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prescribe, in what measure, or what manner, God SERM. should reward him.
XXXVIII. Again, if we consider ourselves as the children of God, either by birth or nature, or by adoption and grace, how can we be discontent for any thing? Have we not thence great reason to hope, or rather to be confident, that we shall never want any good thing, (necessary or convenient for us, that no great evil shall ever oppress us ? For is not God hence by paternal disposition inclined, is he not in a manner by paternal duty engaged, in all needful occasions to supply and succour us? Can we, without great profaneness, and no less folly, surmise, that he, which is so immensely good, will be a bad (an unkind, or a neglectful) Father to us ? No; as there is no other father in goodness comparable to him, so none, in real effects of benignity, can come near him; so our Lord assureth us: If ye, saith he, being evil, know Matt. vii.
11. how to give good things unto your children ; how much more will our heavenly Father give good things to his children that ask him ?
If we consider ourselves as Christians, we have still more reason to practise this duty : as such, we are not only possessed of goods abundantly sufficient to satisfy our desires; we have hopes able to raise our minds above the sense of all present things ; we have entertainments that ever may divert our minds, and fill our hearts with comfort: but we have also an assurance of competent supplies of temporal goods; for, Godliness is profitable to all things, having the iTim.iv.8. promise both of the present life, and of that which is to come: and, If we seek first the kingdom of Matt.iv. 33. heaven, and its righteousness, all these things shall be added unto us. It is indeed strangely unhand
SERM. some for a Christian ever to droop, or to be disconXXXVIII.
solate; for a friend of God, and an heir of heaven, to think he wants any thing, or fear that he shall ever want; for him, whose treasure and heart are above, to be so concerned with any thing here as deeply to resent it.
Again, if we reflect upon ourselves as rational men, how for shame can we be discontent? Do we not therein much disparage that excellent perfection of our nature? Is it not the proper work of reason to prevent things hurtful or offensive to us, when that may be done; to remove them, if they are removable; if neither of these can be compassed, to allay and mitigate them; so that we may be able well to support them? Is it not its principal use to drive away those fond conceits, and to quell those troublesome passions, which create or foment disquiet and displeasure to us? If it cannot do this, what doth it signify ? to what purpose have we it? Is not our condition really worse than that of brute beasts, if reason serveth only to descry the causes of trouble, but cannot enable to bear it? All the reasons we have produced, and all that we shall produce against discontent, will, if we are reasonable men, and reason availeth any thing, have this effect upon us.
Wherefore considering ourselves, our capacities, our relations, our actions, it is most reasonable to be content with our condition, and with whatever doth befall us.
Phil. iv. 11. I have learned in whatever state, &c. III. FURTHER, if we consider our condition, (be SERM. it what it will, how poor, how mean, how despicable XXXIX. and forlorn soever,) we can have from it no reasonable ground of discontent.
1. Our condition in this world cannot, if rightly estimated, and well managed, be extremely bad or sorrowful; nothing here can occur insupportable, or very grievous in itself; we cannot, if we please, want any thing considerable, and the defect whereof may not be supplied, or supported by far better enjoyments. If we have high opinions of some things, as very excellent or very needful for us, it is no wonder if we do want them, that our condition is unpleasant to us; if we take other things for huge evils, then, if they be incumbent on us, we can hardly scape being displeased: but if we thoroughly look through such things, and scan them exactly, valuing them, not according to fallacious impressions of sense, or illusive dreamings of fancy, but according to sound dictates of reason, we may find that neither absence of the former nor the presence of the latter doth make
SERM. our condition much worse, or render our case de
Tert. de Pat. 7.
We are, for instance, poor: that condition, rightly weighed, is not so very sad : for what is poverty ? what but the absence of a few superfluous things, which please wanton fancy rather than answer needa; without which nature is easily satisfied, and which if we do not affect we cannot want? what is it but to wear coarse clothes, to feed on plain and simple fare, to work and take some pains, to sit or go in a lower place, to have no heaps of cash or hoards of grain, to
keep no retinue, to have few friends, and not one Vid.Plut, in flatterer? And what great harm in this? It is a state
which hath its no small conveniences and comforts, its happy fruits and consequences; which freeth us from many cares and distractions, from many troubles and crosses, from many encumbrances, many dangers, many temptations, many sore distempers of body and soul, many grievous mischiefs, to which wealth is exposed; which maintaineth health, industry, and sobriety; disposeth us to feed heartily, to move nimbly, to sleep sweetly; which preserveth us from luxury, from satiety, from sloth and unwieldiness b. It yieldeth disposition of mind, freedom and leisure to attend the study of truth, the acquist of virtue. It is a state which many have borne with great cheerfulness; many (very wise men) have voluntarily
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Eis tous tpayqdows xphoopi? oỦk eis to Bioy. Socrat.
Multis ad philosophandum obstitere divitiæ ; paupertas expedita est, secura est. Sen. Ep. 17.
Sæpius pauper et fidelius ridet. Sen. Ep. 80.
Luke vi, 20.
1. lxvi. 2.
embraced; which is allotted by divine wisdom to SERM. most men; and which the best men often do endure; XXXI to which God hath declared an especial regard, which the mouth of truth hath proclaimed happy; which Psal. x. 14. the Son of God hath dignified by his choice, and sanc-Ixviii. 10. tified by his partaking deeply thereof: and can such a las condition be very loathsome ? can it reasonably dis- cx), 52; please us?
cxlvii. 2. Again, thou art, suppose, fallen into disgrace, or Jam. ii. 5. from honour and credit art depressed into a state of contempt and infamy? This also rightly prized is no such wretchedness; for what doth this import? what, but a change of opinion in giddy men, which thou dost not feel, which thou art not concerned in, if thou pleasest; which thou never hadst reason much to regard, or at all to rely upon ? what is thy loss therein ? it is the breaking of a bubble, the sinking of a wave, the changing of a wind, the cracking of a thing most brittle, the slipping away of a thing most fugacious and slippery: what is honour, and fame, but thought? and what more flitting, what sooner gone away than a thought? And why art thou displeased at the loss of a thing so very slender and slim ? If thou didst know its nature, thou canst not be disappointed ; if thou didst not, it was worth thy while to be thus informed by experience, that thou mayest not any more regard it. Is the contempt thou hast incurred from thy fault ? bear the consequence thereof patiently, and do thy best by removing the cause to reverse the effect: is it undeserved and causeless ? be satisfied in thy innocence, and be glad that thou art above the folly and injustice of those who contemn thee. Let thy affections rather be employed in pity of theirs, than in displeasure for thy own case.