« PoprzedniaDalej »
the family in heaven and earth is named, hath provided for fuch as fear, and love, and obey him.
Indeed the two former of thefe, though they be no more than what the bountiful God freely affords to all that truly love him, and depend upon him, are of a ftrange and vaft extent. First, the comfortable prefence of God fupplies abundantly all that can be defired by us, and abundantly countervails whatsoever elfe we feem to want; it is better than life itself. And when the antients would express all that feemed beneficial or profperous in this life, they had no fuller and comprehenfive expreffion of it than that God was with him; as of Jofeph: And when his mafter faw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to profper'.' The wisdom and courage and fuccefs of David is refolved into this one thing, The Lord was with him 2.
But certainly, though the divine prefence fhould not manifeft itself in external fucceffes and advantages, the very fenfe of the favour and comfortable prefence of God carries with it an abundant fupply of all other deficiencies 3. The light of the countenance of Almighty God is the most fupereminent good, and occafions more true joy and contentment, than the redundance of all external advantages. Secondly, the Divine Protection and Providence is the moft fure and fafe protection, and fupplies the want of all other. The munition of rocks is thy defence; and all other defences and refuges without this, are weak, impotent, and failing defences. Except the Lord watch the city, the watchman watcheth but in vain.'
That therefore which I fhall fix upon is the laft of his three defires: If he fhall give me bread to eat and raiment to put on.'
The defires of a good man, in relation to the things of this life, ought not to be lavish and extravagant; not to be of things of grandeur, or delicacy, or excess: but to be terminated in things of neceffity for his pre'Gen. xxxix 3. 21 Sam. xviii. 14. 28. 2 Sam. v. 10. Psal. iv. 6. 7. fent
fent fubfiftence, convenient food and raiment. If Almighty God give more than this, it is matter of the greater gratitude, as it was to Jacob: I am not worthy of the least of all thy mercies, &c. for with my ftaff, I paffed over this Jordan, and now I am become two bands '.' But if he gives no more, we have enough for our contentation. Almighty God, who is never worse than his word, but most commonly better, hath not given us any promife of more, neither hath he given us commiffion to expect or afk for more. If he gives more than neceffary, he exalts his bounty and beneficence and yet, if he gives no more, it is bounty that he gives so much; and is matter both of our contentation and gratitude.
Thus the wife man Agur, made his request: Give me neither poverty nor riches, feed me with food convenient for me 2. This our Lord teacheth us to afk, in his excellent form of prayer, Give us this day our daily bread;' and this is that which the apoftle prefcribes, for the rule of our contentation: And hav'ing food and raiment, let us be therewith contents.' And truly, if it pleafeth God to allow us a fufficiency, and competency, for the neceffity of our nature, we have very great reafon to be contented with it, not only as it is a duty enjoined unto us, but upon most evident conviction of found reason, both in regard unto Almighty God, in regard of ourselves, and in regard of others. I fhall mingle these reasons together.
1. It becomes us to be contented, because whatsoever we have, we have from the free allowance and goodness of God: He owes us nothing; but what we have, we have from free gift and bounty. If a man demands a debt of another, we think it just he should be paid what he demands; but if a man receives an alms from another, we think it reasonable that he fhould be content with what the other gives, without prefcribing to the meafure of his bounty. But the cafe is far ftronger here; we are under an obligation of duty to be charitable to Prov. xxx. 9. $ 1 Tim. vi. 8.
1 Gen. xxxii. 10.
others wants by virtue of a Divine command; but Almighty God is under no other law of conferring benefits, but of his own bounty, goodness and will.
2. It becomes us to be content, becaufe our measure and dole is given unto us, as by him that is abfolute Lord of his own bounty, fo by him that is the wifeft difpenfer of his own benefits: He knows, far better than we ourselves, what proportion is fitteft for us: He hath given us enough for our neceffity, and we are defirous to have fomewhat more; the wife God knows, it may be, that more would do us harm, would undo us; would make us luxurious, proud, infolent, domineering, forgetful of God: The great Lord and Mafter of the great family of the world, knows who are, and who are not able to bear redundancy: And therefore if I have food convenient for me, I have reason to be content, because I have reason to believe the great and wife God knows what propertion beft fits me; it may be, if I had more, I were ruined.
