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Thoughts upon the Imitation of Christ.
IF we seriously consider with our selves that Wonder of all Wonders, that Mystery of all Mysteries, the Incarnation of the Son of God, it may justly strike us into Astonishment, and an Admiration what should be the reason and the end of it; why the great and glorious, the almighty and eternal God, should take our weak and finite Nature into his infinite and incomprehensible Person; why the Creator of all things should himself become a Creature; and he that made the World be himself made into it; why the supreme Being of all Beings, that gives Essence and Existence to all things in the World, whose Glory the Heaven of Heavens is not able to contain, should cloath himself with Flesh, and become Man, of the self same Nature and Substance with us, who live and move and have our Being in him! Certainly it was not upon any frivolous or ordinary account, that the most high God manifested himself to the Sons of Men in so wonderful and extraordinary a manner as this was. But he did it questionless upon some Design that was as great and glorious as the Act it self. And if we would know 232what his End and Design in coming into the World was, the Scripture assures us in general, that it was for the Salvation of Mankind, whose Nature he assumed: For this is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the World to save sinners, 1 Tim. i. 15. And he himself tells us, That God so loved the World, that he sent his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life, John iii. 16. Now for the accomplishment of this no less glorious than gracious Design, there are two things which it was necessary he should do for us, whilst he was upon Earth, even expiate our former Sins, and direct unto Holiness for the future; both which he hath effected for us: the one by his Death and the other by his Life.
FOR, by his Death he hath paid that Debt which we owed to God, having made complete satisfaction to God’s Justice for those Sins, whereby we have incurred his Displeasure For Death was threatned to all Mankind in case of Disobedience, and by consequence all Mankind being disobedient, are obnoxious to it. Neither would it stand with the Justice of God, to falsify his Word, nor yet with his Glory, to put up the Injuries that we have committed against him, without having satisfaction 233made unto him for them. But it being impossible that a finite Creature should satisfy for those Sins which were commited against the infinite God: Hence the infinite God himself was pleased to undertake it for us, even to satisfy himself for those Sins which were committed against him; which he did, by undergoing that Death which he had threaten’d to us in our own Nature, united to the Person of his own and only Son, God coequal, coessential, coeternal with himself, who is therefore said to be a propitiation for our sins, 1 John ii. 2. Neither can there any reason imaginable be alledged, why the Son of God himself should suffer Death, unless it was upon our account, and in our stead, whose Nature he assumed, and in which he suffered it. But not to insist upon that now. The humane Nature in general; having thus suffered that Death in the Person of the Son of God, which all Mankind was otherwise bound to have undergone in their own Persons; hence it comes to pass, that we are all in a Capacity of avoiding that Death which we have deserved by our Sins, if we do but rightly believe in Christ, and apply his Sufferings to our selves.
AND as Christ by his Death and Passions hath thus satisfied for our Sins, so hath he by his Life and Actions, given us an exact 234Pattern of true Piety and Vertue. And although I cannot say it was the only, yet questionless one great End wherefore he continued so long on Earth, and conversed so much amongst Men, and that so many of his Actions are delivered to us with so many Circumstances as they are, was, that we by his Example, might learn how to carry and behave our selves in this lower World. For as from that time to this, so from the beginning of the World to that time, there had been never a Man upon the face of the Earth, that had lived so conformably to the Law of God, that it was safe or lawful for another to follow him in all things. For all Flesh was corrupt, and the very best of Men were still but Men, subject to failures in their Lives as well as to Errors in their Judgments, yea those very Persons whom the Scriptures record, and God himself attesteth to have been eminent in their Generations for Piety and Justice, did oftentimes fail in both. Noah is asserted by God himself, to have been righteous in his Generation, Abraham to be the Father of the Faithful, Moses to be the meekest Man upon Earth, David to be a Man after God’s own Heart, Solomon to have been the wisest Man that ever liv’d, and Job to be a perfect and upright Man, one that feared God and eschewed Evil: 235yet none of these most excellent Persons but had their Vices as well as Virtues: And it is observable, that the more eminent any were in Piety, the more notorious Sins God hath sometimes suffered them to slip in to, to keep them humble. So that from the first to the second Adam, there never lived a Man of whom it could be said, This Man never sinned, never transgressed the Laws of God, and therefore may in all things be imitated by Men.
