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Thomas Fuller was born at Aldwinkle, Northamptonshire, in the year 1608. At the age of twelve his father, who was rector of that parish, sent him to Cambridge, where he entered Queen's College. He took the degree of bachelor in 1624 and that of master of arts four years later. He was held in such high estimation at his college that, at the age of twenty-three, he was appointed to St. Benet's, Cambridge, where he became very popular as a preacher. Soon afterwards he became prebend of Salisbury and obtained a fellowship in Sidney Sussex College.
Fuller's first publication in 1631 was a poem, entitled “David's Heinous Sin, Hearty Repentance, and Heavy Punishment.” His preferment was rapid. He next became rector of Broad Windsor, Dorsetshire, published his “History of the Holy War,” in 1639, and removed to London in 1640, where he had been chosen lecturer at the Savoy church in the Strand. The same year he was a member of the convocation at Westminster and one of the select committee appointed to draw up new canons for the better government of the church. During the civil war he became a chaplain to the Royalist army, and while wandering about from place to place collected the material for his “Worthies of England.” In 1646 he was successively chosen lecturer at St. Clement's Lane and at St. Bride's, being two years later presented with the living of Waltham, Essex. During the five years following Fuller developed much literary activity, a geographical account of the Holy Land, a collection of lives of modern divines, and a church history of Great Britain appearing during this time. Fuller lived in troublous times, but before his death the tide turned in his favor. In 1658 he received the living at Cromford, Middlesex, was reinstated in his prebend at Salisbury, and appointed chaplain extraordinary to the King. He was made a doctor of divinity at Cambridge by royal decree. He died on August 16, 1661.
is principal work, “The Worthies of England,” was published in
London in 1662. Valuable for the information on contemporaneous history, it abounds in biographical anecdotes, witty remarks, and acute observations on men and manners of the times. Quaint humor is one of Fuller's characteristics, but his writings are no less remarkable for wisdom, imagination, and when occasion demands, even for pathos. His discourses “How far Examples are to be Followed ” and “An Ill Match well Broken Off,” are representative of the epigrammatic style that is characteristic of all his writings.
HOW FAR EXAMPLES ARE TO BE FOLLOWED
N these words' Naomi seeks to persuade Ruth to return, alleging the example of Orpah, who, as she saith, was “gone back to her people, and to her gods.” Where first we find that all the heathen, and the Moabites amongst the rest, did not acknowledge one true God, but were the worshippers of many gods; for they made every attribute of God to be a distinct deity. Thus, instead of that attribute, the wisdom of God, they feigned Apollo the god of wisdom; instead of the power of God, they made Mars the god of power; instead of that admirable beauty of God, they had Venus the goddess of beauty. But no one attribute was so much abused as God's providence. For the heathen, supposing that the whole world, and all the creatures therein, was too great a diocese to be daily visited by one and the same deity, they therefore assigned sundry gods to several creatures. Thus God's providence in ruling the raging of the seas was counted Neptune; in stilling the roaring wind, AEolus; in commanding the powers of hell, Pluto; yea, sheep had their Pan, and gardens their Pomona; the heathens thus being as fruitful in feigning of gods as the Papists since in making of saints. Now, because Naomi used the example of Orpah as a motive to work upon Ruth to return, we gather from thence, examples of others set before our eyes are very potent and prevailing arguments to make us follow and imitate them; whether they be good examples, so the forwardness of the Corinthians to relieve the Jews provoked many—or whether they be bad, so the dissembling of Peter at Antioch drew Barnabas and others into the same fault. But those examples, of all others, are most forcible with us which are set by such who are near to us by kindred, or gracious with us in friendship, or great over us in power. Let men in eminent places, as magistrates, ministers, fathers, masters (so that others love to dance after their pipe, to sing after their music, to tread after their track), endeavor to propound themselves examples of piety and religion to those that be under them. When we see any good example propounded unto us, let us strive with all possible speed to imitate it. What a deal of stir is there in the world for civil precedency and priority Everyone desires to march in the forefront, and thinks it a shame to come lagging in the rearward. O that there were such a holy ambition and heavenly emulation in our hearts, that, as Peter and John ran a race who should come first to the grave of our Saviour, so men would contend who should first attain to true mortification. And when we see a good example set before us, let us imitate it, though it be in one which in outward respects is far our inferior. Shall not our masters be ashamed to see that their men, whose place on earth is to come behind them, in piety towards heaven go before them? Shall not the husband blush to see his wife, who is the weaker vessel in nature, the stronger vessel in grace? Shall not the elder brother dye his cheeks with the color of virtue, to see his younger brother, who was last born, first reborn by faith and the Holy Ghost? Yet let him not therefore envy his brother, as Cain did Abel; let him not be angry with his brother because he is better than himself; but let him be angry with himself, because he is worse than his brother; let him turn all his malice into imitation, all his fretting at him into following of him. Say unto him, as Gehazi did of Naaman, “As the Lord liveth, I will run after him;” and although thou canst not overrun him, nor as yet overlook him; yet give not over to run with him, follow him, though not as Asahel did Abner, hard at the heels; yet as Peter did our Saviour, “afar off;” that though the more slowly, yet as surely thou mayest come to heaven; and though thou wert short of him while he lived, in the race, yet thou shalt be even with him when thou art dead, at the mark. When any bad example is presented unto us, let us decline and detest it, though the men be never so many or so dear unto us. Imitate Micaiah (I Kings xxii.), to whom, when the messenger sent to fetch him said, “Behold now, the words of the prophets declare good unto the king with one mouth; let thy word therefore, I pray thee, be like to one of them”; Micaiah answered, “As the Lord liveth, whatsoever the Lord saith unto me, that will I speak.” If they be never so dear unto us, we must not follow their bad practice. So must the son please him that begot him, that he doth not displease Him that created him: so must the wife follow him that married her, that she doth not offend Him that made her. Wherefore, as Samson, though bound with new cords, snapped them asunder as tow when it feeleth the fire; so, rather than we should be led by the lewd examples of those that be near and dear unto us, let us break in pieces all their engagements, relations whatsoever. Now here it will be a labor worthy discourse to consider how far the examples even of good men in the Bible are to be followed. For, as all examples have a great influence on the practice of the beholders, so especially the deeds of good men registered in the Scripture (the calendar of eternity) are most attractive of imitation. FIRST KIND of ExAMPLEs.-We find in Holy Writ nine several kinds of examples. First, actions extraordinary; the doers whereof had peculiar strength and dispensation from God to do them. Thus, Phinehas in a heavenly fury killed Cozbi and Zimri; Samson slew himself and the Philistines in the temple of Dagon; Elias caused fire to descend on the two captains of fifties; Elisha cursed the children, the children of Bethel. Use of them.—These are written for our instruction, not for our imitation. If, with Elisha, thou canst make a bridge over Jordan with thy cloak, if, with him, thou canst raise dead children, then it is lawful for thee, with Elisha, to curse thy enemies. If thou canst not imitate him in the one, pretend not to follow him in the other. Abuse of them.—When men propound such examples for their practice, what is said is imputed to Phinehas for righteousness will be imputed to us for iniquity, if, being private men, by a commission of our own penning, we usurp the sword of justice to punish malefactors. Second SoRT.—Actions founded in the ceremonial law; as,
*"And Naomi said, Behold, thy, sister; unto her gods; return thou after thy sisterin-law is gone back unto her people, and in-law” (Ruth i. 15).