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it; for he is good to the unthankful and the unwor. thy ?
Are we prone to envy, jealousy, malice, and revenge, how doubly odious must such a disposition appear when compared with the mercy and compassion of the Divine Being, who, though all power be in his hands, has no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but is desirous that all should repent and live. And must not all pride, vanity, and selfconceit, be for ever struck dumb before an infinitely great, and yet an infinitely condescending God; who for our sakes has condescended to appear in the familiar character of our father and our friend, chusing to vail his glory, rather than forbid, or discourage, our access to him, and intercourse with him, when it was necessary to our happiness?
If a man be addicted to excessive animal grati. fications, how must the sense of his obligation to become like the Divine Being, to be perfect as his father in Heaven is perfect, fill him with shame and self reproach; when he must perceive that by such low indulgences he is so far from raising and improving his nature, and bringing himself
nearer to the all-perfect nature of God, he is divesting himself of the prerogatives of a rational nature; being go
verned by mere appetite and passion, and sinking as far as his nature will permit him to the condition of a brute beast?
Besides, we who have the benefit of divine revelation have advantages for the imitation of God of which the wisest heathens were destitute. Did we know nothing of God, but what the light of nature teaches, we might be at a loss what to do when we were directed to imitate him. We may, indeed, be said, in a figurative sense, to trace the footsteps, and to hear the voice, of God in his works; but it is in a very obscure and indistinct manner. But in revelation the Divine Being may be said to assume a proper personal character, and to act a proper part, as intelligible to 'us'as that of the prophets, kings, and private persons, with which it is intermixed. We see in what manner God spake, and how he acted; from which we may infer what he thought and felt on a variety of particular occasions, and this at intervals in a long succession, from the time of our first parents to that of Christ and the apostles; so that we can no more be at any loss to know what to do when we are directed to imitate God, than if we had been ordered to imitate any person whatever.
In some cases, indeed, the infinite superiority of the Divine Being to all his creatures must make a different rule of conduct necessary. He, for instance, is continually promoting good by - means of evil; and there are many instances in the history of his dispensations to mankind of great calamity, and heavy judgments, inflicted upon families and nations, in which persons of all characters are involved, for the sake of promoting a great general and lasting good. This we must not attempt, because our understandings are finite; so that what we imagine to be good may eventually prove to be evil ; whereas his knowledge is infinite. He sees the end of every thing from the beginning, and is also able to make abundant re. compence to every individual who may seem to be improperly sufferers in cases of general calamity.
We see then the admirable propriety and use of this precept of our Lord, to endeavour to be perfect as our Father who is in Heaven is perfect. Be it our care, therefore, convinced of its importance, to make the proper use of it, by reducing it to practice.
For a man to entertain the idea of being like to God, and especially of being in any sense, perfect as he is perfect, is certainly a great and noble,
but a just and proper aim. For, weak as man is, we ought not hastily and rashly to conclude that it is not in our power to attain to great and distin. guished excellence; and that because we cannot attain to absolute perfection, we may not make considerable approaches to it. The extent of the human capacity for knowledge or virtue is unknown to ourselves; and it is for the honour of our maker to suppose it to be very great, and to act upon that supposition. Not more than a century ago it was not imagined that the understand. ing of man could have attained the knowledge of which we are now possessed, especially of the works and laws of nature; and, to appearance, man is much better formed for moral action than: for abstruse speculation; good practice being easy to all that sincerely endeavour to live well, whereas the investigation of truth is difficult to the most intelligent of our species.
It is, no doubt, with a view to our imitation of God, that we are so particularly informed of our near relation to him, as his offspring, and his children; and that man was originally made in the image of God; and though by vice and folly we have in a great measure effaced this image, we are still invited in the gospel to become again partak
ers of a divine nature, 2 Pet. I. 4. and this is represented as the great object and end of the gospel. The apostle Paulexpressly exhorts christians to be followers of God, as his dear, or favoured, children, Eph. V. . distinguished by peculiar privileges and advantages for purity and greatness of conduct, like that of their heavenly father..
i Let us, then, at the same time endeavour to do honour to our inaker, and to ourselves, by setting no bounds to our attainment în virtue; and there.. fore let us not think of comparing ourselves to men like ourselves, subject to the same imperfections, but propose to ourselves the imitation of the Divine Being himself, endeavouring to be holy, as he is holy, righteous as he is righteous, and perfect, in our sphere and rank, in the scale of being, as be is perfect in his.