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THIS the Apostle adds, as a further reason of the
safety and happiness of that way he points out, from its own nature. There is something even intrinsecal in a meek, and upright, and holy carriage, that is apt, in part, to free a man from many evils and mischiefs that the ungodly are exposed to, and do naturally draw upon themselves. Your spotless and harmless deportment will much bind up the hands even of your enemies, and sometimes, possibly, somewhat allay and cool the malice of their hearts, that they cannot fo rage against you as otherwise they might. It will be somewhat strange and monstrous to rage against the innocent; Who is he that will barm you? &c. Here are two things, 1. The carriage. 2. The advantage of it.
1. Their carriage expressed, followers, &c. Or, as the word is, Imitators of that which is good. VOL. II.
There is an imitation of men that is impious and wicked, taking the copy of their sins; again, an imitation, that, though not so grossly evil, yet is poor and servile, being in mean things, yea sometimes descend. ing to imitate the very imperfections of others, as fancying fome 'comeliness in them; as some of Basil's scholars, that imitated his slow speaking, which he had a little in the extreme, and could not help : but this is always laudable, and worthy of the best minds, to be imitators of that which is good, wheresover they find it. For that stays not in any man's person, as the ultimate pattern, but arises to the highest grace, being man's nearest likeness to God, his image and resemblance; and so, following the example of the saints in holiness, we look higher than them, and consider them as receivers, but God as the first owner and dispenser of grace, bearing his stamp and superscription, and belonging peculiarly to him, in what hand foever it be found, as carrying the mark of no other owner, but his only.
The word of God hath our copy in its perfection, and very legible and clear; and so the imitation of good, in the complete rule of it, is the regulating our ways by the word: But, even there we find, besides general rules, the particular tracks of life of divers eminent holy persons, and those on purpose fet before us, that we may know holiness not to be an idle imaginary thing, but that men have really been holy; though not altogether finless, yet holy and spiritual in some good measure ; that there have been those who have fined as lights amidst a perverse generation, as greater stars in a dark night, and yet men, as St James says of Elias, like us in nature, ojosorabeus, and the frailty of it; subject to like passions as we are, James v. 17. Why may we not then aspire to be holy, as they were, and attain to it, although we should fall short of the degree? Yet not stopping at a small measure, but running further, pressing fill forward toward the mark, Phil. iii. 14. ; following them in the
way they went, though at a distance; not reaching them., and yet walking, yea, running after them as fast as we can : Not judging of holiness by our own floth and natural averfeness, taking it for a singularity fit only for rare extraordinary persons, such as Prophets and Apostles were, or as the Church of Rome fancies those to be, to whom it vouchsafes, a room in the roll of saints. Do you not know that holiness is the only via regia, this following of good, that path wherein all the children of God must walk, one following after another, each striving to equal, and, if they could, to outstrip even those they look on as most advanced in it? This is, amongst many other, a misconceit in the Romish Church, that they seem to make holiness a kind of impropriate good, that the common fort can have little share in almost all piety being shut up within cloyster-walls, as its only fit dwelling. Yet it hath not liked their lodging, it seems, but is flown over the walls away from them; for there is little of it even there to be found; but, however, their opinion of it places it there, as having little to do abroad in the world.
Whereas the truth is, that all Christians have this for their common talk, though some are under more peculiar obligations to study this one copy. Look on the rule of holiness, and be followers of it, and followers or imitators one of another, so far as their carriage agrees with that primitive copy, as writ after it ; Be ye followers of me, puspentou, says the Apostle, even to the meanest Chriftians amongst those he wrote to, but thus, as I am of Christ, 1 Cor. xi. 1.
Is it thus with us? Are we zealous and emulous followers of that which is good, exciting each other. by our example to a holy and Christian conversation, provoking one another (so the Apostle's word is) to love, and to good works? Heb. x. 24. Or, Are not the most, mutual corrupters of each other, and of the places and societies where they live ; some leading, and others following, in their ungodliness ? Not re
garding the course of those that are most desirous to walk holily, or, if at all, doing it with a corrupt and evil eye; not to study and follow what is good in them, their way of holiness, but to espy any the least wrong step, to take exact notice of any imperfection, and sometimes only charged on them by malignant falsehood ? and by this, either to reproach religion, or to hearten or harden themselves in their irreligion and ungodliness, seeking warrant for their own willing licentiousness in the unwilling failings of God's children?
And, in their converse with such as themselves, they are following their profane way, and flattering and blessing one another in it. " What need we be so
precise ? and, If I should not do as others, they " would laugh at me, I should pass for a fool.” Well, thou wilt be a fool in the most wretched kind, rather than be accounted one by such as are fools, and know not at all wherein true wisdom confifts.
Thus are the most carried with the stream of this wicked world, their own inward corruption easily agreeing and suiting with it; every man, as a drop, falling into a torrent, and easily made one, and running along with it into that dead sea where it empties itself.
But those, whom the Lord hath a purpose to sever and save, he carries in a contrary course, even to that violent stream ; and these are the students of holiness, the followers of good; that bend their endeavours thus, and look on all fides diligently, on what may animate and advance them ; on the example of the saints in former times, and on the good they efpy in those that live together with them; and, above all, studying that perfect rule in the Scriptures, and that highest and first pattern, there so often set before them, even the Author of that rule, the Lord himself; studying to be holy as he is boly, to be bountiful and merciful as their heavenly Father*; and in all labouring
to * Τελος ανέρωσε ομοίωσις Θεα. Ρyth.