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and discourage our weakness: but other good men had assistances in measure, such as we may hope to approach unto; they were subject to the difficulties which we feel; they were exposed to the perils of falling, which we fear: we may therefore hope to march on in a reasonable distance after them; we may, by help of the same grace, come near in transcribing their less exact copy. To conclude: Since on so many accounts we are obliged to follow good examples; since they are of so great use toward our proceeding in the way to happiness; thence they conduce to the clear instruction of our understanding, to the forcibly inclining our reason, to the vehement excitement of our passions, to the delightfully affecting our imagination in subserviency to good practice; let us make that due and profitable use of them, which we should and may do. Let us, with diligent attention perusing the sacred history, meditate on the lives of holy men therein propounded as patterns of a persevering faith in God, and conscionable obedience to his commandments. Let the light of their exemplary practice in all kind of piety and virtue continually shine on our souls, to direct our minds, to inflame our affections, to quicken our resolutions, to detect the errors and correct the faults of our lives, that we, imitating their virtuous and pious conversation, may partake of those comfortable rewards, of that joy and bliss whereof they rest possessed. The which God Almighty, and our blessed Saviour, the author and finisher of our faith, by his gracious aid and blessing grant anto us; to whom be all glory and praise for ever and ever. Amen.
SUMMARY OF SERMON XXXV.
1 JOHN, CHAP. II.-v ERSE 6.
MEANING of the expressions to abide in Christ, to put on Christ, &c., explained, as not denoting any physical inherence, or essential conjunction with Christ, but only a mutual relation arising from our profession as his disciples, &c.; so that it is the duty of every one professing Christianity, to conform his life to the pattern of Christ's life, and to follow his example. I. For illustration and confirmation of which point, it may be observed that the holy Apostles do on all occasions assume this supposition, when they would persuade their followers to the practice of any virtue, or performance of any duty. Instances of this quoted. And their authority may be backed and enforced by several reasons. II. The doing so hath a reasonableness and decency grounded on our relations to Christ. It is fit and comely that the manners of the disciple should be regulated by those of his master. III. The 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, to imitate the manners of those who are the objects of it. IV. By pretending to be Christians, we acknowlege the transcendent goodness, worth, and excellency of our Saviour. All who would require exquisite skill in any art or faculty, think it best to imitate the best masters therein : in like manner reason requires, if we would live well and happily, that we should conform our practice to that most perfect mirror of all virtue. V. The practice of our Saviour thoroughly agrees with his doctrine and law: he requires nothing of us which he did not eminently perform himself. He fulfilled in deed, as he taught in word, all righteousness. 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, and thereby qualify us for eternal happiness, there could not be devised any more powerful means, or more convenient method for this purpose, than the propounding such an example, and obliging us to comply therewith: the which may appear, by considering, 1. the general efficacy of good example; 2. the peculiar excellency of our Saviour's; 3. the particular instances of his imitable goodness. 1. Good example is naturally an effectual instrument of good practice; for it most compendiously, pleasantly, and easily instructs; representing things to be done at one view; recommending them to us by the most plain and plausible reasoning; rousing men's courage, as one flame kindles another, &c. But, 2. More especially the example of Christ doth, in efficacy and influence, surpass all others. First, in that it is a sure and infallible rule, an intire and perfect one of practice, swerving in no circumstance from truth and right; which privileges belong to no other example. The practice of the best men is not always to be imitated, nor ever absolutely, as a certain ground of action: reasons for this drawn from the imperfections of human nature, &c. But with regard to our blessed Saviour's example, the case is quite different : reasons for this drawn from his human nature so intimately connected with the divine, and from the unrestrained effusion of the Holy Spirit on him, to preserve him from all defilement by converse with the world, &c. Secondly, the peculiar excellency of our Lord's example appears, in that he was, by divine Providence, to this very purpose sent into the world, as well by his practice as by his doctrine, to be the guide and master of holy life and obedience 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.
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, as 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