Ephesians 5:1
This is the high destiny of God's children.

I. THE DUTY HERE COMMANDED. "Be ye imitators of me." It is to do

(1) what God does;

(2) because he does it;

(3) as he does it.

The special point of imitation here is the duty of showing a forgiving spirit to one another.

II. WHY WE SHOULD IMITATE GOD.

1. Because we are his "dear children." Whom should children imitate but their father? Believers have had experience of their Father's wisdom, love, and power, and it is only an instinct of filial love to imitate such a Father.

2. Because we were originally made in his image (Genesis 1:26), and though that image has been marred by sin, it is to be renewed in the process of a Christian experience (Ephesians 4:23).

3. Holiness consists in the imitation of God. "Because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16).

4. The prospect of perfect likeness to God in the day of our Lord's appearing. (1 John 3:2.)

III. MEANS TOWARDS THE FULFILMENT OF THIS DUTY.

1. Pray without ceasing, especially for fuller measures of his grace, for larger disclosures of his love, for a deeper insight into his truth.

2. Live continually as being under his eye. (Psalm 139:6, 7.)

3. Consider how others have followed him. (1 Corinthians 11:1.) - T.C.







Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children.
The apostle urges us to give and forgive. If ye be imitators of God, give, for He is always giving.

I. CONSIDER THE PRECEPT here laid down — "Be ye imitators of God, as clear children."

1. I note upon this precept, first, that it calls us to practical duty. In this instance there can be no cavil at the too spiritual, sentimental, or speculative character of the text; there can be no question as to the eminently practical character of the exhortation — "Be ye imitators of God, as dear children," for it points to action. "Be ye imitators" — that is, do not only meditate upon God, and think that you have done enough, but go on to copy what you study.

2. Next, this precept treats us as children, treats us as what we are; and if we are lowly in heart we shall be thankful that it is worded as it is. If you are not His children you cannot imitate Him, and you will not even desire to do so.

3. Observe next, that while it thus humbles us, this precept ennobles us; for what a grand thing it is to be imitators of God! It is an honour to be the lowliest follower of such a Leader. Time has been when men gloried in studying Homer, and their lives were trained to heroism by his martial verse. Alexander carried the Iliad about with him in a casket studded with jewels, and his military life greatly sprung out of his imitation of the warriors of Greece and Troy. Ours is a nobler ambition by far than that which delights in battles; we desire to imitate the God of peace, whose name is love. In after ages, when men began to be a less savage race, and contests of thought were carried on by the more educated class of minds, thousands of men gloried in being disciples of the mighty Stagyrite, the renowned Aristotle. He reigned supreme over the thought of men for centuries, and students slavishly followed him till a greater arose, and set free the human mind by a more true philosophy. To this day, however, our cultured men remain copyists, and you can see a fashion in philosophy as well as in clothes. Some of these imitations are so childish as to be deplorable. It is no honour to imitate a poor example. But, oh, beloved, he who seeks to imitate his God has a noble enterprize before him: he shall rise as on eagle's wings. O angels, what happier task could be laid before you?

4. While it ennobles us, this precept tests us.(1) It tests our knowledge. He who does not know God, cannot possibly imitate Him.(2) It tests our love. If we love God, love will constrain us to imitate Him. We readily grow somewhat like that which we love.(3) It tests our sincerity. If a man is not really a Christian he will take no care about his life; but in the matter of close copying a man must be careful; a watchful care is implied in the idea of imitation.(4) It tests us as to our spirit, whether it be of the law or of the gospel. "Be ye imitators of God, as dear children": not as slaves might imitate their master, unwillingly, dreading the crack of his whip; but loving, willing imitators, such as children are. You do not urge your children to imitate you; they do this even in their games. See how the boy rides his wooden horse, and the girl imitates her nurse. You see the minister's little boy trying to preach like his father; and you all remember the picture of the tiny girl with a Bible in front of her and an ancient pair of spectacles upon her nose, saying, "Now I'm grandmamma." They copy us by force of nature: they cannot help it. Such will be the holiness of the genuine Christian. Holiness must be spontaneous, or it is spurious.