BUT now as the First was made, the second Adam continued all along most pure and perfect, both in Thought, Word and Action: For he did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth,, 1 Pet. ii. 22. Never so much as a vain Thought ever sprang up in his most holy Heart, nor so much as an idle Word ever proceeded out of his divine Lips, nor so much as an impertinent or frivolous Action was ever performed by his sacred and most righteous Hands; his whole Life being nothing else but one continued act of Piety towards God, Justice towards Men, Love and Charity towards all. And as himself lived, so would he have all his Disciples live whilst they are here below; and therefore enjoyns them that go after him, not only to deny themselves, and take up their Crosses, but also to follow, or imitate him, unto the utmost of their Power 236in their Life and Actions. So that he now expects that all those who profess themselves to be his Disciples, do first deny themselves whatsoever is offensive unto him; and then that they take up their Cross so as to be ready and willing to do or suffer any thing for him, that hath done and suffered so much as he hath for us. And then lastly, that they write after the Copy that he hath set them; and walk in the Steps wherein he is gone before them; even that they follow him through all Duties and Difficulties whatsoever, so as still to do unto the utmost of their Power as he did, otherwise they in vain pretend to be his Disciples. For he that saith be abideth in him, ought himself also to walk even as he walked, 1 John ii. 6. that is, he that professeth to believe in Jesus Christ, should live as he lived while he was upon Earth. Hence St. Paul, a true Disciple of Christ saith, Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ, 1 Cor. xi. 1. As he followed Christ, he would have others to follow him; but he would have them follow him no farther than as he followed Christ.
IT is true, we were bound to be holy and righteous in all our ways, whether we had ever heard of Christ’s being so or no, the Law of God first obliging us to be so; but howsoever, we have 237now an additional Obligation upon us to be holy, As he who hath called us was holy in all manner of conversation, 1 Pet. i. 15. For the Scripture tells us expressly, that Christ hath left us an example that we should follow his steps, 1 Pet. ii. 21. And our Saviour himself commands all that come to him to learn of him, Mat. xi. 29, 30. And therefore we can never expect that he should own us for his Disciples, unless we own him for our Lord and Master, so far as to obey and follow him; he having commanded all those that come to him, to deny themselves, take up their Crosses and follow him. And seeing we all I hope desire to be Christians indeed, as I have explained the two former of these Duties, I shall now endeavour to give the true meaning of the latter too, that we may all so follow Christ here, as to come to him hereafter.
NOW for the opening of this, we must know that we neither can nor ought to follow Christ in every thing he did when he was here below; for even whilst he was here below, he was still the most high and mighty God, the same that he had been from Eternity, and often manifested his Power and Glory to the Sons of Men, whilst he was conversing with them in their own Natures, wherein it would be 238horrid presumption for us to pretend to follow him. As for example, He knew the very thoughts of men, Mat. xii. 25. which I suppose is something past our skill to do. Hence also he judged and censured others, Wo unto you, saith he, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye are like unto painted sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but are within full of dead mens bones and of all uncleanness, Mat. xxiii. 27, 28. But this we could not do though we might, not being able to search into others hearts, neither may we do it though we could, Christ himself having expresly commanded us the contrary, saying, Judge not that ye be not judged, Mat. vii. 1. Our Saviour also as God foretold future events, Luk. xxi. 6. and wrought Miracles, such as were clear demonstrations of his infinite Power and Godhead; but in this he is to be believed and admired, not followed or imitated by us. Thus also when he sent his Disciples to loose another Man’s Colt, and bring him away, Luk. xix. 30. That he did as Lord and Sovereign of the World, or as the supreme Possessor and universal Proprietor of all things; as when he commanded the Israelites to spoil the Egyptians, and carry away their Jewels and Raiment, for all things being his, he may give them to whom he pleaseth; and 239tho’ it would have been a Sin to have taken them away without his command, yet his command gave them a propriety in them, a Right and Title to them, and they had sinned unless they had obeyed the command. So here, our Saviour sent for the Colt, as if it had been his own, for so really it was; as he is God, which he manifested himself to be at the same time, in that he inclined the hearts, of the civil Owners thereof to let him go, only upon the Disciples saying that the Lord had need of him, Luk. xix. 33, 34. But this he did not for our Example, but to shew forth his own Power and Glory.
