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not prevail in behalf of the people committed to his charge", because the angel of Persia opposed it, he only told the story at the command of God, and was as content, and worshipped with as great an extasy in his proportion, as the prevailing spirit. Do thou so likewise: keep the station, where God hath placed you, and you shall never long for things without, but sit at home feasting upon the Divine providence and thy own reason, by which we are taught, that it is necessary and reasonable to submit to God.
For is not all the world God's family? Are not we his creatures ? Are we not as clay in the hand of the potter? Do we not live upon his meat, and move by his strength, and do our work by his light? Are we any thing, but what we are from him? And shall there be a mutiny among the flocks and herds, because their lord or their shepherd chooses their pastures, and suffers them not to wander into deserts and unknown ways? If we choose, we do it so foolishly, that we cannot like it long, and most commonly not at all: but God, who can do what he pleases, is wise to choose safely for us, affectionate to comply with our needs, and powerful to execute all his wise decrees. Here therefore is the wisdom of the contented man, to let God choose for him: for when we have given up our wills to him, and stand in that station of the battle, where our great general hath placed us, our spirits must needs rest, while our conditions have, for their security, the power, the wisdom, and the charity of God.
2. Contentedness, in all accidents, brings great peace of spirit, and is the great and only instrument of temporal felicity. It removes the sting from the accident, and makes a man not to depend upon chance, and the uncertain dispositions of men for his well-being, but only on God and his own spirit. We ourselves make our fortunes good or bad, and when God lets loose a tyrant upon us, or a sickness, or scorn, or a lessened fortune, if we fear to die, or know not to be patient, or are proud, or covetous, then the calamity sits heavy on us. But if we know how to manage a noble principle, and fear not death so much as a dishonest action, and think impatience a worse evil than a fever, and pride to be the biggest disgrace, and poverty to be infinitely desirable
k Dan. X. 13.
before the torments of covetousness; then we, who now think vice to be so easy, and make it so familiar, and think the cure so impossible, shall quickly be of another mind, and reckon these accidents amongst things eligible.
But no man can be happy, that hath great hopes and great fears of things without, and events depending upon other men, or upon the chances of fortune. The rewards of virtue are certain, and our provisions for our natural support are certain; or if we want meat till we die, then we die of that disease, and there are many worse than to die with an atrophy or consumption, or unapt and coarser nourishment. But he that suffers a transporting passion concerning things within the power of others, is free from sorrow and amazement no longer, than his enemy shall give him leave; and it is ten to one but he shall be smitten then and there, where it shall most trouble him: for so the adder teaches us, where to strike, by her curious and fearful defending of her head. The old stoics, when you told them of a sad story, would still answer tì apùs pé; “What is that to me?-Yes, for the tyrant bath sentenced you also to prison.-Well, what is that? He will put a chain upon my leg; but he cannot bind my soul.-No: but he will kill you.—Then I will die. If presently, let me go, that I may presently be freer than himself: but if not till anon or to-morrow, I will dine first, or sleep, or do what reason or nature calls for, as at other times.” This, in gentile philosophy, is the same with the discourse of St. Paul," “ I have learned in whatsoever state I therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed, both to be full and to be hungry; both to abound and suffer need."
We are in the world, like men playing at tables; the chance is not in our power, but to play it is; and when it is fallen, we must manage it as we can; and let nothing trouble us, but when we do a base action, or speak like a fool, or think wickedly: these things God hath put into our powers; but concerning those things, which are wholly in the choice of another, they cannot fall under our deliberation, and therefore neither are they fit for our passions. My fear may m Phil. iv. 11, 12, 1 Tim. vi. 6. Hebr. xiii. 5.
Chi bene mal von può soffrir, A' grand honor non può venir.
make me miserable, but it cannot prevent, what another hath in his power and purpose: and prosperities can only be enjoyed by them, who fear not at all to lose them; since the amazement and passion concerning the future takes off all the pleasure of the present possession. Therefore if thou hast lost thy land, do not also lose thy constancy: and if thou must die a little sooner, yet do not die impatiently. For no chance is evil to him that is content, and to a man nothing is miserable, unless it be unreasonable. No man can make another man to be his slave, unless he hath first enslaved himself to life and death, to pleasure or pain, to hope or fear: command these passions, and you are freer than the Parthian kings.
Instruments or exercises to procure Contentedness. Upon the strength of these premises we may reduce this virtue to practice by its proper instruments first, and then by some more special considerations or arguments of content.
