« PreviousContinue »
2. The acts, in which the practice of this virtue consists, belong either to the mind and understanding, or to the will and appetite, or to external demeanor and practice: first as to our opinions and judgment of things, contentedness requires that, 1. we should believe our condition, whatever it be, to have been determined by the will of God, and that all events befalling us proceed from him. 2. Hence we should always judge every thing which happens, to be thoroughly good and fit, worthy (all things considered) to be appointed or permitted by the
governor of all things. 3. We should even be satisfied in our minds, that according to God's purpose all events do tend and conduce to our particular welfare; being not only good for us generally, as members of the world, but serving towards our private benefit and advantage. 4. Hence we are to believe that our present condition (whatever it be to carnal or worldly sense) is in right judgment, all things considered, the best, most proper, and most desirable for us; better than we, if we had our choice, should put ourselves into. Secondly; from such acts of our mind or intellective part, concerning things incident to us, should proceed the following dispositions of will and affection. 1. We should entertain all occurrences, how grievous soever they may be to us, with intire submission to the will of God, wholly acquiescing in his good pleasure, say, ing in our hearts, after our Lord, Let not my will, but thine be done. 2. We should bear all things with steady calmness and composedness of mind, suppressing those tumults, storms, and excesses of passion, which the sense of things disgustful is apt to excite. 3. We should indeed bear the worst events with sweet and cheerful disposition of mind, not being dejected or discouraged thereby, nor falling into that heaviness, which, as the wise man saith, maketh the heart of man to stoop, but rather rejoicing in them, as knowing from whom they proceed. 4. We should with faith and hope rely and wait on God for the removal or alleviation of our afflictions; or at any rate
eonfide in him for grace and strength to support them well: example of our Saviour quoted : exhortations from holy writ. 5. We should indeed not so much as faint or languish in our minds on such occasions: no adversity should impair the force of our reason, enervate our courage, slacken our industry, or
make us weak in heart : exhortations from Scripture against is such failing. 6. We should not be weary of our condition, or
entertain irksome longings for an alteration of it; but quietly and willingly lie under it during God's pleasure: advice of the wise man, and of St. Paul, on this point. 7. We should by adversity be rendered lowly in our own eyes, meek and pliable in our temper, sensible of our unworthiness and natural frailty, deeply affected in regard to the awful majesty, strict justice, and perfect holiness of God; which should soften our hard hearts, and mitigate our peevish humors. 8. It is required that we should, notwithstanding any meanness, any hardness of our condition, be meekly and kindly affected towards others, being satisfied and pleased with their more prosperous state : this point enlarged on. 9. Contentedness implies a freedom from all solicitude and anxiety of mind, in reference to our needs and conveniences of life; according to those rules and precepts of casting our burthen and care on the Lord; of being careful for nothing, &c. 10. It requires also that we curb our desires and confine them in the narrowest bounds we can, so as not to affect more in quantity, or better in quality, than our nature and state requires : this point enlarged on. Such dispositions and affections of soul are required by this duty: from hence should arise a correspondent external demeanor, and such actions as these which follow.
1. We should restrain our tongues from all unseemly expressions, implying dissatisfaction in God's proceedings, and displeasure at his providence, or arguing distrust in him: examples from Scripture, to be avoided. 2. We should forbear any the least complaint, or murmuring in regard to the dispen
sations of providence : exhortations to this end quoted from holy writ. 3. It is our duty, in these cases, to spend our health rather in declaring our satisfaction at God's dealing with us, acknowleging his wisdom and justice, and praising him for what he hath done. 4. We should abstain from all irregular, unlawful, and unworthy courses toward the removal or remedy of our crosses, choosing rather to abide patiently under their pressure, than by unwarrantable means to relieve ourselves: exhortations, &c. from Scripture. 5. We should, notwithstanding any adversity, proceed in our affairs (such as are honest and reasonable) with alacrity, courage, and industry. 6. We should behave ourselves fairly and kindly toward the instruments and abettors of our adversity, forbearing to express wrath, or exercise revenge ; considering the examples of the holy Apostles, and of our blessed Saviour himself.
In these and such like acts, the virtue of contentedness consists : the way of attaining it will be considered in the next discourse.
I have learned in whatever state I am, therewith to be content.
In these words, by the example of an eminent saint, is recommended to us the practice of an excellent duty or virtue; a practice in itself most worthy, very grateful to God, and immediately of great benefit to ourselves; being indeed necessary towards the comfortable enjoyment of our lives : it is contentedness; the virtue, which, of all other, doth most render this world acceptable, and constituteth a kind of temporal heaven; which he that hath is thereby ipso facto in good measure happy, whatever other things he may seem to want; which he that wanteth, doth, however otherwise he be furnished, become miserable, and carrieth a kind of hell within him: it cannot therefore but well deserve our best study about it, and care to get it; in imitation of St. Paul, who had learned in whatever state he was, therein to be content.'
In discoursing on which words I shall consider two particulars: first, the virtue itself, (contentedness in every state,) the nature of which I shall endeavor to explain ; then the way
of attaining or producing it, implied by St. Paul in the words, . I have learned.'
1. For explication of the virtue: the word here expressing it is aúrápkela, which signifieth self-sufficiency, or having enough of oneself; the which is not to be understood absolutely, as if he took himself to be independent in nature, able to subsist of
himself, not wanting any support or comfort without himself, (for this is the property and privilege of the great El-shaddai, who alone subsisteth of himself, needing toward his being and felicity nothing without himself; this is repugnant to the nature of man, who is a creature essentially dependent for his being and subsistence, indigent of many things for his satisfaction and welfare,) but relatively considering his present state, the circumstances wherein he was, and the capacities be had; which by God's disposal and providence were such, that he could not want more than he had in his possession or reach. He meant not to exclude God and his providence, but rather supposed that as the ground and cause of his self-sufficiency; according as otherwhere he expresseth it : Not as if we were sufficient of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God:' nor did he intend to exclude he need of other creatures otherwise than as considered without his possession, or beyond his power; but he meaneth only, that he did not desire or lack more than what God had supplied him with ; had put into his hand, or had set within his reach; that his will did suit to his state, his desire did not exceed his
power. This is the meaning of the word which the Apostle useth : but for the more full and clear understanding the virtue itself, we shall first consider the object about which it is conversant : then the several acts which it requireth, or wherein the exercise thereof consisteth.
1. The object of contentedness is the present state of things, whatever it be, (whether prosperous or adverse, of eminency or meanness, of abundance or scantness,) wherein by divine Providence we are set: tà év ois éouév, the things in which we are;' that is, our present condition, with all its circumstances: so it may be generally supposed, considering that it is ordinary, and almost natural for men (who have not learned as St. Paul had done, or are not instructed and exercised in the practice of this duty) to be dissatisfied, and disquieted in every state ; to be always in want of something; to find defects in every fortune ; to fancy they may be in better case, and to desire it earnestly: if we estimate things wisely, rich men are more liable to discontent than poor men. It is observable that prosperity is a peevish thing, and men of highest fortune are apt most easily to