. But to descend to the particular, iinitable excellencies, in the lise of Christ, which are high patterns, and excellent rules, for the conversation of his people; we shall, from among many others, single out the tea following particulars, which we are obliged to imitate.
Pattern 1. And first of all, the purity, and holiness of the lise of Christ, is proposed as a glorious pattern for the (aim's imitation. 1 Pet. i. 15. " As he which hath called you is holy, "so be ye holy in all manner of conversation ;" a St*'ti asa^fctpn, ia every point, and turning of your lives. There is a two-fold holiness in Christ, the holiness of his nature, and the holiness of his practice; his holy being, and his holy working: This obligeth all that prosess interest in him, to a two-fold holiness, viz. holiness in atlu primo, in the principles of it, in their hearts; and holiness in atlu secundo, in the practice, and exercise of it, in their conversations. It is Very true, we cannot, in all respects, imitate the holiness of Christ, for he is essentially holy; proceeding;, by nature, as a pure beam of holiness from the Father: and when he was incarnate, he came into the world immaculate, and pure from the least stain of pollution: There it was said, Luke i. 25. " Thac holy thing which shall be bora "of.thee shall be called the Son of God." In this we caa never be like Christ, in the way of our production; for " who "can bring a clean thing out of that which is unclean ? Not one." The Lord Jesus was, also, efficiently holy, si. e.) he makes others holy; therefore his sufserings, and blood, are called a fountain opened "for fin and for uncleanness, (i. e.) to cleanse other men's souls, Zech. xiii. 1. In this Christ, also, is inimitable; no man can make himself, or others, holy. That is a great truth, though it will hardly go down with proud nature, Minus e(i te fecijse hominem, quam santlum; we may sooner make outselves to be men, than to be saints. Beside, Christ is infinitely holy, as he is Cod; and there are no measures set to his holiness, as Mediator. John iii. 34. "For God.giveth not "the Spirit by measure unto him." But, notwithstanding these excepted respects, the holiness of Christ is propounded as a pattern, for our imitation, six ways.
virtue? Where, pray you, is true prudence, but in Christ's doctrine? Or true temperance, but in Christ's Use? Or true fortitude, but in Chrin's paffion?