Imágenes de página

excellent pattern of St. Paul; consider how in all SERM. XXX¥V. his designs he zealously and singly aimed at the honour and service of God, neglecting his own safety, quiet, credit, and all worldly accommodations for the advancement of them: how affectionately he tendered the good and welfare of those, the care of whose spiritual condition was commended to him, using all his skill, care, and strength in promoting their edification; declaring himself for their good to be content, not only for a time to be absent from the Lord, being deprived of that happiness which he otherwise impatiently groaned for, and was fully assured of; but desirous, as it seems, to be secluded for ever from his blissful presence, by a dreadful anathema, for their sake: how prudently, meekly, and humbly he demeaned himself toward them; becoming all things to all men, forming himself into all allowable shapes and colours; undergoing all sorts of censure and imputations, (of a despicable, an ignorant, a foolish person;) tempering his speech and deportment to their capacities and needs, bearing their miscarriages, and complying with their weaknesses; parting freely with his own just liberty, pleasure, and satisfaction, for their spiritual advantage: how generously he despised his own profit and ease, refusing that supply he might with all reason and equity have required from them; choosing to maintain himself with the labour of his own hands, and the sweat of his brows, that he might render the gospel nowise burdensome or offensive to them: how vigilantly and courageously he withstood the mischievous endeavours of false brethren, and treacherous seducers; earnestly contending for the church's peace and quiet against factious spirits, and

SERM. for the substantial truths of the gospel against the XXXIV. pernicious devices of heretics and false teachers: how patiently he sustained all manner of pains, griefs, travels, wants, losses, hazards, distresses, disappointments, affronts, and reproaches, for the honour of God, the benefit of his spiritual children, the discharge of his duty, and satisfaction of his conscience: these things, I say, regard, and then tell me, if he might not reasonably inculcate this admonition, Imitate me; and if his example be not of rare use to instruct us, how faithfully we should in our respective charges and employments demean ourselves. I might in like manner instance how excellent a rule of devotion the practice of the royal prophet may be unto us; how Elias's practice might teach us to be zealous champions for truth and righteousness; how they who would be good judges, or honest patriots, may receive direction from the carriage of Samuel, Daniel, and Nehemiah. But I proceed to say that further,

II. Good examples do not only inform, but they persuade and incline our reason to good practice, commending it to us by plausible authority; a way of reasoning the most plain, easy, and suitable to all men's capacities; less subject to error and doubt than any other in particular cases; whereby as it is always more easy to know what is good and fit, so commonly it is most safe; there being few, who can so well discern what is good, as they may rest in the judgments of others. For that wise and virtuous persons do any thing, is a very probable argument, that we are obliged and concerned to do the like;


ὁ Ὑπομονῆς οὖν διδάσκαλος ἄριστος ὁ τοῦ μακαρίου Ἰὼβ βίος, ἀνεξικακίας ὁ τοῦ Μωσέως, πραότητος ὁ τοῦ Δαβὶδ, &c. Chrys. tom. v. p. 656.

seeing such persons may in all their actions be sup- SERM. posed to have an unbiassed regard to the rules of XXXIV. truth and justice. He therefore who can say, that Abraham, or David, or St. Paul did so in such a case, supposeth that he hath no small reason to do the like; it is accounted pardonable, yea almost commendable, to err with such persons; because it is done with good appearance of reason, seeing such persons were themselves unlikely to err: Will you, saith Cicero, commemorate to me Scipio's, and Cato's, and Lælius's, and say they did the same thing; though the thing displeases me, yet I cannot withstand the authority of such men: their authority is so great, that it can cover even the suspicion of a fault. It is obvious in temporal concernments, how great a stroke this way of discourse hath; how boldly men adventure their dearest interests in following such, whom they probably deem honest, and able to guide them for instance, in travelling, if one being ignorant or doubtful of his way happen to meet a person, whom he conceives able, and nowise concerned or disposed to mislead him, he without scruple follows him, and confidently relies on his direction. In like manner, all good men in the way of virtuous practice tending directly toward happiness, (our common journey's end;) it being their design, their interest, and their endeavour not to mistake the way, not to deflect from the right and nearest course thereto, men are apt to

e Africanos mihi, et Catones, et Lælios commemorabis, et eos fecisse idem dices, quamvis res mihi non placeat, tamen contra hominum auctoritatem probare non potuero. Magna est hominum auctoritas, et etiam tanta, ut delicti suspicionem tegere possit. Cic. in Verr. iii.

SERM. think it reasonable and safe to accompany in their XXXIV. progress, or to press after them in their steps: and

surely, next to a clear and certain rule, there is not any more rational warrant for practice, and consequently no better inducement thereto, than such good precedents. Further,

III. Examples do incite our passions, and impel them to the performance of duty. They raise hope, they inflame courage, they provoke emulation, they urge upon modesty, they awaken curiosity, they affect fancy, they set in motion all the springs of activity. It may not be amiss to shew how, particularly,

1. They raise hope, by discovering to us and assuredly proving the feasibleness of matters propounded, or the possibility of success in undertaking good designs, and that by the best and most convincing of arguments, experience. Nothing so depresseth hope and advanceth despondency, as an apprehension of impossibility, or, which is equivalent thereto, an extreme difficulty (appearing to surmount our present forces) in the business to be attempted : of such a conceit desperation seemeth a reasonable Chrys. tom. consequence. For, tv advváτwv épicolai pavkov, it is a madness to aim at impossibilities; and such, considering the great infirmity of human nature, its strong propensions to evil, and averseness from good, together with the manifold impediments and allurements objecting themselves in the way of good practice, all duties as barely represented in precepts, and pressed by rational inducements might seem to be, if good example did not clearly demonstrate them to be possible, yea sometimes facile; even those, which upon a superficial view do seem most difficult,

i. p. 69.


and insuperable by our weak endeavour. The sto- SERM. ical doctrine, which described a fine and stately portraiture of virtue, and inculcated very strict rules, (a close following of God and nature, a perfect victory over self, the subduing all passions, and overruling all corporeal appetites; an entire freedom, composure, and tranquillity of mind; a total indifferency in respect of fortune and all external events, with the like duties, rarely practised, although, upon all accounts, acknowledged conformable to reason,) was therefore by most rejected as useless, or exploded as ridiculous, as being presumed to propound matters purely imaginary and unpracticable: yet he that had seen this doctrine in great measure exemplified by Zeno, the first master of it, would have had no such reason to contemn it, nor to despair of practising according to it, if he would seriously endeavour it exemplified, I say, by Zeno, whereof we have an illustrious testimony from a solemn decree of the Athenians: ἐπειδὴ Ζήνων Μνασέου, &c. Laert. in Zen. Whereas Zeno, the son of Mnaseas the Cittican, having many years professed philosophy in this city, and as well in all other things hath demeaned himself like a good man, as particularly exhorting the young men, who went to be instructed by him, hath provoked them to virtue and sobriety; withal exhibiting his own life a pattern of the best things answerable to the discourses he used to make; it is therefore auspiciously decreed by the people, that Zeno the son of Mnaseas be solemnly praised and crowned (according to the usage) with a golden crown; and that a monument be erected for him at the public charge in the Ceramicum, (the place where those were interred who had

« AnteriorContinuar »