nor into the farther recesses of a wilderness, (as some others have done,) but conversed freely and indifferently with all sorts of men, even the most contemptible and odious sort of men, publicans and sinners; like the sun, with an impartial bounty, liberally imparting his pleasant light and comfortable warmth to all. He used no uncouth austerities in habit or diet; but complied, in his garb, with ordinary usage, and sustained his life with such food as casual opportunity did offer; so that his indifferency in that kind yielded matter of obloquy against him from the fond admirers of a humorous preciseness. His devotions (though exceedingly sprightful and fervent) were not usually extended to a tedious and exhausting durance, nor strained into ecstatical transports, charming the natural senses, and overpowering the reason; but calm, steady, and regular, such as persons of honest intention and hearty desire (though not endued with high fancy or stirring passion) might readily imitate. His zeal was not violent or impetuous, except on very great reason, and extraordinary occasion, when the honor of God or good of men was much concerned. He was not rigorous in the observance of traditional rites and customs, (such as were needlessly burdensome, or which contained in them more of formal show than of real fruit,) yet behaved himself orderly and peaceably, giving due respect to the least institution of God, and complying with the innocent customs of men; thereby pointing out to us the middle way between peevish superstition and boisterous faction; which as always the most honest, so commonly is the most safe and pleasant way to walk in. He delighted not to discourse of sublime mysteries, (although his deep wisdom comprehended all,) nor of subtile speculations and intricate questions, such as might amuse and perplex rather than instruct and profit his auditors; but usually did feed his auditors with the most common and useful truths, and that in the most familiar and intelligible language; not disdaining the use of vulgar sayings and trivial proverbs, when they best served to insinuate his wholesome meaning into their minds. His whole life was spent in exercise of the most easy and pleasant, yet most necessary and substantial duties; obedience to God, charity, meekness, humility, patience, and the like; the which, that he might practise with the greatest latitude, and with most

advantage for general imitation, he did not addict himself to any particular way of life, but disentangled himself from all worldly care and business; choosing to appear in the most free, though very mean condition; that he might indifferently instruct, by his example, persons of all callings, degrees, and capacities; especially the most, that is, the poor; and might have opportunity, in the face of the world, to practise the most difficult of necessary duties; lowliness, contentedness, abstinence from pleasure, contempt of the world, sufferance of injuries and reproaches. Thus suited and tempered by divine wisdom was the life of our blessed Saviour, that all sorts of men might be in an equal capacity to follow him, that none might be offended, affrighted, or discouraged; but that all might be pleased, delighted, enamored, with the homely majesty and plain beauty thereof. And in effect so it happened, that ordinary people (the weakest, but sincerest and unprejudiced sort of men) were greatly taken with, most admired and applauded his deportment; many of them readily embracing his doctrine, and devoting themselves to his discipline; while only the proud, envious, covetous, and ambitious scribes and lawyers rejected his excellent doctrine, scorned the heavenly simplicity and holy integrity of his life.

Fourthly, the transcendent excellency of our Lord's example appeareth, in that it is attended with the greatest obligations, (of gratitude and ingenuity, of justice, of interest, of duty;) mightily engaging us to follow it. For it is not the example of an ordinary or inconsiderable person, of a stranger, of one indifferent or unrelated to us; but of a glorious prince, of heavenly extraction, (the first-born Son of the Almighty God, sole heir of eternal Majesty,) of our Lord and Master, to whom we are for ever bound by indispensable bands of duty and obedience; of our great Captain, who hath undertaken to subdue our enemies, and hath obliged us to follow his conduct, in a holy warfare, against them, by most solemn sacraments and vows; of our best Friend, from whom we have received the greatest favors and benefits imaginable; of our most gracious Saviour, who, for our sake, hath voluntarily sustained most bitter pains and shameful contumelies; having sacrificed his dearest heart-blood to redeem us from intolerable slaveries, and from extremities of


