« PreviousContinue »
yet it was but seldom ; for his being exemplary was of so great consideration, that he chose to have fewer instances of wonder, that he might transmit the more of an imitable virtue. And therefore we may establish this for a rule and limit of our imitations; because Christ, our Lawgiver, hath described all his father's will in sanctions and signature of laws; whatsoever he commanded, and whatsoever he did, of precise morality, or in pursuance of the laws of nature, in that we are to trace his footsteps : and in these his laws and his practice differ but as a map and a guide, a law and a judge, a rule and a precedent. But in the special instances of action, we are to abate the circumstances, and to separate the obedience from the effect: whatsoever was moral in a ceremonial performance, that is highly imitable; and the obedience of sacrificing, and the subordination to laws actually in being, even now they are abrogated, teach us our duty, in a differing subject, upon the like reason. Jesus's going up to Jerusalem to the feasts, and his observation of the sabbaths, teach us our duty in celebration of festivals constituted by a competent and just authority. For that which gave excellency to the observation of Mosaical rites, was an evangelical duty; and the piety of obedience did not only consecrate the observations of Levi, but taught us our duty in the constitutions of Christianity.
13. Fifthly; As the holy Jesus did some things, which we are not to imitate ; so we also are to do some things, which we cannot learn from his example. For there are some of our duties, which presuppose a state of sin, and some suppose a violent temptation and promptness to it; and the duties of prevention, and the instruments of restitution, are proper to us, but conveyed only by precept, and not by precedent. Such are all the parts and actions of repentance, the duties of mortification and self-denial. For whatsoever the holy Jesus did, in the matter of austerity, looked directly upon the work of our redemption, and looked back only on us by a reflex act, as Christ did on Peter, when he looked him into repentance. Some states of life also there are, which Jesus never led; such are those of temporal governors, kings and judges, merchants, lawyers, and the state of marriage : in the course of which lives many cases do occur, which need a precedent and the vivacity of
an excellent example, especially since all the rules, which they have, have not prevented the subtilty of the many inventions, which men have found out, nor made provision for all contingencies. Such persons, in all their special needs, are to govern their actions by the rules of proportion, by analogy to the holiness of the person of Jesus, and the sanctity of his institution; considering what might become a person professing the discipline of so holy a Master, and what he would have done in the like case; taking our heights by the excellence of his innocency and charity. Only remember this, that, in such cases, we must always judge on the strictest side of piety and charity, if it be a matter concerning the interest of a second person; and that, in all things, we do those actions which are farthest removed from scandal, and such as towards ourselves are severe; towards others, full of gentleness and sweetness: for so would the righteous and merciful Jesus have done. These are the best analogies and proportions. And in such cases, when the wells are dry, let us take water from a cistern, and propound to ourselves some exemplar saint, the necessities of whose life have determined his piety to the like occurrences.
14. But now, from these particulars we shall best account to what the duty of the imitation of Jesus does amount: for it signifies, that we “ should walk as he walked,” tread in his steps, with our hand upon the guide, and our eye upon his rule ; that we should do glory to him, as he did to his Father; and that whatsoever we do, we should be careful that it do him honour, and no reproach to his institution; and then account these to be the integral parts of our duty, which are imitation of his actions, or his spirit, of his rule, or of his life; there being no better imitation of him, than in such actions as do him pleasure, however he hath expressed or imitated the precedent.
15. He that gives alms to the poor, takes Jesus by the hand; he that patiently endures injuries and affronts, lielps him to bear his cross; he that comforts his brother in affliction, gives an amiable kiss of peace to Jesus; he that bathes his own and his neighbour's sins in tears of penance and compassion, washes his Master's feet: we lead Jesus into the recesses of our heart by holy meditations; and we enter into his heart, when we express him in our actions: for so the apostle says, “ He that is in Christ, walks as he also walked.” But thus the actions of our life relate to him by way of worship and religion; but the use is admirable and effectual, when our actions refer to him as to our copy, and we transcribe the original to the life. He that considers, with what affections and lancinations of spirit, with what effusions of love Jesus prayed, what fervours and assiduity, what innocency of wish, what modesty of posture, what subordination to his Father, and conformity to the Divine pleasure, were in all his devotions, is taught and excited to holy and religious prayer; the rare sweetness of his deportment in all temptations and violences of his passion, his charity to his enemies, his sharp reprehensions to the scribes and Pharisees, his ingenuity toward all men, are living and effectual sermons to teach us patience and humility, and zeal, and candid simplicity, and justice in all our actions. I add no more instances, because all the following discourses will be prosecutions of this intendment. And the life of Jesus is not described to be like a picture in a chamber of pleasure, only for beauty, and entertainment of the eye; but like the Egyptian hieroglyphics, whose every feature is a precept, and the images converse with men by sense, and signification of excellent discourses.
