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rection, Luke xxiv. 38. "He faid unto them, Why SER M. are ye troubled ? and why do thoughts arife in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that "it is I myself: handle me, and fee, for a fpirit "hath not flesh and bones, as ye fee me have." If this be a good argument, that it was a real body which they faw, because they faw and felt flesh and bones; is it not as good an argument on the other fide, that what they faw in the facrament was not his real and natural body, because they could neither fee nor handle flefh and bones? So that I cannot believe tranfubftantiation, unless I can believe that truth itself can contradist and deftroy itself.

You fee of what ufe it is to have right and steady apprehenfions of the divine perfections; that, these being laid for a foundation, we may upon all occafions have recourfe to them, and govern our opinions and reasonings in religion, about all doubtful matters, by fuch principles as are clear and unqueftionable. The

H. Inference is, that the trueft and moft fubftantial practice of religion, confifts in the imitation of the divine perfections, especially the moral perfections of the divine nature, which the fcripture is wont to comprehend under the name of holinefs; and fuch are the goodnefs, and mercy, and patience of God, his juftice, and truth, and faithfulness. To imitate God in thefe is true religion; or as St. James expreffes it, " pure religion, and undefil:d,” auíavros, without any flaw or blemish, alluding to precious ftones, the greatest commendation of which is to be clear and without flaw. Religio eft, imitari quem colis, "that is religion, to imitare him "whom we worfhip." This the heathens, by the VOL. VIII.



SER M. light of nature, did discover to be the great end of CXXXI. religion, and the best worship of the deity, to be

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like GOD. Pythagoras was wont to fay, "that we "honour God moft, when we are most like him in "the temper and difpofition of our minds;" and Plato to the fame purpose, "that the height and per"fection of goodness, is to refemble GoD, as near "as is poffible; and that we refemble GoD, in being juft, and holy, and wife." So likewife Hierocles, "that a good man imitates GoD, in the "measures of love and friendship, who hates no "man, and extends his benignity to all mankind." Plutarch hath an excellent difcourfe about the patience of GOD towards finners, and gives this as one reafon why GOD doth not presently punish offenders; "that he might give an example to us of

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gentleness and patience, and check the fury and "violence of men in revenging injuries upon one "another; which nothing will do more effectually,

than to confider that gentleness and forbearance "are an imitation of the divine perfection." And then he cites an excellent faying of Plato," that "GOD manifefted himself, and difplayed his per"fections in the world, for our imitation; true vir"tue being nothing elfe, but an imitation of the "divine nature. For there is no greater benefit "man can receive from Gon's hand, than to be"come virtuous by the imitation and pursuit of "thofe excellencies and perfections which are in "GOD." Seneca likewife hath many paffages to this purpose, inter viros bonos ac Deum amicitia eft, imò ctiam neceffitudo & fimilitudo, "between Gap and "good men there is a friendship, yea, and an inti

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macy and likeness;" and that a virtuous man is difcipulus æmulatorque vera progenies Dei, "a dif

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"ciple and imitator, and the very genuine off- SER M. "fpring of GOD." So that the light of nature and the reason of mankind, have always placed the perfection of religion in the imitation of the divine excellencies and perfections.

And this is very agreeable to the language and fense of the holy fcriptures, which every where make the practice of religion to confift in our conformity to God, and the laws which he hath given us; which are nothing elfe but a tranfcript of his nature. The great business of religion is to do the will of God, and "this is the will of God, our "fanctification;" and our fanctification is our conformity to the holiness of GOD; and this is the scope of the general exhortations of fcripture, to perfuade us to holiness, that is, to an imitation of the moral perfections of the divine nature. 2 Cor. vii. I. Having therefore these promises, dearly be"loved; let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness "of flesh and spirit, and perfect holiness in the fear " of God." 1 Pet. i. 15, 16. "As he which hath "called you is holy, fo be ye holy in all manner of


conversation, because it is written, be ye holy, "for I am holy." 2 Pet. i. 3, 4. fpeaking of the Christian religion, which he calls "the knowledge "of him who hath called us to glory and virtue, "whereby also (fays he) are given unto us exceed


ing great and precious promifes, that by these "we might be partakers of a divine nature, hav

ing escaped the corruption that is in the world. "through luft." So that the holiness the gospel defigns to bring us to, is a participation of the divine nature, which we can no otherwife partake of, but by an imitation of the divine perfections. This is that which the fcripture expreffes to us by the

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SERM. terms of regeneration, the new man, and the new creature. And therefore thofe who are converted from a wicked and finful ftate, and reclaimed to goodness, are faid "to put on the new man, which after God is created in righteoufnefs, and the ho"linefs of truth." Eph. iv. 23"To be renew"ed after the image of him that created us." Colof. iii. 10. This is to be the fons and children of God,to "imitate and resemble GoD in our difpofitions and "manners." Eph. v. 1. "Be ye therefore, in 49, imitators of GoD, as dear children." Philip ii. 15. "That ye may be blameless and fin"cere, the fons of GoD without rebuke, in the midst "of a crooked and perverfe nation.” 1 John iii. 10. "In this the children of GoD are manifeft, and "the children of the devil; whofoever doth not

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righteoufnefs is not of GOD." There have been great enquires concerning the marks of a child of Gon; this is the true character, and that which in effect comprehends all others, our imitation and refemblance of GOD in thofe perfections, wherein he is fet forth for a pattern to us. And in this mainly confifts the practice both of natural religion, and of true Christianity.

But does not religion confift very much in the duties of God's worship, in the exercife of piety ánd devotion, in conftant and frequent prayers to GOD, and in the celebration of his goodness by praise and thanksgiving, in reading and hearing, and meditating upon God's word, in fafting and abftinence, and keeping our bodies in fubjection to our spirits, and in frequent receiving of the holy facrament? to this I answer, that religion doth confift very much in the due performance of thefe duties, and they are unquestionable and neceffary parts of religion, and

the means appointed by GoD for the begetting and SFRM. increasing in us fuch difpofitions of mind, as render CXXXI. us moft like to GoD, and for the production of

all the fruits of goodness and holiness and righteoulnefs in our lives.

But then it is to be confidered, that these exercifes of piety and devotion are but the means of religion, and not the ultimate end and defign of it. All thefe do but ferve to bring us to a nearer refemblance of GOD; and where they fail of this end, and are performed for their own fakes only, and we reft in them, without aiming at any thing further, they lose their nature; because they are not used as means, but refted in, as if they were the end of religion. And it is to be feared there are many which fall into this fatal mistake about religion, and think that if they do but ferve GoD in their families, and go to church, and behave themselves there with devotion and reverence, and at certain feafons receive the facrament, they are truly religious, and very good Chriftians; when all this while they take no care to improve themselves in real goodness, by an inward conformity of their minds to GoD, and the real reformation and amendment of their lives, by mortifying their lufts, and fubduing their appetites and paffions to the laws of reafon and religion, by "putting on, as the elect of Gon, bowels of kind"nefs;" by being true and faithful, righteous and juft, patient and merciful," as their Father which " is in heaven is" fo; and by forbearing one "another" in cafe of provocation, and "forgiv"ing one another, even as GOD for CHRIST's fake "hath forgiven us; by purifying themselves as GoD " is pure," and endeavouring to "be holy in all manner of converfation, as he who hath called "them

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