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Concerning our imitation of the di

vine perfections.

MATT. v. 48.
Be ye therefcre perfect, even as your Father which

is in heaven is perfect.

IN these words we have, first, the absolute per- SERN.

fection of the divine nature supposed, not only CXXXI. in those before mentioned, of goodness, and

pre and m mercy, and patience; but in all other excellencies whatsoever.

Secondly, The perfection of God is propounded as a pattern for our imitation.

In the handling of these two particulars, I propounded co proceed in this method.

I. To shew how we are to conceive of the divine perfection.

II. To lay down some rules, by which we may rectify and govern our opinions concerning the attributes and perfections of God.

III, To shew how far we are to imitate the perfections of God, and particularly what those divine qualities are which our Saviour doth here more especially propound to our imitation.

IV. To clear the true meaning of this precept ; and to shew that the duty here intended by our SAviour is not impossible to us, and then to draw fome useful inferences from the whole.

A 2

The

sert: The two first I have already spoken ; to I now CXXXI. proceed to the third particular, which is, to shew

how far we are to imitate the perfections of God,
and particularly what those divine qualities are,
which our Saviour doth here more especially pro-
pound to our imitation. For though these words
do suppose the absolute perfection of the divine na-
ture, yet because there are several perfections of God
which are incommunicable, and a creature, as such,
is utterly incapable of them, these cannot be sup-
posed to be intended for a pattern to us. As the
necessity and independency of the divine nature ;
and the self-sufficiency of it to his own happiness
to be the original cause of all things, and confe-
quently supreme Lord and Governor; the immensi-
ty and eternity of his being; these, and perhaps
several other perfections, are incommunicable to a
creature; and it would be an unsufferable pride,
and a kind of high treason against the divine Majes-
ty, and a fottish ignorance of the necessary bounds
and limits of our own state, as we are creatures,
to think to resemble God in these excellencies, of
which the condition of a creature is utterly incapable.
This was the sin of Lucifer; an ambition to step
into the throne of God, and to be like the inost
High.

So that in our imitation of the divine perfection, we are to keep within the station of creatures, not affecting an independency and sovereignty like the most High, and to be omnipotent as he is, “ to “ have an arm like God, and to thunder with a

voice like him," as the expression is in Job: buc to endeavour to resemble him, pro modulo creaturæ, according to the rate and capacity of a creature, in those divine qualities, and in such measures and,

degrees

degrees, as our finite and dependent nature is ca-serM. pable of.

. CXXXI. More especially and chiefly in the moral perfections of the divine nature, such as are his goodness, and mercy, and patience, his justice, and truth, and faithfulness; these, and only these, the scripture seems to comprehend under the name of holiness; not all the excellencies of the divine nature in general, but those which we call moral excellencies and perfections, such as those which I have named; for with these, and hardly with any other, is the holiness of God joined in fcripture, as“ holy " and righteous, holy and true," &c. And therefore when God says, “ be ye holy, for I am holy,” it signifies that we are to imitate God, in his goodness, and mercy, and patience, and righteousness, and faithfulness, and truth; for these are the holiness of the divine nature, which set him at the greatest distance from that which we call moral impurity and fin. · For that which our Saviour here in the text more peculiarly recommends to our imitation, is the goodness of God, of which his mercy and pacience are two eminent branches. The mercy of God is his goodness to those that are in misery, or are liable to it. The patience of God is his mercy in sparing those who have deserved punishment, and are liable to it. And the goodness of God is then greatest, when it is exercised towards the evil and unthankful ; those who are so far from deserving it, that they have given great and just provocations to the contrary. And this affectionate temper of mind, which is so remarkable in God towards the unworthy and unthankful fons of men, our Saviour recommends to our imitation here in the text. “ Be A 3

“ ye

SERM.“ ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which
CXXXI. " is in heaven is perfect.” Be ye therefore ; this

particle of inference, therefore, hath a plain relation
to something spoken before ; and if we look back
to ver. 44. we shall find our SAVIOUR there enjo'n-
ing his disciples “to love their enemies, to bless
" them that curfe them, to do good to them that
« hate them, and to pray for those that despight-
“ fully use them, and persecute them." And by
what other argument doth he inforce the practice
of this difficult duty, but by telling us, that this i
to be like God, to be good to the evil and un
thankful, ver. 45. " That ye may be the children
“ of your heavenly Father, who maketh his fun to
" rise on the evil and the good; and his rain to
“ fall on the juft, and on the unjust.” God is
good to all, and exerciseth great mercy and patience
even towards the evil, and unjust. And then he
concludes, that if perfection itself be fit to be a pat,
tern, we should labour after these qualities; “ Be
“ ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which
" is in heaven is perfect.” So that though the uni-
versal perfection of the divine nature be here supposed,
yet the attributes of his goodness, and mercy, and
patience, are here particularly pointed at, and pro-
pounded to us for our pattern ; and the precept of
imitating the divine perfection is more especially
to be understood of those perfections which our SA-
VIOUR had been discoursing of before, viz. the
goodness and mercy of God. And that this is un-
doubtedly so, is evident from St. Luke's rendring
this precept, Ch. vi. 36. “Be ye therefore oixlip-
" poves, benefici, ready to do good, full of kind-
• ness and benignity; merciful, as your Father which
r is in heaven is merciful;" that is, endeavour you

to

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