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which our weak nature will allow. Since then the perfections which are essential to God, considered as a rational being, are the very fame which we, as rational beings, ought to aspire to, since they are in him in the utmost perfection also ; to say, that we ought to conforın ourselves to the divine nature, and to imitate the excellencies of it, is no more than to say, that we ought to endeavour after those perfections, which are natural and proper to rational minds; and which belong to us in consequence of that image and likeness of our Maker, which was stamped upon us at our first creation.

But though the example of God be in itself a very strong motive and argument for holiness; yet, in the nature of the thing, example is but a secondary argument, and supposes an antecedent obligation to the duty, the due performance of which we learn from the example set before us. It is no reason for me to endeavour to do this or that, because I fee another do it ; for it may be fit for him to do, and yet very unfit for me to attempt; and therefore example can have no place, till the rule of duty is first settled. It would be very absurd to think, that every thing that God does yields a proper example for us to follow ; and therefore we are to search for a reason, why some of his perfections are proper examples, and others not fo; that is, we are to search for their primary rule of duty, which obliges us to endeavour after some of the perfections discoverable in the Deity, and not the others.

In all inquiries of this kind, the last resort must be to the light of our own minds; from hence arises the obligation we are under to moral virtue. We are a law to ourselves, and such a law as no power whatever can abfolve us from the obedience due to it, as long as we continue to enjoy the same powers and faculties of reason which at present we are endowed with. From this light of nature we learn both the law and the example which we are now inquiring after, that is, we learn our own obligation to holiness, and we learn to know God, who is perfect holiness. Did reason discover to us the moral perfections of the Deity, without shewing us, at the fame time, any obligation incumbent on us to follow after the like perfections, the holiness of God fo discovered would be no more an example for our imitation than his power is. It is therefore from the light of our own minds that we discover the difference of moral good and evil, and the obligations confequent upon that difference; it is from the same light that we find the moral perfections to be poffefled by the Deity in their utmost beauty: so that the same reason and nature, which holds forth to us the rule of our duty, holds forth also the perfect example of it. Now, fince no example is a good one, which does not teach the fanie doctrine with the rule of duty, and the rule of duty in this cafe being the light of our own minds; it must necessarily follow, that to obey the dictates of reason, and to imitate the example of God, is in the end one and the same thing.

That it must be so, will appear by considering, that we can no other way trace the perfections of the Deity, but from those natural notions of perfection which we find in our own minds : we should not ascribe to God holiness, justice, and mercy, did

Bot the light of reason discover to us the excellencies of these attributes. Now the holiness, justice, and mercy, which the light of reason discovers, are the moral virtues which we are obliged to follow after; they are also the perfections which we afcribe to the Deity: so that whether we follow the dictates of reason in endeavouring after these virtues, or whether we look up to the Deity, and copy from the perfection of his nature ; it is evident, that in both cases we follow the same virtues, though placed before us in a different view. For, fince our notion of the perfections of the Deity must be formed from such natural notions of moral perfection, as reason and the light of nature can supply ; whether we consider these perfections as inherent in the Deity, and endeavour to copy after the first and great original, or whether we take our natural notions of moral virtue, as principles and rules of religion, which ought to influence and direct our lives, the issue will be the same with respect to our practice. It is easier for men, when once they have a notion of a perfect righteous Being, to confider, in particular cases, what such a Being would do or approve, than to run up in an abstracted way of reasoning to first principles and maxims for direction. But whichever way you take, the inquiry is the fame, namely, what is fit and reasonable to be done in this or that case: and let the method of inquiry bę what it will, the judgment must be such as our prefent share of reason will enable us to make. And therefore the imitation of God is a principle of religion arising froin, and depending on, the right use and exercise of reason, as much as any other what

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And this may serve to shew upon what foundation the imitation of God stands in natural religion, and how we may apply this principle for our direction in particular cafes. It may shew also what is to be understood by being perfect, as God is perfect : it is absurd to aim at the measure' of his perfection ; but we are then, to all the purposes of life and religion, perfect as he is perfect, when we do nothing but what he will approve : for to stand approved in the eye of an all-perfect and holy Being, is the true perfection of every 'creature.

This is the Christian excellency, as described by St. Paul in the words once already quoted, and with which I shall conclude this discourse, That we may stand per. fect and complete in all the will of God.

DISCOURSE XLVI.

John iii. 19.

This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world,

and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

Man being a reasonable creature, and endued with faculties to judge and choose for himself in all cases, it is contrary to nature to suppose, that there should be any thing absolutely or necessarily good to him ; since the advantage to be drawn from any thing whatever depends on the right use and application of that thing to its proper ends and purposes. Wholesome food is good for the found; but if taken in undue measure, it grows into a disease. Physic is proper for the fick; but if the patient will not submit to proper regulations, that which might have been his cure will certainly be his destruction.

As it is with respect to the body, so is it likewise with respect to the mind; there is no such thing as an absolute or necessary cure for the frailties and in-. firmities of it, but the propereft method for attaining that end must still depend on the proper ufe and application of it. The best instructions are of no ufe whilft not attended to; and the greatest helps

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