The Method of Grace in the Gospel Redemption
by John Flavel
File 31
(... continued from file 30)

Sermon 29. 
Of the Imitation of Christ in holiness of Life, and the necessity of 
it in Believers. 
I John 2: 6. 
He that saith he abided in him, ought himself also to walk, even as 
he walked. 
    The express and principal design of the apostle, in this 
chapter, is to propound marks and signs, both negative and positive, 
for the trial and examination of men's claims to Christ; amongst 
which (not to spend time about the coherence) my text is a principal 
one; a trial of men's interest in Christ, by their imitation of 
Christ. It is supposed by some expositors, that the apostle, in 
laying down this mark, had a special design to overthrow the wicked 
doctrine of the Carpocratians, who taught (as Epiphanius relates it) 
that men might have as much communion with God in sin as in duty. In 
full opposition to which the apostle lays down this proposition, 
wherein he asserts the necessity of a Christ-like conversation in 
all that claim union with him, or interest with him. The words 
resolve themselves into two parts, viz. 
    1. A claim to Christ supposed. 
    2. The only way to have our claim warranted. 
    First, We have here a claim to Christ supposed; "if any man say 
he abideth in him." Abiding in Christ is an expression denoting 
proper and real interest in Christ, and communion with him; for it 
is put in opposition to those temporary, light, and transient 
effects of the gospel, which are called a morning dew, or an early 
cloud; such a receiving of Christ as that, Mat. 13: 21. which is but 
a present flash, sudden and vanishing; abiding in Christ notes a 
solid, durable, and effectual work of the Spirit, thoroughly and 
everlastingly joining the soul to Christ. Now, if any man, whosoever 
he be (for this indefinite is equivalent to an universal term) let 
him never think his claim to be good and valid, except he take this 
course to adjust it. 
    (2.) Secondly, The only way to have this claim warranted, and 
that must be by so walking even as he walked; which words carry in 
them the necessity of our imitation of Christ. But it is not to be 
understood indefinitely and universally of all the works or actions 
of Christ, some of which were extraordinary and miraculous, some 
purely mediatory, and not imitable by us: In these paths no 
Christian can follow Christ; nor may so much as attempt to walk as 
he walked. But the words point at the ordinary and imitable ways and 
works of Christ; therein it must be the care of all to follow him, 
that profess and claim interest in him; they must so walk as he 
walked, this [so] is a very bearing word in this place; the emphasis 
of the text seems to lie in it; however, certain it is that this so 
walking, does not imply an equality with Christ in holiness and 
obedience; for as he was filled with the Spirit without measure, and 
anointed with that oil of gladness above his fellows; so the purity, 
holiness, and obedience of his life are never to be matched, or 
equalised by any of the saints. But this so walking only notes a 
sincere intention, design, and endeavour to imitate and follow him 
in all the paths of holiness and obedience, according to the 
different measures of grace received. The life of Christ is the 
believer's copy, and though the believer cannot draw one line or 
letter exact as his copy is, yet his eye is still upon it, he is 
looking unto Jesus, Heb. 12: 2. and labouring to draw all the lines 
of his life, as agreeably as he is able, into Christ his pattern. 
    Hence the observation is, 
    Doct. That every man is bound to the imitation of Christ, under 
         penalty of forfeiting his claim to Christ. 
    The saints imitation of Christ is solemnly enjoined by many 
great and express commands of the gospel; so you find it, 1 Pet. 1: 
15. "But as he that has called you is holy, so be ye holy in all 
manner of conversation:" So Eph. 5: 1, 2. "Be ye therefore followers 
of God as dear children, and walk in love, as Christ also has loved 
us." "Christians (saith Bernard) receive this name from Christ; and 
it is very meet that as they inherit his name, so they should also 
imitate his holiness." Now to state the method of this discourse, it 
will be needful to discuss and open three things in the doctrinal 
    1. What the saints imitation of Christ supposes and comprises. 
    2 In what particulars they are especially bound to imitate 
    3. Why no claim to Christ is valid without this imitation of 
    And then apply the whole in divers uses. 
    (1.) First, What the saints imitation of Christ supposeth and 
compriseth. Now there are divers great and weighty truths supposed 
and implied in this imitation of Christ, or walking as he walked, 
    First, It supposes, that no Christian is, or may pretend to be 
a rule to himself, to act according to the dictates of his own will 
and pleasure; for as no man has wisdom enough to direct and govern 
himself, so if his own will were made the rule of his own actions, 
it would be the highest invasion of the divine prerogative that 
could be imagined: "I know, O Lord, (saith Jeremiah) that the way of 
man is not in himself; it is not in him that walketh to direct his 
own steps, Jer. 10: 28. We may as well pretend to be our own makers 
as our own guides. It is a pretty observation of Aquinas, that if 
the workman's hand were the rule of his work, it were impossible he 
should ever err in working: And if the will of man were the only law 
and guide of his way, we might then say no man would sin in his 
walking. The apostle, indeed, saith of the Heathens, Rom. 2: 14. 