5. While it tests us, this precept greatly aids us. It is a fine thing for a man to know what he has to do, for then he is led in a plain path because of his enemies. What a help it is to have a clear chart, and a true compass! Creatures cannot imitate their Creator in His Divine attributes, but children may copy their Father in His moral attributes. By the aid of His Divine Spirit we can copy our God in His justice, righteousness, holiness, purity, truth, and faithfulness.

6. Another blessing is that it backs us up in our position; for if we do a thing because we are imitating God, if any raise an objection it does not trouble us, much less are we confounded. He who follows God minds not what the godless think of his way of life.

7. This precept is greatly for our usefulness. I do not know of anything which would make us so useful to our fellow men as this would do. I have heard of an atheist who said he could get over every argument except the example of his godly mother: he could never answer that. A genuinely holy Christian is a beam of God's glory, and a testimony to the being and the goodness of God.

8. A close imitation of God would make our religion honourable. The ungodly might still hate it, but they could not sneer at it.

II. Secondly, I invite you, dear friends, as we are helped of God's Spirit, to WEIGH THE ARGUMENT. The argument is this, "Be ye imitators of God, as dear children." First, as children. It is the natural tendency of children to imitate their parents: yet there are exceptions, for some children are the opposite of their fathers, perhaps displaying the vices of a remoter ancestor. Absalom did not imitate David, nor was Rehoboam a repetition of Solomon. In the case of God's children it is a necessity that they should be like their Father; for it is a rule in spirituals that like begets its like. I say to any man here who bears the name of Christian and professes to be a child of God, either be like your Father or give up your name. You remember the old classic story of a soldier in Alexander's army whose name was Alexander, but when the battle was raging he trembled. Then Alexander said to him, "How canst thou bear the name of Alexander? Drop thy cowardice or drop thy name." Be like Christ, or be not called a Christian. The argument, then, is that if we are children we should imitate our Father; but it is also said "as dear children." Read it as "children beloved." Is not this a tender but mighty argument? How greatly has God loved us in that He permits us to be His children at all.

III. Next, I desire to SUGGEST ENCOURAGEMENTS.

1. God has already made you His children. The greater work He has Himself done for you; that which remains is but your reasonable service.

2. God has given you His nature already. It only remains for you to let the new nature act after its own manner.

3. The Lord has given you His blessed Spirit to help you.

4. The Lord allows you to commune with Himself. If we had to imitate a man, and yet could not see him, we should find it hard work; but in this case we can draw nigh unto God. You know the Persian story of the scented clay. One said to it, "Clay, whence hast thou thy delicious perfume?" It answered: "I was aforetime nothing but a piece of common clay, but I lay long in the sweet society of a rose till I drank in its fragrance and became perfumed myself."

IV. CERTAIN INFERENCES.

1. God is ready to forgive those who have offended Him.

2. God is an example to us, therefore He will surely keep His word. He must be faithful and true, for you are bidden to copy Him.

3. Another inference — only a hint at it — is, if you are told to be "imitators of God, as dear children," then you may depend upon it the Lord is a dear Father.

4. Lastly, when the text says, "Be ye imitators of God," it bids us keep on imitating Him as long as we live: therefore I conclude that God will always be to us what He is.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. WE ARE REQUIRED TO IMITATE GOD.

1. We were originally created in the Divine image and likeness; and it is God's design to restore us to it.

2. Several things must precede this.

(1)We must be convinced of sin.

(2)We must be pardoned and purified.

(3)We must have the spirit of adoption bestowed upon us.

3. There are some great and important points in which we never shall resemble God — in which it would be impiety even to attempt it.

(1)We shall never resemble Him in form.

(2)Nor in His independence.

(3)Nor in His majesty and greatness.