THERE are some things also which our blessed Saviour did as God-man, or as the Mediator betwixt God and Man, as his making attonement and satisfaction for the Sins of Mankind, his instituting Offices and Ordinances, and Sacraments in his Church, and the like; which having an immediate respect to his Office of Mediator, and being done upon that account, we neither may nor can imitate him in such things. But the things which he would have us to follow him in, are such and such only as he did as mere Man, that had no immediate dependence upon or reference to either his Godhead or Mediatorship. For he having honoured our Nature so far, as to take it 240into his own divine Person, so as to become really and truly Man; as so, he did whatsoever Man is bound to do, both as to God himself, and likewise as to Men. And being absolutely perfect in all the Faculties of his Soul, and Members of his Body, he infinitely surpassed all other Men both in divine Graces, and moral Virtues, so that he never committed any one Sin, so neither did he ever neglect any one Duty, which as Man he was bound to perform either to God Or Men, but still observed every punctilio and Circumstance of the Moral Law; by which means he hath left us a complete Pattern of true and universal Holiness, and hath enjoined us all to follow it.
HOPING therefore that all who profess themselves to be the Friends and Disciples of Jesus Christ, desire to manifest themselves to be so, by following both his Precepts and Example, I shall give the Reader a Short Narrative of his Life and Actions, wherein we may all see what true Piety is, and what real Christianity requires of us; and may not content our selves, as many do, with being, Professors, and adhering to Parties or Factions amongst us, but strive to be thorow Christians, and to carry our selves as such, by walking as Christ himself walked; which 241that we may at least know how to do, looking upon Christ as a mere Man, I shall shew how he did, and by Consequence how we ought to carry our selves both to God and Man, and what Graces and Vertues he exercised all along for our Example and Imitation.
NOW for our more clear, and methodical proceeding, in a matter of such Consequence as this is, I shall begin with his Behaviour towards Men, from his Childhood to his Death.
FIRST therefore, when he was a Child of twelve Years of Age, it is particularly recorded of him, this he was subject or obedient to his Parents, his real Mother and reputed Father, Luc. ii. 51. It is true, he knew at that time that God himself was his Father, for, said he, wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s Business, ver. 49. And knowing God to be his Father, he could not but know likewise that he was infinitely above his Mother; yea, that she could never have born him, had not he himself first made and supported her. Yet howsoever, though as God he was Father to her, yet as Man she was Mother to him; and therefore he honoured and obeyed both her and him to whom the was espoused. Neither did he only respect his Mother whilst he was here, but he took Care of 242her too when he was going hence. Yea, all the Pains that he suffered upon the Cross could not make him forget his Duty to her that bore him; but seeing her standing by the Cross, as himself hung on it, he committed her to the Care of his beloved Disciple, who took her to his own home, Joh. xix. 27. Now as our Saviour did, so are we bound to carry our selves to our earthly Parents, whatsoever their Temper or Condition be in this World. Though God hath blessed some of us perhaps with greater Estates than ever he blessed them, yet we must not think our selves above them, nor be at all the less respectful to them. Christ, we see, was infinitely above his Mother, yet as she was his Mother, he was both subject and respectful to her. He was not ashamed to own her as she stood by the Cross, but in the view and hearing of all there present, gave his Disciple a Charge to take Care of her; leaving us an Example, that such amongst us as have Parents, provide for them if they need it, as well as for our Children, both while we live and when we come to die.