"That they are a law to themselves;" but it is not his meaning, that 
their will is their law, but the law of God engraven upon their 
hearts; the light and dictates of their own consciences did oblige 
and bind them as a law. 
    Secondly, This imitation of Christ implies, that as no man is, 
or may pretend to be his own guide, so no mere man, how wise or holy 
soever he be, may pretend to be a rule to other men; but Christ is 
the rule of every man's way and walking. It is true indeed, the 
apostle saith, "We should be followers of them, who through faith 
and patience, inherit the promises," Heb. 6: 12. And again, James 5: 
10. "Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of 
the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. 
But you must always remember, that there is a two-fold rule; 
    1. Regula regulans, the rule ruling. 
    2. Regula regulata, the rule ruled. 
    The wisest and holiest among men, may pretend no higher than a 
ruled rule. The great apostle, though filled with as great a measure 
of the Spirit of wisdom and holiness, as ever was possessed by any 
mere man, yet goes no higher than this, 1 Cor. 11: 1. "Be ye 
followers of me, as I also am of Christ." The best of men are but 
men at best; they have their errors and defects, which they freely 
acknowledge; and where they differ from Christ, it is our duty to 
differ from them. We may not pin our faith to any man's sleeve, for 
we know not where he will carry it. It was the commendation which 
Paul gave of the Thessalonians, 1 Thes. 1: 6. "And you became 
followers of us and of the Lord." The noble Bereans were also 
commended for searching the scriptures, and examining the apostles' 
doctrine by it; and it was a good reply of the father to a clamorous 
disputant, crying, Hear me, hear me; "I will neither hear thee, nor 
do thou hear me; but let us both hear Christ." 
    Thirdly, The imitation of Christ implies the necessity of 
sanctification in all his followers; forasmuch as it is impossible 
there should be a practical conformity in point of obedience, where 
there is not a conformity in spirit and in principle; all external 
conformity to Christ's practice, depends upon an internal conformity 
to Christ in the principle and Spirit of holiness. It is very plain, 
from Ezek. 11: 19, 20. that a new heart must be given us, and a new 
spirit put into us, before we can walk in God's statutes; we must 
first live in the Spirit, before we can walk in the Spirit, Gal. 5: 
    Fourthly, The imitation of Christ plainly holds forth this, 
that the Christian religion is a very precise and strict religion; 
no way countenancing licentiousness, or indulging men in their 
lusts: it allows no man to walk loosely and inordinately, but 
rejects every man's claim to Christ, who studies and labours not to 
tread exactly in the footsteps of his holy and heavenly example. 
Profaneness and licentiousness, therefore, can find no shelter or 
protection under the wing of the gospel; this is the universal rule 
laid upon all the professors of the Christian religion, "Let every 
one that nameth the name of Christ, depart from iniquity," 2 Tim. 2: 
19. i.e. let him either put on the life of Christ, or put off the 
name of Christ; let him show the hand of a Christian, in works of 
holiness and obedience, or else the tongue and language of a 
Christian must gain no belief or credit. 
    Fifthly, The imitation of Christ necessarily implies the 
defectiveness and imperfection of the best of men in this life; for 
if the life of Christ be our pattern, the best and holiest of men 
must confess they come short in every thing of the rule of their 
duty. Our pattern is still above us, the best of men are ashamed 
when they compare their lives with the life of Christ: It is true, a 
vain heart may swell with pride, when a man compares himself with 
other men: thus measuring ourselves by ourselves, and comparing 
ourselves among ourselves, we shew our folly and nourish our pride; 
but if any man will compare his own lily with Christ's, he will find 
abundant cause at every time and in every thing to be humbled. Paul 
was a great proficient in holiness and obedience, be had been long 
striving to come up to the top of holiness, yet when he looks up and 
sees the life of Christ, and rule of duty, so far above him, hee 
reckons himself still but at the foot of the hill. Phil. 3: 1. "Not 
as though I kind already attained, either were already perfect, but 
I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am 
apprehended of Christ Jesus." q. d. Alas! I am not come up to my 
duty, I am a great way behind; but I am following after, if at last 
I may attain it: Perfection is in my expectation and hope, at last, 
not in my attainment here. 
    Sixthly, The imitation of Christ, as our general rule or 
pattern, necessarily implies the transcending holiness of the Lord 
Jesus; his holiness is greater than the holiness of all creatures 
"For only that which is first and best in every kind, is the rule 
and measure of all the rest." It is the height of saints' ambition 
to be made conformable to Christ, Phil. 3: 10. Christ has a double 
perfection, a perfection of being, and a perfection of working. His 
life was a perfect rule, no blot or error could be found therein; 
for he was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners:" And 
such an high-priest becomes us, as the apostle speaks, Heb. 7: 26. 