4. Still there are several points in which we may, and must, resemble God.

(1)In knowledge. The Lord is a God of knowledge; and His people are to be a wise and understanding people. It is the will and pleasure of God that we should examine, investigate, and explore; and the more we know of truth and wisdom the nearer do we approximate to His own infinite intellect and understanding.

(2)In purity of heart.

(3)In love of truth.

(4)In justice and rectitude of mind.

(5)In mercy, beneficence, long suffering.

(6)In tranquillity.

(7)In love.

(8)In holiness.

II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THIS IS TO BE ACCOMPLISHED.

1. There is God's part in this matter. He must give us grace; and He has promised to do so.

2. Our part.

(1)We must contend with the evil passions and principles of our corrupt nature.

(2)We must aim at this imitation.

(3)We must look at our Model — the Lord Jesus Christ.

(4)We must use the appointed means of grace.

(James Stratten.)

First, if we are followers of God, we have perfect trust in Him, "we know in whom we have believed." Next, if we are His followers, we must expect to be led sometimes into a path of sorrow and trial. Then again, if we are followers of God, we must expect to pass through the wilderness of temptation and self-denial. Again, we are bidden to be followers of God, "as dear children." What does that imply? Surely it means obedience, simplicity, purity. Then, following God, as dear children, means purity. The child who goes out with his father feels it a privilege and an honour, and so he is washed and clean, and wears his best clothes. My brethren, if we are followers of God, we shall strive to keep ourselves pure.

(H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, M. A.)

Preacher's Analyst.
I. THE DUTY ENJOINED — "Be ye followers of God." The word "follower" does not merely mean one in the retinue — an attendant. It means more — an imitator. It is applied to those who personate others, and appropriate their looks, manners, and gait. From the original word we have our English translation, "mimic," which, although often used in a ludicrous sense, here is to be understood in a very solemn and important signification. Wherein then can we imitate God?

1. In character. So far as revealed to us, we may imitate the character of God.

2. In desire. We may be actuated by the same desires as actuate the Almighty.

3. In feeling. God hates sin. To follow is more than to profess. It is carrying into action the principles of Christian life. It must be —

(1)invariable;

(2)persevering;

(3)faithful;

(4)sincere.

II. THE PLEA BY WHICH IT IS URGED — "as dear children."

1. Children will follow their parents from love and respect.

2. Children will follow their parents from a desire to gain their approval.

3. Children follow their parents in order that they may fit and prepare themselves, when grown up, for the same sphere and position of life. So with the Christian. He is looking forward to the period of his maturity when he shall be like his. Father in heaven.

(Preacher's Analyst.)

Let us illustrate the spirit in which the exhortation before us ought to be obeyed.

1. The spirit, therefore, in which such men ought to comply with the exhortation is, in the first place, the spirit of reverence and humble subjection to the Divine law.

2. But, I observe, that the spirit expressed in the text — the spirit in which we should comply with the exhortation, is the spirit of grateful, cheerful compliance with the will of God, as dear and beloved children. The love of children to an earthly father is always conjoined with admiration of the virtues of the father, and a desire to imitate him.

3. In the last place, the spirit in which the exhortation ought to be obeyed is the spirit of humble dependence for grace from God to help us. The spirit or disposition of children is the spirit of conscious weakness and dependence.

(P. McFarlan, D. D.)

I. WHEREIN WE ARE TO RESEMBLE Genesis The context mentions one thing in particular, viz., pardoning and forgiving the wrongs done us by others. We need not confine our thoughts, however, to that only. In Scripture we are pressed to follow God in two things — in holiness and mercy. Well, then, let us now state the matter.

1. Negatively. This following and resembling of God standeth not in His natural, but moral perfections. God doth not say, Be ye strong, as I am strong, or, Be ye happy, as I am happy; but, Be ye holy, as I am holy; merciful, as I am merciful. Our loss by sin is more in point of goodness than of power and knowledge.

2. Positively. The chiefest excellencies are —

(1)His holiness.

(2)His goodness. "God is love."

