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Christ and his Apostles, and as many new ones, coined and stamped by their later councils. This is not to follow the faith of the Apostles, and first patterns of Chriftianity, the faith once delivered to the saints, as St. Jude calls it. This is to have our faith stand upon the au.. thority of men, and not on the word of God: whereas we are to follow the faith of the first guides of the Christian church, who spake unto them the word of God, as the Apostle expressly chargeth here in the text.
2. We are to imitate them in the stability and firmness of our faith, and not suffer ourselves to be shaken, and removed from it, by every wind of new doctrine; the faith of Christ being unchangeable as Christ himself. And that by following the faith of the primitive guides and teachers of Christianity, the Apostle here means, that we should be stedfast and unmoveable in it, is plain from what follows immediately after the text, Whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. JeJus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. Bé not carried about with divers and strange doctrines: for it is a good thing, that the heart be established with grace ; that is, in the doctrine of the gospel, which is frequently called the
3. We are to imitate them in the constancy and perfeverance of their faith; and that notwithstanding all the discountenance and opposition, the perfecution and suffering which attend the profession of this faith ; which the Apostle sufficiently intimates in this epistle, to have been the condition of those Christians to whom he wrote; and therefore he proposeth so many examples to them, of constant and patient suffering for God and his truth : and it is probable enough, that the Apostle here recommends the example of those who were the primitive martyrs, as well as teachers of Christianity. He had before proposed to them the living examples of those who were under actual persecution and sufferings for the gospel, v 3. Remember them that are in bonds, and them that suffer adversity; and here, in the 7th verse, he seems to propose the pattern of those who had laid down their lives and died for the faith, Remember those who have been your guides, and have spoken to you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their con
grace of God.
verfation, την έκβασιν της αναστροφής, which may be rendered, the last act of their lives, the manner of their going out of the world, perhaps by martyrdom; as if he had said, Imitate them in their constancy and perseverance in the faith, even to the last, in laying down their lives for it. And thus we should be ready to do, if God calls us to it. However, it is certain the Apostle meant thcir constancy and perseverance in the faith to the last, and their dying in, if not for the faith of Christ. And this is necessary if we expect the crown of life, and hope for the same happy end, which they had ; for none but they that continue to the end, shall be saved.
4. We should imitate them in the efficacy and fruitfulness of their faith, in the practice and virtues of a good life : Whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation; that is, their perseverance in a holy courfe to the end. And these mutt never be separated, a sound faith, and a good life. Without this, our faith is bara ren and dead, as St. James tells us, chap. ii. 17. Our knowledge and belief of the Christian doctrine must manifest itself in a good conversation. Who is a wise man, (says the same St. James, chap. iii. 13.); who is a wife man and endued with knowledge amongst you? tet him few out of a good conversation his works. This is a faithful saying, (faith St. Paul
to Titus, chap.iii. 8.), and thefe things I will that thou affirn constantly, that they who have believed in God, be careful to maintain good works.
And herein the Apostles of our Lord and Saviour were eminent examples. "They lived as they taught, and pra: ctised the doctrine which they preached. So St. Paul Iritly chargeth Timothy, i Tim. iv. 12. Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversatioii, in chao rity, in Spirit, in faith, in purity. And our Saviour tells us, that hereby chiefly false prophets and teachers might be known from the true Apostles of Christ; Matth. vii. 20. By their fruits ye shall know them. And indeed we do not follow the faith of those excellent per fons, if we do not abound in all the fruits of righteousness, which by Jesus Christ are to the praise and glory of God. I come now to the
III. Third and last thing I proposed, viz. The encouragement to this, from the consideration of the hap
py state of those persons who are proposed to us for patterns, and the glorious reward which they are made partakers of in another world : Considering the end of iheir - conversation, thy- éxbarw, their egress or departure out of this life, into a blessed and glorious state, where they have received the crown and reward of their faith and patience, and pious conversation in this world; or else, which comes much to one, considering the conclusion of their lives, with what patience and comfort they left the world, and with what joyful assurance of the happy condition they were going to, and were to continue in for ever.
