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sadness into its right channel, this drowns our lesser grief by the influx of a greater : this point enlarged on.
5. Another good instrument is sedulous application of our minds to honest employments; for idleness is the great mother and nurse of discontent, laying the mind open to all melancholy fancies.
6. A like expedient to remove discontent is good company, which not only sometimes ministers advice and arguments for content, but raises the drooping spirits, &c.
7. To have right and lowly notions of ourselves is a sure guardian and procurer of contentment: for answerable to a man's judgment of himself are his resentments of the dealing he meets with from God or man.
8. It conduces to this purpose to contemplate and resent the public state of things, the interest of the world, of our country, of God's church : the sense of public calamities will drown that of private, as unworthy to be considered and compared with them; the sense of public prosperity will allay that of particular misfortune.
9. All hearty charity greatly alleviates discontent. If we bear such good-will to our neighbor, as to have a sincere compassion of his evils and complacency in his good, our own case will not so much afflict us.
10. Again, if we would attain to contentment, we must take heed of settling our affections on any worldly thing, so as very highly to prize, and eagerly to pursue it, conceiving our happiness to depend on it: this is disloyalty toward our Maker and best friend, from which it is expedient we should be reclaimed: this point enlarged on.
11. It is of great influence towards contentedness, with eardest and impartial regard to contemplate things as they are in themselves, divested of tragical appearances, in which they are wrapt by our fancy, or which vulgar prejudices throw around them : these errors of our minds will be followed by a perverse practice, productive of displeasure and dissatisfaction: but if we judge of things as God declares, as impartial reason dictates, and as experience proves them, we shall have little cause to be affected by the want or presence of any thing which usually produces discontent.
12. We should to this purpose take especial care to search through our condition, and pick thence the good that is therein, making the best of it, enjoying and improving it; but what is inconvenient or offensive therein, declining it, diminishing it, tempering it as well as we can, and forbearing to aggravate it.
13. It is a most effectual means of producing content and curing discontent, to rouse and fortify our faith in God, by reflecting most seriously on the arguments and experiments which assure us concerning God's particular providence over us, and over all : this point enlarged on. Conclusion.
PHILIPPIANS, CHAP. IV.-VERSE 11.
I have learned in whatsoever state I am, &c.
MOREOVER, considering the nature of this duty itself, may be a great inducement and aid to the practice of it.
1. It is itself a sovereign remedy for all poverty and all sufferance; removing them, or allaying all the mischief they can do us. It is well and truly said by St. Austin, Interest non qualia, sed qualis quis patiatur; “It is no matter what, but how disposed a man suffereth :' the chief mischief any adversity can do us is to render us discontent; in that consisteth all the sting and all the venom thereof; which thereby being avoided, adversity can signify nothing prejudicial or noxious to us; all distraction, all distemper, all disturbance from it is by the antidote of contentedness prevented or corrected. He that hath his desires moderated to a temper suitable with his condition, that hath his passions composed and settled agreeably to his circumstances, what can make any grievous impression on him, or render him anywise miserable ? he that taketh himself to have enough, what doth he need ? he that is well pleased to be as he is, how can he be better? what can the largest wealth, or highest prosperity in the world, yield more or better than satisfaction of mind ? he that hath this most essential ingredient of felicity, is he not thence in effect most fortunate ? is not at least his condition as good as that of the most prosperous ?
2. As good, do I say? yea, is it not plainly much better than can arise merely from any secular prosperity ? for satisfaction springing from rational consideration and virtuous disposition of mind, is indeed far more precious, more noble and worthy, more solid and durable, more sweet and delectable, than that which any possession, or fruition of worldly goods can afford: the το άφθαρτον του πρφέος, και ησυχίου πνεύματος,
incorruptibility,' as St. Peter speaketh, of a meek and quiet spirit is before God of great price ;' before God, that is, according to the most upright and certain judgment, it is the most precious and valuable thing in the world ; . There is,' the philosopher could say, “no spectacle more worthy of God,' (or grateful to him,) “than a good man gallantly combating with ill fortune.' Not to be discomposed or distempered in mind, not to fret or whine, when all things flow prosperously and according to our mind, is no great praise, no sign of wisdom, or argument of goodness; it cannot be reckoned an effect of sound judgment or virtuous affection, but a natural consequent of such a state: but when there are evident occasions and urgent temptations to displeasure, when present sense and fancy do prompt and provoke to murmuring, then to be satisfied in our mind, then to keep our passions in order, then to maintain good humor, then to restrain our tongue from complaint, and to govern our demeanor sweetly, this is indeed honorable and handsome; to see a worthy man sustain crosses, wants, disgraces, with equanimity and cheerfulness, is a most goodly sight: such a person, to a judicious mind, appeareth in a far more honorable and invidious state, than any prosperous man; his virtue shining in the dark is far more bright and fair: “this,' as St. Peter saith, in a like case, 'is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God suffereth grief;' if, in our case, (we may say after him,) a man, out of conscientious deference to God's will, doth contentedly undergo adversity, this, God is ready to take for an obligation on himself, and will be disposed in a manner to thank him (or to reward him) for it: this indeed amounteth to a demonstration, that such a person is truly wise and really good : so is the satisfaction of a contented poor man more worthy : and it is no less more sweet and comfortable, than that of any rich man, pleasing himself in his enjoyments; contentedness satisfieth the mind of the one, abundance doth only satiate the appetites of the other; the former is immaterial and sprightly, the complacence of a man; the latter is gross and dull, like the sensuality of a beast; the delight of that sinketh deep into the heart, the pleasure of this doth only float in the outward senses, or in the fancy; one is a positive comfort, the other but a negative indolency in regard to the mind; the poor good man's joy is wholly his own, and homeborn, a lovely child of reason and virtue; the full rich man's pleasure cometh from without, and is thrust into him by impulses of sensible objects.
Hence is the satisfaction of contented adversity far more constant, solid, and durable, than that of prosperity; it being the product of immutable reason abideth in the mind, and cannot easily be driven thence by any corporeal impressions, which immediately cannot touch the mind; whereas the other, issuing from sense, is subject to all the changes inducible from the restless commotions of outward causes affecting and altering sense : whence the satisfaction proceeding from reason and virtue, the longer it stayeth the firmer and sweeter it groweth, turning into babit, and working nature to an agreement with it; whereas usually the joys of wealth and prosperity do soon degenerate into fastidiousness, and terminate in bitterness ; being honey in the mouth,' but soon becoming 'gall in the bowels.' Nothing indeed can affect the mind with a truer pleasure, than the very conscience of discharging our duty toward God in bearing hardship, imposed by his providence, willingly and well. We have therefore much reason not only to acquiesce in our straits, but to be glad of them, seeing they do yield us an opportunity of immediately obtaining goods more excellent and more desirable, than any prosperous or wealthy man can easily have, since they furnish us with means of acquiring and exercising a virtue worth the most ample fortune; yea justly preferable to the best estate in the world ; a virtue, which indeed doth not only render any condition tolerable, but sweeteneth any thing, yea sanctifieth all states, and turneth all occurrences into blessings.
3. Even the sensible smart of adversity is by contentedness somewhat tempered and eased ; the stiller and quieter we lie