2. He hath given us the example of Christ, or God in our nature, who came for this end and purpose, that we, who cannot fathom the unsearchable depth of the Godhead, might see the Divine perfections shining forth in the human nature of Christ, who was the character and express image of His Divine glory (Hebrews 1:3): Christ was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners" (Hebrews 7:26). They that cannot directly look on the sun may see the motion of it in a basin of water. To express an image, there must be similitude or likeness, and a means of deduction or conveying the likeness.

II. WHAT PROVISION GOD HATH MADE THAT WE MAY BE FOLLOWERS OF HIM.

1. He hath given us His Word to stamp His image upon our souls.

2. He hath given us the example of Christ, or God in our nature.

3. He hath given us His spirit to change us into the likeness of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). None else is able to renew us to the image of God, there being such an averseness in man's heart, which cannot be cured by our bare thoughts.

III. I PROVE THE POINT BY THESE REASONS.

1. This image of God was our primitive glory and excellency. "Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness." (Genesis 1:26).

2. This is the effect, of our new creation and regeneration; for it is said (2 Peter 1:4), that to us are given exceeding great and precious promises, that by these you might be partakers of the Divine nature, Nothing so like Him as the new creature.

3. This is that which we hope shall be completed in heaven, and therefore it must be endeavoured here. "We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2; Psalm 17:15). The heaven that we look fro' is such a vision as maketh way for assimilation, and such an assimilation to God as maketh way for complete satisfaction and blessedness in Him.

4. We must not omit the argument of the text — "as dear children"; wherein two things are considerable.

(1)The relation;

(2)The love that accompanieth it.

1. The relation. Ye are children. Children usually resemble their parents, either by nature, in the lineaments of their face, or by institution and education, in the quality of their minds. It may fail there, but it always holdeth good here; for none are God's children but those that are like Him.

2. The love that accompanieth and goeth along with this relation — "as dear children."(1) There was a great deal of love showed in giving us our new nature in regeneration, and taking us into so near a relation to Himself as that of children (1 John 3:1).(2) There is a great love and tenderness exercised towards those that are in this relation. They are His "dear children," and they shall know it by His fatherly dealing with them.(3) The more like to God we are, the more dear we are to Him, and the more amiable in His sight; so that you are not only loved, but lovely.(4) Our chief worship of God consists in imitation; not in contemplation or admiration only, or in bare praise and adoration, but in imitation, when we study to be like Him. Now to this end —

1. Get a due conception of God.

2. Esteem these things as amiable. We can neither praise, nor love, nor imitate, what we do net esteem. Is holiness the glory of God? and will you either scorn it in others, or neglect to get it yourselves?

3. Desire God to change your natures, that you may bear the image of the heavenly One (1 Corinthians 15:49).

4. Bewail your imperfections, and come nearer to your Pattern every day.

(T. Manton, D. D.)

I. THE IMITATION OF GOD'S WISDOM. It is written — I take one example — it is written, "No man knoweth the Son but the Father"; they, therefore, who are studying the Son under the Father's teaching, are in the most direct way imitating God Himself in the matter of knowledge. Again, we may imitate God in the knowledge of human nature.