The conformity of professors to Christ's example, is the test and 
measure of all their graces; the nearer any man comes to this 
pattern, the nearer he approaches towards perfection. 
    Seventhly, The Christian's imitation of Christ, under penalty 
of losing his claim to Christ, necessarily implies sanctification 
and obedience to be the evidences of our justification and interest 
in Christ: Assurance is unattainable without obedience; we can never 
be comfortable Christians except we be strict and regular 
Christians. Gal. 6: 16. "As many as walk according to this rule, 
peace be unto them, and mercy; and upon the Israel of God." A loose 
and careless conversation can never be productive of true peace and 
consolation, 2 Cor. 1: 12. "This is our rejoicing, the testimony of 
our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with 
fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our 
conversation in the world." Let men talk what they will of the 
immediate sealings and comforts of the Spirit, without any regard to 
holiness, or respect to obedience; sure I am, whatever delusion they 
meet with in that way, true peace, and consolation is only to be 
expected and found here: "The fruit of righteousness shall be peace, 
and the effect of righteousness quietness, and assurance for ever." 
We have it not for our holiness, but we always have it in the way of 
holiness. And so much of the first particular, namely, what the 
imitation of Christ implies and comprises in it. 
    Secondly, In the next place we are to enquire, in what things 
all who profess Christ are obliged to the imitation of him; or what 
those excellent graces in the life of Christ were, which are 
propounded as patterns to the saints. 
    The life of Christ was a living law; all the graces and virtues 
of the Spirit were represented in their glory, and brightest lustre 
in his conversation upon earth: Never man spoke as he spake; never 
any lived as he lived. "We beheld his glory (saith the evangelist) 
as the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and 
truth" John 1: 14. But to descend to the particular, imitable 
excellencies in the life of Christ, which are high patterns and 
excellent rules for the conversation of his people, we shall, from 
among many others, single out the ten following particulars, which 
we are obliged to imitate. 
    Pattern 1. And first of all, the purity and holiness of the 
life of Christ is proposed as a glorious pattern for the saint's 
imitation. 1 Pet. 1: 15. "As he which has called you is holy, so be 
ye holy in all manner of conversation;" "en pasei anastrofei", in 
every point and turning of yourselves. There is a two-fold holiness 
in Christ, the holiness of his nature, and the holiness of his 
practice; his holy being and his holy working: This obligeth all 
that profess interest in him to a two-fold holiness, viz. holiness 
in actu primo, in the principles of it in their hearts, and holiness 
in actu secondo, in the practice and exercise of it in their 
conversations. It is very true we cannot in all respects imitate the 
holiness of Christ, for he is essentially holy; proceeding, by 
nature, as a pure beam of holiness from the Father; and when he was 
incarnate, he came into the world immaculate, and pure from the 
least stain of pollution: There it was said, Luke 1: 25. "That holy 
thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." 
In this we can never be like Christ, in the way of our production; 
for who can bring a clean thing out of that which is unclean? Not 
one." The Lord Jesus was also efficiently holy, i.e. he makes others 
holy; therefore his sufferings and blood are called a fountain 
opened "for sin and for uncleanness," i.e. to cleanse other men's 
souls, Zech. 13: 1. In this Christ also is inimitable; no man can 
make himself or others holy. That is a great truth, though it will 
hardly go down with proud nature, Minus est te fecisse hominemn, 
quam sanctum; we may sooner make ourselves to be men, than to be 
saints. Beside Christ is infinitely holy, as he is God; and there 
are no measures set to his holiness, as Mediator. John 3: 34. "For 
God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him." But notwithstanding 
these excepted respects, the holiness of Christ is propounded as a 
pattern for our imitation six ways. 
    First, He was truly and sincerely holy, without fiction or 
simulation; and this appeared in the greatest trial of the truth of 
holiness that ever was made in this world. John 14: 80. "The prince 
of this world cometh, and has nothing in me:" When he was agitated 
and shaken with the greatest temptations, no dregs appeared; he was 
like pure fountain-water in a chrystal glass. The hypocrite makes 
shew of more holiness than he has, but there was more holiness in 
Christ than ever appeared to the view of men. We may say of the way 
of Christ what the philosopher saith of the milky way in the 
heavens; and those faint streams of light which we see there, are 
nothing else but the reflection of innumerable stars which shine 
there, though they are invisible to us. There was much inward beauty 
in him, and so there ought to be in all his followers; our holiness, 
like Christ's, must be sincere and real, Eph. 4: 24. shining with 
inward beauty towards God rather than towards men. 
    Secondly, Christ was uniformly holy at one time as well as an 
other; in one place and company as well as another: He was still 
like himself, an holy Christ; one and the same tenor of holiness ran 
throughout his whole life from first to last: So must it be with all 
his people, holy in all manner of conversation. Christians, look to 
your copy, and be sure to imitate Christ in this; write fair after 
your copy; let there not be here a word and there a blot: one part 
of your life heavenly and pure, and another earthly and dreggy; or 
(as one expresses it) now an heavenly rapture, and by and by a 
fleshly frolic. 
