Page images

apply to your studies, and to labour after proficiency in them; not in order to surpass others, and from a vain desire of honour from man, but that you may acquire a talent with which you may glorify God and do good to mankind? May I not say, The emulation of outstripping others can hardly keep clear of vain glory, and is nearly related to envy, and often produces very bad effects on both the successful and unsuccessful: you should therefore watch and pray against it; and aim at real, not comparative, excellence? May I not say this to a Christian parent, who asks my opinion of education:-You know the general principle of schools and colleges: we cannot alter it; and, if we could, unless all concerned became true Christians, we should effect no good: but "yet shew I you a more excellent way." Give as little encouragement as possible to the emulation of outstripping others, and endeavour to repress it; and teach your children that they ought to be diligent, and endeavour to make progress in useful knowledge, because it is their duty to God, and in order that they may be qualified to fill up their station in society in a suitable manner, to the glory of God, and the good of men ?-Surely this must be allowed to be an unexceptionable plan for a Christian parent or counsellor; and I believe all, who have fairly tried it, will concur with me in saying, that much more, very much more, may be effected in this way than is generally supposed. But he who thinks himself bound to oppose and protest against every thing which falls below it, among men in general, " must needs go out of "the world."


III. I proceed to consider, how far imitation implies and is coincident with emulation. We are, in the sacred scriptures, exhorted to be followers or imitators (μntai)" of God," and "of Christ." Here the desire of surpassing must be excluded. The apostle also calls on his converts to be " imi"tators of him, as he is of Christ." Here, also, imitation must, I think, exclude the idea of emulation, as far as excelling another is implied. Others, indeed, are proposed as patterns for imitation, where that idea may not be so absolutely excluded by the nature of the case itself. But it is evident from the nature of the human mind, and from facts, that where emulation of surpassing enters imitation ceases. The young man, who looks up with veneration and love to his father, and strives to imitate him, is chiefly in danger of copying his defects along with his excellencies: but, whenever he indulges the idea of surpassing his father, he strikes out into some new line, and no longer imitates him. This is the ruin of many conceited sons of wise and pious parents. Thus Jehoiakim, desirous of surpassing his father Josiah, neglected to imitate his piety and equity, but aimed to exceed and eclipse him in the magnificence of his palace.3

I have known many preachers imitate senior ministers, to whom they were greatly attached; and succeed in copying their faults, at least, along with their excellencies. One of this description said in my hearing, 'I do not intend to copy Mr.

11 Cor. xi. 1. 2 Thess. iii. 7-9.

21 Thess. i. 6. Heb. vi. 12. xiii. 13.

3 Jer. xxii. 13-19.

I have

but I love the man, and I catch his manner, without being conscious of it. Oh! if we did but love Christ we should catch his manners.' also known junior ministers emulous of surpassing their seniors: but were they imitators of them? So far from it, that they were almost afraid of copying what they could not deny to be good in them, while they carefully avoided their faults, real or supposed: and they seemed to think it necessary to proceed entirely on another plan; generally with much self-preference and censoriousness against those whom they thus affected to surpass and excel.

Indeed, every author, painter, sculptor, or artist of any kind, the moment he begins to aim at surpassing another, ceases to make him his model, and to imitate him as such. Imitation, at most,. can only lead to equality not superiority; and almost all who attain to real excellence in their several lines, imitate and emulate models; which they do not at all expect to excel. The boy who affects to surpass his master in writing, will not very closely attend to his copy, or strive to write more and more like it.

IV. We proceed to inquire, in what respects the desire of excellence differs from the emulation of excelling or surpassing others. This has been kept in view throughout the whole of the preceding inquiry; and, though it probably will be found to be the very HINGE on which the whole controversy turns, it is seldom clearly and distinctly


1. The desire of real excellence, strictly speaking must be confined to attainments valuable in

themselves, or generally considered as such; or,
at least, suited to the profession and station of the
But the emulation of surpass-
person concerned.
ing others, includes almost every thing which can
be conceived. Nero had no desire of that wisdom
and knowledge which would have qualified him to
govern the Roman empire; but he had a strong
emulation of excelling all the singers, musicians,
and actors, and persons of that description, in the
whole world. Many young men, even in the
superior orders, to whom the senate and the
council-board may be considered as accessible,
manifest no desire of that excellence of wisdom,
and those endowments of appropriate knowledge
and eloquence, which might enable them to be
eminently useful to their country, and to mankind
at large; but they vie with each other (or rather
with coachmen) by their emulation of surpass-
ing in driving four-in-hand! What is there so
mean, so base, so vulgar, or even so wicked,
in which some are not emulous of excelling?
or in which some do not consume a large portion
of their time and application? The "holy emu-
"lation" of a Christian, however, must be that
of attaining real excellence in wisdom and holi-
ness: even the honest emulation' of the world,
must be that of something estimable in the
general opinion of mankind, or of professional
eminence but the mere desire of excelling others
will readily draw men into competitions with
wrestlers, racers, jockeys, buffoons, boxers, and
such-like persons.


As the desire of excelling

opens a door to such evils as these; as even in schools it often is quite as much gratified in the







sports of the boys, in their battles, or in their superior adroitness in imposing on their teacher, as in the exercises of the school; surely a Christian parent may be allowed to caution his son against it, and a Christian adviser his friend; and to endeavour to repress it, by pointing out the nobler object of real attainable excellence, in those things by which God may be glorified and men profited, and which will ensure "the honour that cometh from God only."

2. The desire of excellence leads a man to select, as his patterns, the most perfect models which he can posssibly find. These he loves and admires, imitates and emulates, yet does not expect to surpass. But the desire of excelling others is not thus restricted. The object at which the person influenced by it aims, is to outstrip those within his own circle, whether more or less contracted: and this introduces the temptation of envying, and detracting from, those whom he cannot surpass, and despising those whom he can. It suffices to the schoolboy, and to the candidate for academical honours, to stand at the top of the list of competitors; whether by means of his own actual proficiency, or their dulness and negligence, or even by insidious arts of attaining a station higher than what belongs in justice to him. But the eminence in actual knowledge and science which may be attained, and rendered exceedingly useful, is seldom thus earnestly sought. The proficiency in theological studies, which is essentially necessary to the able minister of Christ, is, it may be feared, but little pursued, even by those designed for the sacred service, during the term

« PreviousContinue »