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SERM. that judgeth righteously. In all these cases we
*Vh. should at least observe the rules and advices of the Prov. xxiv. Wise Man: Say not, I will do so to him as he hath 29. XX. 22.
done to me, I will render to the man according to his work; say thou not, I will recompense evil; but wait on the Lord, and he shall save thee.
Discontent usually consisteth not so much in displeasure for the things we suffer, as at the persons who bring them on us, or who do not help to rid us from them ; it is their presumed injury or discourtesy which we do fret at : such passions therefore toward men being discarded, our evils presently will become supportable, and content easily will ensue. As men in any sickness or pain, if their friends are about them, affording comfort or assistance, do not seem to feel any thing, and forbear complaining ; so, if the world about us doth please us, if we bear no disaffection or grudge toward any person in view, our adversity will appear less grievous, it will indeed commonly be scarce sensible to us.
In these and such like acts the duty and virtue of contentedness doth especially reside; or it is employed and exercised by them: and so much may suffice for the explication of its nature. I come now to consider the way of attaining it, intimated by St. Paul here, when he saith, I have learned.
Phil. iv. 11.
I have learned, &c.
SERM. attained, or how it is produced : it is not an endow- XXXVII. ment innate to us; it doth not arrive by chance into us; it is not to be purchased by any price; it springeth not up of itself, nor ariseth from the quality of any state; but it is a product of discipline; I have learned.
It is a question debated in Plato, ει διδακτον η αρετή, whether virtue be to be learned ; St. Paul plainly resolveth it in this case by his own experience and testimony. What Seneca saith in general of virtue (Nature giveth not virtue; it is an art to become gooda) is most true of this virtue; it is an art, with which we are not born, no more than with any other art or science; the which, as other arts, cannot be acquired without studious application of mind, and industrious exercise : no art indeed requireth more hard study and pain toward the acquiry of it, there being so many difficulties, so many ołataclı in the way thereto: we have no great capacity, no ta Non dat matur vir na, an et huwa furi, san. tp, Hey
Virtus etiarrai undan on ki aura tours 1, tican partcienda doctrina et ull, x:1, 2,
SERM. wardly disposition to learn it; we must, in doing it, XXXVIII. 1
deny our carnal sense, we must settle our wild fancy, and suppress fond conceits; we must bend our stiff and stubborn inclinations; we must repress and restrain wanton desires; we must allay and still tumultuous passions; we must cross our humour and curb our temper: which to do is a hard chapter to learn; much consideration, much practice, much contention and diligence are required thereto.
Hence it is an art which we may observe few do much study; and of the students therein few are great proficients; so that, Qui fit, Mecænas? Horace's question, How comes it to pass, that nobody liveth content with the lot assigned by God? wanted not sufficient ground.
However, it is not, like the quadrature of the circle, or the philosopher's stone, an art impossible to be learned, and which will baffle all study: there are examples, which shew it to be obtainable; there are rules and precepts, by observing which we may arrive to it.
And it is certainly a most excellent piece of learning; most deserving our earnest study: no other science will yield so great satisfaction, or good use; all other sciences, in comparison thereto, are dry and fruitless curiosities ; for were we masters of all other knowledge, yet wanted the skill of being content, we should not be wise or happy; happiness and discontent are sobotata, (things incompatible.)
But how then may this skill be learned ? I answer, chiefly (divine grace concurring) by these three ways. 1. By understanding the rules and precepts, wherein the practice thereof consisteth. 2. By diligent exercise, or application of those rules to practice; whereby
the habit will be produced. 3. By seriously consider- SERM. ing, and impressing upon our minds those rational inducements (suggested by the nature and reason of things) which are apt to persuade the practice thereof. The first way I have already endeavoured to declare; the second wholly dependeth upon the will and endeavour of the learner; the third I shall now insist upon, propounding some rational considerations, apt, by God's help, to persuade contentedness, and serving to cure the malady of discontent. They may be drawn from several heads ; from God, from ourselves, from our particular condition or state; from the world, or general state of men here; from the particular state of other men in comparison to ours ; from the nature and consequences of the duty itself; every thing about us, well examined and pondered, will minister somewhat inducing and assisting thereto.
I. In regard to God we may consider, that equity : Sam. iii. doth exact, and gratitude requireth, and all reason dictateth, that we should be content; or that, in being discontented, we behave ourselves very unbeseemingly and unworthily, are very unjust, very ingrateful, and very foolish toward him.
1. Equity doth exact this duty of us, and in para forming it we act justly toward God, both admitting his due right, and acknowledging his goud exercise thereof; that saying in the grapel, Is it not laut ful xi, 12. for me to do what I will with mine quen? is a must's. evident maxim of equity: it is therefore the natural right and prerogative of God, as the Crust and Preserver, and corruently the ateriate Land, Owner, and Goremon of all tiga, tarian trise station, and art his portin to get parunt, an huo
SERM. judgeth good and convenient; it is most just that inXXXVIII.
violably he should enjoy this right : he being also infinitely wise and good, it is likewise most just to acknowledge that he doth perfectly well manage this right. Now by contentful submission to God's disposal of things, we do worthily express our due regard to both these, avowing his right, and approving his exercise thereof; but by discontent and regret at what happeneth, we do in effect injure God in both those respects, disavowing his right, and impeaching his management. We do thereby so renounce his right, as (so far as conceit and wish do reach) to invade it, and usurp it to ourselves; signifying, that in our opinion things ought not to be ordered according to his judgment and pleasure, but after our fancy and humour; we claim to ourselves the privilege of controlling his estate, and dispensing his goods, so as to be our own carvers, and to assume to ourselves so much as we think good; we imply, that, if we were able, we would extort the power out of his hands, and manage it ourselves, modelling the world according to our conceits and desires.
We do also, (since we cannot but perceive the
other attempt of dispossessing God to be frivolous Multos in- and fruitless,) in effect, charge God with misdemeanadversus our, with iniquity or infirinity in his distribution and
disposal of things; intimating, that in our opinion he Deos nemi. doth not order them so justly or so wisely as might Ep. 93. be, (not so well as we in our wisdom and justice
should order them ;) for did we conceive them managed for the best, we could not but judge it most unreasonable to be aggrieved, or to complain; so heinously insolent and unjust are we in being discontent. In earnest, which is most equal, that God should