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is a great virtue: no prudent man determines to refolve upon any thing till he hath confidered the thing, and weighed it well with himself, and hath fully debated the neceffity and expedience of it; what advantage he shall have by the doing of it, and what danger and inconvenience will certainly or very probably redound to him by the neglect and omiffion thereof. Confideration will prompt us to chufe and pursue what the understanding reprefents as good and advantageous to us; and to fhun and avoid what is represented as evil and deftructive to our happiness. Hereby firm purposes are formed of governing our lives with guarded caution for the time to come; the ufe of proper means is refolved upon, and we determine when, and upon what occafion we will put fuch a virtue in practice, or imitate fuch an action; in what places and in what company we will stand upon our guard, left we be furprifed by contagious vice.
From hence we proceed to exercise ourselves in holy affections; as in love and defire of what is good; in hatred and detestation of what is evil; in forrow, fhame, and felf-abhorrence for having tranfgreffed in any particular; in praise and thanksgiving, for having been enabled in any tolerable meafure to have done our duty; in adoration and imitation, in faith, in hope and charity, and in refignation of ourselves to the Almighty.
This hath an univerfal influence upon the whole life of a chriftian, and is an admirable inftrument The influto quicken our progrefs in all the graces of the Holy Ghoft: and illuminates our understandings with the knowledge of our duty, and ftores our memories with all fuch arguments as are proper to excite us to the performance there. of. By this means the voice of confcience is attended to, and we can never make any confiderable breaches upon it, without being alarmed with piercing remorse. This enlivens our prayers with reverence and devotion, and increases our importunity, by impreffing a lively fenfe of the neceffity and high price of those things we beg of God our Father. This habituates our minds to spiritual objects, and raises them above the perishing things of this world. This ftrengthens our holy purposes, arms us against temptations, and inflames all CC 4
the faculties of our fouls with earneft defires of attaining and enjoying our chiefeft happiness. And it is a great part of wildom to confider feriously the laft iffue and confequence of our ac tions, and whither the courfe of life which we lead does tend, and what will follow thereupon; therefore wisdom is explained by confideration. O that they were wife, that they would confider their latter end! that is, what will befall them hereaf ter, what will be the iffue and confequence of all the fins and provocations which they are guilty of in this life! There is no greater argument of an imprudent man, than to gratify himself for the prefent in the doing of a thing, which will turn to his greater prejudice afterwards; efpecially if the future inconvenience be great and intolerable, as it is in this cafe, because eternal happiness or mifery depends upon the actions of this prefent life; and according as we behave ourselves in this world, it will go well or ill with us for ever: fo that this is a matter of vaft importance, and deferves our most serious thoughts. For,
While men are inconfiderate they go on stupidly in an evil way, and are not fenfible of the danger of their prefent course, because they do not attend to the confequences of it; but when their eyes are once opened by confideration, they cannot but be fadly apprehenfive of the mischiefs they are running themfelves into. Would men but take a ferious and impartial view of their lives and actions; would they but confider the tendency of a finful courfe, and whither it will bring them at laft; would the vicious and diffolute man but look about him, and confider how many have been ruined in that very way that he is in, how many lie flain and wounded in it, that it is the way to hell and leads down to the chambers of death; the ferious thought of this could not but check him in his course, and make him refolve upon a better life for the future. Were men but wife, they would confider the confequence of their actions, and upon confideration would refolve upon that which they are convinced is moft for their own intereft. Therefore, I fay, confideration of the confequence of our actions, is an excellent means to prevent the mifchief, which otherwise we fhould run upon. How can any man who hath any regard for himself, any tendernefs for his own interest and
happiness, see hell and deftruction before him, which, if he hold on his evil courfe, will certainly swallow him up; and yet venture to go on in his finful ways.
God hath given us not only fenfe to discover a prefent evil, but reafon and confideration to look It is the gift before us, and to discover dangers at a distance; to discover them as certainly, and with as clear a knowledge of the reality of them, as if they threatned us the next moment: and will any confiderate man, who hath confidered the dangerous events of fin, and the dreadful effects of God's wrath upon finners, go on to provoke the Lord to jealoufy, as if he were stronger than he? Therefore certainly, if men would seriously confider what fin is, and what fhall be the fad portion of finners hereafter, they would refolve upon a better courfe of life. Can it be thought that any man would live in the lufts of the flesh, and of intemperance, or out of tion a cause covetoufness defraud or opprefs his neighbour, did he seriously confider, that God is the avenger of fuch? In most men it is not fo much a pofitive difbelief of the truth, as inadvertency and want of confideration, that makes them to go on fo fecurely in a finful ftate. Confequently, would men confider what fin is, and what will be the fearful confequence of it, probably in this world, but most certainly in the other; they could not chufe but fly from it, as the greateft evil that can befall them.
