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He was per
bereunto were ye called : because Chrif also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his Steps, who did no fin. Where the Apostle inlinuates a twofold difference between our Lord's sufferings for us, and ours.
He suffered for us : But we upon our own account, and for our own faults. fectly innocent, he had no sin, and yet he suffered with so much patience; much - more ought we: For by how much the more guilt, so much the greater reason for patience; and the more innocent the person is that suffers, so much the more perfect and commendable is his patience.
So that the greatness of our Lord's sufferings, confidered together with his perfect innocency, gives his ample a peculiar force and advantage above all other examples whatsoever. And, therefore, the Apostle to the Hebrews, after a great number of examples of the perfecution and patience of the saints in all ages, not content with these, he adds that of our Lord, as the most perfect and powerful exanıple of all others, Heb. xii. 1, 2, 3. Werefore, seeing we also are compassed about with such a cloud of witnesses, let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who, for the joy that was set before bim, endured the cross, despising the shame. For consider him that endured such contradičtion of finners agoinst himself, left ye be weary and faint in your minds. Such con, tradiction of finners ; such as no man ever endured; and yet he bore all this, not with a stoical and stupid infensibility, but with a true patience. For no man had greater apprehensions of suffering, and a niore quick and tender Senle of it, than he had. He had not only the more manly virtues of wisdom, and resolution, and constancy; but was cloathed also with the softer paflions of human nature, meekness, and compassion, and grief, and a tender sense of pain and suffering. He took our infirmities, says the Prophet, and bore our griefs. And this he expressed, both in his agony in the garden, and in his behariour upon the cross; he did not despise pain, but dreaded it, and yet submitted to it; he did not out brave his sufferings,
but bore them decently; he had a human sense of them, but underwent them with a divine patience, resigning himself absolutely to the will of God, when he saw them coming: and when they were upon him, expressing a great sense of pain, without the least sign of impatience. And hereby he was a pattern accommodated to the weakest and tenderest of mankind; he did not give us an extravagant example of bravery, and a sturdy refolution; but, which was much fitter for us, of a patient submission to the will of God, under a great sense of suffering.
Before I come to the fifth and last advantage of our Lord's example, it will be requisite to clear what hath been said from three or four obvious objections. But this I shall reserve for another discourse.
The life of Jesus Christ considered, as our
Preached March 25th 1686.
I Per. ü. 21. - Leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.
The third sermon on this text.
HE example of Christ is an argument never un
seasonable; and though it be somewhat foreign
to the occasion of this day, yet it will afford us something not improper to be considered by us, concerning the blessed mother of our Lord. I have handled this argument of our Lord's example very largely, and, among other things, have shewn the manifold advantages of it, in these following respects : I. That the example of our Lord is a most absolute Vol. VIII.
and perfect pattern, being the life of God, in the nature and likeness of man.
II. A most familiar and easy example, in which we see the several virtues of a good life practised in such inftances, and upon such occasions, as do frequently happen in human life.
III. It is an encouraging example; nothing being more apt to give life to good resolutions and endeavours, than to see all that which God requires of us, performed by one in our own nature, and a man as like ourselves, as it is possible for a perfect pattern to be.
IV. It is likewife an universal example, calculated as equally as is possible for all conditions and capacities of men, and fitted for general direction and imitation of all sorts of virtue and goodness; fuch virtues as are the greatest and most substantial, the most rare and unusual, the most useful and beneficial to others, the most hard and difficult to be practised, and for the exercise whereof there is the greatest and most frequent occasion in human life. There remains now only to be fpoken to, the
V. And last advantage, which I mentioned of our Lord's example, that it is, in the nature of it, very powerful to engage and oblige all men to the imitation of it. But before I enter upon this, I proposed to clear what hath been already said concerning our Lord's example, from three or four obvious objections.
The first objection is, that a great part of our Saviour's life confifted of miraculous actions, wherein we cannot imitate him.
This is very true; and for that very reason, because we cannot imitate hiin herein, we are not obliged to do it : but we may imitate the compasiion and charity which he shewed in his miracles, by such ways and in such effects, as are within the compass of our power. We are not anointed, as he was, with the Holy Ghost, and with power to heal all inanner of fickness and disease: but we may go about doing good, as he did, so far as we have ability and opportunity; we may comfort those in their fickness and distress, whom we are not able in a miraculous manner to recorer and relieve; and in
diseases that are curable, we may help the poorer at the expence of our charity, and do that by lower and ordinary means, which our Saviour did by a word in an instant.
Secondly, Against the univerfality of our Saviour's example, it is objected, that he hath given us no pattern of some conditions and relations of life, for which there seems to have been as great need and reason, asfor any other
To this I answer, that though his fngle state of life did hinder him from being formally an example as to fome of the most common relations, as of a father, and a husband; yet he was virtually so in the principle and practice of universal charity; which principle, if it be truly rooted in us, will sufficiently guide and direct us in the duties of particular relations.
And whereas it is further objected, that he hath left us no example of that, which by many is esteemed the only religious state of life, viz. perfect retirement from the world for the more devout: ferving, of God, and freeing us from the temptations of the world, such as is that of Monks and Hermits; this perhaps may seeny to some a great oversight and omission : but our Lord, in great wisdom, thought fit to give a pattern of a quite different fort of life, which was, not to fly the converfation of men, and to live in a monastery or a wilderness; but to do good among men, to live in the world with great freedom, and with great innocency. He did indeed somet mes retire himself, for the more free and private exercise of devotion; as we ought to do : but he passed his life chiefly in the conversation of men,
that they might have all the benefit that was possible, of his instruction and example. We read that be was carried into the wildernefs to be tempted: but not that he lived there, to avoid temptation. He hath given us an example of denying the world, without leaving it; and of renouncing, not only the pomp and vanity, but even the lawful enjoyments and conveniencies of life, when it may serve to any good end, either of glory to God, or of advantage to men; teaching us hereby, that charity is a duty, no less pecessary than de
votion; that we cannnot ferve God better, than by endeavouring the good and happiness of men. So that if our Saviour's example be of authority with us, that will foon decide which is the most perfect state of life, to go out of the world, or to live innocently and usefully in it. And since neither our Saviour, nor his Apostles, have recommended it to us, by their example, nor by one word of precept or counsel tending that way, it seems very plain, that they did not esteem Monkery the most perfect, much less the only religious state of life. There could not have been so deep a filence throughout the New Testament concerning so important a piece of religion, as the church of Rome would bear us in hand this is; for to be professed of some monaftical order, they call entering into religion; and they speak of it, as the most direct and ready, way to heaven; and not only so, but they give fair encouragement to believe, that to die, or be buried in a Monk's habit, will go a great way (they are loth to tell us how far) in the carrying of a bad man towards heaven, or at least to the abatement of his pain in purgatory.
Thirdly, It is objected, that some particulars of our Saviour's carriage towards rulers and magistrates seem liable to exception, and not proper for our imitation; as his bold and free reproofs of the Scribes and Pharifees, many of whom were chief rulers, and of greatest authority among them; and his meffage to Herod, Go and tell that fox. This opprobrious and reproachful treatment of inagistrates, seems directly contrary to an express law of God, Exod. xxii. 28. Thou shalt not revile the Gods, or judges, nor speak evil of the ruler of thy poople.
But to this the answer is plain, that our Lord used this freedom by the virtue and privilege of his prophetical office, and of his immediate commission from God; it being the office of prophets, and a part of their commisfion to reprove Kings and rulers with all freedom and plainpess, because they were really superior to them in the execution of that office. In all positive laws * of refpect to superiors, there is an exception of the divine commiffion; because, in that case, the Prophet