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demonstrate the sincerity of our faith, love, and re- SERM. verence to him. It is the most natural way of tes- XXXV. tifying affection and respect, to imitate the manners of those persons, who are the objects of those acts and dispositions, to esteem what they approve, to delight in what they affect, and consequently (since actions do proceed from affections) to do as they do. Contrary actions are plain arguments of contrary judgments, inclinations, and affections. Who can imagine we sincerely believe in Christ, or heartily love him, or truly honour him, that seeth us to loathe what he liked, or affect what he detested; to contemn what he prized, or value what he despised; to neglect what he pursued, or embrace what he avoided? But if our lives resemble his, any man will thence collect our respect and affection to him: this argument our Saviour doth also intimate: By John xiii. this, saith he, shall all men know ye are my disci- 35. ples, if ye love one another; that is, it will be an evident sign and strong argument, that ye really do believe in, love, and honour me, if ye imitate me in my charity.
IV. By pretending to be Christians we acknowledge the transcendent goodness, worth, and excellency of our Saviour; that he was incomparably better and wiser than any person ever was, or could be; that he always acted with the highest reason, out of the most excellent disposition of mind, in order to the best purposes; and that his practice therefore reasonably should be the rule and pattern of ours. For the best and exactest in every kind is the measure of the rest. All that would obtain exquisite skill in any art or faculty, think best to imitate the works of the best masters therein: a painter,
SERM. to draw after the pieces of Zeuxis or Apelles, of RaXXXV. phael or Titian; an orator, to speak in the style of Cicero or Demosthenes; a soldier, to emulate the military achievements of Hannibal or Cæsar: in like manner, reason requireth, if we would live well and happily, that we should endeavour to conform our practice to that of our Saviour, the most perfect mirror of all virtue and goodness.
V. The practice of our Saviour did throughly agree with his doctrine and law; he required nothing of us which he did not eminently perform himself. He fulfilled in deed, as well as taught in word, all righteousness. He was not ignava opera, philosopha sententia; like those masters of philosophy, so frequently taxed and derided by the satyrists; who, by a horrid garb, supercilious looks, and loud declamations, would seem to discountenance those vices which themselves practised; nor like those hypocritical lawyers in the gospel, who laded Luke xi.46. other men with heavy burdens, such as themselves would not touch with one of their fingers: no, he imposed nothing on us which he did not first bear upon his own shoulders: the strictness of his life did, in all respects, correspond with the severity of his precepts, or rather did indeed much exceed them. They therefore who pretend to believe his doctrine, and avow themselves bound to observe his law, are consequently engaged to follow his practice, in which his doctrine and law are signally exemplified.
VI. It being the design of divine goodness, in sending our Saviour, to render us good and happy, to deliver us from sin and misery, to instruct us in
κ Οὐδὲν ψυχρότερον τοῦ κατὰ λόγους φιλοσοφοῦντος. Chrys.
the knowledge and excite us to the practice of all SERM. virtue, and thereby to qualify us for the enjoyment of a blessed immortality; effecting all this in a way agreeable to our natural condition and capacity; there could not be devised any more powerful means, or more convenient method, of accomplishing those excellent purposes, than by propounding such an example, and obliging us to comply therewith: the which may appear, 1. by considering in general the advantage and efficacy that good example is apt to have upon practice; 2. by weighing the peculiar excellency of our Saviour's example above all others, in order to those ends; and, 3. by surveying the particular instances of imitable goodness represented in the life of our Saviour.
1. Good example is naturally an effectual instrument of good practice; for that it doth most compendiously, pleasantly, and easily instruct; representing things to be done at one view, in a full body, clothed with all their modes and circumstances; it recommends them to us by the most plain and plausible way of reasoning, (and withal the most sure and safe,) the authority of wise and good men; it encourageth by evidently declaring the practicableness of rules prescribed; it kindleth and rouseth men's courage, by a kind of contagion, as one flame doth kindle another; it raiseth a worthy emulation of doing laudable things, which we see done; or of obtaining a share in the commendations and rewards of virtue. It urgeth modesty, breeding shame and regret in them who act contrarily thereto; it awakeneth curiosity, thereby producing a desire to make trial of what it proposeth ; it affecteth and pleaseth the fancy, thereby insinu
SERM. ating an approbation, admiration, and liking of the XXXV. good things which it representeth: briefly, it exciteth and engageth all our passions, setting on work all those powerful springs of activity; it consequently is, in its own nature, an efficacious mean of good practice. This we may in general say of all good example; but,
2. More especially the example of Christ doth, in efficacy and influence upon good practice, surpass all others; upon several accounts.
First, In that it is a sure and infallible rule, an entire and perfect rule of practice; deficient in no part, swerving in no circumstance from truth and right, which privileges are competent to no other example. The practice of the best men is not always to be imitated, nor ever absolutely as a certain ground of action; it is to be (so far as we have ability) considered, examined, and compared to more certain rules, (the divine laws and the principles of right reason,) according to their agreement with which they are to be followed: they are indeed (before trial of the case) probable arguments of what is done by them being good and lawful; they do outweigh slender and obscure reasonings about the goodness of things; they may, when opportunity, leisure, or ability of further inquiry and judgment about things are wanting, serve to direct us; but they are not throughly sure rules, or perfect measures of our duty. We should beware lest we be seduced even by holy persons; and, therefore, with circumspection and caution should peruse their story, and contemplate their demeanour; whereof those which are explicitly commended, or allowed by the divine judgment, we may, being assured that we are
in the same circumstances, safely follow, (taking SERM. them for monitories, encouragements, and excite- XXXV. ments to our duty :) but those that are directly condemned by the same sentence, or apparently devious from God's law, we as carefully should avoid; 'such as are of a doubtful and unaccountable nature we are to suspend about, and not to ground upon; nor to argue from the fact to the rightfulness of them; the safest way being always (as we are able) to have recourse to the simple, plain, and perspicuous precepts of God, and dictates of reason. For the best men have been always subject to errors and infirmities; the fountain of original corruption in them was never so dried up, or closely stopped, but that some impure streams have bubbled forth; the fire of natural concupiscence was never so utterly quenched, but that sometimes it would blaze, or smoke out in bad actions; that intestine enemy, the flesh, was never throughly subdued, nor the body of sin quite slain and mortified in any other mortal man. Good men have ever had some foul spots, or deforming wrinkles, appearing in the beauteous face of their conversation; they have had their inequalities and indispositions of humour, their ebbs of devotion, their fits of sloth, their wanton freaks, their slips often, and sometimes their falls; they have been subject to be deluded by mistake, to be surprised by inadvertency, to be transported by passion, to be swayed by temper, to be biassed by interest, to be allured by temptation into false and unwarrantable
It was ill said of Seneca: Catoni ebrietas objecta est, et facilius efficiet, quisquis objecerit hoc crimen, honestum, quam turpem Catonem.
BARROW, VOL. 11.