II. THE IMITATION OF GOD IN POWER. This would seem, like the other, to be almost an unintelligible precept till we begin to ponder it more thoughtfully. Then we must be struck with several passages of Scripture which represent power as one of the characteristic Christian endowments, as when St. Paul says, "Ye received not a spirit of fear, but ye received, when ye became Christians, a spirit of power"; or our Lord, "that ye receive power, in that the Holy Ghost is come upon you"; or St. Paul again, "I can do all things," or, more literally, "I have strength for all things, through Christ which enableth me"; or St. John in the opening verses of the Apocalypse, "He hath made us kings"; "I appoint unto you a kingdom as My Father hath appointed unto Me." We must dismiss altogether the first idea of power as a selfish or personal ascendency over a multitude of subjects or inferiors. If we examine it we shall find that the power in which we are to be imitators of God consists in two things — the one a power over ourselves, and the other an influence over others, both alike due to the same cause — the ever-present help and strength of the Holy Spirit. We are forever misreading and miscalling power. We look for it, we seem to see it, in some form or other of the self-strength. We call a man powerful who by the force of intellect, or of eloquence, or of station, can overbear his opponents, enthral his hearers, or make a nation bow down to him. In all these workings of power it would be ridiculous, it would be irreverent, to see any approach, however infinitely distant, to the imitation of God. But it is otherwise when we come into successful conflict, however insignificant may seem to be the form of it, with God's one foe, which is the power of evil. And yet once more, and finally, the imitation of God's power in conquering a sin passes on into the imitation of God's power in the exercise of influence. That marvellous word influence, which is the flowing in into one soul of a mysterious something out of another soul; is it not the very highest of God's operations and power? Is it not that which quickens dead men out of the sleep of death? Is it not that which changed Saul of Tarsus into the blessed apostle and evangelist St. Paul? Is it not that which even in these late days of the earth is every day bringing some new wicked rebel into the gracious obedience of Jesus Christ? Is it not just that flowing in of the Holy Spirit into the spirit that is in man? And is there any exercise of God's power quite so wonderful as that?

(Dean Vaughan.)

This figure of following may be drawn from any of several sources. A soldier follows his leader; and sometimes in Holy Scripture following is set forth by that figure. Scholars, also, according to the Oriental method of instruction, where the teacher walks in some shaded garden, follow their instructor. The Rabbi, in Palestine, with a band of disciples, moved from village to village, teaching the people; and so this, too, is a Scriptural figure. But the image we have here is that of little children following after their parents; and no picture could be more charming than that which rises to the imagination of everyone who has been blest in his childhood's home — the figure of little children watching their mother, running after her if she leaves the room, crying for her, clinging to her, asking to be lifted by her, dependent, seeking their own little liberty always within the scope of her eye. Now, we are to "follow God as dear children"; and He, therefore, is to be to us of necessity a Father, or we cannot follow Him as children. If, to our conception, therefore, He is a God of fate, whose decrees are fitful coercions: if our conception of God is that of one in whom is all power, and all will, and a rightful wilfulness, it is impossible for us to follow such an ideal of God as dear children. Or, if He be to our imagination intellectualized into an abstract God of perfect purity, with such a revulsion from evil, and discord, and sin that he cannot for a moment tolerate it in the universe, but sits conscious of His own everlasting purity, demanding purity in everyone inexorably, you cannot follow such an aspect of God as dear children. A child can follow a smiling mother or a benignant father; but you cannot persuade a child to follow a stern-browed stranger, nor anyone that stands in the attitude of a judge, whose face is clothed with frowns. Children flee from such a face. It is not in nature that they should be attracted to it. We may follow God by veneration, by a worshipful emulation; but it must be in such a way as dear children can follow. For there are, or have been, I doubt not, to every one of us, moments in which the goodness of our mother and the superiority of our father have acted back upon us, and we have been made to feel how inferior we are to them; and we look up to them, and we rejoice in that greatness which maker us feel how inferior we are. And so, a loving child of God may rejoice in his own sense of abasement and inferiority, because he loves God; and out of love there may come veneration, humiliation, and prostration of soul. The whole system by which men are meant, through a sense of their own sinfulness, to be humble and prostrate before God, is not only derogatory to the supreme idea of manhood, but is degrading to the sense of man; and men who are all the time looking at their own imperfections and sins, and studying them, and, as it were, stewing them in their own consciousness, and living upon a perpetual sense of their inferiority — such men are not wholesome-minded. That is not the way that dear children live at home. You would not let them. As little as you have of the Divine nature in you, you are conscious that that could not be the proper aspect of the experience of children at home; and that, if they love you and feel the warmth of your love, they cannot forever be abiding in a morbid consciousness of their own weakness, imperfections, and misdoings. There must be the upspring of hope, and faith, and trust, and love, or the child cannot be a dear child at home. And still less is fear compatible with following God as dear children. There is a filial fear. There is nothing more solicitous than love. The child, anxious to please, looks with waiting expectancy to see if its task has pleased father or mother. The child that is learning to write, or that is studying art, and, making sketches, brings them to the teacher or to the parent, comes with a kind of trembling apprehension lest they should not be approved. That is honourable. That has the approval of affection itself, and it is ennobling. But the fear of anger, the fear of penalty, the fear of our own suffering and loss, is admirable only in very remote degrees, and occasionally, when other motives fail. And yet, there is a filial fear, a love fear, which not only is permissible, but is honouring and uplifting.

