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The life of Jesus Christ considered as our ex
1 Pet. ii. 21.
Leaving us an example, that ye should
follow his steps.
The first sermon on this text.
HE Apoftle here propounds to Christians the ex.
ample of our Saviour, as an argument to persuade them to one particular grace and virtue, namely, patience under sufferings unjustly laid upon us, ver. 19, 20, 21. For this is thank-worthy, if a man for conscience toward 1 God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For wat glogy is it, if when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye mall take it patiently? But if when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently; this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye celled : because Christ also suffered. far us, leaving us an example, that ye jhould follow his steps.
But though the example of our Saviour be here propounded to us upon a particular occafion, and with a more especial regard to the particular virtue of patience under unjust sufferings, which did fo eminently appear in our blessed Saviour, the most meek and patient endurer that ever was, of the greatest and most wrongful sufferings ; yet the Apostle does not limit this great pattern of all righteousness to the single virtue of patience, but propounds it to us, as an example of univerfal holiness and goodness; for so he extends it in the next words, leaving us an example, that ge mould follow his steps : who did no fin, neither was guile found in his mouth.
In this latitude and extent I shall discourse of it at this time, and that under these following heads;
1. That his life is a most absolute and perfect pattern. II. That it is a very easy and familiar example. III. Very encouraging to the imitation of it.
IV. An universal pattern fitted for the imitation of all sorts of persons, of what rank or condition soever.
V. In the nature of it, very powerful to engage and oblige men to the imitation of it.
I. The life of our blessed Saviour is a most absolute and perfect pattern of holiness and goodness, compleat and entire in all its parts, and perfect to the utmoft" degree, in the following whereof there is no danger of being misguided, no fear of miscarriage : whereas all other examples of mortal men are fallible and uncertain guides, which, if we follow too closely, will fome time or other mislead us.
In the lives of the best men recorded in scripture, we may discern some spot and blemish, some error and oversight, fome fall or Nip; so that the lives of the holiest men are no sure rule, no perfect measure of our duty, and are therefore to be imitated with great wisdom and wariness, left, if we follow all their actions indifferently and implicitly, in confidence they are good because they are theirs, we may fall into great errors and failings; and therefore, in following the lives and examples of the best men, we must have an eye to the rule, and by that judge of the example which we propose to imitate ; otherwise we may easily be seduced by the authority of a great example.
But the example of our Lord is a living law and rule, his precepts and his pattern are of equal perfection, and the imitation of his life and actions is the very fame thing with obedience to his laws. For the life of our blessed Saviour here on earth, is the life of God in the nature and likeness of man ; he was God as well as man, and the divine 'nature is certainly the pattern of all perfection. As he was the Son of God, he was the
brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image : and character of his perfon ; and as he was the Son of Man, though he had patural frailties and infirmities, and was subject to hunger and thirst, weariness and pain, like other men; yet he had all the moral perfections belonging to human nature, witbout any of the evil incli
pations, and finful frailties to which it is incident ; aad his human nature was alfisted in an extraordinary manner by the Spirit of God, which was not communicated to shim by measure, but be was anointed with that holy unction aboue his fellows, above all the sons of men, above all the Prophets and messengers of God that ever were sent to mankind; he had no fin, neither was guile found in his mouth And indeed it was requisite, that he that was manifested to take away our fins, and to make expiation for them, Nould himself be without fin, as the Apoftle to the Hebrews reasons, Heb. vii. 26. bigh priest became us, who was holy, harmless, undefiled, feparate from finners : and had he not been fo, he could peither have been an example, nor an expiation,
And this is no small advantage to mankind, to have fo excellent a pattern of the same nature with ourselves to imitate, fo perted a copy to write after. For whoever would excel in any kind, must (as Quintilian says) optima quæque exempla ad imitandu-v proponere,“ pro“ pose to himself the highest and most perfect examples “ of that kind for his imitation ;” and the example of our blessed Saviour is unquestionably such a perfect pattern of all goodness and virtue, to the perfection whereof, though we can never attain, yet it is a great advantage to have it always before us, and in our eye, that we may correct the errors and deformities of our lives, by the unspotted purity and perfect innocency of his life, and that we may be always aspiring after fare ther degrees of goodness ; for surely we can no way better learn how God would have men to live in this world, than by seeing how God himself lived, when he was pleased to become man, to affume our nature, and dwell among us.