AND as he was to his natural, so was he too to his civil Parents, the Magistrates under which he lived, submissive and faithful; for though as he was God he was infinitely above them in Heaven, yet as he 243was Man he was below them on Earth, having committed all Civil Power into their hands, without reserving any at all for himself. So that though they received their Commission from him, yet now himself could not act without receiving a Commission from them. And therefore having no Commission from them to do it, he would not entrench so much upon their Privilege and Power, as to determine the Controversy betwixt the two Brethren contending about their Inheritance; Man, saith he, who made me a judge or a divider over you? Luc. xii. 14. And to shew his Submission to the Civil Magistrate, as highly as possibly he could, rather than offend them, he wrought a Miracle to pay the Tax which they had charged upon him, Matth. xvii. 27. And when the Officers were sent to take him, though he had more than twelve Legions of Angels at his Service to have fought for him if he had pleased, yet he would not employ them, nor suffer his own Disciples to make any Resistance, Matth. xxvi. 52, 53. And though some of late Days, who called themselves Christians, have acted quite contrary to our blessed Saviour in this Particular, I hope better things of my Readers, even that they will behave themselves more like to Christ, who though he was the supreme 244Governor of the World, yet would not resist, but submitted to the Civil Power, which himself had entrusted Men withal.
MOREOVER, although whilst he was here he was really not only the best but greatest Man upon Earth, yet he carryed himself to others with that Meekness, Humility, and Respect, as if he had been the least; as he never admired any Man for his Riches, so neither did he despise any Man for his Poverty; the poor Man and rich were all alike to him. He was as lowly and respectful to the lowest as he was to the highest that he conversed with. He affected no Titles of Honour, nor gaped after popular Air, but submitted himself to the meanest Services that he could for the Good of others, even to the washing his own Disciples Feet, and all to teach us that we can never think too lowly of our selves, nor do any thing that is beneath us; propounding himself as our Example, especially in this Particular, Learn of me, saith he, for I am meek and lowly in heart, Matth. xi. 29.
HIS Humility also was the more remarkable, in that his Bounty and Goodness to others was so great, for he went about, doing good, Acts x. 38. Wheresoever you read he was, you still read of some good Work or other which he did there, Whatsoever Company he conversed with, they 245still went better from him than they came unto him, if they came out of a good end. By him, as himself said, the Blind received their sight, and the Lame walked, the Lepers were cleansed, and the Deaf heard, the Dead were raised up, and the Poor had the Gospel preached unto them, Matth. xi. 5. Yea, it is observable, that we never read of any Person whatsoever that came unto him, desiring any real Kindness or Favour of him, but he still received it, and that whether he was Friend or Foe. For indeed though he had many inveterate and implacable Enemies in the World, yet he bare no Grudge or Malice against them, but expressed as much Love and Favour to them as to his greatest Friends. Insomuch that when they had gotten him upon the Cross, and fastened his hands and feet unto it, in the midst of all that Pain and Torment which they put him to, he still prayed for them, Luc. xxiii. 34.
OH! how happy, how blessed a People should we be, could we but follow our blessed Saviour in this Particular! How well would it be with us, could we but be thus good and loving to one another, as Christ was to all, even his most bitter Enemies! We may assure our selves it is not only our Misery, but our Sin too, unless we be so. And our Sin will be the 246greater now we know our Matter’s Pleasure, unless we do it. And therefore let all such amongst us, as desire to carry our selves as Christ himself did, and as becometh his Disciples in the World, begin here.
BE submissive and obedient both to our Parents and Governors, humble in our own sight, despise none, but be charitable, loving, and good to all. By this shall all Men know that we are Christ’s Disciples indeed.
