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yet we may be directed and assisted in duty, by a view of his whole conduct. Though the positive institutions to which he punctually conformed, as under the Levitical law, are no longer binding op us; yet, from his ready submission to them, we may learn how we should yield obedience to the divine will, as to the positive institutions which are now in force. Indeed, he did honor to the New-testament ordinances, by attending on them also ; though in a manner peculiar to himself, and with a special signification. So, as to his obedience to the peculiar law he was under as Mediator, though he is therein above our imitation, and we can no more make atonement for sin, than we can imitate him in the greatest of his miracles, yet we may imitate him in the general principles of this part of his obedience; in the love to God and man which actuated him through the whole ; and, if called to it by providence, by laying down our lives for the brethren. I John iii. 16.
The Apostle makes a threefold distribution of moral excellence, when, in Titus ii. 12, he observes, That the salutiferous grace of God teaches us to live soberly, righteously, and godly. Whereas the Apostle there speaks of denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we may observe, these are some graces exercised by men recovered from a state of sin, which were not exemplified by Christ,—not because his holiness was defective, but because it was perfect; viz. repentance, mortification, and denying of lusts. But all virtues which do not pre-suppose sin, were in him in the highest possible degree, beyond what was ever seen in another.
First : Never was there such an example of sobriety, or self-government. No irregular appetite or passion ever could be discerned in him. No intemperance, no inordinate affection, no sinful perturbation of mind, under the greatest trials. His humility was unparalleled. Though conscious of infinite dignity, yet he was full of the deepest humility. Though he knew himself to be equal with God, in his divine nature, he did not seem anxious to assert this during his state of humiliation, and to insist upon it, and be impatient of his glory being concealed. And as man, no creature had such
a sense of his obligations to God as he. Though his human nature was so honored by its personal union with the Son of God, it was not lifted up with pride on that account. Nor was he unduly elated by his wonderful miracles, of healing diseases and raising the dead. Though he knew himself to be heir of all things, yet he was willing not to have a place to lay his head. Yea, he was willing, for the sake of glorifying God, and saving his people, to be abased to the lowest degree: yea, to be numbered with transgressors, to become the scorn of his enemies, and to be abhorred by man, and forsaken by God, without any complaint or murmuring. Though no charge could be proved against him, but it was really for his virtues that he was hated, yet what patience and meekness did he show: which made him a fit example for the lowest of men, and those who are most exposed to injuries, as Peter here states. And what deadness to the world did he show all through life. Not only in not aspiring after grandeur and exaltation, and in refusing to be made a king : but also in not overvaluing the comforts of private life, being willing to live in poverty ; sooner than submit to which, some high pretenders to virtue would lay violent hands on themselves.
Secondly: Never was such an example of righteousness and benevolence to men. In no instance did he ever injure men in their rights. I once knew an ignorant person stumbled, at his sending for the ass on which he rode into Jerusalem ; but it was evidently borrowed for the season, and with the owner's consent. Matt. xxi. 3. The cursing of the fig-tree has been cavilled at, but without reason. Mark xi. 13. He was charged with being an enemy to Cæsar; but his maxim was, “ Render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, and to God the things that are God's.” And had he been really willing to oppose Cæsar, they that reviled him would very willingly have joined him. What a pattern of meekness, under such provocations as no one else endured! Yet he reviled not. “ He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth : he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” He prayed for the
forgiveness of his murderers, and retained the same spirit after his resurrection. He ordained the preaching of repentance and remission of sins—beginning at Jerusalem. He delighted in doing good, both to the bodies and souls of men. He showed wonderful compassion, not only to friends ; as Peter's wife's mother, Lazarus, &c. but to strangers; as the widow of Nain, the Syrophenician woman, the centurion, and the blind demoniacs ; teaching and preaching the kingdom of God; and laying down his life a ransom for lost souls.
Thirdly : His godliness was unparalleled also. He manifested a most devotional spirit; abounding in prayer, and zeal for the divine glory ; in reverence for God, love, universal obedience, with entire submission.
Secondly: Point out the peculiar excellencies that ought to endear the example of Christ to us.
