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SERM. his enjoyments; contentedness satisfieth the mind XLI. of the one, abundance doth only satiate the appetites of the other; the former is immaterial and sprightly, the complacence of a man; the latter is gross and dull, like the sensuality of a beast; the delight of that sinketh deep into the heart, the pleasure of this doth only float in the outward senses, or in the fancy; one is a positive comfort, the other but a negative indolency in regard to the mind: the poor good man's joy is wholly his own, and home-born, a lovely child of reason and virtue; the full rich man's pleasure cometh from without, and is thrust into him by impulses of sensible objects.
Hence is the satisfaction of contented adversity far more constant, solid, and durable, than that of prosperity; it being the product of immutable reason abideth in the mind, and cannot easily be driven thence by any corporeal impressions, which immediately cannot touch the mind; whereas the other, issuing from sense, is subject to all the changes inducible from the restless commotions of outward causes affecting and altering sense: whence the satisfaction proceeding from reason and virtue, the longer it stayeth the firmer and sweeter it groweth, turning into habit, and working nature to an agreement with it; whereas usually the joys of wealth and prosperity do soon degenerate into fastidiousApoc. x. 10. ness, and terminate in bitterness; being honey in Job xx. 20, the mouth, but soon becoming gall in the bowels. Nothing indeed can affect the mind with a truer pleasure, than the very conscience of discharging our duty toward God in bearing hardship, imposed by his providence, willingly and well. We have therefore much reason not only to acquiesce in our
straits, but to be glad of them, seeing they do yield SERM. us an opportunity of immediately obtaining goods more excellent and more desirable, than any prosperous or wealthy man can easily have, since they furnish us with means of acquiring and exercising a virtue worth the most ample fortune; yea justly preferable to the best estate in the world; a virtue, which indeed doth not only render any condition tolerable, but sweeteneth any thing, yea sanctifieth all states, and turneth all occurrences into blessings.
3. Even the sensible smart of adversity is by contentedness somewhat tempered and eased; the stiller and quieter we lie under it, the less we feel its violence and pungency: it is tumbling and tossing that stirreth the ill humours, and driveth them to the parts most weak, and apt to be affected with them; the rubbing of our sores is that which inflameth and exasperateth them: where the mind is calm, and the passions settled, the pain of any grievance is in comparison less acute, less sensible.
4. Whence, if others in our distress are uncharitable to us, refusing the help they might or should afford toward the rescuing us from it, or relieving us in it, we hereby may be charitable and great benefactors to ourselves; we should need no anodyne to be ministered from without, no succour to come from any creature, if we would not be wanting to ourselves, in hearkening to our own reason, and enjoying the consolation which it affordeth. In not doing this, we are more uncharitable and cruel to ourselves, than any spiteful enemy or treacherous friend can be; no man can so wrong or molest us, as we do ourselves, by admitting or fostering discontent.
5. The contented bearing of our condition is also
SERM. the most hopeful and ready means of bettering it, XLI. and of removing the pressures we lie under.
It is partly so in a natural way, as disposing us to embrace and employ the advantages which occur conducible thereto : for as discontent blindeth men, so that they cannot descry the ways of escape from evil, it dispiriteth and discourageth them from endeavouring to help themselves, it depriveth them of many succours and expedients, which occasion would afford for their relief; so he that being undisturbed in his spirit hath his eyes open and his courage up, and all his natural powers in order, will be always ready and able to do his best, to act vigorously, to snatch any opportunity, and employ any means toward the freeing himself from what appeareth grievous to him.
Upon a supernatural account, content is yet more efficacious to the same purpose: for cheerful submission to God's will doth please him much, doth strongly move him to withdraw his afflicting hand, doth effectually induce him to advance us into a most comfortable state of all virtues, there is none more acceptable to God than patience. God will take it well at our hands if we do contentedly receive from his hand the worst things: it is a monstrous thing not to receive prosperity with grateful
sense, but it is heroical with the same mind to reChrys. tom.ceive things unpleasant: he that doth so nota
vi. Or. 89.
Vid. Chrya μὲν ὡς ἄνθρωπος, στεφανοῦται δὲ ὡς φιλόθεος, le suffereth
ad. Stag. I. loss as a man, but is crowned as a lover of God. Besides that, it is an unreasonable thing to think of enjoying both rest and pleasure here, and the rewards hereafter; our consolation here with Dives, and our refreshment hereafter with Lazarus.
Be humbled, saith St. Peter, under the mighty SERM. hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time, (ev Kap, when it is opportune and seasonable;) and, I Pet. v. 6. Be humbled, saith St. James, before the Lord, and Jam. iv. 10. he will exalt you; and, When, saith Job's friends, Job xxii.29. men are cast down, then thou shalt say there is (Luke xiv. lifting up, and he will save the humble person. God with favourable pity hearkeneth to the groans of them who are humbly contrite under his hand, Isa. Ixvi. 2. and reverently tremble at his word; he reviveth the Ps. xxxiv. spirit of the humble; he is nigh to the broken of 18. li. 17. heart, and saveth such as are of a contrite spirit ; he healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds; he proclaimeth blessedness to the Matt. v. 3, poor in spirit, and to those that mourn, because they' shall find comfort and mercy: all which declarations and promises are made concerning those who bear adversity with a submiss and contented mind; and we see them effectually performed in the cases of Ahab, of the Ninevites, of Nebuchadnezzar, of Manasses, of Hezekiah, of David; of all persons mentioned in holy scripture, upon whom adversities had such kindly operations. But discontent and impatience do offend God, and provoke him to continue his judgments, yea to increase the load of them: to be sullen and stubborn is the sure way to render our condition worse and more intolerable: for, who Job ix. 4. Jer. ii. 30. hath hardened himself against God and pros- v. 3. pered? The Pharaohs and Sauls, and such like per-. 5. xxvi. sons, who rather would break than bend, who, being 10. dissatisfied with their condition, chose rather to lay hold on other imaginary succours, than to have recourse to God's mercy and help; those, who (like the refractory Israelites) have been smitten in vain
SERM. as to any quiet submission or conversion unto God, what have they but plunged themselves deeper into wretchedness?
It is indeed to quell our haughty stomach, to check our froward humour, to curb our impetuous desires, to calm our disorderly passions, to suppress our fond admiration and eager affection toward these worldly things, in short, to work a contented mind in us, that God ever doth inflict any hardships on us, that he crosseth us in our projects, that he detaineth us in any troublesome state; until this be achieved, as it is not expedient that we should be eased, as relief would really be no blessing to us; so God (except in anger and judgment) will nowise grant or dispense it; it would be a cruel mercy for him to do it. If therefore we do wish ever to be in a good case as to this world, let us learn to be contented in a bad one: having got this disposition firmly rooted in our hearts, we are qualified for deliverance and preferment; nor will God fail in that due season to perform for us what he so often hath declared and promised; his nature disposeth him, his word hath engaged him to help and comfort us.
These are the most proper inducements unto contentedness, which, considering (in the light of reason and holy scripture) the nature of the thing, suggested unto my meditation: there are beside some other means advisable, (some general, some more particular,) which are very conducible to the production of content, or removing discontent; which I shall touch, and then conclude.
1. A constant endeavour to live well, and to maintain a good conscience: he that doth this can hardly be dismayed or disturbed with any occurrence here;