When we consider that we are expressly commanded, in the Gospel, to imitate the example of Jesus; when we survey the fair and unblemished original himself, and reflect on the peculiar obligations Christians are under to follow it; we may rightly be surprised that any who pretend to the Christian name would live in the careless neglect of this plain and important duty.
But, surprising as it is, we need only look abroad through the world, and observe the conduct of mankind, to be convinced that, by many who pretend to be his followers, the example of the Son of God, is treated with contempt, or regarded with indifference.
Of this strange inconsistency between the profession and practice of Christians, wise and good men, in all ages, have always complained. But, on what must the blame be laid? On the example itself, or on any inability of men to follow it?
The unsuitable lives of Christians, their impiety and wickedness, has done more real injury to the cause of religion, has brought more scandal and reproach on the Christian character, and been a greater obstacle to the success of the gospel, than the daring attacks of its avowed enemies.
In imitation of Jesus' example, we ought to be inwardly pious and devout towards God. "Whoever says he abides in him,” writes John, “Ought to walk in the same way in which he walked." 1 John 2:6
His mind was continually fixed upon God, and he maintained a constant correspondence with his heavenly Father.
We find him frequently lifting up his soul in pious statements, and always involved in some spiritual and divine exercise. While others were engaged in the business and amusement of the day, or buried in the silence or ease of the night, he frequently retired from the world to converse with his God, and sometimes spent whole nights in that delightful way.
The most exalted piety was exemplified in his life, and the most subservient devotion animated his behavior and devotion, not breaking out in sudden flashes, like the seed in the parable, which soon sprung up, and soon withered away; but steady and regular, like that all-perfect Being, the object of it, with whom there is no variableness nor shadow of turning.
Is not this a noble pattern for our imitation?
Animated, then, by his great example, let us make religion our principal business; let us not continue estranged from God, but let us acquaint ourselves with him, and, by the exercise of faith and love maintain a constant correspondence with him.
In the most distressful circumstances of life, he cheerfully submitted to his Father's will. He was obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.
Let us then imitate our Savior in this most necessary virtue. While we are in this world, we may lay our account to meet with afflictions.
In this manner, our Savior himself acted while he was in the world; and we who profess to be Christians, ought to imitate his example. He trod the rugged path of adversity with undaunted courage; he walked on in a course of suffering with the most cheerful resignation; and he did so, that he might go before us in this road of danger, and leave us an example that we might follow his steps.
In imitation of Jesus' example, we ought to entertain a sincere and cordial love to our brethren of mankind. There is no virtue for which our Savior was more distinguished; nor indeed is there any in which we ought to resemble him more.
God's love of humanity caused Him to send Jesus out into the world; it was Jesus' constant employment, during his ministry, to promote their happiness; and nothing gave him so much pleasure, as to see them hearkening to his instructions, and embracing the offers of God's mercy.
(Adapted from, “The Example of Jesus, A Perfect Standard for the Imitation of Christians” by Rev. George Lyon, 1729-1794)