« VorigeDoorgaan »
yourself most defective in; for this will not only give life to your petitions, and make your heart go along with them, but will also be the surest means to fit and prepare you for such graces as you pray for.
Lastly; This particularity in our prayers is the greatest trial of the truth of our hearts.
A man perhaps thinks he prays for humility, because he has the word humility in his prayers. But if he was to branch out humility into all its particular parts, he would perhaps find himself not disposed to pray for them. If he was to represent to himself the several particulars which make a man poor in spirit, he would find his heart not desirous of them. So that the only way to know the truth of our hearts, and whether we really pray for any virtue, is to have all its parts in our prayers, and make our petitions to ask for it in all its instances. If the proud man was to pray daily and frequently for humility in all its kinds, and to beg of God to remove him from all occasions of such pride, as is common to his particular state, and to disappoint kim in all his attempts that were contrary to humility; he would find, that such prayers would either conquer his pride, or his pride would put an end to his prayers. For it would be impossible to live long in any instances of pride, if his daily and frequent prayers were petitions against those particular instances. Now every one may make his private devotions thus useful to him, if he has but piety enough to intend it. For every one may know his own state if he will; we indeed commonly say, that people are blind to themselves, and know the least of their true state. We pass this judgment upon people, because we see them pretending to so many virtues which do not belong to them, and declaiming against vices to which they are the most subject. Therefore we say, that men do not know themselves; but this is false reasoning.
We see people often pretending to be rich: now this is not because they do not know their state, but because they would not have you to know it, and they presume it possible to impose upon you. Now the case is just the same in all other pretences. The false, the proud, the worldly man, that pretends to fidelity, humility, and heavenly affection, knows that he is neither faithful, nor humble, nor heavenlyminded; he no more thinks he has these virtues than a man thinks he has a great estate, when he endeavours to be thought rich; he knows that he only affects the reputation of these virtues, and is only blind in this, that he imagines he imposes upon you, and passes for the man he is not.
Every man therefore has knowledge enough himself to know how to make his prayers particularly fitted to the corruption and disorders of his heart, and when he is so desirous of salvation, as to enter into such a method of prayer, he will find that he has taken the best means to make his
prayers remedies againsť all his sins. Let me now only add this one word more, that he who has learned to pray, has learned the greatest secret of a holy and happy life. Which way soever else we let loose our hearts they will return unto us again empty and weary. Time will convince the vainest and blindest minds, that happiness is no more to be found in the things of this world, than it is to be dug out of the earth. But when the motions of our hearts are motions of piety, tending to God in constant acts of devotion, love, and desire, than we have found l'est unto' our souls; then is it that we have conquered the misery of our nature, and neither love nor desire in vain; then is it that we have found out a good suited to our natures, that is equal to all our wants, that is a constant source of comfort and refreshment, that will fill us with peace and joyful expectation here, and eternal happiness hereafter. For he that lives in the spirit and
temper of devotion, whose heart is always full of God, lives at the top of human happiness, and is the farthest removed from all the vanities and vexations which disturb and weary the minds of men that are devoted to the world.
All Christians are required to imitate the Life
and Example of Jesus Christ.
UR religion teaches us, that as we have borne
the image of the earthly, so we shall bear the image of the heavenly; that after our death we shall rise to a state of life and happiness, like to that life and happiness which our blessed Saviour enjoys at the right hand of God. Since therefore it is the great end of our religion to make us fellow-heirs with Christ, and partakers of the same happiness, it is not to be wondered at, that our religion should require us to be like Christ in this life, to imitate bis example, that we may enter into that state of happiness which he enjoys in the kingdom of heaven.
For how can we think that we are going to the blessed Jesus, that we are to be hereafter as he is, unless we conform to his spirit in this life, and make it our great endeavour to be what he was when he was here. Let it therefore here be observed, that the nature of our religion teaches us th's duty in a more convincing manner, than any particular precepts concerning it. For the most ordinary understanding must feel the force and reasonableness of this argument. You are born to depart out of this world, to ascend to that state of bliss, to live in such enjoyment of God to all eternity, as our
blessed Saviour now enjoys; you are therefore to live in the spirit and temper that he lived, and make yourselves first like him here, that you may be like him hereafter. So that we need not look for particular texts of Scripture which command us to imitate the life of Christ, because we are taught this duty by a stronger and more convincing authority; because, as the end and design of our religion is to make us one with Christ hereafter, partakers of the same state of life, so it plainly calls us to be one with him here, and to be partakers of the same spirit and temper in which he lived on earth. When it is said, that we are to imitate the life of Christ, it is not meant that we are called to the same manner of life, or the same sort of actions, for this cannot be; but it is certain that we are called to the same spirit and temper, which was the spirit and temper of our blessed Saviour's life and actions. We are to be like him in heart and mind, to act by the same rule, to look towards the same end, and to govern our lives by the same spirit. This is an imitation of Jesus Christ, which is as necessary to salvation as it is necessary to believe in his name. This is the sole end of all the counsels, commands, and doctrines of Christ, to make us like himself, to fill us with his spirit and temper, and makes us live according to the rule and manner of his life. "As no doctrines are true, but such as are according to the doctrines of Christ, so it is equally certain, that no life is regular or Christian, but such as is according to the pattern and example of the life of Christ. For he lived as infallibly as he taught; and it is as irregular to vary from his example, as it is false to dissent from his doctrines. To live as he lived, is as certainly the one sole way of living as we ought, as to believe as he taught is the one sole way of believing as we ought. I am, saith the blessed Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me. Christians often hear these
words, and perhaps think that they have enough fulfilled them, by believing in Jesus Christ. But they should consider, that when Jesus Christ saith he is the way, his meaning is, that his way of life is to be the way in which all Christians are to live, and that it is by living after the manner of his life that any man cometh unto the. Father. So that the doctrine of this passage is this, that however we may call ourselves Christians or disciples of Christ, yet we cannot come unto God the Father but by entering into that way of life which was the way
of our Saviour's life. And we must remember, that there is no other way besides this; nothing can possibly bring us to God but that way of life which first makes us one with Christ, and teaches us to walk as he walked. For we may as well expect to go to a heaven where Christ is not, as to go to that where he is, without the spirit and temper which earried him thither. If Christians would but suffer themselves to reflect upon this duty, their own minds would soon convince them of the reasonableness and necessity of it. For who can find the least shadow of a reason why he should not imitate the life of Christ, or why Christians should think of any other rule of life; it would be as easy to show that Christ acted amiss as that we need not act after his example. And to think that these are degrees of holiness, which, though' very good in themselves, are yet not necessary for us to aspire after, is the same absurdity as to think that it was not necessary for our Saviour to have been so perfect himself as he was. For give but the reason why such degress of holiness and purity became our Saviour, and you will
give as good a reason for us to aspire after them. For as the blessed Jesus took not on him the nature of angels, but the nature of man, as he was, in all points, made like unto us, sin only excepted; so we are sure that there was no spirit or temper that was excellent in him, that e.