HAVING thus seen our Saviour’s Carriage towards Men, we shall now consider his Piety and Devotion towards God, not as if it was possible for me to express the Excellency and Perfection of those religious Acts which he performed continually within his Soul to God, every one of his Faculties being as entire in it self, and as perfect in its Acts, as it was first made or designed to be. There was no darkness, nor so much as gloominess in his Mind, no error or mistake in his Judgment, no bribery or corruption in his Conscience, no obstinacy or perverseness in his Will, no irregularity nor disorder in his Affections, no spot, no blot, no blemish, not the least imperfection or infirmity in his whole Soul. And therefore even whilst his body was on Earth, his head and heart were still in Heaven. For he never troubled his head, 247nor so much as concerned himself about any thing here below, any farther than to do all the Good he could, his thoughts being wholly taken up with considering how to advance God’s Glory and Man’s eternal Happiness. And as for his heart, that was the Altar on which the sacred fire of divine love was always burning, the flames whereof continually ascended up to Heaven, being accompanyed with the most ardent and fervent Desires of, and Delight in, the chiefest Good.
BUT it must not be expected that I should give an exact Description of that eminent and most perfect Holiness which our blessed Saviour was inwardly adorned with, and continually employed in; which I am as unable to express, as desirous to imitate. But howsoever, I shall endeavour to mind the Reader in general of such Acts of his Piety and Devotion, which are particularly recorded, on purpose for our Imitation.
FIRST therefore, it is observed of our Saviour, that from a Child he increased in Wisdom, as he did in Stature, Luc. ii. 52. Where by Wisdom we are to understand the Knowledge of God, and of divine things. For our Saviour having taken our Nature into his Person, with all its Frailties and Infirmities, as it is a created Being, he did 248not in that nature presently know all things which were to be known. It is true, as God, he then knew all things as well as he had from all Eternity. But we are now speaking of him, as a Man, like one of us in all things except Sin. But we continue some considerable time after we are born before we know any thing, or come to the use of our Reasons; the rational Soul not being able to exert or manifest itself, until the natural Phlegm and radical Moisture of the Body, which in Infants is predominant, be so digested, that the Body be rightly qualified, and its Organs fitted for the Soul to work upon and to make use of. And though our Saviour questionless came to the use of his Reason, as Man, far sonner than we are wont to do, yet we must not think that he knew all things as soon as he was born; for that the Nature he assumed was not capable of; neither could he then be said, as he is, to encrease in Wisdom, for where there is Perfection there can be no Encrease.
BUT here before we proceed farther, it will be necessary to answer an Objection which some may make against this. For if our Saviour as Man knew not all things, then he was not perfect, nor absolutely free from Sin, Ignorance it self being a Sin.249
TO this I have these things to answer, first, It is no Sin for a Creature to be ignorant of some things, because it is impossible for a Creature to know all things, for to be omniscient is God’s Prerogative, neither is a Creature capable of it, because he is but finite, whereas the knowledge of all things, or Omniscience, is it self an infinite Act, and therefore to be performed only by an infinite Being. Hence it is that no Creature in the World ever was or ever could be made Omniscient, but there are many things which Adam in his Integrity, and the very Angels themselves are ignorant of; as our Saviour speaking of the Day of Judgment, saith, Of that day and hour knoweth no Man, no not the Angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father, Mark xiii. 32. But the Angels are never the less perfect because they know not this. Nay, it is observable, that the Son himself as Man knew it not, neither saith he, the Son, but the Father; and if he knew it not, then much less was it necessary for him to know it when a Child.
SECONDLY, As to be ignorant of some things is no Sin, so neither is any Ignorance at all sin, but that whereby a Man is ignorant of what he is bound to know, For all sin is the transgression of a law. And therefore if there be no Law obliging me 250to know such or such things, I do not sin by being ignorant of them, for I transgress no Law. Now though all Men are bound by the Law of God to know him, and their Duty to him, yet Infants, so long as Infants, are not, neither can be obnoxious or subject to that Law, they being in a natural incapacity, yea impossibility to perform it, but as they become by degrees capable of knowing any thing, they are obliged questionless to know him first, from whom they receive their knowledge.
