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to be, as the Apostle exhorts, followers of God as dear children, Eph. v. 1, 2.
As children that are beloved of their father, and do love and reverence him ; who therefore will be ambitious to be like him, and particularly aim at the following any virtues or excellency in him: Now, thus it is most reasonable in the children of God, their Father being the highest and best of all excellency and perfection.
But this excellent pattern is drawn down nearer their view in the Son Jesus Christ; where we have that highest example made low, and yet losing nothing of its perfection. So that we may study God in man, and read all our lesson, without any blot, even in our own nature. And this is truly the only way to be the best proficients in this following and imitating of all good. In him we may learn all, even those lessons that men most despise ; God teaching them, by acting them, and calling us to follow ; Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in beart, Mat. xi. 29. But this is too large a subject. Would you advance in all grace? study,Christ much, and you shall find not only the pattern in him, but strength and skill from him to follow it.
2. The advantage; Who is be that will harm you?
The very name of it says so much; a goud, worthy the following for itself : But there is this further to persuade it, that, besides higher benefit, it oftentimes cuts off the occasions of prefent evils and disturbances, that otherwise are incident to men. Who is he? Men, even evil men, will often be overcome by our blameless and harmless behaviour.
1. In the life of a godly man, taken together in the whole body and frame of it, there is a grave beauty or comeliness, that oftentimes forces some kind of reverence and respect to it, even in ungodly minds.
2. Though a natural man cannot love them fpiri. tually, as graces of the Spirit of God; (for fo only the partakers of them are lovers of them ;) yet he
may have, and usually hath, a natural liking and esteem of some kind of virtues which are in a Chri, stian, and are not, in their right nature, in any other to be found; though a moralist may have somewhat like them, meekness, and patience, and charity, and fidelity, &c.
3. These, and other such like graces, do make a Christian life so inoffensive and calm, that, except where the matter of their God or religion is made the crime, malice itself can scarce tell where to faften its teeth or lay hold, or hath nothing to pull by, though it would ; yea, oftentimes, for want of work or occasions, it will fall asleep for a while; whereas ungodlinets and iniquity, sometimes by breaking out into notorious crimes, draws out the sword of civil justice, and where it rises not so high, yet it involves men in frequent contentions and quarrels, Prov. xxiii. 29. How often are the lufts, and pride, and covetousness of men, paid with dangers, and troubles, and vexations, that, besides what is abiding them hereafter, do even in this present life spring out of them? Now, these the godly escape, by their juft, and mild, and humble carriage. Whence so many jars and strifes amongst the greatest. part, but from their unchristian hearts and lives, from their lusts that war in their members? Jam. iv. I.; their felf-love and unmortified paffions? One will bate nothing of his will, nor the other of his.' Thus, where pride and pallion meet on both sides, it cannot be but a fire will be kindled ; when hard flints strike together, the sparks will fly about; but a soft mild spirit is a great preserver of its own peace, kills the power of conteft ; as woolpacks, or fuch like soft matter, most deaden the force of bullets. A soft answer turns away wrath, says Solomon, Prov. xv. I. ; beats it off, breaks the bone, as he says; the very strength of it, as the bones are in the body.
And thus we find it, they that think themselves high spirited, and will bear least, as they speak, are
often, even by that, forced to bow most, or to burst under it; while humility and meekness escape many a burden, and many a blow, always keeping peace within, and often without too.
Reflexion 1. If this were duly considered, might it not do somewhat to induce your minds to love the way of religion, for that it would so much abate the turbulency and unquietness that abounds in the lives of men ; a great part whereof the most do procure by the earthlinefs and distemper of their own carnal minds, and the disorder in their ways that arises thence.
