« AnteriorContinuar »
none was ever equal to him in the Excellency of his Doctrines and Instructions, so none ever equalled" him in the Purity, Beauty, and Perfection of his Example* As never Man spake, so never Man lived and afled, like him. I had Occasion to take some Notice of- his Example before, as giving an Authority to what he taught j but it well deferveth a distinct and particular Consideration, since it is of excellent Use, and of great Importance.
To introduce what I shall offer on this Subject, I have chosen these remarkable Words o£ our Saviour-to his Disciples: / have given you an Example, that ye Jhould do as I have done. unto you. They were spoken on a particular Occasion, and have a special Reference to that admirable Pattern of Humility and Condescension, which he had just set before them in washing his Disciples Feet; but they are equally applicable to the Whole of the Example he hath given us in his holy Life and Con^ verfation here on Earth, which we are. indispensably obliged to imitate. .;r
Before we enter on a particular Consideration of our Saviour's Example, it may be proper to premise some general Observations, which will tend to prepare our Way for what shall be farther offered on this Subject.
And, First, It was highly becoming the Divine Wisdom and Goodness, in order to the Reformation of Mankind, not only to give us pure and holy Laws, for the Rule of our Duty, but to provide an excellent Example for our Imitation. Any one that hath- made just Reflections upon human ^Nature must be sensible, that-E*-amples have usually a great Influence upon Mankind.- Mere' Precepts, however ex* cellenr. in' themselvesV often seem dry and barren Thirfgs; but there is something peculiarly striking in good Examples. These have attractive Force, and tend mightily to- recommend the Precepts,- which appear more lovely/ and'are more apt to fix and engage our . Views, when wrought into an excellent^ Character, than when barely written in a Book. Since therefore it hath pleased' God to grant ■ us admirable Laws and Precepts, for directing us in every Part of-our Duty; it was also a Design worthy of his great Wisdom and Love to Mankind to order it so that there should be a lovely Example set before us, in which thoseLaws should be beautifully exemplified.
Secondly, It was proper that the Examples designed by God for the universal Imitation of Mankind, should be perfecJ and spotless, without the least Stain or Defect. As the Law that is set before us, in the ;" - - Name Name os God, as the Rule of our Duty, is perfect, so as not to direct us in any Instance to a wrong Course of Acting; so the Example, which is proposed to us as a Pattern, should be complete in all it's Parts. The Examples of the best and holiest of mere Men, of the Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, and other good Men of old, though they may be of signal Use, yet are not sufficient to answer the Intention, because there is none of them but what is chargeable with some Defects, and in some Instances proper rather for our Warning than our Imitation; and therefore to imitate them, without Reserve, might sometimes lead us astray into a wrong Way of Acting. There was wanting therefore an Example absolute in allReJpecJs, and which was free from all Defects; a complete Pattern of moral Excellence: For though, as we are imperfect Creatures, we may seem incapable, in this present State, of coming up to such exalted Degrees of Goodness and Purity as might be expected in a perfect Example; yet the having fucib an Example set before us would be of great Use, as it would tend to kindle in us a noble and generous Ambition, and would put us upon going on towards Perfection, that we might approach still nearer and nearer to so illustrious a Pattern. Now such an Example is only to be found in our
Lord Jesus Chriji. Never could it be said of any other in human Flesh, what St. Peter justly faith of him, that he did no Sin, neither was Guile found in his Mouth. 1 Pet. ii. 22. Or, as St. Paul expresseth it, be knew no Sin. 2 Cor. v. 21. The Apostle John declares, that, if we fay that we have no Sin, we deceive ourselves, and the Truth is not in us. 1 John i. 8. Yet speaking of our Lord Jesus Christ, he faith, Ye know that he was manifested to take away our Sins; and in him is no Sin. 1 John iii. 5. Never, in any single Instance, through the Whole os his sacred Life, did he deviate from the Rule of Duty; His own Practice was perfecl as the Divine Law j a living Transcript of it's Purity, Beauty, and Excellence. It was a fine Thought of one of the Ancients, that, if Virtue could appear in a visible Form, it would discover such a Dignity and Beauty as would charm all that beheld it: And, in our Lord Jesus Christ, is this Supposition verified. In him Virtue and Goodness is made visible to our Eyes, and appears in it's own genuine Charms and lovely Form; and therefore, if looked upon with a believing Eye, could scarce fail to engage the Esteem and Admiration of Mankind.
Thirdly, It was proper that the Example, designed for the Imitation of Mankind,
should should be exhibited by one that was truly Man, really Partaker of the. human Nature. If a Being of the highest possible Excellence had appeared for a While here On Earth without taking upon him pur Nature, his Example-could not. be supposed to have so great an Influence upon Mankind, as if it were exhibited by one . in human Flesh: For we might be-apito think, In that Cafe, either that the Example was absolutely out .of our Reach," aud that.it was impracticable for us to imitate it; or that it belonged properly to a. superior Order of Beings, and that therefore we were not concerned or obliged to an Imitation of itv Whosoever therefore exhibiteth an Exampleproper for us to imitate^ must himself be made Partaker of Flesh 'and Blood as well as we, that his Example may be rendered irvore familiar to us, and imhablebyusj it must be the Example of one that lived and conversed in our World, and who was like unto us in all Things, Sin only excepted.
Fourthly, It was farther necessary, inorder to give this Example. the greater Force, that it should be the Example of a Person of great Dignity and Eminence. The Examples of mean and inconsiderable Persons, however in themselves good and excellent, are usually but little regarded, and seldom have much in them to engage