Page images
PDF
EPUB

with much pains and greater pleasure, we find respersed and thinly scattered in all the Greek and Roman poets, historians, and philosophers.

But because I have observed, that there are some principles entertained into the persuasions of men, which are the seeds of evil life, such as are—the doctrine of late repentance, the mistakes of the definition of the sins of infirmity, the evil understanding the consequents and nature of original sin, the sufficiency of contrition in order to pardon, the efficacy of the rites of Christianity without the necessity of moral adherencies, the nature of faith, and many other; I was diligent to remark such doctrines, and to pare off the mistakes so far, that they hinder not piety, and yet, as near as I could, without engaging in any question, in which the very life of Christianity is not concerned.

Hæc sum profatus—liaud ambagibus
Implicita, sed quæ, regulis æqui et boni

Suffulta, rudibus pariter et doctis patent'. My great purpose, is to advance the necessity, and to declare the manner and parts, of a good lifek; and to invite some persons to the consideration of all the parts of it, by intermixing something of pleasure with the use; others, by such parts which will better entertain their spirits, than a romance. I have followed the design of Scripture, and have given milk for babes, and for stronger men stronger meat; and in all I have despised my own reputation, by so striving to make it useful, that I was less careful to make it strict in retired senses, and embossed with unnecessary, but graceful ornaments. I pray God, this may go forth into a blessing to all that shall use it, and reflect blessings upon me all the way, that my spark may grow greater by kindling my brother's taper, and God may be glorified in us both. If the reader shall receive no benefit, yet I intended him one, and I have laboured in order to it; and I shall receive a great recompense for that intention, if he shall please to say this prayer for me,—“That while I have preached to others, I may not become a cast-away.

[ocr errors]

Polynic. apud Eurip. Phoen. 504. Pors. * Η παρούσα πραγματεία ού θεωρίας ένεκά εστιν, ώσσερ αι άλλαι ου γαρ ών ειδώμεν τι έστιν η αρετή, σκεπτόμεθα, αλλ' ίν' αγαθού γινώμεθα.-Arist, Ethic. 1. ii. c. 2.

AN EXHORTATION

TO THE IMITATION OF

THE LIFE OF CHRIST.

However the person of Jesus Christ was depressed with a load of humble accidents, and shadowed with the darknesses of poverty and sad contingencies, so that the Jews, and the contemporary ages of the Gentiles, and the apostles themselves, could not at first discern the brightest essence of divinity; yet as a beauty, artificially covered with a thin cloud of Cyprus, transmits its excellency to the eye, made more greedy and apprehensive by that imperfect and weak restraint; so was the sanctity and holiness of the life of Jesus glorious in its darknesses, and found confessors and admirers even in the midst of those despites, which were done him upon the contrariant designs of malice and contradictory ambition. Thus the wife of Pilate called him, “ that just person ;” Pilate pronounced him “ guiltless ;' Judas said he was " innocent;" the Devil himself called him “ the Holy One of God.” For however it might concern any man's mistaken ends, to mislike the purpose of his preaching and spiritual kingdom, and those doctrines, which were destructive of their complacencies and carnal securities; yet they could not deny but that he was a man of God, of exemplar sanctity, of an angelical chastity, of a life sweet, affable, and complying with human conversation, and as obedient to government as the most humble children of the kingdom. And yet he was Lord of all the world.

2. And certainly very much of this was with a design, that he might shine to all the generations and ages of the world, and become a guiding star, and a pillar of fire to us in our journey. For we, who believe that Jesus was perfect God and perfect man, do also believe, that one minute of his intolerable passion, and every action of his, might have been

satisfactory, and enough for the expiation and reconcilement of ten thousand worlds; and God might, upon a less effusion of blood, and a shorter life of merit, if he had pleased, have accepted human nature to pardon and favour : but, that the holy Jesus hath added so many excellent instances of holiness, and so many degrees of passion, and so many kinds of virtues, is, that he might become an example to us, and reconcile our wills to him, as well as our persons to his heavenly Father.

3. And indeed it will prove but a sad consideration, that one drop of blood might be enough to obtain our pardon, and the treasures of his blood running out till the fountain itself was „dry, shall not be enough to procure our conformity to him; that the smallest minute of his expense shall be enough to justify us, and the whole magazine shall not procure our sanctification ; that at a smaller expense God might pardon us, and at a greater we will not imitate him: for therefore “ Christ hath suffered for us,” saith the apostle, “ leaving an example to us, that we might follow his steps a.” The least of our wills cost Christ as much as the greatest of our sins. And therefore he calls himself “ the way, the Truth, and the Life;" that as he redeems our souls from death to life, by becoming life to our persons; so he is the truth to our understandings, and the way to our will and affections, enlightening that, and leading these in the paths of a happy eternity.