2. You, whose hearts are set towards God, and your feet entered into his ways, I hope will find no reason for a change, but many reasons to commend and endear that way to you every day more than another; and, amongst the rest, even this, that, in them, you escape many, even present, mischiefs, that you see the ways of the world are full of. And, if you will be careful to ply your rule, and study your copy better, you shall find it more so. The more you follow that which is good, the more shall you avoid a number of outward evils, that are ordinarily drawn on upon men by their own enormities and passions. Keep as close as you can to the genuine, even, track of a Christian walk; and labour for a prudent and meek behaviour, adorning your holy profession, and this shall adorn you, and sometimes gain those that are without, 1 Cor. ix. 21.; yea, even your enemies shall be constrained to approve it.
it is known how much the spotless lives and patient sufferings of the primitive Chriftians did fometimes work upon their beholders, yea, on their perfecutors; and persuaded some that would not fliare with them in their religion, yet to speak and write for them.
Seeing, then, that reason and experience do jointly aver it, that the lives of men, conversant together, have generally a great influence one upon another;
[CHAP. III. for, example is an animated or living rule, and is both the shortest and most powerful way of teaching: Let me graft an exhortation or two, on this obvious remark.
1. Whosoever are in an exemplary or leading place, in relation to others, be it many or few, be ye first followers of God. Set before you the rule of holiness, and withal, the best and highest examples of those that have walked according to it, and then you will be leading in it; and those that are under you, and bent to follow you in so doing, will follow that which is good, 1 Theff. v. 15. Lead and draw them on, by admonishing, and counselling, and exhorting, but especially by walking.--Pastors, be [TUTO] ensamples to the flock, or models, as our Apostle hath it, i Pet. v. 3. that they may be stampt aright, taking the impression of your lives. Sound doctrine alone will not lerve ; though the water you give your flocks be pure, yet if you lay spotted rods before them, it will bring forth spotted lives in them; either teach not at all, or teach by the rhetoric of your lives * Ye, elders, be such in grave and pious carriage, whatsoever be your years; for young men inay be so, and, possibly, gray hairs may have nothing under them but gadishness and folly many years old, habituated and inveterate ungodliness. ---Parents and masters, let your children and servants read in your lives the life and power of godliness, the practice of piety; not lying in your windows or corners of your houses, and confined within the clasp of the book, bearing that or any such like title, but shining in your lives.
2. You that are easily receptive of the impression of example, beware of the stamp of unholiness, and a carnal formal course of profession, whereof the examples are most abounding; but, though they be fewer that bear the lively image of God impressed on their hearts, and expressed in their actions, yet study these, and be followers of those as they are of Christ,
* Η μη διδασκειν, η διδασκειν το τροπο.
1 Cor. iv. 16. I know you will espy much irregular and unsanctified carriage in us that are set up for the ministry; and if you look round, you will find the world lying in wickedness ; yet, if there be any that have any sparks of divine light in them, converse with those and follow them.
3. And, generally, this I say to all, for none are so complete, but they may espy some imitable and emulable good, even in meaner Christians; acquaint yourselves with the word, the rule of holiness; and thèn, with an eye to that, look on one another, and be zealous of progress in the ways of holiness. Choose to converse with such as may excite you and advance you, both by their advice and example. Let not a corrupt generation, in which you live, be the worse by you, nor you the worse by it. As far as you necessarily engage in some conversation with those that are unholy, let them not pull you into the mire, but, if you can, help them out; and let not any custom of fin about you, by familiar seeing, gain upon you, so as to think it fashionable and comely ; yea, or so as not to think it deformed and hateful. Know, that you must row against the stream of wickedness in the world, unless you would be carried with it to the dead sea, or lake of perdition; take that grave counsel, given, Rom. xii. 2. be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, which is the daily advancement in renovation, purifying and refining every day.
Now, in this way you shall have sweet inward peace and joy, and some outward advantage too; that men, except they are monstrously cruel and malicious, will not so readily harm you. It will abate much of their rage ; but, however, if
you do not escape suffering by your holy carriage, yea, if you suffer even for it, yet in that are ye bappy, as the Apostle immediately adds.