“Be followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” – Hebrews 6:12
This injunction implies three things. First, that there is nothing unattainable for us in the example of those who have gone before us. We may follow them and we can follow them. They experienced the very same trials and temptations, and they had the very same human passions as we do. What they were, they were by the grace of God. What they did, they did by grace, and that grace is the same yesterday, today and forever. There is no reason, therefore, that we should ever despair.
Secondly, this injunction implies that we should acquaint ourselves with them, that is, with those who have gone before us. Without this, we cannot follow them. We cannot follow what we are ignorant of. Imitation is something voluntary, intentional, that requires frequent observation, and to have the thing much before the eye of the mind, in order to have the mind impressed. We should therefore search the Scriptures [and church history] to see what God has recorded their of their principles, their lives, example and sufferings, how they behaved in adversity, in life and in death.
Thirdly, we should not be satisfied with anything less than resemblance and conformity. With such men laboring in the vineyard, we are to labor also. If they denied themselves, then we also are to deny ourselves. Like them, we also are to have our conversation in heaven, and walk by faith and not by sight, even as they did. And regarding the things wherein they are examples to us, we must take heed to ourselves and apply this particularly to ourselves rather than thinking about others. There is a disposition and attitude among some which love to hear about the duties of others, but not for themselves. But it is far better to seek after our own duties and to say, like David, “I will hear what God the Lord will speak” or like Paul, “What will Thou have me to do?”
– William Jay