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to ourselves, and then grow as earnest for what we might do perfectly well without, as if the whole of our felicity consisted in it. This is a very immoral state of mind; and hurries persons, almost irresistibly, into as immoral a course of life. In proportion as worldly inclinations of any kind engage the heart, they exclude from it social affection, compassion, generosity, integrity; and yet more effectually, love to God, and attention to the concerns of our future state. Nor do they almost ever fail to make us at present miserable, as well as wicked. They prey upon our spirits, torment us with perpetual self dislike, waste our health, sink our character, drive us into a thousand foolish actions to gratify them; and when all is done, can never be gratified, so as to give us any lasting satisfaction. First, we shall be full of anxieties and fears; when we have got over these, and obtained our wish, we shall quickly find it comes very short of our expectation; then we shall be cloyed, and tired, and wretchedly languid, till some new craving sets us on work to as little purpose as the former did; or till we are wise enough to see that such pursuits are not the way to happiness.
But supposing persons are not violent in pursuing the imaginary good things of this world, yet if they be dejected and grieved, that no more of them have fallen to their lot; if they mourn over the inferiority of their condition, and live in a perpetual feeling of affliction (be it ever so calm) on that account; or indeed on account of any cross or disadvantage whatever, belonging to the present life; this also is a degree, though the lowest and least, yet still a degree of inordinate desire. For we are not grateful, if, instead of taking our portion of happiness here with cheerfulness, and due acknowledgments for it, we only lament that it is not, in this or that respect, more
considerable; and we are not wise, if we embitter it, be it ever so small, by a fruitless sorrow, instead of making the best of it.
These then being the excesses which this Commandment forbids; the duty, which of course it requires, is, that we learn, like St. Paul, “in whatsoever state we are, therewith to be con"tent." "98 This virtue every body practises in some cases; for who is there that could not mention several things which he should be glad to have, yet is perfectly well-satisfied to go without them? And would we but strive to be of the same disposition in all cases; the self-enjoyment, that we should reap from it, is inexpressible. The worldly condition of multitudes is really quite as good as it needs to be; and of many others (who do not think so) as good as it well can be. Now for such to be anxious about mending it, is only being miserable for nothing. And in whatever we may have cause to wish our circumstances were better, moderate wishes will be sufficient to exite a reasonable industry to improve them, as far as we can; and immoderate eagerness will give us no assistance, but only disquiet. More than a few consume themselves with longing for what indolence and despondency will not suffer them to try if they can obtain. The "desire of the slothful killed him; for his house refused to labour." And sometimes, on the contrary, the precipitance, with which we aim at a favourite point, is the very reason that we overshoot the mark, and miss it.
But supposing the most solicitous were always the most likely to gain their ends; yet this likelihood will be often crossed, both by delays and disappointments; which to impatient tempers will be extremely grievous; and the saddest disap
(8) Phil. iv. 11.
(9) Prov. xxi. 25.
pointment of all will be, that they will find the most perfect accomplishment of their wishes, after a very small time, to be little or no increase to their happiness. Persons uneasy in their present situation, or intent on some darling object, imagine that could they but succeed in such a pursuit, or had they but such a person's good fortune or accomplishments, then they should be perfectly at ease, and lastingly delighted. But they utterly mistake. Every enjoyment palls and deadens quickly; every condition hath its unseen inconveniences and sufferings, as well as its visible advantages. And happiness depends scarce at all on the pre-eminence commonly admired. For the noble, the powerful, the rich, the learned, the ingenious, the beautiful, the gay, the voluptuous, are usually to the full as far from it, and by turns own they are, as any of the wretches whom they severally despise. Indeed, when every thing is tried round, we shall experience at last, what we had much better see at first, as we easily may, that the cheerful composure of a reasonable and religious, and therefore contented, mind, is the only solid felicity that this world affords; the great blessing of heaven here below; that will enable us to relish the rest, if we have them; and to be satisfied, if we have them not. What Solomon hath said of wealth, he found to be equally true of every thing else beneath the sun. "God giv"eth to a man that is good in his sight, wisdom, "and knowledge, and joy; but to the sinner he "giveth travail, to gather and heap up. This "also is vanity, and vexation of spirit."1
Contentment therefore being the gift of God, we should earnestly pray to him for it. And in order to become the fit objects of his favour, we should frequently and thankfully recollect the
(1) Eccl. ii. 26.
many undeserved comforts of our condition, that we may bear the afflictions of it more patiently; reasoning with Job, "Shall we receive good at "the hand of God, and shall we not receive ❝ evil ?" 2 Nor should we fail to join with our meditations on his past and present mercies, the firm assurance, which both his attributes and his promises furnish, that the same "loving kindness
shall follow us all the days of our life;" and be exerted, though sometimes for our correction of trial, yet always for our benefit; and so as to make our lot supportable in every variety of outward circumstances. "Let your conversation "therefore be without covetousness; and be con"tent with such things as ye have; for he hath "said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”+ Another very important consideration, and necessary to be often brought to mind, is, that the season both of enjoying the advantages, and bearing the inconveniences of life is short; but the reward of enjoying and bearing each, as we ought, is eternal, and inconceivably great.
Together with these reflections, let us exercise a steady care to check every faulty inclination in its earliest rise. For it is chiefly indulging them at first, that makes them so hard to conquer afterwards. And yet we shall always find the bad consequences of yielding, to outweigh vastly the trouble of resisting; and that to bring our desires, when they are the strongest, down to our condition, is a much easier work, than to raise our condition up to our desires, which will only grow the more ungovernable, the more they are pampered. Further whatever share we possess of worldly plenty, let us bestow it on ourselves with decent moderation, and impart of it to others with prudent liberality; for thus "knowing how to
(2) Job ii. 10.
(3) Psalm xxiii, 6. (4) Heb. xiii. 5.
. abound," we shall know the better "how to "suffer need," if Providence calls us to it. And lastly, instead of "setting our affections on any "things on earth," which would be a fatal neglect of the great end that we are made for, let us exalt our views to that blessed place, where "God"liness with contentment will be unspeakable
gain ;" and they who have restrained the inferior principles of their nature, by the rules of religion, shall have the highest faculties of their souls abundantly satisfied with the fatness of "God's house, and be made to drink of the river "of his pleasures."
Thus, then, you see both the meaning and the importance of the last Commandment; which is, indeed, the guard and security of all the preceding ones. For our actions will never be right, habitually, till our desires are so. Or if they could, our Maker demands the whole man, as he surely well may; nor, till that is devoted to him, are we meet for the inheritance of the saints in "light.""
And now, both the first and the second table of the Ten Commandments having been explained to you, it only remains, that we beg of God "suffi"cient grace" to keep them; earnestly entreating him in the words of his Church-" Lord have mercy upon us, and write all these thy laws in our hearts, we beseech thee."
(5) Phil. iv. 12.
(6) Col. iii. 2.
(7) Tim. vi. 6.