« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
and perfect pattern, being the life of God, in the nature and likeness of man.
II. A moft familiar and eafy example, in which we fee the feveral virtues of a good life practifed in fuch inftances, and upon fuch occafions, 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 fee all that which God requires of us, performedby one in our own nature, and a man as like ourselves, as it is poffible for a perfect pattern to be.
IV. It is likewife an univerfal example, calculated as equally as is poffible for all conditions and capacities of men, and fitted for general direction and imitation of all forts of virtue and goodnefs; fuch virtues as are the greatest and most fubftantial, the most rare and unusual, the moft ufeful and beneficial to others, the most hard and difficult to be practised, and for the exercise whereof there is the greatest and most frequent occafion in human life. There remains now only to be Spoken to, the
V. And laft 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 faid concerning our Lord's example, from three or four obvious objections.
The firft 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 reafon, because we cannot imitate him herein, we are not obliged to do it but we may imitate the compaffiion and charity which he fhewed in his miracles, by fuch ways and in fuch effects, as are within the compafs of our power. We are not anointed, as he was, with the Holy Ghoft, and with power to heal all manner of fickness and difeafe: but we may go about doing good, as he did, fo far as we have ability and opportunity; we may comfort thofe in their fickness and diftrefs, whom we are not able in a miraculous manner to recover and relieve; and in
diseases that are curable, we may help the poorer at the expence of our charity, and do that by flower and ordinary means, which our Saviour did by a word in an inftant.
Secondly, Against the univerfality of our Saviour's example, it is objected, that he hath given us no pattern of fome conditions and relations of life, for which there seems to have been as great need and reason, as for any other.
To this I anfwer, that though his fingle ftate 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 fo in the principle and practice of univerfal charity; which principle, if it be truly rooted in us, will fufficiently 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 efteemed the only religious ftate of life, viz. perfect retirement from the world for the more devout ferving, of God, and freeing us from the temptations of the world, fuch as įs that of Monks and Hermits; this perhaps may feem to fome a great overfight and omiffion: 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 monaftery or a wildernefs; but to do good among men, to live in the world with great freedom, and with great innocency. He did indeed fometimes retire himself, for the more free and private exercife of devotion; as we ought to do: but he paffed his life chiefly in the converfation of men, that they might have all the benefit that was poffible, of his inftruction and example. We read that he was carried into the wilderness 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 ferve to any good end, either of glory to God, or of advantage to men; teaching us hereby, that charity is a duty, no lefs neceffary 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 moft perfect ftate of life, to go out of the world, or to live innocently and ufefully in it. And fince neither our Saviour, nor his Apostles, have recommended it to us, by their example, nor by one word of precept or counfel tending that way, it feems very plain, that they did not efteem Monkery the most perfect, much less the only religious ftate of life. There could not have been fo deep a filence throughout the New Teftament concerning fo important a piece of religion, as the church of Rome would bear us in hand this is; for to be profeffed of fome monaftical order, they call entering into religion; and they speak of it, as the most direct and ready, way to heaven; and not only fo, 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 leaft to the abatement of his pain in purgatory.
Thirdly, It is objected, that fome particulars of our Saviour's carriage towards rulers and magiftrates feem 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 greateft authority among them; and his meffage to Herod, Go and tell that fox. This opprobrious and reproachful treatment of magiftrates, feems directly contrary to an exprefs 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 commiffion from God; it being the office of prophets, and a part of their commiffion to reprove Kings and rulers with all freedom and plainnefs, because they were really fuperior to them in the execution of that office. In all pofitive' laws of refpect to fuperiors, there is an exception of the divine commiffion; becaufe, in that cafe, the Prophet
speaks in the name, and by the authority of one infinitely greater than the greatest upon earth; as in the Lord's name, and by his commiffion, any man may check inferior magiftrates, and that in fuch a manner, as would be rudeness and infolence for any other not fo warranted, to do it. And of this, there are manifold examples in the Prophets of the Old Teftament; and what the tenour of their commiflion was, we may fee in that given to the Prophet Jeremiah, chap. i. ver. 10. Behold, I have fet thee over the nations, and over the kingdoms, to rost out, and to pull up, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant, (that is, to de-nounce judgments and calamities. or peace and profpe-rity to them) and ver. 17, 18. Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I com-mand thee; be not dismayed at their faces, left I confound thee before them. For behold I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brazen walls against the whole land, against the Kings of Judah, against the Princes thereof, against the Priests thereof, and against the people of the land. This commiflion. fet him above: them all in the difcharge of his office: And therefore, what our Lord did in this kind, by virtue of an extraordinary commiffion, and the privilege of a Prophet immediately fent by God, is not to be drawn into example in ordinary cafes: for we may do that by fpecial commiffion from God, which the ordinary rules of duty and refpect to Princes and governors, will by no means allow to be done..
The fourth and laft objection is, that our bleffed Saviour does not feem to bear himself with that duty and refpect towards his mother, which that relation feems. to require. And to fpeak according to the first appearance of things, this feems to be of all other, the most exceptionable part of his life, and to require fome parti-cular and extraordinary reafon, not fo obvious, at first: fight,. for the vindication of it.
There are, to my best remembrance, and obfervation,but five paffages, in the hiftory of our Saviour's life, concerning his carriage towards his mother, and his .difcourfe with her, and of her; in all which he feems rather to treat her with fome appearance of neglect,
than with any great fhew of reverence and refpect. Not that we are to imagine, but that he did pay her an en'tire duty; for we know that he fulfilled all righteoufnefs but, for reasons best known to his infinite wifdom, he thought fit very much to conceal it in his publick behaviour, and to have as little notice taken of it in the hiftory of his life.
And the firft paffage is, Luke ii. 48. when his parents having lost him, at last found him in the temple difputing among the doctors; and his mother reproved him, Son, why haft thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have fought thee forrowing: He gives them this fhort and obfcure anfwer, which they knew not *what to make of; How is it that ye fought me ? wift ye "not that I must be about my Father's business? This happened when he was but twelve years old. And that we may not think, that during his minority, he did ordinarily affume this behaviour towards his parents, but only upon this firft effay of his public appearance, the Evangelift purposely adds, ver. 51. that he went down with his parents to Nazareth, and was fubject to them.
The fecond paffage is John ii. 4. when his mother defiring him to work a miracle, at his first appearance and entrance upon his publick ministry, he takes occafion to declare to her, that he was discharged from her conduct and government, and this in terms to all appearance of no great refpect: Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. Greg. Nyffen reads both fentences with an interrogation; What have I to do with thee? is not mine hour now come? As if he had faid, Why doft thou interpofe in these matters? is not the time come, that I am to enter upon my office; and in the difcharge of it, to be directed by God, and none else?
The third paffage is Matth. 12. 47. when he was told, that his mother and his brethren stood without, defiring to fpeak with him: Who is my mother, fays he, and who are my brethren? And pointing to his difciples, Bebold my mother, and my brethren; for whofoever shall do the will of my ather which is in heaven the fame is my brother, and fifier, and mother. Here is but little appearance of regard; for we do not find, that he left