    Thirdly, Christ was exemplarily holy; a pattern of holiness to 
all that came nigh him and conversed with him: O imitate Christ in 
this. It was the commendation of the Thessalonians, that they "were 
ensamples to all that believed in Macedonia and Achaia; and that in 
every place their faith to God-ward was spread abroad," 1 Thes. 1: 
7, 8. Let no man go out of your company without conviction or 
edification. So exemplary were the primitive Christians, Phil. 3: 
    Fourthly, Christ was strictly and precisely holy: "Which of you 
convinceth me of sin?" The most envious and observing eyes of his 
greatest enemies could not pick a hole, or find a flaw in any of his 
words or actions: It is our duty to imitate Christ in this. Phil. 2: 
15. "That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without 
rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye 
shine (or, as the word may be rendered imperatively, 'faineste hos 
foseres', among whom shine ye) as lights in the world." Thus it 
becomes the followers of Christ to walk circumspectly, or precisely; 
"for so is the will of God that with well doing ye may put to 
silence the ignorance of foolish men," 1 Pet. 2: 15. 
    Fifthly, Christ was perseveringly holy, holy to the last 
breath; as he began, so he finished his whole life in a constant 
course of holiness: in this also he is our great pattern. It becomes 
not any of his people to begin in the Spirit and end in the flesh; 
but on the contrary, their last works should be more than their 
first: "Let him that is holy, be holy still," Rev. 22: 11. 
    Sixthly, In a word, the delight of Christ was only in holy 
things and holy persons: they were his chosen companions; even so it 
becometh his people to have all their delights in the saints, and in 
the excellent of the earth, Psal. 16: 3. Thus, Christians, be ye 
followers of Christ in his holiness; God has decreed this conformity 
to Christ in all that shall be saved, Rom. 8: 29. he banished all 
unholy ones from his gracious presence for ever, 1 Cor. 6: 9. Heb. 
12: 14. The design of Christ in dying for you was to make you pure 
and holy, Eph. 5: 25, 26. 0 then, study holiness, eye your pattern, 
and as dear children, be ye followers of your most holy Lord Jesus 
    Pattern 2. The obedience of Christ to his Father's will, is a 
pattern for the imitation of all Christians: it is said of Christ, 
Heb. 5: 8. that he "learned obedience by the things which he 
suffered;" a text which labours under some difficulties; Christ 
learned obedience, and yet was not ignorant before of what he 
learned afterward; he was perfect in knowledge, and yet the apostle 
speaks of him as a proficient in the school of wisdom. But we must 
consider there are two ways of learning, viz. by 
    1. The comprehension of the mind. 
    2. By the experience of the sense. 
    Christ, as God, was perfect in knowledge; nothing could be 
added to him: but when he became man, then he came to understand, or 
learn by sufferings, as the apostle here speaks; which, though it 
added nothing to his knowledge, yet it was a new method and way of 
knowing. Now the obedience of Christ is our pattern whereunto we are 
obliged (as ever we will warrant our claim of interest in him) to 
conform ourselves in the following properties of it. 
    First, Christ's obedience was free and voluntary, not forced or 
compulsory; it was so from the very first undertaking of the work of 
our redemption, Prov. 8: 30, 31. "Then was I by him as one brought 
up with him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before 
him: Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights 
were with the sons of men." And when the fulness of time was come 
for executing that blessed design, which had been in prospect from 
all eternity, how cheerfully did the will of Christ echo to his 
Father's call, Psal. 40: 7. "Then said I, lo I come, in the volume 
of thy book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God, 
yea, thy law is within my heart." Nor was this a flourish before he 
came into the field and saw the enemy, for he laid down his life 
with the greatest cheerfulness and spontaneity that could be, John 
10: 17, 18. "Therefore does my Father love me, because I lay down my 
life that I may take it again; no man taketh it from me, but I lay 
it down of myself:" and indeed the voluntariness of Christ, in his 
obedience unto death, gave his death the nature and formality of a 
sacrifice; for so all sacrifices ought to be offered, Lev. 1: 3. and 
so Christ's sacrifice was offered unto God, Eph. 5: 2. It was as 
grateful a work to Christ to die for us, as it was to Moses' mother 
to take him to nurse from the hand of Pharaoh's daughter. O 
Christians, tread in the steps of Christ's example, do nothing 
grudgingly for God, let not his commands be grievous, 1 John 5: 3. 
If you do any thing for God willingly, you have a reward; if 
otherwise, a dispensation only is committed to you, 1 Cor. 9: 7. 