IV. Chriftian contentment can't have a full fa
tisfaction in any earthly eftate; or take up its reft To be con-
the bounds of convenience, or not hot and ftriving too eagerly after more than our honeft endeavours can obtain. Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content.
It will be wisdom thus to be eafy, tho' we should Opposes covetounefs, compass no more than a fubfiftence: for covetoufnefs is never fatisfied. Don't we fee men arrive at one enjoyment after another, which once feem'd the top of their ambition? and yet they are fo far from contentment, that their defires grow fafter than their substance; and they are as eager to improve a large eftate, as if they were ftill drudging for food and raiment, which is the bounds of our defires. It was against this covetoufnefs, or unbounded defire, that Chrift faid, Take heed and beware of covetousness; for man's life confifteth not in the abundance of the things which he poffeffeth. So in the parable, which fucceeds this caution, the rich fool is charged with no injuftice or evil practices, but only with unbounded defires of abundance, and too great a concern to lay up goods for many years to come. Both reafon and religion commands a prudent care of our affairs; but a contented mind will not allow us to exceed herein: which we may do by engaging in more cares than we can manage with composure of mind, or by fuffering any cares to run out into anxiety and discontent.
Because whoever from defire of gain do drown Too much themselves in such a hurry of business, as is beyond their capacity to manage, defeat their own end, and hurt their fouls; not having a reasonable time to attend their better interefts; to whom the apoftle writes, Take heed to yourfelves left at any time your hearts be overcharged with furfeiting and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and fo that day come upon you unawares. If we must take heed, left this should be the cafe at any time, what must be the danger of a perpetual hurry of worldly business? Those that are not satisfied with having acted the prudent part, and to leave the event to God, but torment and rack their minds, about that which is not in their own power, take that thought for the morrow which our Saviour condemned.
Anxiety and Hence we learn that anxiety is a mark of disconmurmurings, tent, and will be a hindrance to contentment in any
condition. For contentment includes a refpect to divine providence in all cur circumftances, and an humble fubmiffion to the difpofal thereof: and if we fret; inftead of helping ourselves, OC we, by making him our enemy, increase our difficulties. Neither must we envy others, who may be in a more profperous ftate of life. That is an infallible mark of difcontentedness. Our duty to God and charity to our neighbours induce us to take pleasure in the welfare of others, whether we share in it perfonally or not. That mind which is contented upon the principles of religion, will furnish us all with thefe reafons; the love or hatred of God are not known by fuch things as these. If our more profperous neighbours fhould be bad men, their riches may be to their hurt, and the profperity of fools may destroy them: if they be good men, God, who knows what is best for every one,may know it fafer for them to be intrusted with fuch comforts, than it would be for us; that they may be great mercies to them, and yet would prove too ftrong temptations for us to conquer; or if that should not be the cafe, yet fhall not God do what he will with his own? or, fhall my eye be evil against my neighbour, because God is good to him? contentment as well as charity envieth not. Whoever is poffeffed with contentment will not allow himself under any inconveniences to venture upon the violation of his confcience to remove them; nor mend his circumftances by any acts of fraud or violence, or by making shipwreck of faith and a good confcience towards God or man. And
What can I say then of those men whom the apostle fays will be rich, at all adventures, whatever it cofts them, tho' they should facrifice principle and religion, and honour, to obtain their defire? And tho' we are too prone to caft our eye only upon the dark fide of our condition, a contented man will furvey all the circumstances of his lot, and difcern many things to lighten and balance his feeming misfortunes. Tho' I have not, fays he, fo large a fhare as fome others, yet have I enough to produce the neceffaries of life: Tho' I have not a provifion for time to come, yet hath God hitherto given me my daily bread; and what occafion have I to distrust him in his promises? Tho' I have not enough to gratify every random inclination, yet have I fufficient to fup