AND thus it was that our blessed Saviour perfectly fulfilled the Law of God, in that although he might still continue ignorant of many things; yet howsoever he all along knew all that he was bound to know, and as he grew by degrees more and more capable of knowing any thing, so did he increase still more in true Wisdom, or in the knowledge of God; so that by that time he was twelve years old, he was able to dispute with the great Doctors and learned Rabbies amongst the Jews; and after that as he grew in Stature, so did he grow in Wisdom too, and in favour both with God and Man.
AND verily, although we did not follow our blessed Saviour in this particular when we were Children, we ought howsoever to endeavour it now we are Men and Women, 251even to grow in Wisdom, and every day add something to our spiritual stature, so as to let never a day pass over our heads, without being better acquainted with God’s goodness to us, or our Duty to him. And by this example of our Saviour’s growing in Wisdom when a Child, we should also learn to bring up our Children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and not strive so much to make them rich, as to use all means to make them wise and good, that they may do as their Saviour did, even grow in wisdom and in stature, and in the favour both of God and Man.
AND as our Saviour grew in wisdom when a Child, so did he use and manifest it when he came to be a Man, by devoting himself wholly unto the service of the living God, and to the exercise of all true Grace and Virtue, wherein his blessed Soul was so much taken up, that he had neither time nor heart to mind those toys and trifles which silly Mortals upon Earth are so much apt to dote on. It is true all the World was his, but he had given it all away to others, not reserving for himself so much as an House to put his head in, Mat. viii. 20. And what Money he had hoarded up, you may gather from his working a Miracle to pay his Tribute or Poll Money, which came not to much above a Shilling. Indeed he 252came into the World and went out again, without ever taking any notice of any Pleasures, Honours or Riches in it, as if there had been no such thing here, as really there was not, nor ever will be; all the Pomp and Glory of this deceitful World having no other Being or Existence, but only in our distempered Fancies and Imaginations, and therefore our Saviour, whose Fancy was found, and his Imagination untainted, looked upon all the World and the Glory of it as not worthy to be looked upon, seeing nothing in it wherefore it should be desired. And therefore instead of spending his time in the childish pursuit of Clouds and Shadows, he made the Service of God not only his Business, but his Recreation too, his Food as well as Work. It is my meat, saith he, to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work, Joh. iv. 34. This was all the Riches, Honours and Pleasures which he sought for in the World, even to do the will of him that sent him hither, and to finish the Work which he came about, and so he did before he went away; Father, I have glorified thee on the earth, I have finished the work which thou sentest me to do, Joh. xvii. 4. If therefore we would be Christ’s Disciples, so as to follow him, we see what we must do, and how we must 253behave and carry our selves whilst we are here below; we must not spend our rime, nor throw away our precious and short lived Days upon the trifles and impertinencies of this transient World, as if we came hither for nothing else but to rake and scrape up a little dust and dirt together, or to wallow our selves like Swine in the mire of carnal Pleasures and Delights. No we may assure our selves we have greater things to do, and far more noble Designs to carry on whilst we continue in this vale of Tears, even to work out our Salvation with fear and trembling, and to make our calling and election sure; to serve God here, so as to enjoy him for ever. This is the work we came about, and which we must not only do, but do it too with pleasure and delight, and never leave until we have accomplish’d it; we must make it our only pleasure to please God, account it our only Honour to honour him, and esteem his love and favour to be the only wealth and riches that we can enjoy; we must think our selves no farther happy, than we find our selves to be truly holy, and therefore devote one Lives wholly to him, in whom we live. This is to live as Christ lived, and by consequence as Christians ought to do.
I might here instance in several other Acts of Piety and Devotion, which our Saviour 254was not only eminent for, but continually exercised himself in, as his humble and perfect Submission and Resignation of his own will to God’s, his most ardent Love unto him, and zeal for him, as also his firm and stedfast Trust and Confidence on him; so that nothing could ever disquiet or discompose his Mind, but still his Heart was fixed, trusting in the Lord. In all which, it is both our Duty and Interest to follow him, our Happiness as well as Holiness consisting in our dependence upon God, and Inclinations to him.