It was universal, and absolutely perfect. No other example is without some flaw or defect. It was all influenced by intense and ardent love. What he did, he did with delight, without any mixture of reluctance or hesitation. His was an example of tried virtue: yea, this was virtue exercised under the greatest possible trials. Never did any one suffer so much, while acting for God; nor meet such opposition from men, while seeking the good of men. He was tried all through life, and tried to the uttermost in his last sufferings. He in a peculiar manner exemplified those duties that we generally find the hardest and most difficult. Some duties are comparatively easy: to be content and thankful in pleasing circumstances; to render good for good; to glorify God by generosity; to love the kind, esteem the virtuous, &c. But to glorify God in poverty, affliction, and death; to die as a witness to the truth; to die out of love to
disinterested love to man ; &c. are difficult duties. His was love to enemies, to sinners; whose character he disapproved : yet, while he made their interest his own, and bare their sins, he did not in the least countenance sin, but utterly condemned it. Never was such a spirit of forgiveness. The example of Christ should be recommended by his dignity. People love to imitate the great. Never was there so great
and illustrious a character on earth besides. It is the peculiar glory of Christ, that it exhibits a divine Person as our example. Heathens, indeed, represent their gods as appearing at times in the likeness of men. But what vile and unworthy examples are they! Though his intrinsic dignity was such, yet his circumstances were brought to as near a resemblance as possible to our own; yea, to the lowest of mankind. He may be imitated by slaves, as well as by princes; by poor, as well as by rich. So that it proves holiness, devoid of all other advantages, to be the highest possible excellence of human nature.
His example should be endeared by his great kindness, and the near relation wherein he stands to us. It is the example of our best friend. His example should be endeared by this consideration--that what he did to display his peculiar virtues, was also done for us, for our good, for our eternal advantage, to secure our happiness. His obedience was at once the ground of our justification, and the pattern of our sanctification. We should regard his example the more, because he certainly intended we should do so, and has enjoined it upon us : " Learn of me.”—“ If any man will come after me, he must deny himself and take
me, keep my commandments.”—“If any man saith that he abideth in him, let him walk as he himself also walked." He has promised to succour us in our attempt to imitate him ; and therefore it is a feasible thing. It is practicable. Yea, surely, if we properly felt our obligations to him, it would make all easy and delightful.
THIRDLY : Consider the use that we ought to make of this subject.
The delineation of Christ's character strongly evinces the genuineness of it. Never could it have entered into the mind of man to form an idea of such excellences, had they not been really exhibited. How much less could bad men (such as the evangelists must have been, if not true,) have feigned such a character. Many fictitious characters have been described, as well as histories of men's lives been written ; but never did any writer of biography or romance describe such a character as that of Christ. What a constrast with
that impostor, whose religion has been spread for near twelve hundred years, through so many nations of the East; whose religion was spread by the sword, and left no alternative to the conquered nations, but the loss of life, or of liberty, or a change of religion. His own sensuality, for which he pretended a sanction from the Most High, is equally opposed to the purity of Jesus, as his murderous cruelty is to our Saviour's dying love.
But the great use we are to make of the subject is actually to keep his example in our view continually. This may help us to decide upon duty and virtue, where
rules seem to leave room for doubt. Let us especially attend to those duties which are most eminently recommended by Christ's example. For though every grace was exemplified, and recommended by his example, yet there are some which seem more peculiarly and eminently to constitute a resemblance of the temper of Christ. “ Learn of me,” said he, “ for I am meek and lowly of heart.” He is called emphatically the Lamb of God, not only because of his being sacrificed for us, but an account also of his gentleness, meekness, innocence, and purity. A tender, compassionate, condescending, benevolent spirit, a spirit of forgiveness, is most eminently the Spirit of Christ: they who, instead of being overcome of evil, are ready to overcome evil with good; who return blessing for cursing; and can forgive not only seven times, but to seventy times seven, are remarkably like Christ. Those who consider true greatness as consisting in being very extensively serviceable, seem to be followers of him, who came, not to be ministered unto, but to minister. They who can pray for their persecutors, and bless them that despitefully use them; they who have their hearts set on the salvation of souls, and would part with any thing, do any thing, suffer any thing, to advance the glory of God in the salvation of men; they are the persons whom he will own as his true followers, who tread most closely and exactly in his steps.
In vain do we pretend to be Christians, if we do not account it our duty and privilege to be like Christ; if we do not long and labor to be like Christ, and loathe ourselves for want of more conformity to him; yea, if we do not begin to