Obedience in Christ was an abasement to him, but in you a very great 
honour and advancement: you have reason therefore to obey with 
    Secondly, The obedience of Christ was universal and complete, 
he was obedient to all the will of God, making no demur to the 
hardest service imposed by the will of God upon him, Phil. 2: 8. "He 
became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross;" and though 
it is true, the humanity of Christ recoiled and staggered when that 
bitter cup of the wrath of God was given him to drink; yet how soon 
was that innocent aversion overcome in him by a perfect submission? 
Nevertheless, "not my will, but thine be done," Matt. 26: 39. 
Christians, here is your pattern: happy art thou, reader, if thou 
canst say, when God calls thee to suffering and self denying work, I 
am filled with the will of God. Such was Paul's obedience, Acts 21: 
18. "I am ready not only to be bound, but to die at Jerusalem for 
the name of the Lord Jesus". 
    Thirdly, The obedience of Christ was sincere and pure, without 
any base or by-end, purely aiming at the glory of God, John 17: 4. 
"I have glorified thee on earth, I have finished the work thou 
gavest me to do. He sought not honour of men. This was the great 
desire of his soul, John 12: 28. "Father glorify thy name:" And 
truly the choicest part of your obedience consists in the purity of 
your ends, and in this Christ is propounded as your pattern, Phil. 
2: 3, 4, 5. 
    Fourthly, The streams of Christ's obedience flowed from the 
spring and fountain of ardent love to God, John 14: 81. "But that 
the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave me 
commandment, even so I do;" Thus let all your obedience to God turn 
upon the hinge of love; for "love is the fulfilling of the law," 
Hom. 13: 10. Not as if no other duty but love were required in the 
law, but because no act of obedience is acceptable to God, but that 
which is performed in love. 
    Fifthly, In a word, The obedience of Christ was constant; he 
was obedient unto death, he was not weary of his work to the last. 
Such a patient continuance in well doing is one part of your 
conformity to Christ, Rom. 2: 7. it is laid upon you by his own 
express command, and a command backed with the most encouraging 
promise, Rev. 2: 10. "Be thou faithful unto the death, and I will 
give thee the crown of life." 
    Pattern 3. The self-denial of Christ is the pattern of 
believers, and their conformity unto it is their indispensable duty, 
Phil. 2: 4, 5, 6. 2 Cor. 8: 9. "For ye know the grace of our Lord 
Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became 
poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich." Jesus Christ, for 
the glory of God, and the love he bare to the elect, denied himself 
all the delights and pleasures of this world, Matt. 20: 28. "The Son 
of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give 
his life a ransom for many;" he was all his life time in the world, 
"a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," Isa. 53: 5. more 
unprovided of comfortable accommodations than the birds of the air, 
or beasts of the earth, Luke 9: 58. "The foxes have holes, and the 
birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has not where to lay 
his head." Yet this was the least part of Christ's self denial: What 
did he not deny when he left the bosom of his Father, with the 
ineffable delights and pleasures he there enjoyed from eternity, and 
instead thereof to drink the cup, the bitter cup of his Father's 
wrath, for our sakes? O Christians, look to your pattern, and 
imitate your self-denying Saviour. There is a threefold self you are 
to deny for Christ. 
    First, Deny your natural self, for him, Luke 14: 26. Hate your 
own life, in competition with his glory, as well as your natural 
lusts, Tit. 2: 12. 
    Secondly, Deny your civil self for Christ; whether they be 
gifts of the mind, Phil. 3: 8. or your dearest relations in the 
world, Luke 14: 26. 
    Thirdly, Deny your moral and religions self for Christ; your 
own righteousness, Phil. 3: 10. Deny sinful self absolutely, Col. 3: 
4, 5. Deny natural self conditionally, i.e. be ready to forsake its 
interests at the call of God. Deny your religious self, even your 
own graces, comparatively, not in the notion of duties, but in the 
notion of righteousness: and to encourage you in this difficult 
work, consider, 
    First, What great things Christ denied for you, and what small 
matters you have to deny for him. 
    Secondly, How readily he denied all for your sakes, making no 
objections against the difficultest commands. 
    Thirdly, How incapable you are to put any obligation upon 
Christ, to deny himself in the least for you, and what strong 
obligations Christ has put you under, to deny yourselves in your 
greatest interests upon earth for him. 
    Fourthly, Remember that your self-denial is a condition 
consented to, and subscribed by yourselves, if ever you received 
Christ aright. 
    Fifthly, In a word, consider how much your self denial for 
Christ, makes for your advantage in both worlds, Luke 18: 29. O 
therefore, look not every man upon his own things, but upon the 
things that are of Christ; let not that be justly charged upon you, 
which was charged upon them, Phil. 2: 21. "All seek their own, not 
the things which are Christ's." 
