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Phil. iv. 11.
έμαθον εν οίς content.
*ns sivas, In these words, by the example of an eminent SERM. saint, is recommended to us the practice of an ex. * cellent duty, or virtue; a practice in itself most worthy, very grateful to God, and immediately of great benefit to ourselves; being indeed necessary towards the comfortable enjoyment of our lives : it is contentedness; the virtue, which, of all other, doth most render this world acceptable, and constituteth a kind of temporal heaven ; which he that hath, is thereby ipso facto in good measure happy, Tò d' aurezwhatever other things he may seem to want; which 7 kovoutes vos
*85 Tíbenov, he that wanteth, doth, however otherwise he be furiosa nished, become miserable, and carrieth a kind of hell rendsvòs ivdsã.
"Arist. Eth. within him : it cannot therefore but well deserve i. 7. our best study about it, and care to get it ; in imitation of St. Paul, who had learned in whatever state he was, therein to be content.
In discoursing upon which words, I shall consider two particulars : first, the virtue itself, (contentedness in every state,) the nature of which I shall endeavour to explain; then the way of attaining or
SERM. producing it, implied by St. Paul in the words, I XXXVII. have learned. To sudapes- I. For explication of the virtue: the word here volly a cixsin δει πάντα α expressing it is αυτάρκεια, which signifeth self-suffdías, The Finewivm ciency, or having enough of oneself; the which is editos di not to be understood absolutely, as if he took him
sivat self to be independent in nature, able to subsist of ουδέ λιμόν. Arr. iii. 24. himself, not wanting any support or comfort without
himself, (for this is the property and privilege of the great El-shaddai, who alone subsisteth of himself, needing toward his being and felicity nothing without himself; this is repugnant to the nature of man, who is a creature essentially dependent for his being and subsistence, indigent of many things for his satisfaction and welfare,) but relatively considering his present state, the circumstances wherein he was, and the capacities he had; which by God's disposal and providence were such, that he could not want more than he had in his possession or reach. He meant not to exclude God, and his providence; but rather supposed that as the ground and cause of his
self-sufficiency; according as otherwhere he express2 Cor. iii. 5. eth it: Not as if we were sufficient of ourselves,
but our sufficiency is of God: nor did he intend to exclude the need of other creatures otherwise than as considered without his possession, or beyond his power; but he meaneth only, that he did not desire or lack more than what God had supplied him with; had put into his hand, or had set within his reach; that his will did suit to his state, his desire did not exceed his power.
This is the meaning of the word which the apostle useth: but for the more full and clear understanding the virtue itself, we shall first consider
the object, about which it is conversant; then the SERM. several acts, which it requireth, or wherein the exer- ^ cise thereof consisteth.
1. The object of contentedness is the present state of things, whatever it be, (whether prosperous or adverse, of eminency or meanness, of abundance or scantness,) wherein by divine Providence we are set: Tà év os couè, the things in which we are ; that is, our present condition, with all its circumstances: so it may be generally supposed, considering that it is ordinary, and almost natural for men (who have not learned as St. Paul had done, or are not instructed and exercised in the practice of this duty) to be dissatisfied and disquieted in every state; to be always in want of something; to find defects in every fortune; to fancy they may be in better case, and to desire it earnestly: if we estimate things wisely, rich men are more liable to discontent than poor men. It is observable, that prosperity is a peevish thing, and men of highest fortune are apt most easily to resent the smallest things : a little neglect, a slight word, an unpleasing look doth affect them more than reproaches, blows, wrongs do those of a mean condition.
Prosperity is a nice and squeamish thing, and it is hard to find any thing able to please men of a full and prosperous state, which being uncapable of bettering in substantial things, they can hardly find matter of solid delight. Whereas a poor estate is easily comforted by the accession of many things which it wanteth: a good meal, a small gift, a little gain, or good success of his labour doth greatly please a poor man with a very solid pleasure: but a rich man hath nothing to please him, but a new toy, a
SERM. puff of applause, success at a horse-race, at bowls, at XXXVII. ,
· hunting; in some petty sport and pastime, which
can yield but a very thin and transitory satisfaction to any man not quite brutified and void of sense: whence contentedness hath place, and is needful in
every condition, be it in appearance never so prosJob xx. 22. perous, so plentiful, so pleasant. In the fulness of vii. p. 68. his sufficiency he shall be in straits.
The formal object thereof may indeed seem to be a condition distasteful to our sense, or cross to our fancy; an adverse or strait condition; a condition of poverty, of disgrace, of any great inconvenience or distress incident to us in this world; but since the most men are absolutely in such a condition, exposed to so many wants and troubles; since many more are needy comparatively, wanting the conveniences that others enjoy, and which themselves affect; since there are few, who in right estimation are not indigent and poor, that is, who do not desire and fancy themselves to want many things which they have not, (for wealth consisteth not so much in the possession of goods, as in apprehension of freedom from want, and in satisfaction of desires,) since care, trouble, disappointment, satiety, and discontent following them, do not only haunt cottages, and stick to the lowest sort of people, but do even frequent palaces, and pursue men of highest rank ; therefore any state may be the object of contentedness; and the duty is of a very general concernment; princes themselves need to learn it; the lessons teaching it, and the arguments persuading it, may as well suit the rich and noble, as the poor and the
peasant; so our apostle himself doth intimate in the Phil. iv. 12. words immediately following our text: I know both
how to be abased, and I know how to abound ; SERM. every where, and in all things I am instructed XXXVII. both to be full, and to be hungry; both to abound, and to suffer need: he had the art, not only to manage well both conditions, but to be satisfied in either.
But seeing real adversity, poverty, and disgrace have naturally the strongest influence in disturbing and disordering our minds; that contentedness is plainly most needful in such cases, as the proper support, or medicine of our mind in them; that other states do need it only as they, by fancy or infirmity, do symbolize or conspire with these; therefore unto persons in these states we shall more explicitly apply our directions and persuasions, as to the proper and primary subjects of contentedness; ' the which by analogy, or parity of reason, may be extended to all others, who, by imaginary wants and distresses, do create displeasure to themselves. So much for the object, or the subject, of the virtue.
2. The acts, wherein the practice thereof consisteth, (which are necessary ingredients, or constant symptoms of it,) belong either to the mind and understanding, or to the will and appetite, or to external demeanour and practice ; being, 1. right opinions and judgments of mind; 2. fit dispositions and affections of heart; 3. outward good actions and behaviours, in regard to our condition and the events befalling us ; the former being as the root and stock, the latter as the fruits and the flowers of the duty : unto which may be reduced the correspondent negations, or absence of bad judgments, affections, and deportments in respect to the same objects.