horrible misery; of him, to whom, in all respects, we do owe the highest respect, love, and observance that can be. Now it is the nature and property both of respect and love (such as on so many grounds we owe to him) to beget, in the person respecting and loving, an endeavor, answerable to the degrees of those dispositions, of conforming to and resembling the qualities and manners of the person respected or beloved. We see how readily children do comply with the customs of their parents and tutors; servants of their masters and patrons; subjects of their princes and governors, with a studious earnestness composing themselves to express in their carriage, not only their good or their indifferent fashions and manners, but even their most palpable deformities and vices; insomuch that a whole family, a city, a nation may be debauched from its sobriety, or reformed from its dissoluteness, even instantly, by the example of one person, who, by his place, power, and authority, challengeth extraordinary reverence from men and much greater influence hath hearty love to transform our manners into an agreement with the manners of him we love : What a man loves, that he imitateth so much as lies in his power,' saith Hierocles,* truly. For love being founded on a good esteem, and a benevolent inclination thence resulting, engageth the affectionate person to admire the qualities of him he affecteth, to observe his deportments, to make the most advantageous construction of what he doeth; to fancy he doeth all things with best reason and discretion; to deem, therefore, that all his actions deserve and require imitation: hence doth love either find, or soon produce, a competent similitude in the parties, (a similitude of mind, of will, of inclination, and affection, an eadem velle et nolle :) it doth forcibly attract as to a vicinity of place and converse, so to an agreement of affections and actions; it uniteth the most distant, it reconcileth the most opposite, it turneth the most discordant natures into a sweet consent and harmony of disposition and demeanor. We then having the greatest reason both to honor and love our Saviour, surely his example being duly studied and considered by us, must needs obtain a superlative influence on our practice, and be very powerful to conform and assimilate it to his.

* Ο γὰρ ἀγαπᾷ τις καὶ μιμεῖται ὅσον οἷόν τε.— -Hier.

These considerations may suffice to show the peculiar excellency of our Saviour's example in virtue, and efficacy on our practice; the same more abundantly might be deduced from a survey of the most considerable particulars, in which we may and ought to imitate him. But the time will not suffer us to launch forth into so vast a sea of discourse. I shall only, therefore, from the premises, exhort, that if any earnest desire of happiness, any high esteem of virtue, any true affection to genuine sanctity do lodge in our breasts, we should apply this most excellent means of attaining them; the study and endeavor of imitating the life of our Lord. If we have in us any truth and sincerity, and do not vainly prevaricate in our profession of being Christ's disciples, and votaries of that most holy institution, let us manifest it by a real conformity to the practice of him who is our Master, and author of our faith. If we have in us any wisdom, or sober consideration of things, let us employ it in following the steps of that infallible guide, designed by heaven to lead us in the straight, even, and pleasant ways of righteousness, unto the possession of everlasting bliss. If we do verily like and approve the practice of Christ, and are affected with the innocent, sweet, and lovely comeliness thereof, let us declare such our mind by a sedulous care to resemble it. If we bear any honor and reverence, any love and affection to Christ; if we are at all sensible of our relations, our manifold obligations, our duties to our great Lord, our best Friend, our most gracious Redeemer; let us testify it by a zealous care to become like to him: let a lively image of his most righteous and innocent, most holy and pious, most pure and spotless life be ever present to our fancies; so as to inform our judgments, to excite our affections, to quicken our endeavors, to regulate our purposes, to correct our mistakes, to direct, amend, and sanctify our whole lives. Let us, with incessant diligence of study, meditate on the best of histories, wherein the tenor of his divine practice is represented to us; revolving frequently in our thoughts all the most considerable passages thereof, entertaining them with devout passions, impressing them on our memories, and striving to express them in our conversations: let us endeavor continually to walk in the steps of our Lord, and to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth;' which that

we may be able to do, do thou, O blessed Redeemer, draw us; draw us by the cords of thy love; draw us by the sense of thy goodness; draw us by the incomparable worth and excellency of thy person draw us by the unspotted purity and beauty of thy example; draw us by the merit of thy precious death, and by the power of thy Holy Spirit; Draw us,' good Lord, ' and we shall run after thee.' Amen.

[ocr errors]

'Almighty God, who hast given thine only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin, and also an ensample of godly life; give us grace, that we may always most thankfully receive that his inestimable benefit; and also daily endeavor ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.' Amen.

« VorigeDoorgaan »