(H. W. Beecher.)

There are two ways of imitating a person; the one making that person our model, the other our example. The first does the exact deeds, lives in the same way, dresses in the same colours, without regard to the differing circumstances; and this always leads to error. The other way is to imbibe the same spirit, to have the. same character, and thus do what our example would have done in our circumstances. Almost nothing is said of what things Christ did as a boy, or how He lived, lest we make Him only a model. But we are shown His spirit of obedience, and goodness, and growth, that we may take Him for our example.

(S. T. S. Nonich.)

Literally: "Become ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children." These words may be regarded as indicating the great subjective object of our lives. God's purpose concerning us is to conform us to the image of His own blessed Son. Our purpose concerning ourselves in our own life and conversation should be to become "imitators of God as dear children." Man was originally created in the image of God; but observe, in His image potentially rather than actually — just as the child is the image of the man, or, as we may say, the acorn contains potentially the image of the oak, inasmuch as it contains within itself that which will develop into the oak. Man was made innocent and pure, and so far in the image of God. But the positive attributes and qualities which are God's highest glory, and by which His glory is to shine forth through humanity, could not be exhibited till man had been submitted to a probation. Jesus Christ not only died, but lived — lived a life of perfect and complete obedience — in order that by that life He might bring within our view the image of God displayed in a truly perfect man. Thus the Divine image lost in the Fall has been restored to humanity in all the completeness of its moral beauty in the Incarnation, and as we contemplate it we learn to admire it, and become enamoured of it. In that revelation we have an opportunity of seeing both what God is and what man is designed by Him to become. As we have endeavoured to show, then, we need to have an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the object to be imitated, in order to imitate it; and then, when this is granted, we need carefully to study it. You cannot imitate the productions of a great painter unless you give your whole attention to that painter's style. It is not sufficient for you to have a general idea of the characteristics of his genius; you have to study the details of the works of art proceeding from his pencil; and only when you have made yourself acquainted with the various peculiarities of his style and the features of his work, are you in a position to become an imitator of that painter. And as with painting, so with every other art: we all know this. My friends, it is even so with our spiritual life. If we are to become imitators of God, as dear children, we first need to have a model set before us in such a form as that we can comprehend it, and next we need to study the model so set before us. And we have reason to thank God that the Divine model is brought down within reach of our finite powers of contemplation. If God had never been incarnate, and if Jesus had not come down to show Him to us, we might have been left to barren speculations about the Divine character and attributes, as were the ancient heathen philosophers. "Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of Myself; but the Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works." And this is surely the true answer to that dreary doctrine of the incomprehensibility of the Absolute — preached some time ago by an eminent thinker amongst ourselves, a Christian philosopher of no small repute — a doctrine which, if carried to its ultimate and practical issue, must be destructive alike of all true religion and morality. It was advanced by this author that because God is absolute, He is unknowable by the finite, and because He is unknowable, therefore His moral qualities may be totally different in kind from all that we understand by terms employed to indicate them; that the "justice" of God, for example, may be a totally different thing from what we understand as justice, and His goodness a totally distinct thing from what we understand as goodness, and so on with each moral attribute in particular. This position, as I have said, seems to me subversive of all true morality, while it strikes at the root of all reasonable religion. For if God's qualities are different in kind from what I understand by the terms employed, why may not the greatest criminals be nearer the standard of Divine perfection than the worthiest of mankind? And how is it possible for me to admire, love, and, above all, trust a Being, of the nature of whose moral attributes I know practically nothing? Atheism itself were a relief as against the possibility of having to deal with such an unknown God. But the answer to such an appalling deduction of a pitiless logic is to be found in the fact that the perfections of the Absolute