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which perhaps hath produced more noble effects than SERM. any other passion or inclination of our souls: for all manner of excellency in knowledge, in prowess, in virtue, how often doth it issue from this source! Doth not the admired fame of men notable for learning, (recorded in story, or subject to present observation,) and a jealousy of being surpassed in accomplishments competent to human nature, sharpen the appetite, and rouse the industry of most scholars, whom neither the love of knowledge nor its apparent usefulness could anywise persuade to bear so much toil in acquist thereof1? Do not all histories acquaint us, that the most gallant enterprises and exploits of famous warriors have derived their beginning from an emulation of the glory purchased by their ancestors? (wisdom and valour have thus especially been propagated; one man's signal excellency being parent to the like in many others.) And that this passion may in like manner be subservient to the production of virtue and piety, is plain enough from parity of reason, and from experience; and we have (for further argument thereof) the apostle's practice using it to this purpose: St. Paul employed it as an engine for the conversion of his dear countrymen; whom, by raising in them a jealousy of being outstripped, in God's favour, and its effects, by the Gentiles, he endeavoureth to provoke to the embracing of the Christian faith: I speak to you Gentiles, saith he, Rom. xi. inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify my office, εἴ πως παραζηλώσω μου τὴν σάρκα, if by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. i Tentanda via est, qua me quoque possim
SERM. And St. James instigateth us unto fervency of prayer, XXXIV. by minding us, that Elias was a man of like passions Jam, v. 17. with ourselves; yet was able by his prayers to shut and open heaven, to procure barrenness and fertility to the earth. And the apostle to the Hebrews chargeth us, to consider one another, εἰς παροξυσμὸν ἀγάπης, καὶ kaλwv epywv, so as to provoke one another (or by mutual emulation to sharpen one another) to charity and good works.
4. Examples do work upon modesty, that preserver and guardian of virtue, as Cicero calls it*. For every good action of another doth upbraid, reproach, and shame him who acteth not conformably thereto. Can we without a trembling heart, and blushing forehead, view the practices of the ancient saints, if ours be altogether unlike them? If they, to please God and secure their salvation, did undergo such prodigious pains in assiduous devotions, abstinences, watchings, and we contrariwise are extremely sluggish, cold, and negligent in the performance of our ordinary duties; if they willingly renounced all sensual complacencies, and we either cherish ourselves in a soft delicacy of life, or wallow in a profane dissolution of manners; if they, to free themselves from distracting cares, voluntarily disburdened themselves of all needless encumbrances, and we are wholly busy in heaping up wealth, and driving on worldly interests; if they gladly embraced and endured the sharpest afflictions, and we are terrified by the thought, are overwhelmed by the sense of the least disappointment, or distasteful occurrence; how can we without extreme regret of mind, and confu
k Custos omnium virtutum, dedecus fugiens, laudemque maxime consequens verecundia est. Cic. Part. Rhet.
sion of face, consider their practice, or compare it SERM. XXXIV. with ours? It is a profligate impudence of him that can daily hear and read the stories of their doings, without being deeply sensible, and ashamed at the dissonance appearing between their course of life and his.
5. Example awakens that curiosity, which is natural to us, and of no mean efficacy upon our actions. For whatever we see done, we are apt to be inquisitive concerning it; why and to what purpose it is done, what the grounds are, and what the fruits of the performance; especially if the matter seem considerably important, and the action proceedeth from a person deserving respect; whereof having passed some competent judgment, we are by the same instinct of curiosity further transported into a desire of discerning by our trial and experience whether the event correspondeth to our expectation; so are we easily induced to imitate the actions of others. By which means as vice ordinarily is conceived and propagated, (men by a preposterous and perverse curiosity being inveigled to try what they see others affect or enjoy,) so may virtue also by the same means be engendered and nourished; the general ways of producing and maintaining those contrary habits being alike. As, therefore, it is a great blemish and reproach to human nature, that,
Turpibus et pravis omnes sumus
we, as the satyrist truly observeth of us, have a great proclivity to follow naughty examples; so there is from hence some amends, that we have also some inclination to imitate good and worthy precedents; the which is somewhat more strong and
SERM. vigorous, because countenanced and encouraged by XXXIV. the approbation of reason, our most noble faculty.
6. Examples also do please the mind and fancy in contemplation of them, thence drawing a considerable influence upon practice. No kind of studious entertainment doth so generally delight as history, or the tradition of remarkable examples: even those who have an abhorrency or indisposition toward other studies, (who have no genius to apprehend the more intricate subtleties of science, nor the patience to pursue rational consequences,) are yet often much taken with historical narrations; these striking them with a delectable variety of accidents, with circumstantial descriptions, and sensible representations of objects, do greatly affect and delight their fancies; especially the relation of notable adventures and rare accidents is wont to be attended with great pleasure and satisfaction. And such are those, which present to us the lives and examples of holy men, abounding with wonders of providence and grace no attempts so gallant, no exploits so illustrious, as those, which have been achieved by the faith and patience, by the prudence and courage of the ancient saints; they do far surpass the most famous achievements of pagan heroes. It was, I dare say, more wonderful, that Abraham with his retinue of household servants should vanquish four potent and victorious kings; and that Gideon with three hundred unarmed men should discomfit a vastly numerous host, than that Alexander with a well-appointed army of stout and expert soldiers should overturn the Persian empire. The siege of Jericho is so far more remarkable than those most famous ones of Numantia and Saguntus, as it is more strange
that the blast of trumpets and the noise of people SERM. shouting should demolish walls, than the shaking them with rams, or discharging massy stones against them. And he, that carefully will compare the deeds of Samson and Hercules, shall find, that one true exploit performed by the former doth much in force and strangeness surmount the twelve fabulous labours of the other: no triumphs indeed are comparable to those of piety; no trophies are so magnificent and durable, as those which victorious faith erecteth that history therefore which reports the res gestæ, the acts and sufferings of most pious men, must in reason be esteemed not only the most useful, but also the most pleasant; yielding the sweetest entertainment to well-disposed minds; wherein we see virtue expressed, not in bare idea only, but in actual life, strength, motion; in all its beauty and ornaments than which no spectacle can be more stately; no object more grateful can be presented to the discerning eye of reason.
7. We may furthermore consider, that God hath provided and recommended to us one example, as a perfect standard of good practice; the example of our Lord the which declareth the use and efficacy of good example, as one principal instrument of piety. That indeed is the most universal, absolute, and assured pattern; yet doth it not supersede the use of other examples: not only the valour and conduct of the general, but those of inferior officers, yea, the resolution of common soldiers, do serve to animate their fellows. The stars have their season to guide us, as well as the sun; especially when our eyes are so weak, as hardly to bear the day. Even, considering our infirmity, inferior examples by their imper