1. When any thing happens to our displeasure, let us endeavour to take off its trouble by turning it into spiritual or artificial advantage, and handle it on that side, in which it may be useful to the designs of reason. For there is nothing but hath a double handle, or at least we have two hands to apprehend it. When an enemy reproaches us, let us look on him as an impartial relator of our faults, for he will tell thee truer than thy fondest friend will; and thou mayest call them precious balms, though they break thy head, and forgive his anger, while thou makest use of the plainness of his declamation.“ The ox, when he is weary, treads surest:" and if there be nothing else in the disgrace, but that it makes us to walk warily, and tread sure for fear of our enemies, that is better than to be flattered into pride and carelessness. This is the charity of Christian philosophy, which expounds the sense of the Divine providence fairly, and reconciles us to it by a charitable construction: and we may as well refuse all physic, if we consider it only as unpleasant in the taste; and we may find fault with the rich vallies of Thasus, because they are circled by sharp mountains : but so also we may be in charity with every un
ο Πάν το εύλογον, φορητόν.
pleasant accident, because, though it taste bitter, it is intended for health and medicine.
If therefore thou fallest from thy employment in public, take sanctuary in an honest retirement, being indifferent to thy gain abroad, or thy safety at home. If thou art out of favour with thy prince, secure the favour of the King of kings, and then there is no harm come to thee. And when Zeno Citiensis lost all his goods in a storm, he retired to the studies of philosophy, to his short cloak, and a severe life, and gave thanks to fortune for his prosperous mischance. When the north-wind blows hard, and it rains sadly, none but fools sit down in it and cry; wise people defend themselves against it with a warm garment, or a good fire and a dry roof. When a storm of a sad mischance beats upon our spirits, turn it into some advantage by observing, where it can serve another end, either of religion or prudence, of more safety or less envy: it will turn into something, that is good, if we list to make it so; at least it may make us weary of the world's vanity, and take off our confidence from uncertain riches, and make our spirits to dwell in those regions, where content dwells essentially. If it does any good to our souls, it hath made more than sufficient recompence for all the temporal affliction. He that threw a stone at a dog, and hit his cruel step-mother, said, that although he intended it otherwise, yet the stone was not quite lost: and if we fail in the first design, if we bring it home to another equally to content us, or more to profit us, then we have put our conditions past the power of chance; and this was called, in the old Greek comedy, “ a being revenged on fortune by becoming philosophers,” and turning the chance into reason or religion: for so a wise man shall overrule his stars, and have a greater influence upon his own content, than all the constellations and planets of the firmament.
2. Never compare thy condition with those above thee: but, to secure thy content, look upon those thousands, with whom thou wouldest not, for any interest, change thy fortune and condition. A soldier must not think himself unprosperous, if he be not successful as the son of Philip, or cannot grasp a fortune as big as the Roman empire. Be content, that thou art not lessened as was Pyrrhus; or if thou beest, that thou art not routed like Crassus : and when that comes
to thee, it is a great prosperity, that thou art not caged and made a spectacle, like Bajazet, or thy eyes were not pulled out, like Zedekiah's, or that thou wert not flayed alive, like Valentinian. If thou admirest the greatness of Xerxes, look also on those, that digged the mountain Atho, or whose ears and noses were cut off, because the Hellespont carried away the bridge. It is a fine thing (thou thinkest) to be carried on men's shoulders : but give God thanks, that thou art not forced to carry a rich fool upon thy shoulders, as those poor men do, whom thou beholdest. There are but a few kings in mankind; but many thousands who are very miserable, if compared to thee. However, it is a huge folly rather to grieve for the good of others, than to rejoice for that good, which God hath given us of our own.
And yet there is no wise or good man, that would change persons or conditions entirely with any man in the world. It may be, he would have one man's wealth added to himself, or the power of a second, or the learning of a third; but still he would receive these into his own person, because he loves that best, and therefore esteems it best, and therefore overvalues all that, which he is, before all that, which any other man in the world can be. Would any man be Dives to have his wealth, or Judas for his office, or Saul for his kingdom, or Absalom for his bounty, or Achitophel for his policy? It is likely he would wish all these, and yet he would be the same person still. For every man hath desires of his own, and objects just fitted to them, without which he cannot be, unless he were not himself. And let every man, that loves himself so well as to love himself before all the world, consider, if he have not something, for which in the whole he values himself far more, than he can value any man else. There is therefore no reason to take the finest feathers from all the winged nation to deck that bird, that thinks already she is more valuable than any of the inhabitants of the air. Either change all or none. Cease to love yourself best, or be content with that portion of being and blessing, for which you love yourself so well.
3. It conduces much to our content, if we pass by those things, which happen to our trouble, and consider that which is pleasing and prosperous, that, by the representation of the better, the worse may be blotted out: and, at the worst, you