BUT we should do well to observe withal, that our Saviour performed external as well as inward Worship and Devotion unto God; particularly we often find him praising God and praying unto him, and that with his Eyes lift up to Heaven in a most humble and reverential Posture, John xvii. i. Luke xxii. 4. Matth. 26. 39. yea when he was to chuse and ordain some of his Disciples to the Work of the Ministry, and to succced him after his departure, under the name of Apostles, he spent the Night before in Prayer to God, Luke vi. 12. I confess the words there used ἐν τῇ προσευχῇ τοῦ θεοῦ, will scarce admit of that Interpretation or Exposition, signifying rather in a strict sense, that he went into a place appointed for Prayer, which was usually called 255προσευχὴ, a place of Prayer, which kind of Places were very frequent in Judæa, and some of them continued till Epiphanius’s time, as himself asserts; and they were only plots of Ground enclosed with a Wall; and open above, and were ordinarily, if not always upon Mountains, whither the Jews used to resort to pray together in great Multitudes. And this seems to be the proper meaning of these words, where our Saviour is said to go into a Mountain, and to continue all Night, ὀν τῇ προσευχῇ τοῦ θεοῦ, a place dedicated to his Service. Yet howsoever we cannot suppose but that he went thither to do what the place whither he went, was designed for, even to pray. And by consequence, that seeing he stayed there all Night, questionless he spent the whole Night in Prayer and Meditation, in order to so great a Work as the ordaining his Apostles was.
Here therefore is another Copy which our Master Christ hath set us to write after, a Lesson that all must learn and practise that would be his Disciples. Though we ordinarily converse with nothing but Dirt and Clay, and with our fellow Worms on Earth, yet as Christ did, so should we often retire from the Tumults and Bustles of the World, to converse with him that made 256 us; both to praise him for the Mercies we have received, and to pray unto him for what we want; only we shall do well to have a care that we do not perform so solemn a Duty as this is, after a careless and perfunctory manner, because none sees us but God; for his seeing us is infinitely more than if all the World besides should see us, and we must still remember that Prayer is the greatest Work that a Creature can be engaged in, and therefore to be performed with the greatest seriousness, reverence, and earnestness that possibly we can raise up our Spirits to. And besides our daily Devotions which we owe, and ought to pay to God whensoever we set upon any great and weighty Business, we must be sure to follow our Saviour’s steps, in setting some time apart, proportionably to the Business we undertake, wherein to ask God’s Counsel, and desire his Direction and Blessing in the most serious and solemn manner that possibly we can. I need ot tell the Reader what benefit we shall receive by this means, none of us that shall try it but will soon find it by experience.
I shall observe only one thing more concerning our Saviour’s Devotion, and that is, that although he took all occasions to instruct or admonish his Disciples and Followers, whether in the Fields or upon 257the Mountains, or in private Houses, even wheresoever he could find an opportunity to do it; yet upon the Sabbath-days he always frequented the publick worship of God; he went into the Synagogues, Places appointed for publick Prayers, and reading and hearing of the Word, a thing which I fear many amongst us do not think of, or at least not rightly consider it; for if they did, they would not dare methinks to walk so directly contrary to our blessed Saviour in this particular; for St. Luke tells us, that when he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, as his custom was, he went into the Synagogue on the Sabbath-day, Luc. iv. 16. From whence none of us but may easily observe, that our Saviour did not go into a Synagogue, or Church, by the by to see what they were doing there; neither did he happen to go in by chance upon the Sabbath-day, but it was his custom and constant practice to do so, even to go each Sabbath-day to the publick Ordinance, there to join with the Congregation in performing their publick Service and Devotions to Almighty God.
