Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

cidents to good ends, and improve them to honest uses, SERM. is the work of a noble virtue. If a bad game be dealt us, XXXVII. we should not presently throw up, but play it out so well as we can; so perhaps we may save somewhat, we shall at least be busy till a better come. Put thy trus in the Pfal. xxxvii. Lord, and be doing good, is the Psalmist's advice in such a ®. case; and it is a practice necessary to the procuring and maintaining content; if we be not otherwise well employed, we shall be apt, in our thoughts, to melancholize, and dote upon our mischances, the sense of them will fasten upon our fpirits, and gnaw our hearts.

6. We should behave ourselves fairly and kindly toward the instruments and abettors of our adversity; toward those who brought us into it, and those who detain us under it, by keeping off relief, and those who forbear to afford the succour we might expect; forbearing to express any wrath or displeasure, to exercise any revenge or enmity toward them; but rather, even upon that score, bearing good-will, and expressing kindness toward them; not only as to our brethren, whom, according to the general law of charity, we are bound to love, but as to the servants of God in this particular case, and the instruments of his pleasure toward us; considering, that by maligning or molesting them, we do express ill resentments of God's dealing with us, and, in effect, through their fides, do wound his Providence: thus did the good King behave himself toward Shimei, when he was bitterly reproached and cursed by him; not suffering (upon this account, because he was God's instrument of afflicting himself) that any harm should be done unto him : thus the holy Apo-2 Sam. xvi. ftles being reviled, did bless; being defamed, did entreat : 1.Cor. iv. thus our Lord demeaned himself toward, his spiteful ad- 12,13. versaries; who, when he was reviled, did not revile again ; 1 Pet. ii. 33. when he suffered, he did not threaten ; but committed it to "li. 9. him that judgeth righteously. In all these cases we should at least observe the rules and advices of the Wise Man: Say not, I will do fo to him as he hath done to me, I will Prov. xxiv.

.229. XX. 32. render to the man according to his work; say thou not, I will29 recompense evil; but wait on the Lord, and he shall save thee.

ŞERM. Discontent usually consisteth not so much in displeasure XXXVII. for the things we suffer, as at the persons who bring them

on us, or who do not help to rid us from them; it is their presumed injury or discourtesy which we do fret at: such paflions therefore toward men being discarded, our evils presently will become supportable, and content easily will ensue. As men in any sickness or pain, if their friends are about them, affording comfort or assistance, do not seem to feel any thing, and forbear complaining; so, if the world about us doth please us, if we bear no disaffection or grudge toward any person in view, our adversity will appear less grievous, it will indeed commonly be scarce sensible to us.

In these and such like acts the duty and virtue of contentedness doth especially reside; or it is employed and exercised by them : and so much may suffice for the explication of its nature. I come now 'to consider the way of attaining it, intimated by St. Paul here, when he faith, I have learned.

SERMON XXXVIII.

OF CONTENTMENT.

Phil, iv. II.

I have learned, 86.

THESE words fignify how contentedness may be attain- SERM. ed, or how it is produced: it is not an endowment innate *

innata XXXVIII. to us; it doth not arrive by chance into us; it is not to be purchased by any price; it springeth not up of itself, nor ariseth from the quality of any state; but it is a produet of discipline; I have learned.

It is a queftion debated in Plato, ει διδακτών ή αρετή, whether virtue le to be learned ; St. Paul plainly resolveth it in this case by his own experience and testimony. What Seneca faith in general of virtue (Nature giveth not virtue ; it is an art to become good a) is most true of this virtue ; it is an art, with which we are not born, no more than with any other art or science; the which, as other arts, cannot be acquired without studious application of mind, and industrious exercise: no art indeed requireth more hard study and pain toward the acquiry of it, there being so many difficulties, so many obstacles in the way thereto : we have no great capacity, no towardly difpofition to learn it; we must, in doing it, deny our carnal sense, we must settle our wild fancy, and suppress fond conceits; we must bend our stiff and stubborn inclinations;

• Non dat natura virtutem, ars eft bonum fieri. Sen. Ep. 89.

Virtus etiamfi quofdam impetus ex natura sumit, tamen perficienda doc. trina cft. Quinril, xii. 2.

SERM, we must repress and restrain wanton desires; we must XXXVIII. allay and still tumultuous passions; we must cross our

humour and curb our temper: which to do is a hard chapter to learn; much confideration, much practice, much contention and diligence are required thereto.

Hence it is an art which we may observe few do much study; and of the students therein few are great proficients ; so that, Qui fit, Mecænas? Horace's question, How comes it to pass, that nobody liveth content with the lot aligned by God? wanted not sufficient ground.

However, it is not, like the quadrature of the circle, or the philosopher's stone, an art impossible to be learned, and which will baffle all study: there are examples, which shew it to be obtainable; there are rules and precepts, by observing which we may arrive to it.

And it is certainly a most excellent piece of learning; most deserving our earnest study: no other science will yield so great satisfaction, or good use; all other sciences, in comparison thereto, are dry and fruitless curiofities; for were we masters of all other knowledge, yet wanted the skill of being content, we should not be wise or happy; happiness and discontent are doúsata, (things incompatible.)

But how then may this skill be learned? I answer, chiefly (divine grace concurring) by these three ways. 1. By understanding the rules and precepts, wherein the practice thereof confsteth. 2. By diligent exercise, or application of those rules to practice; whereby the habit will be produced. 3. By seriously considering, and impressing upon our minds those rational inducements (suggested by the nature and reason of things) which are apt to persuade the practice thereof. The first way I have already endeavoured to declare; the second wholly dependeth upon the will and endeavour of the learner; the third I shall now insist upon, propounding some rational considerations, apt, by God's help, to perfuade contentedness, and serving to cure the malady of discontent. They may be drawn from several heads; from God, from ourselves, from our particular condition

5.

or state ; from the world, or general state of men here; SERM. from the particular state of other men in comparison to XXXVIII. ours; from the nature and consequences of the duty itself; every thing about us, well examined and pondered, will minister somewhat inducing and aslifting thereto.

I. In regard to God we may consider, that equity doth 1 Sam. iii. exact, and gratitude requireth, and all realon dietateih, '8. that we should be content; or that, in being ditcontented, we behave ourselves very unbeseemingly and unworthily, are very unjust, very ingrateful, and very foolish toward him.

1. Equity doth exact this duty of us, and in performing it we act justly toward God, both admitting his due right, and acknowledging bis good exercise thereof; that saying in the Gospel, Is it not lawful for me to do what / Matt. 21. will with mine own? is a most evident maxim of equity :'S. it is therefore the natural right and prerogative of God, as the Creator and Preserver, and consequently the absolute Lord, Owner, and Governor of all things, to assign his station, and allot his portion to every person, as he judgeth good and convenient; it is most just that inviolably he should enjoy this right : he being also infinitely wise and good, it is likewise most just to acknowledge that he doth perfectly well manage this right. Now by contentful submillion to God's disposal of things, we do worthily express our due regard to both these, avowing his right, and approving his exercise thereof; but by discontent and regret at what happeneth, we do in effect injure God in both those respects, disavowing his right, and impeaching his management. We do thereby so renounce his right, as (so far as conceit and with do reach) to invade it, and usurp it to ourselves; fignifying, that iu our opinion things ought not to be ordered according to his judgment and pleasure, but after our fancy and humour; we claim to ourselves the privilege of controlling his estate, and dispensing his goods, so as to be our own carvers, and to assume to ourselves so much as we think good; we imply, that, if we were able, we would extort the power

« VorigeDoorgaan »