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OF BEING IMITATORS OF CHRIST.
1 COR. iv. 16.
I beseech you, be followers of me: or, I exhort you, be imitators of mea.
ST. PAUL, by an impartial reflection upon his SERM. heart and life, being well assured, that he by the di- XXXIV. vine Spirit was enlightened with a certain knowledge of all necessary truth, and endued with plentiful measures of divine grace; being conscious of a sincere zeal in himself to honour God, and benefit men; being satisfied, that with integrity he did suit his conversation to the dictates of a good conscience, to the sure rule of God's law, and to the perfect example of his Lord; that his intentions were pure and right, his actions warrantable, and the tenor of his life conspicuously blameless, doth upon all occasions (not out of any self-conceitedness, arrogance, or ostentation, from which he, by frequent acknowledgment of his own defects and his miscarriages, and by ascribing all the good he had, or did, to the grace and mercy of God, doth sufficiently clear himself; but from an earnest desire to glorify God, and edify his disciples) describe, and set forth his own practice, proposing it as a rule, pressing it upon them as an argument, an encouragement, an obligation to the performance of several duties. So by it he directeth
· Παρακαλῶ ὑμᾶς, μιμηταί μου γίνεσθε.
SERM. and urgeth the Ephesians to a charitable compliance, or complaisance; a sweet and inoffensive demeanour 1 Cor. x. 32, toward other: Give no offence, saith he, neither to 33. iv. 16. the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of
7, 8, 9.
God: even as I please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved: be ye followers of me: so he guides and provokes the Philippians to endeavours of proficiency in grace, and the study of Christian perPhil. iii. 16. fection: Nevertheless, saith he to them, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing: brethren, be followers together of me, and mark such as walk so, as ye have us for an ensample. By the like instance and argument, he moveth the Thessalonians to a sober and orderly conversation, to industry in their calling, to self-denial, and a generous disregard of private in2 Thess. iii.terest: For yourselves, saith he, know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail day and night, that we might not be chargeable to any of you; not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an example to you to follow The same persons he commendeth, as having by this means been induced to a patient constancy I Thess. i. in faith and good works: Ye know, saith he, what manner of men we were among you for your sake, and ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction. The practice of all virtue and goodness he also thus rePhil. iv. 9. commendeth under this rule and obligation; Those things, which ye have learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do; and the God of peace
shall be with you. Thus in our text (referring it to SERM. the context) he urgeth the Christians, his disciples at Corinth, to fidelity and diligence in the charges and affairs committed to them, to humility, patience, and charity; wherein he declareth himself to have set before them an evident and exact pattern. Which practice of St. Paul doth chiefly teach us two things; that we be careful to give, and that we be ready to follow good example: the latter of which duties more directly and immediately agreeth to the intent of this place; and it therefore I shall only now insist upon the subject and scope of my discourse shall be to shew, that it is our duty and concernment to regard the practices of good men, and to follow their example. To which purpose we may observe,
I. That it is the manner of the apostles, upon all occasions, to inculcate this duty: we heard St. Paul: hear St. James: Take, saith he, my brethren, the Jam. v. 10. prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction: Ye Jam. v. 11. have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy: and the apostle to the Hebrews: We desire, saith he, that every one of you Heb. vi. 11, do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of "2. hope unto the end: that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises: and again, Wherefore seeing Heb. xii. 1. we are also compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. St. Peter: Ye wives, be in subjection to your own 1Pet.iii.1,6. husbands; even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling
BARROW, VOL. II.
SERM. him lord.
And wherever the eminent deeds of
XXXIV. holy men are mentioned, it is done with an intimation at least, or tacit supposition, that we are obliged to follow their example.
II. We may consider that to this end (that we might have worthy patterns to imitate) the goodness of God hath raised up in all ages such excellent persons, furnishing them with rare endowments, and with continual influences of his grace assisting them, to this purpose, that they might not only instruct us with wholesome doctrine, but lead us also by good example in the paths of righteousness. For certainly what St. Paul saith concerning the sins and punishments of bad men, is no less applicable to the virtu1 Cor. x.11. ous deeds and happy examples of good men: All these things happened unto them for ensamples; and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
III. They are written for our admonition: it was a special design of God's providence in recording and recommending to our regard the divine histories. They were not framed as monuments of a fruitless memory and fame to them; they were not proposed to us as entertainments of our curiosity, as objects of wonder, as matters of idle discourse; that unconcernedly we should gaze upon them, or talk about them, as children look on fine gays: but they are set before us, as copies to transcribe, as lights to guide us in our way to happiness. So that if we
b Μεγίστη δὲ ὁδὸς πρὸς τὴν τοῦ καθήκοντος εὕρεσιν καὶ ἡ μελέτη τῶν θειοπνεύστων γραφῶν· ἐν ταύταις γὰρ καὶ αἱ τῶν πράξεων ὑποθήκαι εὑρί σκονται, καὶ οἱ βίοι τῶν μακαρίων ἀνδρῶν ἀνάγραπτοι παραδεδομένοι οἷον εἰκόνες τινὲς ἔμψυχοι τῆς κατὰ θεὸν πολιτείας, τῷ μιμήματι τῶν ἀγαθῶν ἔργων Pókeτaι. Bas. ad Greg. Ep. 2.
will not ingratefully frustrate the intentions of divine SERM. Providence for our good, we must dispose ourselves to imitate those illustrious patterns of virtue and piety.
IV. We may further consider, that, in the nature of the thing itself, good example is of singular advantage to us, as being apt to have a mighty virtue, efficacy, and influence upon our practice: which consideration should much engage us to regard it, applying it as an instrument of making ourselves good, and consequently of becoming happy. Good example is, as I say, of exceeding advantage to practice upon many accounts.
1. Examples do more compendiously, easily, and pleasantly inform our minds, and direct our practice, than precepts, or any other way or instrument of discipline. Precepts are delivered in an universal and abstracted manner, naked, and void of all circumstantial attire, without any intervention, assistance, or suffrage of sense; and, consequently, can have no vehement operation upon the fancy, and soon do fly the memory; like flashes of lightning, too subtle to make any great impression, or to leave any remarkable footsteps, upon what they encounter; they must be expressed in nice terms, and digested in exact method; they are various, and in many disjointed pieces conspire to make up an entire body of direction they do also admit of divers cases, and require many exceptions, or restrictions, which to apprehend distinctly, and retain long in memory, needs a tedious labour, and continual attention of mind, together with a piercing and steady judgment. But good example, with less trouble, more speed, and greater efficacy, causes us to comprehend the business, representing it like a picture exposed to