are presented to us in a concrete form in the Person of Jesus Christ. As we gaze upon Him we see what God is, and what He desires us to think and know of Himself. And we find here that God's moral perfections are identical in kind with those qualities which we recognize as such, and after which we aspire; that the justice of God is the same as that which we understand by the word justice; that the love, the purity, the truth, the faithfulness, which we regard as attributes of Deity, are the same in kind, though fuller in degree, as those virtues which bear these names amongst ourselves. For we observe that never were these so perfectly exhibited as in the life, character, and teaching of Him who completely revealed to us the image of God. Let me say, therefore, do not trouble yourselves because God seems so vast that you cannot comprehend Him, or because His attributes are so infinite that your imagination cannot grapple with them. Do not allow yourself to lose hold of the Divine Personality in the attempt to recognize His infinity. But to become closely acquainted with this model, and to be able to imitate it, we need not only to have it, but to study it. And hence the necessity of the careful, painstaking contemplation of the Christ of the Gospels. But to have the Model and to study it is not all that is required to render our imitation of God in Christ all that it should be. We must be careful not only to imitate the one true Model, but to imitate it in the proper way. And the true evangelical method of imitation is indicated to us in these suggestive words, "Be ye imitators of God, as dear children." It is in the nature of things that the child should imitate its parent. As a matter of fact, children for the most part do imitate their parents. The child of a carpenter will probably never be happier than when he can get a hammer and a few nails and make as much noise with them as possible, while he is endeavouring to imitate the skill of his parent, although with very poor success. The child of the soldier will naturally select the toy sword or gun or a noisy drum for its plaything. The child of the clergyman will delight in addressing an imaginary congregation, or perhaps a congregation of chairs and stools, with much vehemence, if with no great amount of intelligence. But why multiply illustrations? It is a fact we are all familiar with, that the child imitates the parent, not because it is constrained to do so, but because it finds a pleasure in doing so, and that just because it is, as we say, its father's own child. We may learn a great deal from this. The child receives a certain disposition by his hereditary relationship with his parent, and this disposition has a tendency to exhibit itself in his future conduct. How important it is, then, that in our own personal experience we should watch over all within us that seems to come from God — watch over it with such care as the horticulturist would expend on some lovely flower — some rare and beautiful exotic in his greenhouse. These holy aspirations and purer instincts of which we are conscious have been introduced to our nature by Divine grace; they come not of earth, they have their home in the very heart of God Himself; and hence as tender exotics they need to be guarded and protected against the cold breath of the blighting frosts of this wintry world of ours, which would kill and destroy if possible every flower of Paradise. Give place at once to all that you have reason to believe comes from God, and respond at once to those inward impulses and instincts which are of a Divine origin. These are the motives of sonship, and by surrendering ourselves to these we shall fulfil the direction of our text, "Be ye imitators of God, as dear children." But there is something more than this suggested to us by the words. It is not merely that there are certain hereditary instincts which descend from the father to the child, but it is also the tendency of the close relationship which exists between the son and the father to strengthen these instincts, and to develop them into habits of life. In the first place this relationship usually evokes on the part of the child a feeling of admiration for the father. A little boy naturally thinks his father the greatest man in the world. If the Queen of England were introduced into his home, he would regard her as altogether a less important person than his parents. There is nobody so great in the eyes of a little child as his father or mother; and it is well that this should be so. And if we are the children of the Most High God, is it not more natural still that our whole being should be under the influence of a feeling of admiration for the great Father of spirits, from whom we derived our existence originally, and from whom we have received that new spiritual life — that life by virtue of which we live indeed? This feeling of admiration yields an additional stimulus to those instincts of imitation to which I have already referred. With what interest does the little child look on while his father engages in his ordinary employment. What