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Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.  (Matthew 5:48)

The law is a perfect transcript of the mind and will of God.  It was originally written upon the heart of man: and man’s perfect conformity to it constituted that image of God in which he was created.  To have these dispositions restored, and thereby to regain that image, is the object which we are taught to aspire after with incessant ardour.  God has promised to his people that they shall be “renewed after his image in righteousness and true holiness:” and of that promise we must seek the full accomplishment.  To dream of a conformity to God’s natural perfections, were folly and madness: we cannot possibly be omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent: but his moral perfections we may and must attain: nor ought we to be satisfied with any precise measure of them; we should never think we have attained anything whilst anything remains to be attained.

To a perfect conformity to that law we must be ever pressing forward—

This was St. Paul’s mind. After he had preached the Gospel for twenty years, and had attained an eminence of piety which probably none but the Lord Jesus Christ himself ever surpassed, he said, “Not as though I had already attained, or were already perfect, but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12).” Nor is this a pursuit proper for Apostles only; it is equally necessary for all.  “Now are we the sons of God,” says St. John: “and every one that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure (1 John 3:2-3).”  In a word, the model for our imitation is God: nor must we ever stop, till we are “holy as God is holy,” and “perfect even as our Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

We cannot contemplate this subject without noticing,

  1. What need we have of mercy at the hands of God—

Let us look back through our whole lives, and see how numberless have been our transgressions against this holy law; and let us look into our own hearts, and see what a proneness there is in us yet daily and hourly to transgress it.  Who does not find, that, when injured and insulted, his heart is ready to rise against his adversary in a way of retaliation and invective?  Who does not feel, that, without the divine assistance, he can no more maintain the exalted spirit here spoken of, than he can create a world? — — — Let us then humble ourselves before God in dust and ashes.  Let us acknowledge our desert of his heavy displeasure, and our need of pardon through the blood of Christ.  Let us at the same time implore the assistance of his Holy Spirit, that we may be enabled to “walk as Christ walked,” and to exercise that kindness towards others which we desire and hope for when standing before his tribunal — — —

  1. What encouragement we have to expect mercy at his hands—

Has God required us to love our enemies, even whilst they are manifesting towards us their enmity to the utmost of their power; and will not he himself shew mercy to us, when we lay down the weapons of our rebellion?  Again; has he required of us such tempers as fruits of our conversion; and will he refuse us that grace which is necessary to produce them?  Assuredly not. If he gives the bounties of his providence to his most inveterate enemies, he will surely give the blessings of his grace to his suppliant and repenting friends?  Let not then a sense of past guilt appall us, or a sense of present weakness discourage us: but let us “go boldly to the throne of Grace that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help us in the time of need.”