3. We must know that we are but stewards of the very external bleffing of this life, and at the great audit, we must give an account of our ftewardship, and thofe accounts will be strictly perufed by the great Lord of all the family in heaven and earth. Now if our external benefits be but proportionable to our neceffities and neceffary ufe, our account is eafily and fafely made: Imprimis, I have received fo much of thy external bleffings as were neceffary for my food and cloathing, and for the feeding and cloathing of my family: But on the other fide, where there is fuperfluity and redundance given over and above our neceffary fupport, our account is more difficult. Where much is given, much will be required. There will be an account required, how the redundant overplus was employed; how much in charity, how much in other good works; and God knows that too, too often very pitiful accounts are made of that furplufage and redundancy of a liberal eftate; which will be fo far from abating the account, as it will enhance it: Item, fo much in excess,
debauchery and riot; fo much in coftly apparel, fo much in magnificence and vain fhews, and the like. -
4. Our natures may be well enough fupplied with little; natura paucis contenta; and whatfoever is re dundant, moft commonly turns to the damage and detriment of our nature, unless it meet with a very wife proprietor: For the excefs in the abuse of fuperfluities in eating and drinking, and gratifying our appetites, or the excefs of care and pains in getting, or keeping, or difpofing fuperfluities and redundance, commonly doth more harm, even to our natural complexions and constitution, than a mediocrity proportionable to the neceffities of nature.
5. Whatfoever is more than enough for our natural fupport, and the neceffary supply of our families, and fo employed, is in truth, vain, ufeless, unferviceable; and fuch a man is rich but in fancy and notion, and not in truth and reality: For the ufe of externals is to fupply our natural neceffities; if I have a million of money, and yet an hundred pounds are sufficient, and as much as I fhall ufe to bring me to my grave, the rest, is vain and needlefs to me, and doth me no good: It is indeed my burthen, and my care, and my trouble; but it is of no more ufe to me in my cheft, than if it; were in the centre of the earth. It is true, I have thereby a happy opportunity if I have a large and wife heart to difpofe of it for the glory and fervice of God, and the good of mankind, in works of piety, charity, and humanity but if L. keep it in my cheft, it is an impertinent trouble, neither ufeful for myself, becaufe I need it not, I have enough without it; nor as I order it, is it ufeful for others, no more than if it were an hundred fathoms under ground.
6. Aftate of mediocrity, or fupplies proportionate to my neceflity, is infinitely more fafe to me, even in refpect of myfelf, than an eftate of glory, wealth, power, and abundance. An eftate of mediocrity and commenfuratencfs to our exigence and neceflity, is the
'nature is content with a little.
freeft of any condition in the world from perturbations and temptations. A ftate and condition of want, and too narrow for our neceffities, is an estate subject to fome troubles and temptations. But of all conditions in the world, a redundant and over-plentiful condition is moft fubject to the most dangerous and pernicious temptations in the world: as namely, forgetfulness of God, felf-dependance, pride, infolence, oppreffion, injustice, unquietnefs of mind, excess, luxury, intemperance, contempt of others: and I have very often known those persons that have carried themselves ftea dily and commendably in a condition of mediocrity, nay, have been able to bear with victory the fhocks of thofe temptations that arife from want and poverty, yet when in the late times they were advanced to wealth, power, and command, were loft, and could not bear the temptations that attended grandeur, wealth and power; and the fun of wealth and profperity quickly difrobed them of that mantle of innocence, piety, and virtue, that they kept about them against the ftorms and affaults of wants and neceffities. So that certainly it requires a greater vigilance, attention, industry and refolution, to oppose and conquer the temptations of grandeur, wealth and power, than the temptations of want, neceffity and poverty: Some patience and Humility will do much to fubdue the latter; but he that will acquit himself from the temptations of the former, had need of great wifdom, mo deration, fobriety, and a low esteem of the world, and efpecially a great and practical exercife of the fear of God, faith in his promises, and a fixed hope and profpect of the promises of immortality and glory, whereby they may overcome the flattering and deceiving world.
7. A state of externals proportionate to our necef fities is a far more ferene and jafe estate in reference to others, than an eftate of external grandeur, and wealth, and power: And the reafons are, firft, because the former hath nothing that others do covet or defire;