II. As the life of our blessed Saviour is a most perfect, fo likewise it is a familiar and eafy example. The divine Dature is the great pattern of perfection : but that is too reviote from us, and above our fight ; no man bath feens God at any time, nor can see him ; and though his pere fections are represented to our minds in some degree, yet they are so glorious and dazzling an object, that we canpot bear to behold them with that Itedfaltoefs, with
which we ought to eye our pattern ; and therefore God hath been pleased to condescend so far to our weakness, as to give us a visible example of those virtues he requires of us, in his own Son, appearing in the likeness of sinful flesh; and the Son of God is an example of equal perfection with God himself, but much more easy and familiar, and level to us, in which we may see the several virtues of a good life practised in such instances, and upon such occasions, as do frequently happen in human life.
Nothing ever was more simple and open, more obvious and easy to common imitation, than the life of our blefsed Saviour, in which there was nothing dark and myfterious, abftrufe and intricate; it was all perfect innocency and goodness, and he carried on one plain and intelligible, and uniform design, which was to do all the good he possibly could to all men: this he pursued with all his might, with the greatest vigour and industry, with an undaunted courage and resolution, with an unwearied diligence, with a constant chearfulness and serenity of mind; this was his meat and drink, his great business and de light, his life and his happiness; he was not supercilioully morose, had no affected singularities, no peculiar austerities in habit or diet, different from the common usage of men; his conversation was kind and innocent, free and familiar, open and indifferent to all sorts of persons; for he was a physician, and every body had need of him, all mankind were his patients. He did not place religion (as some have done fince) in retirement from the world, and shunning the conversation of men, and taking great care to do no body good; not in profound mysteries and fine fpeculations, but in the plain and honest practice of the solid and substantial virtues of a good life; in meekness and humility, in kindness and charity, in contentedness in a low and mean condition, and a calm composure of mind under all accidents and events, in patience under the greatest reproaches and sufferings, and a perfect submission to the will of God in all his dispensations, how harsh and unpleasant foever.
Now there is nothing in all this, but what lies open to every man's understanding, and is easy to our practice and imitation, requiring nothing but an honeft mind,
and due "care and diligence to do what we may easily know, to follow our guide in a plain way, and in all the actions of our lives, to tread in those steps in which the Son of God, and the best man that ever was, hath gone before us.
III. The life of our blessed Saviour is likewise an encouraging example. It cannot but give great life to all good resolutions and endeavours, to see all that which God requires of us, performed by one in our nature, by a man like ourselves. Our Saviour, indeed, had many advantages above us, being God as well as man ; and his humanity being fupported by the divine nature to which it was united, being clear from all the ill effects of original fin, and from all kind of vicious and inordinate inclinations: but then, it is a great encouragement to us, to consider, that God doth not require at our hands a perfect and unfinning obedience, as the condition of our salvation and happiness ; but only such an obedience to his laws, as is fincere and continually aspising after greater perfection, which is very possible to us by the grace of Christ, even in this imperfect state ; that God considers our weakness, and how much we stand in need of his grace and afhstance, and hath affured us, that it shall not be wanting to us, if we heartily and earneftJy beg it of him ; and that strength which we may have for asking, is as good as if it were our own. If Chrift were the Son of God, fo are .we, in a lower degree, by grace and adoption ; and.if we be the fons of God, the Spirit of God dwells in us, to quicken and to raise us to newness of life. And he that hath left us such an example, on purpose that we might follow it, will not surely leave us deftitute of power to enable us to do so good argument to us, that he will enable us to do that in Some degree in our own persons, which he himself did for our example in our nature.
An example more suitable to our weakness might seem to have had more encouragement in it : but we are * to consider, that the Son of God assumed our pature, as compassed with infirmitics, and liable to be tempted in all things as we are, only without fin; fo that his ex
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