16. It was not without great reason advised', that every man should propound the example of a wise and virtuous personage, as Cato, or Socrates, or Brutus; and, by a fiction of imagination, to suppose him present as a witness, and really to take his life as the direction of all our actions. The best and most excellent of the old lawgivers and philosophers among the Greeks had an allay of viciousness, and could not be exemplary all over: some were noted for flatterers, as Plato and Aristippus; some for incontinency, as Aristotle, Epicurus, Zeno, Theognis, Plato and Aristippus again; and Socrates, whom their oracle affirmed to be the wisest and most perfect man, yet was by Porphyry noted for extreme intemperance of anger, both in words and actions: and those Romans who were offered to them for examples, although they were great in reputation, yet they had also great vices; Brutus dipped his hand in the Jolin, ii. 6.
• Seneca, Ep. 11.
blood of Cæsar, his prince, and his father by love, endearments, and adoption; and Cato was but a wise man all day, at night he was used to drink too liberally; and both he and Socrates did give their wives unto their friends P; the philosopher and the censor were procurers of their wives' unchastity: and yet these were the best among the Gentiles. But how happy and richly furnished are Christians with precedents of saints, whose faith and revelations have been productive of more spiritual graces, and greater degrees of moral perfections! And this I call the privilege of a very great assistance, that I might advance the reputation and account of the life of the glorious Jesu, which is not abated by the imperfections of human nature, as they were, but receives great heightenings and perfection from the Divinity of his person, of which they were never capable.
17. Let us therefore press after Jesus, as Elisha did after his master, with an inseparable prosecution, even whithersoever he goes; that, according to the reasonableness and proportion expressed in St. Paul's advice, “ As we have borne the image of the earthy, we may also bear the image of the heavenly?.” For, “ In vain are we called Christians, if we live not according to the example and discipline of Christ, the Father of the institution'.” When St. Laurence was in the midst of the torments of the gridiron, he made this to be the matter of his joy and eucharist, that he was admitted to the gates through which Jesus had entered; and therefore thrice happy are they, who walk in his courts all their days. And it is yet a nearer union and vicinity, to imprint his life in our souls, and
express it in our exterior converse; and this is done
P Athenagoras, lib. iii, et xiii. et Theognis de sc. Idem testantur Laertius et Lactantius. Hoc notat S. Cyrillus, l. vi. contra Julian.
Narratur et prisci Catonis
Sæpe mero caluisse virtus.- Horat. 3. 21. 11. Majorum et sapientissimorum disciplina, Greci Socratis et Romani Catonis, qui uxores suas amicis communicaverunt, quas in matriinonium duxerant liberorum causà, et alibi creandorum, nescio quidem an invitas : quid nam de castitate curarent, quam mariti tam facilè donaveranı? 0 sapientiæ Atticæ, () Romanæ gravitatis exemplum! Leno est philosoplius et censor.- Tertul. Apolog. c. 39.
9 1 Cor. xv. 49.
Dictum Malachiæ Abbat. apud S. Bernardum, in Vita S. Mal.
by him only, who (as St. Prosper' describes the duty) despises all those gilded vanities which he despised, that fears none of those sadnesses which he suffered, that practises or also teaches those doctrines which he taught, and hopes for the accomplishment of all his promises. And this is truest religion, and the most solemn adoration'.
O eternal, holy, and most glorious Jesu, who hast united
two natures of distance infinite, descending to the lownesses of human nature, that thou mightest exalt human nature to a participation of the Divinity; we, thy people, that sat in darkness and in the shadows of death, have seen great light, to entertain our understandings and enlighten our souls with its excellent influences; for the excellency of thy sanctity, shining gloriously in every part of thy life, is like thy angel, the pillar of fire, which called thy children from the darknesses of Egypt. Lord, open mine eyes, and give me power to behold thy righteous glories; and let my soul be so entertained with affections and holy ardours, that I may never look back upon the flames of Sodom, but may follow thy light, which recreates and enlightens, and guides us to the mountains of safety, and sanctuaries of holiness. Holy Jesu, since thy image is imprinted on our nature by creation, let ine also
express thy image by all the parts of a holy life, conforming my will and affections to thy holy precepts; submitting my understanding to thy dictates and lessons of perfection ; imitating thy sweetnesses and excellencies of society, thy devotion in prayer, thy conformity to God, thy zeal tempered with meekness, thy patience heightened with charity; that heart, and hands, and eyes, and all my faculties, may grow up with the increase of God, till I come to the full measure of the stature of Christ, even to be a perfect man in Christ Jesus; that at last in thy, light I may see light, and reap the fruits of glory from the seeds of sanctity, in the imitation of thy holy life, O blessed and holy Saviour Jesus! Amen.
s Lib. ij. de Vita Contemplat. c. 21.