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FOR I HAVE LEARNED IN WHATSOEVER STATE I AM
THERE WITH TO BE CONTENT.
There are three excellent virtues which especially
1. Equality of Mind, or Equanimity.
2. Petience properly refers to causes, disappointment, afflictions, and adversity, whereby we carry a quiet and submissive mind, without murmuring, pasfion, or discomposure of spirit, in all aMictions, whether fickness, lofs of friends, poverty, reproach, disgrace, or the like.
3. Contentation, which differs from equality of mind, because that respects as well prosperity as adversity, this only adversity; and in some respects differs also from contentment.
patience (though this always accompanies it). 1. In the extent of the object, for patience respects ail kinds of affliction, contentedness, in propriety of speech, respects principally the afiliation of want or poverty. 2. In the act itself, for patience, in propriety of speech, inplies only a quiet composed toleration of the evilness of adversity; but contentedness imports somewhat more, namely, not only a quietness of mind, but a kind of cheerful free submission to our present condition of adversity, a ready compliance with the Divine Providence, and, in effect, a choice of that state wherein the Divine dispensation placeth us, as well as in bearing it.
These, though they may in strictness give a distinction between patience and contentation, yet we must observe that contentation is never without patience, though it be something more: and that in the common acceptation and latitude of the word, Contentation doth not only extend to the condition or afliction of poverty, but even to all other outward afilictions reached to us by the inflicting or permitting hand of Divine Providence: and in this large acceptation I shall here apply and use it.
'Content, therefore, in its large acceptation, is not only a quiet and patient, but also a free and cheerful closing with the estate and condition of life, which the Divine, dispensation shall allot unto us, whether mean or poor, or laborious and painful, or obscure, or necellitous, or fickly, or unhealthy, or without friends, or with lots or absence of friends, or any other state that seems ungrateful to our natures or dispositions. For we need not apply this virtue to a state of high prosperity in all things, wherein, (though men are not ordinarily contented) yet they have but small temptations to difcontent from the state itself wherein they are fo.
This lefion of contentation was learnt by this Apostle, which imports these things: 1. That it is a letion that is possible to be learned, for the Apostle had learnedir, 2. That it is a leffon that requires foinething of industry and pains to acquire it, for he learned it before he attained it. 3. That it is a lesson that deserves the learning, for he speaks of it as of a thing of moment and great use, well worth the pains he took to attain it. And the truth is, it is of so great importance to be learnt, that without it we w.at the comfort of our lives; and with it all conditions of life are not only tolerable, but comfortable. And hence it is, that this excellent Apostle duth very often inculcate and press, and commend this lesson in many of his epistles. • Godliness with contentment is great gain ?.' · Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be
content with such things as ye have; for he hath said, 'I will not leave thee nor forsake thee 2.' Again, “And having food and raiment, let us be therewith content 3.'
I shall therefore fet down those reasons that may persuade and encourage us to contentation with our condition, and likewise to patience under it; for patience and contentation cannot be well severed. And the reasons are of two forts; 1. Moral. 2. Divine and Evangelical. Neither shall I decline the use of moral reasons, considering how far, by help of these, many Heathens (that had not the true knowledge of God revealed in his Word and Son) advanced in the
practice of these virtues. The Moral Reajons therefore are these :
1. Very many of the external evils we suffer are of our own choice and procurement, the fruits of our own follies and inadvertence, and averseness to good counsel. And why should we be discontented, or impatient under those evils which we ourselves have chosen, or repine because these trees bear their natural fruit?
2. The greatest part of evils we suffer are of that nature and kind, that are not in our power either to prevent or help: Some come from the very condition of our nature, as sickness, death of friends, and of abfo. lute necellity, the more relations any man hath, the Ti Tim. vi. 6. » Hcb. xiii. 5. si Tim. vi, 8.
more 4. Let
more evils of this kind he may fuffer : And can we reasonably expect that the very nature of things should be changed to please our humours ? Agaio, fome come from the hands of men, that, may be, are more pow.rful, more subtic and malicious : Why should we discontent ourselves, or be impatient, because others are too strong for us? Others again come by occurrences natural (though disposed by the hand of the Divine Providence) as losses by storms and tempests, by unseasonable weather, by intemperateness of the air or meteors: Can we reasonably expect that the Great God of heaven and earth should alter his settled laws of nature for the convenience of every such little worm as you or I am ? It may be that storm or intemperate season, that may do you or me some prejudice, may do others as many and as good, or it may be more and better, a benefit; that wind that strikes my ship against the rock, may fetch off two or more from the fands. Let us be content therefore to suffer Almighty God to govern the world according to his wisdom, and not our will, though it may be a particular detriment to you or to me; or if we repine against it, we must not think thereby to obtain our own wills.
3. The texture and frame of the world is such, that it is absolutely necessary, that if some be rich and powerful, or great, or honourable, others must be poor, and subject, and ignoble. If all were equally powerful, there would be no power nor government, becauseall would be equal; if all were equally rich, it would be but only nominally, indeed none would be rich, but all would be poor, there could be no artificers, no la. bourers, no servants. Since therefore it is of necesity, in the order of the world, that some must be poor, or less rich or powersul than others, why should I be fo unreasonable, or unjust, to desire that lot of
poverty of lowness of condition should be another's and not mine? Or why should not I be contented to be of the lower sort of men, since the order of the world requires that such some must be? N4
4. Let any man observe while he will, he shall find that whatsoever of worldly advantages any man doth most plentifully enjoy, and most men most greedily defire, of neceffity he must thereby have more crosses and more aflictions. A man desires many children, friends, relations; the more he hath of these, the more mortal dying comforts he hath; the inore he hath that must be sick, and suffer affliction and die ; and every one of these afflictions or loffes in a man's relations are so many renewed afflictions and croffes, and troubles to himself. A man defires wealth, and hath it; the more cares and fears he hath ; and the more he hath, the more he hath to loose, and of necessity he must have more losses the more he hath ; as he that hath a thousand sheep, must in probability loose more in a year than he that hath but forty: And besides, wealth is the common mark that every man fhoots at, and every man will be pulling somewhat from him that hath much, because every man thinks he hath enough for others as well as himself. A man desires honour, power, grandeur, and he hath it: but every man envies him and is ready to unhorse him ; and a small neglect, reproach or misfortune sits closer to such a man, than to a meaner man; and the more of honour or power he hath, the more of such breaches he shall be fure to meet with. A man defires long life, and accordingly enjoys it; but in the tract of long life, a man is fure to meet with more fickness, more croffes, more loss of friends and relations, and overlives the greatest part of his external comforts, and in old age becomes his own burthen.
5. If a man desires much wealth or power, and enjoys it, yet it is certain so much the more hereof he hath, so much the less others have ; for he hath that which might otherwise be divided among many: Why therefore should a man desire it, or discontent himself, if he have it not, since what he thus enjoys is with another's detriment and loss, who would have a share in it, if he had it not alone? And why should I