AND here I must take leave to say, that was there no other Law, nor any other Obligations upon us (as there be many) to frequent the publick Worship of God, this Practice and Example of our blessed Saviour, 258doth sufficiently and effectually oblige us all to a constant attendance upon the publick Ordinance. For as we are Christians, and profess our selves to be his Disciples, we are all bound to follow him; he commands us here and elsewhere to do it; and certainly there is nothing that we can be obliged to follow him in, more than in the manner of his Worshipping God. And therefore, whosoever out of any humour, fancy or sloathfulness, shall presume to neglect the publick worship of God, he doth not only act contrary unto Christ’s example, but transgresses also his Command, that enjoins him to follow that example. What they who are guilty of this will have answer for themselves, when they come to stand before Christ’s Tribunal, I know not. But this I know, that all those who profess themselves to be Christians, should follow Christ in all things that they can, and by consequence in this particular, and that they sin who do not.
BUT in whatsoever other things we may fail, I know the generality of us do herein follow our Saviour’s steps, that we are usually present at the publick worship of God; but then I hope this is not all that we follow him in, but that as we follow him to the publick Ordinances, so we do likewise in our private Dcvotions, yea and 259in our behaviour both to God and Man. Which that we may the better do, I have endeavoured to shew wherein especially we ought to follow Christ, in being obedient to our Parents, subject to our Governours, lowly to the lowest, loving and charitable unto all; as also, in growing in Wisdom and the Knowledge of God, in contemning the World, in devoting our selves wholly to the service of God, in resigning our Wills to his, in loving of him, in trusting on him above all things else, in daily praying unto God, and frequenting his publick Ordinances; to which I may also add, in denying our selves, and taking up our Crosses, which himself hath done before us, as well as required of us.
WHAT now remains, but that seeing the steps wherein our Saviour walked, we should all resolve to walk together in them. And I hope that I need not use Arguments to persuade any to it; it is enough one would think, that Christ himself, whose name we bear, expects and commands it from us. And in that the sum of all our Religion consisteth in obeying and following Christ, the Circumstances of whose Life are recorded on purpose that we may imitate him unto the utmost of our power, not only in the matter but manner of our 260actions, even in the circumstances as well as in the substance of them.
BUT this I dare say we all both know and believe, even that it is our duty to follow Christ; and therefore it is a sad, a dismal thing to consider, that amongst them that know it, there are so few that do it: But even those that go under the name of Christians themselves, do more generally follow the Beasts of the Field, or the very Fiends of Hell, rather than Christ our Saviour. For all covetous Worldlings that look no higher than Earth, and all luxurious Epicures that labour after no other but sensual Pleasures, whom do they imitate but the Beasts that perish. And as for the proud and arrogant, the deceitful and malicious, Seducers of their Brethren, and Oppressors of their Neighbours, all Backbiters, and False-accusers, all Deriders of Religion, and Apostates from it, they are all of their Father the Devil, and his works they do. And if all such Persons should be taken from amongst us, how few would be left behind that follow Christ? very few indeed! but I hope there would be some. And oh that all who read this would be in the number of them, even that they would all from this Day forward resolve to come as near our blessed Saviour in all their Actions both to God and Man, as possibly 261they can, which if we once did, what holy, what happy lives should we then lead? how should we antedate both the work and joys of Heaven! and how certain should we be to be there e’er long, where Christ that is the pattern of our Lives here, will be the portion of our Souls for ever,
THUS I have shewn what Christ requires of those who would be his Disciples, enjoining them to deny themselves, take up their Cross, and follow him. And now I have done my Duty in explaining these Words, ’tis all my Readers as well as mine to practise them, which I heartily wish we would all resolve to do; and I must say, it highly concerns us all to do so, for we can never be saved but by Christ, nor by him unless we be his Disciples; neither can we be his Disciples, unless we do what here is required of us. And therefore if we care not whether we be saved or no, we may think no more of these things, nor trouble our heads about them; but if we really desire to come to Heaven, let us remember he who alone can bring us thither, hath told us, that we must deny our selves, take up our cross, and follow him.262
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