« PreviousContinue »
dom. There is indeed no man so sequestered from active life, but within his own narrow sphere he may find some opportunities of doing good; of cultivating friendship, promoting peace, and discharging many of these lesser offices of humanity and kindness, which are within the reach of every one, and which we all owe to one another. In all the various relations which subsist among us in life, as husband and wife, master and servant, parents and children, relations and friends, rulers and subjects, innumerable duties stand ready to be performed; innumerable calls to virtuous activity present themselves on every hand, sufficient to fill up with advantage and honour the whole time of man.
THERE is, in particular, one great and comprehensive object of attention, which, in the text, is placed in direct opposition to that idle curiosity reprehended by our Lord; that is, to follow Christ. Follow thou me. What this man or that man does; how he employs his time; what use he makes of his talents; how he succeeds in the world; are matters, concerning which the information we receive can never be of great importance to us; often, is of no importance at all. But how our Saviour behaved while he was on earth, or how, in our situation, he would have behaved, are matters of the highest moment to every Christian.
The commandment given in the text, to follow him, includes both observance of his words, and imitation of his example. The words of Christ contain, as we all know, the standing rule of our life. His example exhibits the great model on which our conduct ought to be formed; and it is to this that the pre
cept here delivered directly refers.-Examples have great influence on all. But by all human examples, we are in danger of being occasionally misled. We are ever obliged to be on our guard, lest the admiration of what is estimable betray us into a resemblance of what is blemished and faulty. For the most perfect human characters, in the midst of their brightness and beauty, are always marked with some of those dark spots which stain the nature of man. But our lord possessed all the virtues of the greatest and best men, without partaking any of their defects. In him, all was light without a shade, and beauty without a stain. At the same time, his example is attended with this singular advantage, of being more accommodated than any other to general imitation. It was distinguished by no unnatural austerities, no affected singularities; but exhibits the plain and simple tenor of all those virtues for which we have most frequent occasion in ordinary life. In order to render it of more universal benefit, our Lord fixed his residence in no particular place; he tied himself down to no particular calling, or way of living; but gives us the opportunity of viewing his behaviour, in that variety of lights which equally and indifferently regard all mankind. His life was divided between the retired and the active state. Devotion and business equally shared it. In the discharge of that high office with which he was vested, we behold the perfect model of a public character; and we behold the most beautiful example of private life, when we contemplate him among his disciples, as a father in the midst of his family. By such means he has exhibited before us specimens of every kind of virtue; and to all ranks and classes
of men has afforded a pattern after which they may copy. Hardly is there any emergency which can occur in life, but from some incident in our Saviour's conduct, from some feature displayed in his character, we are enabled to say to ourselves, "Thus "Christ would have spoken, thus he would have acted, thus he would have suffered, if he had been "circumstanced as we are now."
Instead, therefore, of thinking of thy neighbours around thee, and of enquiring how they behave, keep Christ in thine eye, and in thy whole conduct follow him. Follow him, in his steady and conscientious discharge of duty, amidst opposition from evil men and a corrupted world. Follow him in his patient submission to his father's will, and the calmness of his spirit under all trials. Follow him in his acts of disinterested benevolence, in his compassion to the unhappy, in his readiness to oblige, to assist, and to relieve. Imitate the mildness and
gentleness of his manners. Imitate the affability and condescension which appeared in his behaviour. Imitate the uncorrupted simplicity and purity which distinguished his whole life.
THESE are much worthier and nobler objects of your attention, than any of those trifling varieties which you can explore and discover in the character of those among whom you live. By lifting your view to so high a standard, you will be preserved from descending to those futile and corrupting employments of thought, which occupy the idle, the vain, and the malignant. It is incredible, how much time and attention are thrown away by men in examining the affairs of others, and discussing their
conduct. Were their time and attention thrown away only, the evil would, in some degree, be less. But they are worse than thrown away: they are not merely fruitless, but productive of much mischief. Such a habit of thought is connected with a thousand vices. It is the constant source of rash and severe censure. It arises from envy and jealousy. It foments ill-nature and pride. It propagates misunderstanding and discord. All those evils would be prevented, if the reproof which our Lord administers in the text came oftener home, with proper authority to the reflection of men: What is that to thee? Each of us have more material and important business of our own to fulfil. Our task is assigned; our part allotted. Did we suitably examine how that part was performed, we should be less disposed to busy ourselves about the concerns of others. We should discover many a disorder to be corrected at home; many a weed to be pulled out from our own grounds; much remaining to be done, in order to render ourselves useful in this world and fit for a world to come. -Wherefore, instead of being critics on others, let us employ our criticism on ourselves. Leaving others to be judged by him who searcheth the heart, let us implore his assistance for enabling us to act well our own part, and to follow Christ.