The importance of example, who does not understand? How much do most of us suffer from the presence, conversation, spirit, of people of low minds by whom we are surrounded! The temptation is strong, to take as our standard the average character of the society in which we live,and to satisfy ourselves with attainments which secure to us among the multitude a sense of respectability.
On the other hand, there is a power (have you not felt it?) in the presence, conversation, and example of Jesus, a man of strong principle and magnanimity, to lift us, at least for the moment, from our vulgar habits of thought, and to kindle some generous aspirations after the excellence whivh we were meant to attain.
It is possible to place ourselves under the influence of the example of Jesus. This introduces us to the highest order of virtue. this awakens the whole mind.
Nothing has equal power to neutralize the coarse, selfish, and sensual influences into which we are daily plunged, to refine our conception of duty, and to reveal the perfection our hopes and most strenuous desires should habitually fasten.
There is one cause which has done much to defeat this good influence of Jesus's character and example, and which ought to be exposed. it is the idea of the multitudes that Jesus should be admired but not approached and followed. they have a vague notion of his nature and character that makes it seem presumptuous to think of him as their standard of behavior. He is thrown so far from them that he does them little or no good.Mamy feel that a close resemblance to Jesus is not to be expected, that his teachings are utterly incapable of being put into practice.
I think this is an error that influences many minds. Until human beings think of the faith and character of Jesus as applicable to them, and intended to be brought into continual operation, in cooperation with their whole spiritual nature, they will derive little good from Jesus.
People think to honor Jesus when they place him so high as to discourage all efforts to approach him. they really degrade him by doing this. they don't understand his character; they throw a glare over it, which hides its true fearures. this vague admiration is the poorest tribute with which they can pay him.
I wish to prevent the discouraging influence of the greatness of Jesus, to show that he may indeed be imitated.
His real greatness of character is greatness of the highest order, and far from being discouraging, is fully accessible and imitable by us, and far from severing him from us, makes him our friend and model.
True elevation of mind does not take a being out of the circle of those who are below him, but binds him closer to them, and gives them advantages for a closer attachment and conformity to him.