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acting from conscience, or a self-conviction of what is right, they consider only what their superiors do; and were the Saviour of the world again to appear under similar circumstances, before they received his doctrines, or admitted the authenticity of his mission, they would ask, with the Jews in the text, "Have any of the Rulers, or of the Pharisees, believed on him ?” So powerful is example in general, but more particularly when displayed in the lives and conversation of our superiors.
In order to recommend any thing to our notice and imitation, if intended to be introduced in the most pleasing and effectual manner, it should be accompanied with such circumstances as are likely to attach our love and admiration. Whatever we are fond of, and whatever we approve, derives additional power over the heart, when it is even remotely connected with any of our other passions; such, for instance, as vanity, ambition, pride, or the love of power. Now, the example of those who rank above us, beside the ordinary inducements to imitation, always. carries with it this strong, complicate, and universal influence: and till vanity, ambition, pride, and the love of power, shall be extirpated from the human mind, the example of the great will
spread and predominate, more or less, through all the inferior ranks of life.
It is a melancholy reflection, also, that vices are more readily imitated than virtues; and that fashionable levities and follies are sooner caught, than the precepts of wisdom, or habits of decorum. We see this daily exemplified, in the eagerness with which the common people affect the dress, manners, and extravagance of their superiors, to the neglect of that urbanity and refinement, which they might learn from the same patterns: but yet a good example, even in trifling concerns, is never lost. It will often find silent access to the heart, when instruction would be unintelligible, or without effect. Precepts, indeed, at best, are only the faint representations of duty; but example is the reality. The one may be considered as the mere image, the other is the substance. It shews us that what we are required to do is not only right, but practicable; and defeats the artifices of self-love, that might otherwise find excuses in abundance for imperfect obedience, or total neglect. Hence, even the communications of our heavenly Father required the efficacy of example to give them effect, in reclaiming the sons of men from the paths of wickedness and
error. Yes, the conduct of our blessed Lord embodied his precepts, if I may use the expression, and gave the graces of his holy Gospel a living form. Men that would have cavilled at his doctrines, could not resist the force of his example; and those who would have regarded the bright perfection of character, which his precepts tend to form, as a pleasing, but delusive phantom, were awed with reverence, and subdued to love, when they saw, that though tempted like as we are," he was not only without sin, but practised what he taught.
Of such infinite importance, therefore, is example, in general, that the man who wishes to do good in his generation ;-he who feels the generous spark of benevolence kindle in his bosom at the sight of vice and error, can never more effectually gratify his wishes, than by shewing others how they ought to walk in his own conduct; that is, by being, as the Apostle exhorts, "an example of the believers in word, in conversation," (meaning by conversation our general behaviour, and intercourse with the world)" in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." Though his fortune might not be sufficient to relieve the varied forms of misery and want that meet his eye;-though he might not always
have the power to correct the vicious, nor opportunity to comfort the wretched, yet the light of his good example will shine around him with a kind and beneficial lustre. It will penetrate into the dark regions of ignorance and vice, and illumine the whole circle of its influence. Children and servants, friends and neighbours, will share its benefits, and insensibly grow better under its fostering power.
Still more extensive will be the good, or the evil, that springs from the example of the Great. To such, therefore, I wish more particularly to address myself. But you are not to understand, that by the great I mean those only, who are born to titles and honors, or who possess the most extensive wealth and power. Every man is great in the practical estimation of another, not so much, perhaps, by remote as near comparison; and it is not to kings and princes, that the middle and the lower orders of society look up for imitation, but to those who rank immediately above them. Every man, therefore, may be said to be great, in his own peculiar sphere, who is the father of a family, or the master of a household, and who is in the habit of seeing inferiors around him ;-children who need instruction as well as support, and whom nature teaches
obedience and respect; servants whose dependent station impresses them, at least, with some sense of deference and humility; and friends who are disposed to imitate our conduct, because they view all our actions with some partiality, if not through the dazzling medium of affection. To many, therefore, who now hear me, the sentiments which I have to offer will fully apply.
First, I exhort you to consider yourselves, in this respect, as filling a station of high responsibility. Whether you wilfully intend it or not, you must be instrumental in reforming, or corrupting, some portion of your fellow-creatures. You are, in the language of the Holy Gospel, as so many "lights unto the world," and your example must shine before men; but little will be lost, either from insignificance or obscurity, that comes from you; the evil, perhaps, unfortunately might be magnified, and the good diminished, as objects that are reflected from the varied surface of a mirror. Let all, therefore, who are exempt from poverty, freed in a great measure from the chain of dependence, and at liberty to employ a large portion of time as they please, consider, that the important duty of exhibiting good examples, and the danger of