4. When the king of Moab was pressed hard by the sons of Isaac , the Israelites and Edomites, he took the king of Edom's eldest son, or, as some think, his own son, the heir of his kingdom, and offered him as a holocaust upon the wall; and the Edomites presently raised the siege at Kir-haraseth, and went to their own country. The same, and much more, was God's design, who took not his enemy's, but his own Son, his only begotten Son, and God himself, and offered him up in sacrifice, to make us leave our perpetual fightings against Heaven ; and if we still persist, we are hardened beyond the wildnesses of the Arabs and Edomites, and neither are receptive of the impresses of pity nor humanity, who neither have compassion to the suffering of Jesus, nor compliance with the designs of God, nor con

[blocks in formation]

formity to the holiness and obedience of our Guide. In a dark night, if an ignis fatuus do but precede us, the glaring of its lesser flames does so•amuse our eyes, that we follow it into rivers and precipices, as if the ray of that false light were designed on purpose to be our path to tread in: and therefore not to follow the glories of the Sun of Righteousness, who indeed leads us over rocks and difficult places, but secures us against the danger, and guides us into safety, is both the greatest indecency and unthankfulness in the world.

5. In the great council of eternity, when God set down the laws, and knit fast the eternal bands, of predestination, he made it one of his great purposes to make his Son like us“, that we also might be like his holy Son; he, by taking our nature; we, by imitating his holiness : “ God hath predestinated us to be conformable to the image of his Son“," saith the apostle. For the first in every kind is in nature propounded as the pattern of the rest; and as the sun, the prince of all the bodies of light, and the fire of all warm substances, is the principal, the rule and the copy, which they in their proportions imitate and transcribe; so is the Word incarnate the great example of all the predestinate ; for “ he is the first-born among many brethreno.” And therefore it was a precept of the apostle; and by his doctrine we understand its meaning, “ Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ'.” The similitude declares the duty. As a garment is composed and made of the same fashion with the body, and is applied to each part in its true figure and commensuration; so should we put on Christ, and imitate the whole body of his sanctity, conforming to every integral part, and express him in our lives, that God, seeing our impresses, may know whose image and superscription we bear, and we may be acknowledged for sons, when we have the air and features and resemblances of our elder brothers.

6. In the practice of this duty we may be helped by certain considerations, which are like the proportion of so

• Διά Θεομιμησίαν εις θεοπτίαν αξιώτερος.-S. Dionys. d Rom. viii. 29.

e Ibid.

f Rom. xiii. 14. και “Η δε συμφωνος τα νόμω τιμή, ήτις ουσίας έστι τών τιμωμένων γνώσις, και η προς αυτήν κατά δύναμιν εξομοίωσις· ό γαρ αγαπά τις, και μιμείται όσον οίόν τε ας γάς φασιν ει πιθαγόρειος, Τιμήσεις τον Θεόν άριστα, εάν τα Θεώ την διάνοιαν ομοιώσης. - Ηicrocles.

many rewards. For this, according to the nature of all holy exercises, stays not for pay, till its work be quite finished; but, like music in churches, is pleasure, and piety, and salary besides. So is every work of grace; full of pleasure in the execution, and is abundantly rewarded, besides the stipend of a glorious eternity.

7. First: I consider that nothing is more honourable than to be like God; and the heathens, worshippers of false deities, grew vicious upon that stockh; and we who have fondnesses of imitation, counting a deformity full of honour, if by it we may be like our prince', (for pleasures were in their height in Capreæ, because Tiberius there wallowed in them, and a wry neck in Nero's court was the mode of gallantry,) might do well to make our imitations prudent and glorious ; and, by propounding excellent examples, heighten our faculties to the capacities of an evenness with the best of precedents. He that strives to imitate another, admires him, and confesses his own imperfections, and therefore, that our admirations be not flattering, nor our confessions fantastic and impertinent, it were but reasonable to admire Him, from whom really all perfections do derive, and before whose glories all our imperfections must confess their shame, and needs of reformation. God, by a voice from heaven, and by sixteen generations of miracles and grace, hath attested the holy Jesus to be the fountain of sanctity, and the “wonderful Counsellor,” and “the Captain of our sufferings,” and the Guide of our manners, by being his beloved Son, in whom he took pleasure and complacency to the height of satisfaction: and if any thing in the world be motive of our affections, or satisfactory to our understandings, what is there in heaven or

h Adulterio delectatur quis? Jovem respicit, et indè cupiditatis snæ fomenta conquirit: probat, imitatur, et laudat, quòd Deus suns in cycno fallit, in tauro rapit, ludit in Satyro. Cænum de Cælo facitis, et errantes aninos per abrupta præcipitia crudeli calamitate ducitis, cùm liomivibus peccare volentibus facinorum viam deorum monstratis exemplis. — Julius Pirmic. de Error. prof. Relig.

i Facere rectè cives suos princeps optimus faciendo docet: cùmque sit imperio magnus, exemplo magis est.-Vellei. Paterc. ii. 126. 5. Krause.

νουθετητέος δε
Φοίβος, τι πάσχει παρθένους βία γαμών,
Προδίδωσι παΐδας εκτεκνόυμενος λάθρα
Θνήσκοντας. αμίλει μή σύ ' αλλ' επεί κρατείς,
'Açetàz cixxa.

Eurip. Ion. 436.

pot

« PreviousContinue »