    Pattern 4. The activity and diligence of Christ in finishing 
the work of God which was committed to him, was a pattern for all 
believers to imitate. It is said of him, Acts 10: 38. "He went about 
doing good." O what a great and glorious work did Christ finish in a 
little time! A work to be celebrated to all eternity by the praises 
of the redeemed. Six things were very remarkable in the diligence of 
Christ about his Father's work. 
    First, That his heart was intently set upon it, Psal. 4: 8. 
"Thy law is in the midst of my heart," or bowels. 
    Secondly, That he never fainted under the many great 
discouragements he frequently met withal in that work, Isa. 43: 4. 
"He shall not fail, nor be discouraged. 
    Thirdly, That the shortness of his time provoked him to the 
greatest diligence, John 9: 4. "I must work the work of him that 
sent me, while it is day, for the night cometh, when no man can 
    Fourthly, That he improved all opportunities, companies, and 
occurrences to further the great work which was under his hand, John 
4: 6,10. 
    Fifthly, Nothing more displeased him than when he met with 
dissuasions and discouragements in his work; upon that account it 
was that he gave Peter so sharp a check, Mat. 8: 83. "Get thee 
behind me, Satan." 
    Sixthly, Nothing rejoiced his soul more, than the prosperity 
and success of his work, Luke 10: 20, 21. When the disciples made 
the report of the success of their ministry, it is said, "In that 
hour Jesus rejoiced in Spirit. And O what a triumphant shout was 
that upon the cross at the accomplishment of his work, John 19: 30. 
It is finished! 
    Now, Christians, eye your parent, look unto Jesus; trifle not 
away your lives in vanity. Christ was diligent, be not you slothful. 
And to encourage you in your imitation of Christ in labour and 
diligence, consider, 
    First, How great an honour God puts upon you in employing, you 
for his service: every vessel of service is a vessel of honour, 2 
Tim. 2: 21. The apostle was very ambitious of that honour, Rom. 15: 
20. It was the glory of Eliakim to be fastened as a nail in a sure 
place, and to have many people hang upon him, Isa. 22: 23. 
    Secondly, Your diligence in the work of God will be your great 
security in the hour of temptation; for "the Lord is with you while 
you are with him," 2 Chron. 15: 2. The schoolmen put the question, 
How the saints in heaven became impeccable? and resolve it thus, 
that they are therefore freed from sin, because they are continually 
employed and swallowed up in the blessed visions of God. 
    Thirdly, Diligence in the work of God is an excellent help to 
the improvement of grace. For, though gracious habits are not 
acquired, yet they are greatly improved by frequent acts; "To him 
that has shall be given, Mat. 25: 29. It is a good note of Luther, 
Fides pinguescit operibus, Faith improves by obedience. 
    Fourthly, Diligence in the work of God is the direct way to the 
assurance of the love of God, 2 Pet. 15: 10. This path leads you 
into a heaven upon earth. 
    Fifthly, Diligence in obedience is a great security against 
backsliding: small remissions in duty, and little neglects, increase 
by degrees unto great apostasies, you may see how that disease is 
bred by the method prescribed for its cure, Rev. 2: 5. Do thy first 
    Sixthly, In a word, laborious diligence, in the day of life, 
will be your singular comfort when the night of death overtakes you, 
2 Pet. 1: 11. 2 Kings 20: 3. 
    Pattern 5. Delight in God, and in his service, was eminently 
conspicuous in the life of Christ, and is a rare pattern for 
believers imitation, John 4: 32, 34. "But he said unto them, I have 
meat to eat that ye know not of, my meat is to do the will of him 
that sent me, and to finish his work". The delights of Christ were 
all in heaven. The Son of man was in heaven, in respect of de light 
in God, while he conversed here among men. And if you be Christ's, 
heavenly things will be the delight of your souls also. Now 
spiritual delight is nothing else but the complacency and well 
pleasedness of a renewed heart, in conversing with God, and the 
things of God, resulting from the agreeableness of them to the 
spiritual temper of his mind. Four things are considerable about 
spiritual delight. 
    First, The nature of it, which consisteth in the complacency, 
rest, and satisfaction of the mind in God and spiritual things. The 
heart of a Christian is cantered, it is where it would be; it is 
gratified in the highest, in the actings forth of faith and love 
upon God; as the taste is gratified with a suitable delicious 
relish, Psal. 63:5, 6. Psal. 119: 14, 24. Psal. 17: 18. 
    Secondly, The object of spiritual delight, which is God 
himself, and the things which relate to him. He is the blessed ocean 
into which all the streams of spiritual delight do pour themselves, 
Psal. 73: 25. "Whom have I in heaven but thee, and on earth there is 
none that I desire in comparison of thee." 
    Thirdly, The subject of spiritual delight, which is a renewed 
heart, and that only so far as it is renewed, Rom. 7: 22, "I delight 
in the law of God after the inward man." 
