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"inestimable gift" so thankfully, nor embraced it so cordially, as it deserves. Nay, there are seasons when the believer is ready to quit his grasp, and seems to feel no gratitude for the gospel-proposal. If any thing like this ever occurs in our experience, surely it is "needful "to pray" that we may always most " thank"fully receive the inestimable benefit," without being for a moment insensible of its value, or indifferent to its possession.
We proceed to implore " grace that we may "daily endeavour ourselves to follow the blessed "steps of His most holy life." This refers to the secondary end of the gift of Christ, as stated in the introductory part of our collect. He was given not only " to be a sacrifice for sin," but also "to be an ensample of Godly life." And all who " thankfully receive the inestimable "benefit" as " a sacrifice for sin," are anxious "themselves to follow the blessed steps of Hig "most holy life." The end of Divine mercy is not answered with respect to us, unless our faith in Christ be productive of a constant imitation of Him.
"The steps of Christ's most holy life" are "blessed" steps indeed; since wherever He trod, He left a blessing behind Him. "He went "about doing good." To Him the words of otir great Poet may be applied with still stricter propriety than to her of whom he wrote them:
Grace was in all His steps, heav'n in His eye,
Now wherever we see the print of our Lord's foot, there it is our privilege and duty to place our own. His "ensample of Godly.life" is admirably suited for our direction. It is an epitome of morality and Godliness. In prosperity and adversity—in temptation and desertion —in our intercourse with God, and in our intercourse with men—in every age, rank, and. station—His blessed example affords a perfect model of what we should study both to be and to do. Did we, possessing a competent knowledge of the evangelic story, and earnestly looking up to God the Holy Ghost for direction, ask ourselves, "How would our great Exemplar act "in our circumstances?" we should never be at a loss for a clew whereby to guide our steps aright. But we often dread the inquiry, and therefore neglect to make it.
We pray for grace "that we may endeavour "to follow the blessed steps of our Lord's most "holy life." An exact imitation is unattainable. But an endeavour to follow Him is essential to the character of a disciple. It is the criterion of grace received, for it can proceed only from Divine grace, and is always the consequence of its influence.
Our prayer supposes in those that use it, both earnest desire and strenuous exertion, things which are inseparable. If we are sincere in this request, we keep the pattern which Christ hath set us before our eyes, as a scholar does the copy which his master has written; and while we labour to transcribe it in our own conduct, conscious of inability we implore a larger measure of grace that our imitation may continually become more and more exact.
To imitate Christ is a Christian's ** daily" work. '* He that saith, he abideth in Him, "ought himself also to walk even as He walked." Every day, and hour, and moment, affords
VOL. II. U
opportunities for an imitation of our pattern. The eye is not to be withdrawn from the copy for a moment, nor the work of imitation intermitted, till the transcript is complete; and that will not be till, following " the blessed steps of "His most holy life," we have followed Him through the valley of the shadow of death into His kingdom. For He hath not only shewn us how to live, but also how to die. With Him we must cry, "Father, into thy hands I com"mend my spirit," before the course of obedience will be finished.
Reader, is Christ your pattern? Are you endeavouring daily to copy it in your own life? Do you pray for grace that you may be enabled to do so? All who embrace His sacrifice endeavour to imitate His virtues, and these shall all partake of His glory.
If indeed you are engaged in this arduous work of imitating your Lord and Saviour, you mourn because you resemble Him so little; for while gazing at His ensample you cannot but discern the imperfection of your attempts. If so, the words of our collect will be strongly recommended to your hearts, and your prayer for " grace through Jesus Christ our Lord" will ascend with fervency to the mercy-seat. Be encouraged by remembering, that when you see Him as He is, you shall then be perfectly like Him.
Almighty God, who shcroest to them that be in error the light of thy truth, to the intent that they may return into the roay of righteousness; Grant unto all them that are admitted into the fellowship of Christ's religion, that they may eschew those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
CHRISTIAN experience is often paradoxical, and to those who are unacquainted with its nature must appear contradictory and absurd. With respect both to the law and the gospel it contains mysteries which itself only can unravel. A believer, through faith in Christ Jesus, is freed from the law; and yet is bound by cords, which the same faith entwines around him, more strongly to the law than he was before he believed. By the gospel of Christ he is emancipated from slavery; and yet, by the same gospel he is brought under more powerful obligations to an unremitted obedience than any which nature had imposed on him. The Christian is dead and alive, bound and free, at the same time though in different respects. He ceases from his own works, and yet has work to do which requires constant attention and laborious exertion.
The work of a Christian is described in our collect. It is to "eschew all those things which "are contrary to his profession, and to follow all "those things which are agreeable to the same."
It is to conform his conversation, or course of life, to the gospel of Christ :* to act as a good. citizen of the new Jerusalem where he is now naturalized, being adopted into its community and invested with its privileges. He is to frame his life according to the laws and usages of that new society to which he is introduced j and these are totally distinct from, and in direct opposition to, those of the society which he has quitted. For no two societies can be more opposite to each other in all their rules, maxims, and manners, than the world and the church of Christ.
But "who is sufficient for these things?" who that has considered the gospel of Christ—the obligations which it imposes—the dignities which it bestows—the privileges with which it endows— the requisitions which it makes—and the duties which it enjoins—but must feel his own utter inability to walk worthy of it? To the man indeed who considers Christianity only in its creed and forms—who views it as a system of worldly policy, or at best as a scheme of refined morality .—the task may appear easy. But the man, who examines it closely, and finds that it is designed to regulate the heart as well as the life, and to give an entirely new tendency to both, will despair of succeeding in an attempt to practise its duties by his own strength. He might as well endeavour to change the laws of gravitation, to make a rapid stream ascend the side of a steep mountain, or the falling rock mount upwards. lie will therefore discern the necessity of continual prayer to God for the aids of His grace, that he may be enabled to "adorn the doctrine of "God his Saviour in all things."
* Phil. i. 27. Ui\seeve<rit,