AMONG all the advocates for morality which ancient or modern times have furnished, we cannot find one complete pattern of purity. But in Jesus we have a perfect example; an example which has the force of a law, and contains the strongest inducement to holiness. We see, in our Divine Leader, the several precepts of God's word drawn out in living characters. We behold them reduced to practice, and represented to the life, in the whole of his conduct towards God and man. We see one in our nature, amidst all the assaults of temptation, amidst all the opposition which malignity could invent, and all the allurements of this guilty world, behaving in a manner exactly agreeable to the dictates of the Divine law, and leaving us an example that we should follow his steps. And surely it must be delightful, not only to contemplate his character, but, to the utmost of our power, to imitate the most perfect pattern that ever was exhibited. It must be desirable, by constant and strenuous exertions, according to our measure, to endeavor to trace the steps of his lovely feet. "He that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also to walk even as he walked." (1 John 2:6)
It is impossible to contemplate the character of Jesus, with serious and devout attention, and not be charmed with it. We see to him all the human passions in the highest perfection. His joys were grave, his griefs were just; his gentleness and his severity, his inflexibility and his humanity, were in perfect harmony with each other. He discovered great tenderness and genuine affection on all occasions. Sensibility to human woe was his real character.
As he did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth, so, on the other hand, every shining virtue was exemplified in him to a very high degree. His lowliness and meekness; his contempt of the world; his heavenly temper; his love to the Father, and zeal for his honor; his activity and diligence in doing good; his submission to the Father's will; his patience amidst the heaviest and severest sufferings: his constancy in the exercises of retired devotion; and his praying for his enemies who spilt his blood, can never be sufficiently admired.
Let me imitate his example and goodness, now he is seated on his throne of glory.--Has he pardoned my sins? Let me learn to forgive my offending fellow-creatures. Has he had patience with me, and borne with my manners from year to year? Let me strive to exercise patience towards ungrateful men. Does he scatter his favors abroad, and communicate felicity to his creatures? Let me imitate him in being ready to distribute. Is he continually mindful of me, are his cares for my welfare and salvation incessant? Let me be concerned for the present and everlasting well-being of others, who are united to me by the ties of nature, of society, and of religion.
Mark his unwearied activity through the whole of his life in this world. He who laid the foundations of the earth, and by his excellent wisdom made the heavens, who shakes the system he has made, and the pillars thereof tremble; who seals up the stars, and speaketh to the sun, and it shineth not: he disdained not to fix a mark of honor upon industry and diligence, being employed in the humble occupation of a carpenter, before he entered on his public ministry. The Jews said of him, "Is not this the carpenter?"
O Christians, fix your eyes intensely on the great exemplar. Thus you will, through Divine grace, daily grow in the love with meekness, patience, and lowliness of heart. Can you grow angry and impatient at trifles, when you view the Son of God enduring such contradiction of sinners against himself, without the least complaint? Can you repine under any afflictions, though ever so severe, when you consider, how it pleased the Father to bruise the Son of his love, while he, with divine submission said, "O my Father, if this cup may not pass from me, except I drink it, thy will be done!"
The more I contemplate his amiable character, while he sojourned on earth, the more I am delighted with it. To have the same mind in me which was also in Christ Jesus, and to tread in his steps, should be my constant aim. Those who are received by him to the possession of everlasting felicity in heaven, have humbly traced his footsteps upon earth. Of them it is said, "These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth." They are led by him, even in the celestial world, to the enjoyment of ever-new delights, and of pleasures for evermore.
Blessed Saviour, may thy holy example be ever before mine eyes, in its most illustrious and transforming light! O that all the devout affections which reigned in thy heart when thou didst sojourn with men upon earth, might also, in some measure, reign in mine. O that I could copy out the wonders of thy zeal for the honor of thy Father, and of thy love and compassion for the sinful and miserable sons of men. Thy holy affections were engaged in every act of worship, with divine ardor and fervency. I am ashamed to think of the coldness, the dullness, and the formality of my prayers and praises. O let the sacred fire of true devotion he kindled in my bosom. Melt down my hard and unfeeling heart, and mold my spirit after thy likeness. Inflame my whole soul with love to thee, as a happy preparative for the enjoyment of thy presence in glory.