    Fourthly, The principle and spring of this delight, which is 
the agreeableness of spiritual things to the temper and frame of a 
renewed mind. A sensitive pleasure arises from the suitableness of 
the faculty and object. So it is here, no delicious sweetness can be 
so pleasant to the taste, or beautiful colours to the eye, or 
melodious sounds to the ear, as spiritual things to renewed souls, 
because spiritual senses are delicate, and the objects more 
    But my business here is not so much to open its nature, as to 
press you to the practice thereof in conformity to your great 
pattern, whose life was a life of delight in God, and whose work was 
performed with the greatest delight in God. "I delight to do thy 
will, O my God." O Christians, strive to imitate your pattern in 
this. And to encourage you, I will briefly hint a few things. 
    First, Scarce any thing can be more evidential of sincerity 
than a heart delighting in God, and the will of God. Hypocrites go 
as far as others in the material parts of duties, but here they are 
defective; they have no delight in God and things spiritual; but do 
whatsoever they do in religion, from the compulsions of conscience, 
or accommodations of self-ends. 
    Secondly, delighting in God will be a choice help and means to 
perseverance. The reason why many so easily part with religion is, 
because their souls never tasted the sweetness of it; they never 
delighted in it; but the Christian who delights in the law of God 
will be meditating on it day and night, and shall be like a tree 
planted by a river of water, whose leaf fadeth not, Psal. 1: 2, 3. 
    Thirdly, This will represent religion very beautifully to such 
as are yet strangers to it; you will then be able to invite them to 
Christ by your example, the language whereof will be like that, 
Psal. 34: 8. "O taste and see that God is good." 
    Fourthly, This will make all your services to God very pleasing 
and acceptable through Christ; you will now begin to do the will of 
God on earth, as it is done in heaven; your duties are so far 
angelical as they are performed in the strength of delight in God. 
    Object. But may not a sincere Christian act in duty without 
delight? Yea, may he not feel some kind of weariness in duties? 
    Solut. Yes, doubtless he may; but then we must distinguish 
betwixt the temper and distemper of a renewed heart; the best hearts 
are not always in the right frame. 
    Pattern 6 The inoffensivenss of the life of Christ upon earth 
is an excellent pattern to all his people; he injured none, offended 
none, but was holy end harmless, as the apostle speaks, Heb. 7: 26. 
He denied his own liberty to avoid occasion of offence; as in the 
case of the tribute-money, Mat. 19: 27. "The children are free, 
notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go," &c. So circumspect 
was Christ, and inoffensive among all men, that though his enemies 
sought occasion against him, yet could they find none, Luke 6: 7. 
Look unto Jesus, O ye professors of religion, imitate him in this 
gracious excellency of his life, according to his command, Phil. 2: 
15. "That ye may be harmless and blameless, the sons of God, without 
rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation." You are 
indeed allowed the exercise of your prudence, but not a jot farther 
than will consist with your innocence. "Be ye wise as serpents, and 
harmless as doves." It is the rule of Christ that you offend none, 1 
Cor. 10: 32. 2 Cor. 6: 3. And to engage you to the imitation of 
Christ in this, I must briefly press it with a few encouragements, 
which methinks should prevail with any heart that is truly gracious. 
    First, For the honour of Jesus Christ, be you inoffensive, his 
name is called upon you, his honour is concerned in your deportment; 
if your carriage in the world give just matter of offence, Christ's 
worthy name will be blasphemed thereby, Jam. 2: 7. Your inoffensive 
carriage is the only means to stop the mouths of detractors, 1 Pet. 
2: 15. 
    Secondly, For the sake of souls, the precious and immortal 
souls of others, be wary that you give no offence: "Wo to the world, 
(saith Christ,) because of offence," Matth. 13: 7. Nothing was more 
commonly objected against Christ and religion by the Heathens in 
Cyprian's time, than the loose and scandalous lives of professors: 
"Behold, say they, these are the men who boast themselves to be 
redeemed from the tyranny of Satan, to be dead to the world; 
nevertheless, see how they are overcome by their own lusts." And 
much after the same rate Salvian brings in the wicked of his time, 
stumbling at the looseness of professors, and saying, Where is that 
catholic law which they believe? Where are the examples of piety and 
chastity which they have learned? &c. O Christians, draw not the 
guilt of other men's eternal ruin upon your souls. 
    Thirdly, In a word, answer the ends of God in your 
sanctification and providential dispose in the world this way; by 
the holiness and harmlessness of your lives, many may be won to 
Christ, 1 Pet. 3: 1. What the Heathens said of moral virtue, (which 
they called verticordia, turn-heart) that if it were but visible to 
mortal eyes, all men would be enamoured with it, will be much more 
true of religion when you shall represent the beauty of it ill your 
    Pattern 7. The humility and lowliness of Christ is propounded 
by himself as a pattern for his people's imitation. Mat. 11: 29. 
"Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly." He could abase and empty 
himself of all his glory, Phil. 2: 5, 6, 7. He could stoop to the 
meanest office, even to wash the disciples feet. We read but of one 
triumph in all the life of Christ upon earth, when he rode to 
Jerusalem, the people strewing branches in the way, and the very 
children in the streets of Jerusalem, crying, "Hosanna to the son of 
David, Hosanna in the highest;" and yet with what lowliness and 
humility was it performed by Christ, Matth. 21: 5. "Behold thy King 
cometh unto thee meek and lowly." The humility of Christ appeared in 
every thing he spake or did. Humility discovered itself in his 
language, Psal. 22: 6. "I am a worm, and no man." In his actions, 
not refusing the meanest office, John 3: 14. In his condescensions 
to the worst of men, upon which ground they called him "a friend to 
publicans and sinners," Matth. 11: 19. But especially, and above 
all, in stooping down from all his glory to a state of the deepest 
contempt, for the glory of God and our salvation. Christians! here 
is your pattern; look to your meek and humble Saviour, and tread in 
his steps; be you "clothed with humility," 1 Pet. 5: 5. Whoever are 
ambitious to be the world's great ones, let it be enough for you to 
be Christ's little ones. Convince the world, that since you knew God 
and yourselves, your pride has been dying from that day. Shew your 
humility in your habits, 1 Pet. 3: 3. 1 Tim. 2: 9, 10. In your 
company, not contemning the meanest and poorest that fear the Lord, 
Psal. 15: 4. Rom. 12: 16. In your language; that dialect befits your 
lips, Eph. 3: 8. Less than the least of all saints; but especially 
in the low value and humble thoughts you have of yourselves, 1 Tim 
1: 15. And to press this, I beseech you to consider, 
    First, From how vile a root pride springs. Ignorance of God, 
and of yourselves, gives rise and being to this sin: They that know 
God will be humble, Isa. 6: 5. And they that know themselves cannot 
be proud, Rom. 7: 9. 
    Secondly, Consider the mischievous effects it produces; it 
estrangeth the soul from God, Psal. 138: 6. It provokes God to lay 
you low, Job 40: 11, 12. It goes before destruction and a dreadful 
fall, Prov. 10: 18. 
    Thirdly, As it is a great sin, so it is a bad sign, Hab. 2: 4. 
"Behold his heart which is lifted up, is not upright in him." 
    Fourthly, How unsuitable it is to the sense you have, and the 
complaints you make of your own corruptions and spiritual wants; and 
above all, how contrary it is to your pattern and example: Did 
Christ speak, act, or think as you do! O. learn humility from Jesus 
Christ, it will make you precious in the eyes of God, Isa. 57: 15. 
    Pattern 8. The contentation of Christ in a low and mean 
condition in the world, is an excellent pattern for his people's 
imitation. His lot in this world fell upon a condition of deepest 
poverty and contempt: Yet how well was he satisfied and contented 
with it! hear him expressing himself about it, Psal. 16: 6. "The 
lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places: yea, I have a goodly 
heritage." The contentation of his heart with a suffering condition, 
evidenced itself in his silence under the greatest sufferings, Isa. 
53: 7. "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted; yet he opened not 
his mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep 
before the shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth." O that in 
this also the poorest Christians would imitate their Saviour, and 
learn to manage an afflicted condition with a contented spirit: Let 
there be no murmurs, complaints, or foolish charges of God heard 
from you, whatever straits or troubles he brings you into: For, 
    First, The meanest and most afflicted Christian is owner of 
many rich, invaluable mercies, Eph. 1: 3. 1 Cor. 3: 33. Is sin 
pardoned and God reconciled? then never open your mouths any more, 
Ezek. 16: 63. 
    Secondly, You have many precious promises that God will not 
forsake you in your straits, Heb. 13: 5. Isa. 41: 17. And your whole 
life has been a life of experiences of the faithfulness of God in 
his promises. Which of you cannot say with the church, Lam. 3: 28. 
"His mercies are new every morning, and great is his faithfulness." 
    Thirdly, How useful and beneficial are all your afflictions to 
you! they purge your sins, prevent your temptations, wean you from 
the world, and turn to your salvation: and how unreasonable then 
must your discontentedness at them be? 
    Fourthly, The time of your relief and full deliverance from all 
your troubles is at hand; the time is but short that you shall have 
any concernment about these things, 1 Cor. 7: 26. If the candle of 
your earthly comfort be blown out, yet remember it is but a little 
while to the break of day, and then there will be no need of 
candles. Besides, 
    Earthly, Your lot falls by divine direction upon you, and as 
bad as it is, it is much easier and sweeter than the condition of 
Christ in this world was: Yet he was contented, and why not you? O 
that we could learn contentment from Christ in every condition. And 
thus I have laid before you some excellent patterns in the life of 
Christ for your imitation. 

The Method of Grace in the Gospel Redemption
(continued in file 32...)

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