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tians partakers of his redemption, will exempt us from our obligation to walk as he also walked ? No: it is only those who imitate the virtues of our Saviour's life, that shall be entitled to share in the benefits of his death: for “ it is not every one who saith Lord, Lord, that shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he who doeth the will of our Father who is in heaven.” Wherefore, “ let those who have believed in Christ, be careful to maintain good works,” without which their faith shall profit them nothing.
Consider, as another obligation to imitate the example of Christ, that unless we do so, we cannot be his disciples. For what is it to be a disciple of any religious teacher, but to adopt the mode of life which he hath prescribed ? Accordingly, every sect, which adhered to a leader either in ancient or modern times, has endeavoured to follow the peculiar line of conduct which their master pursued. The Heathens had their different sages, whose manners they studied to cultivate; the Jews had Moses, whose maxims they laboured to imbibe; the Mahometans have their prophet, whose precepts they reverence and observe; and even the idolatrous nations have some favourite deity, whom they are anxious to please by a suitable behaviour. Shall then Christians alone disgrace their profession, by refusing to walk even as the author and finisher of their faith also walked ? Nay, let us adorn the doctrine of Christ our Saviour, by lives and conversations becoming his gospel. If he was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners; so let us be holy in the whole tenour of our life and actions. If we do not resemble him in those features which marked his temper and conduct, we surely do not deserve the name of his disciples. If he was devout, while we are ungodly; if he was meek, modest, and forgiving, while we are proud, wrathful, and vindictive; if he was pure, sober, and temperate, while we are unclean, luxurious, and immoderate; if he was tender-hearted, compassionate, and beneficent, while we are hard-hearted, unfeel ing, and selfish ; if he was contented, cheerful, and heavenly-minded, while we are peevish, querulous, and covetous; how can we lay claim to the character of his disciples? Surely we must be persuaded, that the same mind must be in us as was also in Christ Jesus, if we would walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called.
Let us not deceive ourselves with a false notion which some entertain, that Christ' came into the world for the purpose merely of satisfying the justice of God for our sins, by his active and passive obedience; and that if we have faith in his merits, God will impute his righteousness to us though we have none of our own, which will be sufficient to recommend us to the divine favour. No: though Christ's righteousness is the sole medium of our justification; yet personal holiness is no less requisite to promote our sanctification; and let us always remember, that our Saviour came into the world, not only to reconcile us to God by his blood, but also to set us an example that we should follow his steps.—Accordingly, another obligation to this duty arises from the commands which our Lord and his apostles have delivered to imitate his example. Thus he says to his disciples, “ take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; I have given you an example that ye should do to one another, as I have done unto you. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you." His inspired apostles repeat the same lessons to their Christian converts, when they require them “ to look to Jesus, the author and finisher of their faith; and to walk even as he also walked.” If, then, we have any regard to the express injunctions of Christ himself, and of those whom he commissioned to teach us our duty: let us follow the pattern of holiness and virtue which he hath set before us to imitate; so shall we be his disciples.
Finally, if we would be at last admitted to behold his glory, let us now endeavour to render ourselves like him, that we may see him as he is. We know assuredly, that into the heavenly mansions where he now resides, none but the holy shall ever enter; and that “the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Indeed, it is impossible that the profane and irreligious, the immoral and impure, the spiteful and malignant, could ever enjoy the society of angels and saints who are made perfect, and of the Lamb who is without spot and blemish. For what
fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness; and what concord hath Christ with Belial ? If then we would be partakers of the heavenly inheritance, let us endeavour, through the grace of God assisting us, to qualify ourselves for it; let “ him who hath this hope in him, purify himself even as Christ is pure.”
For this purpose, let us read and study the history of our Saviour's life, as it is recorded in the scriptures; let us take it as the model of our own; let us imitate him in all those moral perfections which he hath exhibited in his conduct; and then when we have acquired some degree of conformity to it in our temper and conduct, we may expect that after death “ we shall sit down with him on his throne, even as he also overcame, and is set down with his Father on his throne."
LOVE OF OUR NEIGHBOUR.
MATT. XXII. 39. And the second is like unto it; Thou shalt love thy
neighbour as thyself.
THESE words are the concluding part of our Lord's answer to a Pharisee, who came to inquire what was the great and most important commandment of the divine law. This our Lord declared, was the love of God. But as a necessary concomitant, he subjoins that the love of our neighbour is no less necessary, as a disposition which every disciple of his should possess and exercise. Indeed, the love of God and man are both obligatory, from the relation in which they stand to us, and the duties which arise from our mutual connection. For, as God is our Creator, he is entitled to our honour and obedience; and as mankind are our fellow-creatures, they have a right to our affectionate regard. If, indeed, we were altogether indedependent upon either God or man, we might think ourselves at liberty neither to fear the one, nor to have any concern for the other. But since we feel that we are not sufficient for our own happiness; that our lives, and health, and fortune are in the hands of our Creator; hence arises a persuasion that we should acknowledge him in all our ways; and since we are mutually connected with each other in society, therefore it is requisite to establish some rules for rendering our intercourse pleasant and beneficial. Hence proceed those duties we owe to God, which, for the sake of distinction, have been called reli
gion; and the duties which are required of us to one another, are generally known by the name of morality.
These obligations are founded on the circumstances in which we are placed; and are therefore indispensable, if we would act according to the relations which are established for directing our conduct.-Nay, the love of God, and benevolence to men, are the natural dictates of our own minds, and original principles in human nature. For, we are taught by our instinctive feelings, to venerate the power, admire the wisdom, and be thankful for the good ness of the Almighty. Thus, a foundation is laid in the constitution of our souls for divine love, which is the first and great commandment. And there is a propensity equally strong for loving and esteeming our fellow-creatures. Accordingly we find, that in childhood, before the selfish passions begin to contract our hearts, we cherish the most disinterested affection for those with whom we associate. But soon does the principle of self-love exert its influence in our breasts; soon do we lay schemes for promoting our own interest, and lose sight of attending to the welfare of others. Ilence it becomes necessary to check the prevalence of an undue regard to that individual happiness, which would take entire possession of the mind. Hence Christianity enjoins us “ to look not every one at his own things, but also at the things of others ;” to be “ kindly affectioned one towards another, with brotherly love, in honour preferring one another; and to love our neighbour as ourselves.” This being the duty required in
” the text, it may be useful to investigate in the following discourse,
I. Who are the proper objects of our love, included under the general term neighbour.
II. The extent of the duty here expressed, that we love them as ourselves.
III. The great importance of cherishing this affection for the improvement of the Christian temper.
IV. The obligations arising from reason and scripture, for the exercise of love or benenolence. Apply the subject to practice.