And this is a great encouragement to constancy and perseverance in faith and holiness, to fee with what chearfulness and comfort good men die, and with what a firm and steddy persuasion of the happiness they are entering upon. For who would not be glad to leave the world, in that calmness and serenity of mind, and comfortable assurance of a blessed eternity? Bad men wish this, and are ready to fay with Balaam, Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my laft end be like his. -But if we would have the comfort of such a death, we must live such lives, and imitate the faith and good conversation of those whom we desire to resemble in the manner of their death, and to go into the same happy state that they are in after death. If we do not make their lives our pattern, we must not expect to be conformable to them in the happy manner of their death. When we hear of the death of an eminent good man, we do not doubt but he is happy; and are confident, that he will meet with the reward of his piety and good·ness in another world. If we believe this of him, let .us endeavour to be like him, that we may attain the fame happiness wbich we believe him to be possessed of; and, as the Apostle exhorts, chap. vi. 12. Let us not be Jothful; but followers of them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Let us fhew the same diligence that they did, that we may have the same full asurance of hope unto the end which they had.
The inference from this discourse which I have made upon this argument, is, to fhew what use we ought to make of these excellent examples which are set before us,
of the first founders and teachers of our religion, and what is the proper honour and respect which we ought to pay to their memory. Not invocation and adoration; but a zealous imitation of their faith and good conversation. The greatest honour we can do them, the most acceptable to God, the most grateful to them, and the most beneficial to ourselves, is, to endeavour to be like them: not to make any images and likeness of them, to fall down before them, and worship them ; but to form the image of their faith and virtues upon our hearts and lives : not to pray to them; but to praise God for such bright and glorious examples, and to endeavour with all our might to imitate their faith, and patience, and piety, and humility, and meekness, and charity, and all those other virtues which were so resplendent in them. And this is to remember the founders of our religion as we ought, to follow their faith, and to consider the end of their conversation..
Had the Christian religion required or intended any such thing, as of latter times hath been practised in the world, it had been as easy for the Apostle to have said, Remember them that have been your guides, and have fpeken to you the word of God, to erect images to them, and to worship them with due veneration, and to pray to them, and make use of their intercession. But no such thing is said, or the least intimation given of it, either in this text, or any other in the whole Bible ; but very much to the contrary:
Their example indeed is frequently recommended to us, for our imitation and encouragement: and for this reason, the providence of God hath taken particular care, that the memory of the Apostles, and so many primitive Christians and martyrs, should be transmitted to posterity; that Christians in all succeeding ages might propound these patterns to themselves, and have perpetually before their eyes the piety and virtue of their lives, and their patient and constant sufferings for the truth; that when God shall please to call us to the like trial, we may not be wearied and faint in our minds ; but being compassed about with such a cloud of witnesses, having so many examples in our eye of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises, and do now as it were look
down from their happy state upon us here below, who are combating with manifold temptations, to see how we behave and acquit ourselves in our Christian course, we may take encourageinent to ourselves, from such examples and fuch spectators, to run with patience the race which is set before us.
I know indeed, that other use than this hath been, and is at this day made of the memory of the saints and martyrs of former ages, very dishonourable to God, and very grievous to them, if they be sensible of what is done here below.; I mean, to worship them, and to pray to them, and to the great disparagement of the powerful intercession of our great High Priest, Jesus the Son of God) to make them the mediators and intercesfors in heaven with God for us. Of this the scripture hath no where given us the least intimation ; but hath expressly commanded the contrary, to worship the Lord b!!r God, and him only 10 serve; and to pray to him atone, in the name of Jesus Christ, who is the only mediastor between God and men. Nor are there any footsteps of any such practice in the primitive church, for the first three hundred years; as is acknowledged by our molt learned adversaries of the church of Rome.
The scripture no where propounds the saints to us. for objects of our worship, but for the patterns of our lives. This is the greatest respect and veneration that we can or ought to pay to them; and whatever is beyond this, is a voluntary humility, injurious to God and our blessed Saviour; and most certainly displeasing to thofe whom we pretend to honour, if they know how inen play the fool about them here below.
Let us then endeavour to be like them, in the holy and virtuous actions of their lives, in their constant patience and suffering for the truth, if God shall call us thereto. And we may be like them, if we do but fincerely endeavour it, and pray to God for his grace and assistance to that end. For these examples were not left for our admiration only, but for our imitation. We frequently read the lives of the Apostles and first founders of our religion ; but I know not how it comes to pass, we chuse rather lazily to admire them, than vigorously to follow them; as if the piety of the firft ChriVOL.IV. E e