a wonder of skill it all seems to him! And this admiration prompts those unskilful little hands to attempt an imitation, however feeble. I cannot help thinking that it is possible for us to exhibit in our spiritual experience something like a servile imitation of God, when we only endeavour to imitate Him because we think it is our duty to do so, and we may bring punishment upon ourselves if we do not endeavour to fulfil this our appointed task. This servile imitation must lead us into the region of mere legality, and when this is the case our imitation will be a travesty rather than a copy; for when this is our motive one essential characteristic of a true imitation will necessarily be absent — the element of joyous spontaneousness which makes the imitation so specially well-pleasing in the great Father's eyes. If therefore we desire the true imitation of God let us see to it that we imitate Him as children, and as dear children. But, as I have said, imitation requires to be carried out in detail, and we have to study the work imitated in all its various parts if we would produce anything really resembling it. In the present passage, however, St. Paul calls attention to some of the more prominent features of the Divine character, in respect of which we are to be imitators of God; and we will confine ourselves to a very brief consideration of these. First he speaks of that kindness and tenderness which were so characteristic of Jesus Christ: "Be ye kind," he says, "one to another, tender hearted." It is not enough that we should abstain from being unkind. There is scarcely anything in the life of Jesus that impresses us more than this. As He goes through the world, amidst all its sickening sights and sounds, He never seems to lose His quick sensibility. The next feature of the character of God mentioned here is His Divine readiness to forgive — "Forgiving one another, as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you." This leads us to the third point in which St. Paul teaches us here to imitate God as revealed to us in Jesus; and it is the grandest feature of all in the Divine character that is brought before us here. Nay, rather it is the common element in which all other perfections meet; for "God is love." "Walk in love," exclaims the apostle, "as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour." Kindness lies on the surface of our lives, and has to do mainly with our outward manner and conduct; but love is of the heart, its domain is within, where it lifts us from our native selfishness, and developes the Divine. It. is the genial warmth of that life blood that floweth forth from the heart of God into ours, and makes us live indeed! Of love we can say no less than St. John has said of it: "He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him"; for "God is love." It is the very essence of Deity, and he who has most of it imitates God the best. Walk in love. Well, how shall we do it? How shall we become imitators of God in this respect? We cannot create love by a mere effort of our will; but we may expose ourselves to influences favourable to its development; we may foster and cherish it, or we may check and hinder it — a thing which I fear too many Christians do. The instincts of love naturally exist within those who are born of God, because we inherit the Father's characteristics; and the disposition to feel a new love for all with whom we have to do is an instance of that hereditary imitation to which I have already referred. But love grows, and is developed by exercise. If instead of checking these early impulses we encourage them, and go on to love, not "in word or tongue, but in deed and in truth," our disposition to love will be strengthened by loving deeds and words performed or spoken in obedience to the instincts of love. We may foster love negatively also by watching against the narrowing instincts of selfishness, or against anything that tends to render us self-absorbed, for charity seeketh not her own; and to seek our own is to strangle the life of love at its very birth. It is well, too, ever to endeavour to look at the lovelier side of human character, for most men have a lovelier side, and in Christian men this is the Divine element. The mention of Christ's gift of Himself brings us to the last point referred to here in which it is possible for us to imitate God. Let us become imitators of God in self-sacrifice. For self-sacrifice, wonderful to say, would seem to be the law of the Divine benevolence. Be imitators of God in this. Selfishness is no attribute of Deity, though for Him all exist. He fulfils His will in His creatures by making them partakers of His own blessedness, and nothing less than this will satisfy Him. Men seek for greatness in self-assertion, in pushing their own fortunes, and advancing their social status. But the Divine secret of true greatness lies in self-denial and self-forgetfulness, in the willing and cheerful surrender of our own rights and comforts and pleasures for the good of others.

(W. H. Aitken, M. A.)

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